Tom Shadyac was once a big-time Hollywood director, the man behind the films that launched Jim Carrey to fame, including the Ace Ventura series. He also directed The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy and the blockbuster Evan Almighty. Then, after banking tens of millions of dollars, he comes to a growing realization: His life is way off track.
As much as he thinks of himself as a spiritual guy, his life has lost its focus. He has placed his own material gain over the needs of those around him and the world at large. So Shadyac sells his mansion home, gives away much of his money, trades his fancy car for a bicycle, and moves into a mobile home. That’s the story that begins Shadyac’s book Life’s Operating Manual and what follows are a series of short chapters, each with his insights on life and its meaning to him.
Shadyac, who was raised a Catholic, freely quotes Jesus as well as poets and philosophers. His basic take, as Mary Oliver told him, is that “The world is broken.” His proposals to fix it lean toward doing what he did and is now doing. Giving up the possessions we don’t need. Helping those in life who are less fortunate. Showing love, which should be our highest aim, to those around us.
What follows are 5 key points (lightly edited) that Shadyac makes that, for me, have the ring of truth. See if you don’t feel the same way.
5 Simple Truths from “Life’s Operating Manual”
- Too many people define themselves by what they do and not who they are. This one got me thinking, and poses the question, what if instead of asking people “what do you do?” we asked “what do you love?” or “what makes you come alive?” The jobs that we work at often don’t align with who we truly are and what we value.
- The very basis of life is connection. Nothing is separate. Shadyac gives us a brief glimpse into quantum physics and studies that show there is “a connective web of energy that inhabits all space,” one that ultimately connects us all. (It’s how your dog knows you’re coming home before you get there and greets you at the door.) “Separation is an illusion, and fundamental nature of reality is connection and unity.” In other words, we’re all in this together.
- Instead of asking “how much can I get?” ask “how much do I need?” The question can be expanded to “what do I need to lead a life that is meaningful, purposeful and joyful?” While some may answer that they need a mansion in the hills, for most of us a simpler life beckons. Shadyack reminds us the “True wealth is found not in the accumulation of things but in the advancement of love.”
- We don’t become happy by focusing on happiness. Happiness cannot be pursued. We must instead “focus on what is true, what is good, what is right.” Happiness is a practice and when we engage in doing good things, good things come to us. Our focus should be on our own heart, and our desire to bring forth God’s will, instead of following the desires dictated by society. “Reject the dreams of others and follow your own.”
- Be yourself. We all have unique “talents and perspectives that need to be brought forth.” If we don’t, “not only does our happiness suffer, our soul’s light, the light that we are here to express fades.” Shadyac says that “we all know people dying a little each day because they are not following their hearts. If you are working for money, prestige or power, or to please the expectations of others in defiance of the truth that is in you, you will pay a price.” There may be nothing more important than finding, and living, your own personal truth.