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Family Before the Hammer
“Live with as big a sense of gratitude and love for life as you can.”
I don’t usually get into celebrity stories, but this one struck a heavy unintended consequence chord with me. Like lightning from a hammer (pardon the early pun). Besides, I think it’s time for a bit of a lighter story after last week’s bummer tales.
Is Success Everything?
The stories I build here frequently focus on the truly amazing, wonderful, or horribly devastating results that pop up out of what seems like a simple or normal event or choice. Remember the “turn left or turn right” conundrum from a previous posting? Well, this story is a perfect example of that.
If you watch movies at all, then you are probably familiar with Chris Hemsworth, the actor who plays Thor (brilliantly, I might add), among other great characters. You may remember him from movies such as Extraction, Snow White and the Huntsman, Men in Black: International, and of course numerous Thor and Avengers movies.
As you can imagine, he is a very busy man - especially playing Thor.
On a side note, to be a touch immodest, I could have played Thor had I made a few different choices in my life:
Had I chosen to be about 8 inches taller…
Had I chosen to be incredibly handsome…
Had I chosen to have an exceptional muscular build…
Had I chosen those things, I might have auditioned for that role. Oh, and I guess a few acting lessons wouldn’t have hurt either. But nonetheless, I could have played Thor had I but made different choices (and beaten Chris in the auditions). See how our choices affect the trajectory of our lives? I didn’t choose those things, so I am not Thor. But that’s okay, I love where I landed instead.
Sorry, let’s return to the actual story if you don’t mind.
When You Stray from the Path.
What you might not know about Chris is that he recently chose to do a National Geographic docuseries called “Limitless” for #Disney+.
This choice fundamentally changed the trajectory of his life.
Many actors do documentaries along the path of their careers. Frequently, it’s a passion project or something they believe will help others. Chris obviously didn’t need to do it for the money.
Whatever the case, he made the decision to do this particular documentary. Out of all the project choices he very likely had, he chose to do “Limitless” which focuses on the human body and aging. Here is a clip from the documentary trailer page:
“What if you could combat aging and discover the full potential of the human body? New scientific research is shattering conventional wisdom about the human body and offering fascinating insights into how we can all unlock our body’s superpowers to fight illness, perform better and even reverse the aging process.”
Who better to put these theories to test than someone who is in superhero condition to begin with? Seems like a perfect match.
But then, our old friend unintended consequence stepped forward and changed everything.
I bet you knew that was coming.
The Hammer Falls
During one episode in the docuseries about memory, Chris put himself fully into the role as he usually does. He let them take his blood and do a deep dive into the bloodwork and his genetics. What they found surprised everyone - especially Chris.
Using real science - not Asgardian technology - plain old human bloodwork found two copies of the gene APOE4. This gene is linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, carrying two copies of the gene indicates that he is 8 to 10 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than the average person.
Carrying two copies of APOE4 is pretty rare. Just 25% of people carry a single copy and 3% of people have both.
Chris, who was living a dream life with a close loving family and a career that would be the envy of many, was suddenly faced with the unimaginable…
Chris stated in that episode, “The idea that I won’t be able to remember the life I’ve experienced or my wife, my kids, is probably my biggest fear.”
That is a horrifying thought for most of us.
How Does a Superhero React?
We often hear about the self-centered ego of many celebrities. That appears to be true in many cases, but apparently not for Chris. From all reports, it seems his first thought upon hearing the news was family.
"And then you start talking about kids and family and going, 'Oh my God, they're getting older, they're growing up, and I keep slapping another movie on top of another movie.' Before you know it, they're 18, and they've moved out of house, and I missed the window." From an interview with Vanity Fair.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ve gone to the depths of the rabbit hole when I’m quoting Vanity Fair. But the point remains valid. Chris realized that there might come a time when he wouldn’t be “him” anymore.
He decided at that point to complete the projects that he had already contracted to do, then go home, take off a good chunk of time, and be with his wife and kids.
“Live with as big a sense of gratitude and love for life as you can.” Chris Hemsworth.
Now, I don’t expect that he will never act again - really, who could follow him as Thor - but he wants to simplify his life and concentrate on family. I would suspect that means fewer future movies. For how long? Unknown, but I hope it’s a good long time and his kids grow up with him close by.
That step back is quite a change for someone who is in the ascendence of a career that most of us could only imagine.
Hanging Up the Hammer.
I was particularly drawn to this story because there was a time in my life where I also came to a point where I needed to choose the trajectory of career vs. family. No, I wasn’t a superhero superstar, but I had taken some big steps up the steep corporate ladder in my field. I won’t get into that today, but keep reading my Substack in the coming months to see what happened there.
My point in mentioning that is that neither Chris nor I are unique in coming to this intersection in the trajectory of our lives. Many people have come to that mental juncture where they needed to make that choice to deflect in one direction or the other. Some chose wisely.
Sadly, there are many others whose careers were built on the ashes of forgotten and neglected families. I don’t mean to sound all dark and despair, but that is not at all uncommon. Many find a balance, but history is filled with these tragedies and the generational fallout from those decisions.
However, this is a happy story. Remember?
Faced with the mental loss of what he held most dear, Chris chose family over carrying the hammer. The trajectory of his entire life changed because he chose THAT project out of the many other offers he had for more movies, television shows, and other opportunities. Only THAT project would have resulted in him doing a blood analysis that identified those genes.
If he had NOT chosen THIS docuseries, would he have ever found out about the genes? Would it have even occurred to him to ever consider a choice like this?
Maybe. Most likely not. Like so many others, he was on a high-powered, adrenaline-driven trajectory to… to what? More and more movies?
If history is any lesson, most celebrities, if they ever reach this level of stardom, push harder and harder for more and more on the quest to build their legacy so they will never be forgotten.
Unfortunately, the forgotten ones in this scenario tend to be family.
But do not worry, if Chris steps away, maybe I will finally go after that Thor role. I just have to remember where I put my 8-inch platform shoes and that muscle body suit. Oh, and I guess about 5 years of plastic surgery, and acting lessons, and…
Hmmm… maybe not.
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Author, Consultant, Wonderer of “What If?”
Author of “Public Speaking for Kids, Tweens, and Teens - Confidence for Life!”
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Note that he has several projects already in the can and a few existing commitments. So you will see more out of him for a while yet.