See This Guy: Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford

I realized early on that success was tied to not giving up. Most people in this business gave up and went on to other things. If you simply didn’t give up, you would outlast the people who came in on the bus with you.

-Harrison Ford

We all have dreams.  But what separates the ones who actually achieve theirs? 


Life is a winding path and it’s rarely a straight line to success. The highest-grossing actor in movie history knows that lesson well.

And by holding on to the light of possibility, this self-described “late bloomer” put himself in a position to become a legend. But he’d have to wait awhile to get there.


I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, so nothing of what I was studying seemed to fit.

Like many great success stories, Harrison’s also contains the big-D: dropout -- as in college. He actually left school just a few credits shy of a degree, due to developing depression over the rigid structure and finding himself unable to face classes.

He took an acting class in his senior year simply as a way to over come the painful shyness he developed throughout his youth, which saw him bullied at school, bad at sports, and never rising above a C- average.

And after being told by some classmates he would get acting work, he headed to California with his girlfriend at age 22.


I accrued anger from people's low opinion of me and my work, and for the work I might be capable of.

Four years after arriving in Hollywood, Harrison made his film debut. His work was less than inspiring, as he found when a studio executive told him:

You’ll never make it in this business.

The next several years found him getting nothing better than small roles. And he was confronted with the reality that his acting career was unable support his now-wife and two sons. So he took carpentry work to supplement his income. He even spent time as a stagehand for legendary rock band The Doors.

And carpentry would be his primary income for many years. Yet unbelievably, this hands-on work directly led to him getting his big break.


Some actors couldn’t figure out how to withstand the constant rejection. They couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

George Lucus cast Harrison -- at 31 -- in a relatively minor role in his hit movie American Graffiti. Although it did nothing for Harrison’s movie career, it put him on Lucus’ radar.

And one day in 1976, Harrison – now 34 – was building a doorway in a studio when and was spotted by the famed director. He asked Harrison not to audition for his new sci-fi movie, but simply to read lines for the actors who WERE auditioning, including Christopher Walken and Kurt Russell.

Yet, something about Harrison impressed Lucus. And that day, the guy who works with his hands won the role of Han Solo in Star Wars.

At age 35, Harrison Ford became a full-time actor, after struggling for more than a decade.

Although now famous, he would still be a long way from a mega-payday (for Star Wars, he received $10,000 and for its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, $100,000). But by 1982 – at age 40 – he was the biggest star in Hollywood.

Harrison Ford’s journey IS the American dream. And the characters he played -- struggling, rough-around-the-edges everyday guys who won the day with grit and determination – are the perfect reflection of his own character.


You may get real tired watching me, but I’m not going to quit.

John Lavallo57 Posts

John is Columbia Business School MBA with expertise in marketing, business leadership, and law. John is a successful entrepreneur who took his first company public. He currently resides in New York City.


  • TommyGun

    Mon, 12/12/2016 - 09:12

    Never knew this about Ford. He dropped out of college with depression. Wow. An inspiration to everyone.