Replacing the Hollywood Dream

Why study generosity? Well it started after I broke up with my Hollywood Dream.

My goal was to make feature films, the kind worth seeing in a packed, dark theater. No matter what other job I had, the yearning for that dream persisted. Whenever someone popped the question, “If you could do anything in the world and not have to worry about money, what would it be?”, I’d always answer “Make movies.” Every time.

And I did make movies, two of them in fact, with my friend David Schultz. But I always wanted more. More notoriety, more fame, more money, more IMDB credits, better IMDB credits, more stars attached, bigger box office (or any box office). More of it all!

So moving to Nashville in 2018 felt like drawing a line in the sand. Crossing the California border meant I had not only moved my family to a new state but also moved on from the dream.

Life after movies became a huge psychological, emotional, and motivational journey.

Let me also clarify that I LOVE MY JOB as a video editor at Ramsey Solutions. We help millions of people a year, helping people change their money habits and changing family trees. It’s changing my life, and my family’s life as well. Before we moved office spaces, I could even hear people do their debt-free on the air, every hour from 1-4. There’s a million things that I hoped would happen and actually happened taking this job, and it’s mind-blowing.

But it can still be a mind and heart shift to replace your dreams.


You can love what you are doing and still feel heartbroken for what you lost. And when you’ve spent a long time dreaming, planning and researching for a specific dream, it wires your brain to see the world in a certain way. So when you unplug the dream, the cables remain. The habits are still there. The heart is still there. And you can’t leave it empty. Your heart needs a place to go towards. To seek after.

This initially led me to do a short-lived YouTube channel. Just a normal style vlog about our family’s debt-free journey paying off the lasts of our IRS and student loan debt. But I ran out of motivation. Why was I doing this? To get noticed? To make money? Fame and notoriety? Attention? Probably some of them all.

Last winter was pretty dark. Like dealing with a breakup that went from shock to sadness, then trying to deal with acceptance. You tried to meet some new people and hope they would stick, but really you miss what you had before. It led to some good spiritual growth and self-realization, especially utilizing the Enneagram (i’m a self-preservation 3w4 if you were wondering). But I still was directionless, without a compass for my heart to know where to put my energy. I needed purpose.

But sometimes in searching for the next thing, you gotta look into your past.

Simon Sinek (author of “Start with Why”) encourages people to find their purpose by looking for the things that make you well up inside, what makes you tear up. So I made a list. One of the big things that came to mind was actually a TV show…

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

In high school we would normally come home after Sunday night church (yes we had Sunday morning AND evening services), have dinner, then turn on ABC to watch “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The premise was they would find a needy family and build them a new house.

In the first season they would spend a minute with the family, hearing their story, then immediately shift to the exciting house build, and especially the drama between the crew members. But after that first season they realized that the magic was in connecting you to this families’ broken past. Someone who had sick kids, a single mom, or foster family. All of them were kind people doing their best to survive, but life had hit them hard, and their home even harder.

They’d kick the family out, send them on a trip to Disneyland, then gut the whole place. Then after they return, the family would gather in front of the house, with a bus blocking their view. The whole city would come out to cheer them on. Then Ty Pennington would yell his signature, “Bus driver. Move! That! Bus!”, and their faces would melt seeing their brand new home. And it was really hard for me to hold back tears as well.

Now we see this trope of the big reveal pretty often on shows like Fixer Upper still today, but those people on HGTV paid for those houses. It was their own money and choices that led them here, just with the help of crazy talented designers and builders. For a family on Extreme Makeover, the house wasn’t earned. It was given to these families!

Being a man, I loved watching the father or matriarch of the family. Whoever it was holding everyone together, working multiple jobs to keep the family afloat. When this person loses it, I lose it. It’s like for the first time in potentially decades, they can finally unclench their soul and be at peace. I’m welling up right now just typing this out.

And that feeling… that welling up inside I got watching a show… it came from Generosity.


But that show eventually ended, and we can’t live vicariously through other people’s lives for long.  I started to notice this emotion came beyond the show and in almost every instance of generosity I came across. Our church’s monthly dollar club. A story on instagram. Friends telling me about God’s miraculous provision in their life. It all brought tears and joy, so i started following that trail wherever it led.

First in the stories, then the research, then actually participating ourselves. That same joy from hearing stories compounds when you are a part of that story. Giving your own money, your own resources, your own joy, your own time.

We’ve expanded our giving over the last year, finding new ways to serve and surprise people. Opening our eyes to the people in need right in front of us. As Dave Ramsey says, “You’ll never have more fun with money than giving.” And it’s true.

Generosity is an antidote for the greedy soul that just wants to grab and get for itself. The more I’ve sought it out, learned about it, researched it, DONE it… it’s been healing for my soul that for so many years wanted to be rich and famous making movies.

Generosity has replaced the Hollywood dream.

J.B. Waggoner

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