Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Harrison Ford

Besides being a licenced pilot, what do I have in common with the actor Harrison Ford? In addition to being fabulously attractive and well regarded, of course.

When Harrison Ford was starting out in Hollywood he landed a number of bit parts like bellhop, cowboy, and suspect number two. Naturally he played each role to the best of his ability, putting his considerable talent towards making the audience believe he was indeed a bellhop, a cowboy or a suspicious individual. He wanted bigger roles, but they were not forthcoming. One studio executive apparently told Ford that he was delivering the lines he was given, and was well-suited to portraying a bellhop or a waiter, but that he lacked star quality.

"Check out Tony Curtis in HIS first role," the exec said. "He's a grocery clerk but you KNOW he's a movie star."

"I thought the point was you were supposed to think he was a grocery clerk", countered Ford, quite reasonably.

Let's just say the conversation didn't end with Ford getting a bigger part.

I'm in a similar position. Recently a customer said to me that it was clear that many of my colleagues were just time building in this job, but that I was a professional. I said thank you. And underneath I seethed the way Harrison Ford must have when he was told he made a good bellhop. Even my boss was taken aback at the discovery that I do not intend to spend the rest of my career in this job.

I hear things like this every time I mention the possibility of my career advancement. You're suited so well to it ... You're so good at it ... You put so much effort into it ... Don't you like it? ... Your talents would be wasted as a flying bus driver.

Well yes. This is my job and I do it well. Would anyone be served if I were to do otherwise? Perhaps I should act like I'm too good for this job, put on airline captain airs, and neglect those tasks that I can ignore without penalty. Of course not. I'll do this job well until the very last day I do it.

In an airline environment, everyone will see me as an airline pilot. Because I'm a professional and that's the way it's done. Harrison Ford eventually got tired of fighting for minor roles and took on a carpentry job to pay the bills. Some days I want to quit this job and go and work for a large airline doing anything. Honestly, I look at baggage handling jobs in Iqaluit and think, "what about that one?"

Harrison Ford was working as a carpenter on the set of Star Wars when he was asked to read Han Solo's lines as a stand in. Apparently he did it better than any of the 'real' actors they were considering, and was cast. You probably know how that worked out. My Star Wars will come.


Kim said...

I know how you feel. I'm a teacher,who lost out on an administrative position at our campus because I'm a good teacher who does her job in the classroom. The principal didn't want to have to replace me. I've thought about becoming a bad teacher, but I'm a professional and can't do that. So, it's not just the airline profession where this kind of thing happens. Good luck in futhering your career.

Lost Av8r said...

The Force is strong with this one...

I'm not really a big fan of the "putting in my time" attitude. I'm sure everyone has higher aspirations then where they sit. However, I've sort of come to believe that if you give your all to what ever it is you're doing, it's going to help you get closer to where you want to be. If you can enjoy what you're doing, that makes it easy. (I had a hard time with this when I was up all night cleaning airplanes @ -40). I can say, since I started flying, I've never once gone into work thinking "just another day building time" Although I admit I'm still a relatively new pilot, most of the time I'm thinking "Man, I can't believe they pay me to do this"

GC said...

I met Harrison Ford about four years ago at the airport in West Yellowstone. I recognized his voice over the CTAF frequency as he flew a few patterns in his Beaver. Being the smart-ass that I am, I had to ask him if everything was okay being the Chewbacca wasn't there to help him out at all. I got no response.

Then about a half hour later, he strode across the ramp towards my aircraft and asked, "Hey, who's the wise-ass?" When I said that was me and put my hand out to introduce myself he said, "That was a good one. I actually laughed a little."

What a well-grounded individual.

Anonymous said...

You cant do yourself any harm by making yourself invaluable.

Sam Weigel said...

Actually, Ford was doing carpentry work for George Lucas when Lucas asked him to audition for the film American Graffiti. It was his work in that film that prompted Lucas to cast him as Han Solo in Star Wars a few years later. Your point stands, though.

I flight instructed & then flew freight for a few years before being hired on at my current airline. Even though I had rough days, overall keeping a positive attitude & putting 100% into it made it a great experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. I suspect I'll look back at my regional days the same way when moving onto a major.

Even while keeping an eye on those "bigger and better things," find joy in being the best at your current job. There are many people that could not do it well, and excellence in one job will likely transfer to the next.

Aviatrix said...

I knew about the American Graffiti connection, but the carpenter-reading-lines story, whether it's true or not, seems to be often told, such as here, here and here. The last one says, "At the time of the auditions Harrison Ford, who had no ambitions about being in Star Wars, was installing an elaborate entrance at the old Goldwyn Studios for director Coppola. This put him at the exact same location as Lucas, who held the interviews on one of the stages."

If it's a made up story, someone else made it up, not me.

Avimentor said...

I'm not the official Harrison Ford biographer (no there's a job!), but I think you're both right - Mr. Ford worked off and on as a carpenter to the stars until his own stardom happened.

Back to the point, if someone calls you a professional, that's a good thing irrespective of whether they want your career to advance or not.

The old addage "Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want" seems to apply here. Make the best of any experience is my unsolicited, free advice.

Aviatrix said...

I like that one, John. I'd always heard that good decisions were a result of experience, and experience was the result of bad decisions.

And this blog solicits free advice. I'm expecting full value for the money I'm paying you!