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4 Motivating TED Talks from Hollywood VIPs Whose Struggles Are the Same as Ours


Sometimes, it's hard to view actors and actresses as "normal" people. But actors and actresses go through the same struggles as us—as shown in these TED talks.
Photo by Kathy Hutchins/

Who hasn’t daydreamed about becoming a famous actor, director, writer or producer? To become a household name for creating and sharing something spectacular with the world in the form of a memorable film or television show. For many, it’s a dream job, and I’ll be the first to admit that I am not exempt from having that fantasy myself.

Hollywood premieres and award ceremonies, recognition and admiration, fancy cheese plates and free swag everywhere you go; it’s glitz and glamor all the time, right?

What we don’t usually see is that movie magic isn’t as effortless as it might sound, and the people who bring it to the big screen are well acquainted with impossible schedules and deadlines whilst making everything come together on a shoestring.

Showbiz is first and foremost just that: a business. These inspiring TED talks from some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest remind us that while we may like to put them on a pedestal, Hollywood insiders are ultimately people like me and you, trying to make sense of and navigate our world as best we can.

1. On losing the fire within.

“What do you do when the thing you do, the work you love starts to taste like dust?” Tireless showrunner, Shonda Rhimes, asks herself and the TED audience this very question when she illustrates the very real and dark side of workaholism. The writer/producer responsible for bringing 70 hours of programming to television screens (including “Scandal,”Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice”) in a single season discusses how she learned to love work again after losing her drive when she became a veritable output machine.

“The more successful I become… the more work there is to do, the more balls in the air, the more eyes on me, the more history stares, the more expectations there are. The more I work to be successful, the more I need to work.”

The answer? Always saying “yes” to playing with her daughters, no matter how strapped for time she is. By doing the opposite of work—relaxing and finding happiness in the simplicity of playing with her kids, Shonda was able to strike a balance between loving her job and that which she needed in order to sustain her determination: joy.

“Work doesn’t work without play,” quips Rhimes.

2. On the bridge between acting and the military.

If you’re an avid movie-goer, chances are you’re aware of the talent Adam Driver brings to the big screen. Known for his role in the hit HBO show “Girls,” and his part in the “Star Wars” saga as a Darth-Vader-in-training, Kylo Ren, as an actor, Driver definitely has range.

What you may not have known is that he started out as a Marine until an injury cut his service short and forced him to return to civilian life. “I struggled to find meaning. In the military, everything has meaning. Everything you do is either steeped in tradition or has a practical purpose,” said Driver of this difficult transitional period.

Only when he took the lessons he’d learned in the military and applied them to his passion for acting was he able to bring meaning to his craft. While he became commercially successful as an actor, Driver never stopped appreciating the Marine Corps, even starting a nonprofit that brought the arts to the military, which for him was an organic if not obvious progression.

“The military and theater communities are actually very similar. You have a group of people trying to accomplish a mission greater than themselves; it’s not about you.”

3. On love, compassion and our future self.

Actor Shah Rukh Khan, joins the TED community to talk about humanity through his own personal lens: from his humble beginnings to Bollywood superstardom. Growing up in a refugee colony in New Delhi, Khan draws a contrast between the simplicity of his youth when “you were who you were and you said what you thought,” and today’s complicated and convoluted tech-saturated world.

Having experienced various economic lifestyles, Khan comes to the conclusion that, “Neither power nor poverty can make your life more magical or less torturous.”

He likens his own mid-life crisis as an aging actor to the crisis of the world in the internet age. There’s the potential and ability to reinvent oneself but how? For Kahn, the answer is inclusion and love.

“[Your future self] will perish in its own self-absorption, so you may use your power to build walls and keep people outside or you may use it to break barriers to welcome them in.”

4. On the “foolishness of the human condition.”

There are few names that rival the career of television heavyweight Norman Lear, a man responsible for breakthrough programs like “All in the Family,” “Good Time” and “The Jeffersons” which dominated 1970s sitcoms.

Lear’s accomplishments in TV started conversations and pushed social boundaries forward in the right direction. In this interview, Lear discusses his early life and the impact it had on his work as well as his firm belief that “we are all responsible,” for making this world a better more habitable place.