Dreams in Hollywood

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, the driver of the car that picked me up from the airport started talking about his life through the course of our journey. Having come to LA as an aspiring actor almost 30 years ago, he told me how he had dreamt big, and gotten parts in independent and mainstream movies, but always remained on the sidelines. Enough to generate hope that things would work out, but not enough to actually do so.

“I went to school with Helen Hunt. Do you know why she became famous?”, he asked.

Before I could really say anything, he continued.

“Because her father, Gordon Hunt, is a famous actor/director” [known primarily for The Jetsons and Scooby Doo]. “She wasn’t really the prettiest one in the class, and there were definitely more talented people than her. But she got ahead.”

Of course, I have no way of confirming whether he indeed went to school with her, but it’s definitely a plausible story. Wealth and power always beget more wealth and more power. Why not indeed?

The thing that got me thinking was the fact that 30 years later, his once active career has dropped in scope to driving limousines for a living. He mentioned that he enjoys his job, but ultimately given a choice, it’s not what he’d be doing. How then does one realize when to give up? At what point could he have turned around and said – the acting gigs aren’t really going anywhere, perhaps I should try and develop an alternate career? Is there a framework that people have that allows one to take such a major decision? Would it have helped him lead a more fulfilling life than the one he does today?