Business Insider Profiles HUMANITAS Winner Tom Shadyac


tom-shadyacImagine you have a 17,000 square foot mansion and your movies have grossed over $2 billion and you are probably worth close to $50 million.

Now imagine you sell the house and give it all away and move into a trailer in a mobile home park.

I was talking to movie director Tom Shadyac and he was telling me that is exactly what he did.

He directed Ace Ventura (discovering Jim Carrey in the process), The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty and more. "I made about $5 million on Liar Liar and I owned a piece of Bruce Almighty and it ended up grossing over a billion so I made over $30 million on that one," he told me.

Then he got into a bicycle accident in 2007. His concussion wouldn't go away and he had a constant ringing in his ears and he had to sleep in a darkened closet in his house. The condition lasted for six more months but doctors weren't sure if it would ever go away.

"I felt suicidal at points. It was a disaster. The worst thing you could do to someone is sentence them to solitary confinement and that is what this felt like."

When he got out of it, he sold everything. Gave up on the movie business and made the documentary, "I AM" and wrote about his experience in "Life's Operating Manual".

"Would you have done this if you hadn't had the concussion?"

"I was already reevaluating the dissonance between making all this money and being on the set with people, the crew, many of whom couldn't afford the basic needs of their families. It didn't seem fair to me. So I don't think the concussion did it although it was definitely a crisis and crisis will often trigger things like this.

"I didn't give up everything to be happy. In fact, I'm not even sure what happiness is," he said. "Happiness comes from the word 'happenstance' which relates to things going on outside of you. What was happening to me was definitely on the inside. But after I gave up everything I felt a lot more joy in my life. A lot more contentment."

"There's nothing wrong, though, with making a lot of money."

"No," he said, "this is not a judgment on anyone at all. I was just taking in a lot more than I needed and this wasn't good for me."

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