Telling A New Story.

How one Hollywood Insider Developed His Own Economic Model and Created a Whole New Life.

There is a new conversation occurring and funny man Tom Shadyac is, if not leading the pack, certainly up in the front, running with the wild dogs.

It’s not an ordinary story…a fall from grace that meets with a second chance, becoming a hero’s journey of redemption. Nor is it a funny story…’a guy walks in to a bar’ kinda’ thing with a witty punch line. Yet it is a unique story. A story that Tom Shadyac has made an art of telling and one that has led this Hollywood mogul on a slippery slope through the Hollywood Hills.

Entering the Hollywood Arena

For those who don’t know, Tom Shadyac is the original funny man. The youngest (ever) comedian to write for Bob Hope, this Northern Virginia transplant and UVA graduate landed on the doorstep of Hollywood and never left. He is a film producer, director, actor, screenwriter and, of course, comedian.

His credits include a long list of hit comedies: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty and the list goes on. He is credited with bringing Jim Carrey to the forefront of fame and for working alongside Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy and Morgan Freeman. His career has spanned at least a couple of decades and he is well-recognized and respected among the Hollywood ‘in-crowd.’ (I can hear him cringe now).

It would stand to reason then, that this man, along with most of his contemporaries would buy in to the ‘Hollywood Dream’ of fast cars, big planes, and even bigger houses.  He bought things big and rich Hollywood people buy, including the definition of success, and settled in to live the good life. Only Shadyac didn’t find one.

When he opened his eyes and looked around his cavernous home(s) he didn’t need shades. The future was not bright and the ‘good’ life wasn’t waiting for him. At least not the one he imagined. The rooms were hollow. The ‘things’ were just things – nice things, but ‘things’ all the same; and, his neighbors were far from his front door – where they wanted to be, of course.

So he loaded up the truck and he moved to Malibu. A double wide, that is. Backyard barbeques…working folks.

A Double Wide in A Narrow Lane

It was a nice double wide. Tom will be the first to admit that. After all, it is in Malibu. Yet here, in this smaller corner of the world, his neighbors are his friends and, in Tom’s eyes, his friends are really living. In short, when he traded down, he really started living it up.

It is here that he has found a community and a lifestyle that has brought him a deeper level of contentment and joy, something he admits to having searched for often.  Combine this with a love of Emerson and Merton, along with a penchant for poetry, and enough cash to meet his needs and you have a recipe for a happy life. At least according to Tom.  

What he once only theorized about is being lived out loud. A deeper search for truth has settled in to a freedom only once imagined. The idea that ‘more’ and ‘bigger’ equates to a better life has not only been abandoned but has been traded in for a life that revolves around community, service and compassion.

Yet he hasn’t left the movie business and his friendships are still very much in tact.  In fact, Tom will tell you straight up that he only left the way he “did business in the movie business.” His is now a narrow track and one that has him seeking deeper meaning, choosing his words purposefully, and not judging others for their own personal path.

And life has turned a corner.

The Big Questions.

He exploded on the self-help, philosophical scene following a biking accident that rendered him admittedly despondent. But this is not where Tom’s journey began. He had been a seeker of truth long before he fell off his bike, cracked his head, and discovered darkness. It was only after years of alternately suffering and healing that he was able to emerge with the voice of a man with a real story to tell.

This is when he made I Am, a roaming documentary that explores two central questions: What’s wrong with our world and what can we do to make it better?  Interviewing top thought leaders in academia and philosophy as well as world-class scientists and religious scholars, Tom set out on a journey of discovery and continued with what he does best: telling stories.

He is admittedly in love with the art of storytelling and knows it has great power as well as great responsibility, especially if you’re a filmmaker. He brought deeper meaning and a sense of vulnerability through his comedies Bruce Almighty, a story about true power, and Liar, Liar, where the theme is based on ‘the truth will set you free.’ I Am however is what put him in front of the world and brought this conversation to the masses. Apparently, it is only the beginning.

He now adds ‘teacher’ to his resume, taking students at Pepperdine through a class called ‘Storytelling and Life’ where he challenges his students “to live as the authors of their own lives” and proclaiming that there is “power in waking up to who you are and in knowing that you are unique.” He is also considering the talk show circuit, creating a platform from which he can shine a light on the principles he believes can move the world forward.

And he does have a flashlight.

Changing the Face of Happiness

Through the voice of experience Shadyac believes that life is best served through a new economy; the economy of service. He truly believes that wealth can “pull you away from the meat and marrow of community and life” and that once your basic needs are met, your happiness has very little to do with money.

His economic model is simple: take only what you need and give the rest away. “We’re all in this together. Nothing in nature takes more than it needs, yet I was participating in a system which valued the fact that I took as much as I possibly could.”’ says Tom in one of his many laid-back yet highly intelligent interviews.

He backs this up with goals that include unity and integrity as well as a whopping dose of simplicity but essentially the formula is much like Ghandi’s idea to ‘live simply, so that others may simply live.’ He believes you should ask yourself questions such as ‘How can I contribute to the world?” “What more motivation do I need but to serve?”

“I have sat on the cushion of advantage and I have seen myself fall asleep,” says Shadyac with his definitive smile and a twinkle in his eye. “The most powerful story a person can tell is the story they tell with their own lives.” And he is living his out loud.

So, if you ask Tom Shadyac ‘what’s next?’ his eyes will light up and a thousand answers will come rolling off his tongue. He’s full of ideas and stories and information and he is eager to share them all. But if we return to I Am and the central questions posed, Tom will have an answer. “Love,” he will say. “Love is how we’re going to get through this.” And, by golly, he means it.