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The Wisdom of Jennifer Lawrence, Age 21
I am a Jennifer Lawrence fan. I saw Winter's Bone. I had never seen anything like it before. It was set in the rural Ozarks. I lived there. I never saw anything like that, but two counties over, north and east, such a subculture exists.
There is a scene where she skins a squirrel. It was real. She trained to do it. I would have given her the Oscar just for that scene. She got an Oscar nomination for best actress. It was one of the most memorable performances I have ever seen. She was 19.
She had never taken acting lessons.
She then starred in Hunger Games. There will be 3 sequels. She is now a multimillionaire. I think she is the richest great young actress ever. Shirley Temple was rich, but she was not a great actress.
In an interview, she said that she almost turned down the Hunger Games role. Why? Because, she said, it is rare in life when you have a chance to do something that will change everything in your life. She said she liked her life, and she was not sure she wanted to change it.
How wise is that?
What if it happened to you? If you were content with your life, and people in your field regarded you as a first-rate practitioner, and you had all the money you needed and no debt, would you take a promotion to CEO on a Fortune 500 company? It would mean a lot of money, but your life would change. You would be envied. Your responsibilities would multiply. You would not be allowed to hide. If you made a mistake, everyone would see it.
What if you were age 21?
I can think of no really great actress who got this kind of career break at age 21. I hope she sticks to her knitting. I hope she appears in low-budget films that are really great artistic successes, the way that Winter's Bone was. But if she does, she will be unique in Hollywood history.
There is a case for being content with your success. There is also a case for taking advantage of what, by any standard, is an unprecedented opportunity to exercise your skills. It probably is a one-time-only offer. It takes enormous wisdom to make that choice correctly. It takes even greater wisdom to survive the temptations associated with that kind of overnight success.
Here is a line of reasoning I recommend. Ask a series of questions.
I have what is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am being offered an opportunity to make so much money that I will never have to worry about my income again. Why? Because I possess a particular skill, I can make the lives of tens of millions of people as little better for several hours. This will create more demand for my services. I can do it again, repeatedly, until people get tired of my work.
Will I be wise enough to help lots of other people with the money I make? I will be able to give away a lot of money. I will have the leisure to do this wisely and quietly. Will I?
I can invest the rest. If I invest wisely, this will increase the output of other workers by providing them with capital. Their lives will be better. So will the lives of the customers they serve. Will I have this degree of wisdom as an investor?
Most people never get an opportunity like this. But there are no free lunches. From him to whom much is given, much is expected. Am I ready to take on this degree of responsibility?
I hope she does well with her money. I hope she dies a very rich, very contented old women with a string of movies, all worth watching, and not one role taken for the money.
I hope you do the same with your career if you ever get a shot like this. I hope I do, too.