I was catching up on Oprah (I’m not a daily watcher but come on it’s her last season!) and she did an interview with Tom Shadyac. Don’t know who he is? I didn’t know who he was but I bet you’ve seen his movies before. Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, Nutty Professor, and Bruce Almighty.
He is the director for those hit movies and made millions of dollars. He lived the glamourous Hollywood life. Big parties. Private jets. Owned three homes including one 17,000 sq ft home with 17 bathrooms and 13 bedrooms!
That is the American dream for most people! That is the picture of success. But is it? Well he wouldn’t be on Oprah now to talk about how much money he has. Oprah’s got him beat!!
He came on to talk about his new documentary called I Am. He talked about how living the glamourous Hollywood life made him feel empty. It was a lie to him. He stopped making big Hollywood movies and started searching for the meaning for his life.
After a hiatus, he took a crew of 4 people (compared to 400 people for his last movie) to find the answer to two burning questions. What’s wrong with our world? What can we do about it?
How it all started
He started like any struggling director till he took a chance on a movie with the white guy from “In Living Color”, Jim Carrey. That movie and subsequent movies propelled him to millions of dollars. He said he used to drive around Beverly Hills imagining owning one of those big homes. That’s what success looks like he thought!
When the movers left after he bought his first 7,000 sq ft Beverly Hills, he stood in the huge entrance way and felt no happier. He didn’t feel sad. He didn’t jump up and down. He felt neutral. Not the type of feeling you’d expect right?
He started searching for more meaning. That journey took 10-12 years according to him. He started to figure it out. Then something happened propelled him to finally do something.
The Accident that Changed His Life
Then he had a biking accident in 2007 and faced death. He had post concussion syndromes so bad he slept in his closet. He thought he would die. He didn’t want to die still without answers for the meaning to his life. He said this…
“Facing my own death brought an instant sense of clarity and purpose,” he says in his film. “If I was, indeed, going to die, I asked myself: What did I want to say before I went? It became very simple and very clear. I wanted to tell people what I had come to know. And what I had come to know was that the world I was living in was a lie.”
So he sold his mansions and moved into a mobile home. Ok it’s a mobile home community in Malibu but it’s still a step down from three mansions. He distance himself from Hollywood. He gave most of his money away to charities that needed it more than he did.
The False Definition of Success
Photo by jonrawlinson
The problem that we face in our culture is the definition of success. What’s the first things that people can judge by how successful you are? Cars, houses, jewelry, and clothes. It’s a culture of proving how successful you are. People work hard to get to that level of success and some, like Tom, feel more empty at that point.
That’s probably why growing up so many parents wants their child to be a doctor or lawyer. Because the money they make can buy you things that proves they are successful!
Tom felt like his life was out of balance. If he said he worked 18 hours a day, people would say great and ask what he was working on. If he said he played for for 4 hours today, they would think he’s crazy!!
A Law That’s Been Around for Billions of Years
Watching the interview to talk about what he discovered while making his new documentary, there was one point that really stood out to me.
He mentioned a law that nature obeys everyday and mankind breaks everyday. The law has been around for billions of years. The law is this:
Nothing in nature takes more than it needs.
A enormous redwood tree doesn’t take more water than it needs. A lion doesn’t kill all the animals. Just what it needs.
Photo by Tambako the Lion
In our culture, people buy more homes, more cars, more clothes, and more useless things that they just don’t need. I’ve been guilty of that.
In your body there is a term that exemplifies this. Something in your body takes more than it needs. When it takes all that it can take, it kills the host and it dies too. That thing is cancer. Just think about that. It breaks that law and kills us.
Can’t we apply that to food to? If you consistently eat more than you need, you will get fat. Then you will have clogged arteries, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and a ton more ailments. It’s not healthy! You’re slowly killing your body!
He stresses you don’t need to take more than you need. Take what you need to for a happy, purposeful, meaningful life! Whatever you own make sure it serves a purpose for you from deep inside.
You might be happy with a 7,000 sq ft home. That’s fine. If it makes you happy inside. There might be a need for a large family, or to entertain guests. It’s perfectly fine. But if you take more than you need, you’re not going to feel any happier. You might feel worse!
Just look inside you and look at what’s true for you. Everyone is on a different path. Don’t fall into the false definition of success. Remember to not take more than you need. Nature has been around for billions of years. Maybe we should follow nature’s lead more often.
What is your opinion?
Are you guilty of taking more than you need?
If he asked you ‘What is wrong with our world?’, what would you say?