Anything worthwhile will by definition take a while, but it will also by definition be worth it in the end.
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Everyone was in a hurry to get somewhere, except for Harrison.
He knew he had little chance to compete with the noise, so he decided to find another way to make a living while we waited for his turn, and soon became a carpenter to the stars working for the Hollywood elite.
It’s a skill he taught himself while performing with the Belfry Players in Wisconsin. The theater company expected actors to not only act, but to also design and build sets, and it’s a skill that served him well, landing him a job building an elaborate portico entrance for Frances Coppola’s office at Goldwyn Studios.
And it was there that he had a chance encounter with George Lucas, who was holding casting auditions for an upcoming film. By this time, Harrison already had a decade of small roles under his belt.
Small, though, is an understatement. Many of them went uncredited. But even though he was on the bottom of the hiring list, George recognized the young actor, because Harrison had a small role in his film American Graffiti. When George found him “on the scene,” he hired him to read with the actors auditioning for the movie.
“There was no indication that I might be considered for a part in the film,” he later remarked. But after reading with over 300 actors, George offered him a key role in the film.
His decade of patience while on the scene had paid off, because this role became a launching pad for his career. This is how Harrison Ford became Han Solo in Star Wars.
Be On the Scene
In 1959, Steve Lacy, a 25-year-old saxophonist, released an album called Reflections as a tribute to his role model, the pianist Thelonious Monk. The album features seven covers of Thelonious’ work. As Steve puts it: “I played that as long as I could before I started to uncover my own sound.”
When the album was released, he hand-delivered a copy to Thelonious, and the pianist must have liked it, because the following year he invited Steve to play with his band for a 16-week stint.
Steve took full advantage of this opportunity, writing down everything his hero taught him during those three months, and the result was a list of twenty-five tips that, though specific to jazz musicians, can just as easily be transposed to everyday life.
Number 21 on the list sheds light on Harrison Ford’s success and is a lesson we would all do well to reflect on:
“Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.”
The Indirect Approach
In an effort to address the problem of high casualty rates in battle, in 1954 the military strategist B. H. Liddell Hart proposed the indirect approach, using data to demonstrate how the most successful armies advance along the line of least resistance.
And this was the key to Harrison’s success. In a town where everyone was in a hurry to make a name for themselves, he chose the path of least resistance with an indirect approach.
He was patient.
But if he merely waited for the phone to ring or if he had turned down every gig that wasn’t a leading role, Harrison Ford would have just been another name on the Hollywood casualty list.
Instead, he stayed on the scene, taking every role he could, and played those as long as he could until he uncovered his own style. And as a carpenter, it was just one more way to stay on the scene, keeping his face and name in front of the very people he most wanted to work with, just like Steve Lacy did with Thelonious Monk.
Anything worthwhile will by definition take a while—likely even much longer than expected—but it will also by definition be worth it in the end.
As Harrison Ford reminds us, “You just have to find a way to stick it out to prevail.”
What are you doing to be on the scene?
 Nunn, C. (2022, March 19). “Harrison Ford was 1 step away from joining a Jesuit Monastery after working with Jim Morrison and the Doors.” Showbiz Cheatsheet. https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/harrison-ford-1-step-away-from-joining-jesuit-monastery-after-working-with-jim-morrison-the-doors.html/
 Reney, T. (2017, October 9). “Steve Lacy: Keyed to Thelonious.” New England Public Media. https://www.nepm.org/jazz-world/2017-10-09/steve-lacy-keyed-to-thelonious
 Neely, A. (2020, November 23). “Thelonious Monk's 25 Tips for Musicians.” [Film]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/tBxjacxRshE
 B.H.L. Hart. (1954). “Strategy: The Indirect Approach.” Praeger.
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.