24 March 2009

Life as a 3-Act

I'm sure this is not news to many, but most plays and movies have a 3-act structure with your beginning (the setup), middle (plot development and conflict), and end (the denouement or pay-off). Back in the day when I was doing wholesale lending and consumer mortgages, one of my clients who was a producer on Cosby (and is now an SVP at Paramount Pictures) gave me one of my first books on writing (by Lajos Egri). I learned bunches from this read, and was convinced after seeing her house (and her neighborhood) that the entertainment industry was for me.

Fast Forward some 15 years after receiving the Egri book from her, I returned it to her (along with what I thought was a witty missive) when I was on the lot for a few months doing a consulting gig for Paramount's legal group. She had no idea who I was. Plus, I think she even had her assistant call security which is sort of like turning out the dogs on a peddler of magical potions. All this after I seriously saved her bacon (financially speaking, of course; it's not like she was hanging gutted swine on her Beverly Hills estate in the smokehouse out back of her manse) because she had no "real" means of income to verify. I was able to finesse her loan through committee, in spite of some very skeptical underwriters.

If life is a 3-act, then I'm certainly at the end of my 2nd act (and it has not gone swimmingly well to be honest). In all solid yarns, the 1st act has a good initial hook to keep 'em interested. I like to think that mine was along those lines (don't we all think that our early years are interesting?). I showed some real promise once upon a time, and thought the world would be mine for the asking/taking/grabbing of the brass ring ... now however it looks more like the world is mine for the settling/begging/backing into. No worries though, God is good, and I know that hard work is rewarded.

There are some amazing second acts out there for our example. (I suppose the metaphor breaks down here a bit, but let's press on shall we?) Let's look at a quick few:
  • Industrialist Henry Ford -- 20 years after Ford left home to become a machinist apprentice (and later an engineer for Edison), Henry founded his first auto company. He and Edison would become very good friends, and I have seen the jar which held Edison's last breath, that Ford personally requested, which is housed at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.
  • Entrepreneur Colonel Sanders -- Started selling franchises at age 65 with $105 from his first Social Security check to fund his endeavors. He would soon become a millionaire after selling the parent corporation along with US rights (he retained the Canadian rights for himself). I have personally enjoyed way too much of his finger-lickin' poulet oeuvre -- trust me, it's good.
  • Actor Steve Bescemi -- Former NY firefighter.
  • Writer John Grisham -- Former attorney.
  • Entrepreneur Steve Jobs -- College drop-out, fired in disgrace from Apple, only to return to lead Apple and Pixar to their current design, creative and financial apogee.
  • Actor Dennis Farina -- Former Chicago police officer.
  • Governors Ventura and Schwarzenegger -- Former meat head steroid body builder/ wrestler with crazy accents. (Good gawd how did they get elected? Oh, wait, I voted for one of these guys.)
  • Writer J.K. Rowling -- Former researcher teacher (and on welfare).
  • Writer Tom Clancy -- Former insurance agent.
And F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said that there are no second acts. Ha! Well, he actually said that there are no American second acts. But, the joke of that is that America itself is a second act. We started off as a beach head of sorts for George III's efforts to replenish his dwindling coffers. Then he went too far and ticked off the right sorts of Founders (Henry, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, et.al.) who could stand up to a monarch with myopic skills of statecraft. I suppose becoming the most prosperous and natural resource blessed country in the history of the planet qualifies as the paragon of all second acts.
If America, and Steve Bescemi, and J.K. Rowling can do it, perhaps we all have a second act in us?

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