It’s a Myth That Nice Guys Finish Last

Tom Hanks

Tom was born in Concord, California on July 9, 1956. His parents were Amos and Janet – he a cook and restaurant manager, she a hospital worker. They divorced when Tom was five, one of those experiences that can affect people differently. The family was further altered when the three oldest kids, including Tom, moved to Reno, Nevada with their father while the youngest child stayed in California with his mother. 

As an itinerant cook, Amos and the three kids moved quite often. Tom lived in as many as ten cities before he reached his teen years. Eventually, they moved to Oakland, CA and achieved some stability. Between his divided family and multiple moves, Tom had become rather shy by the time he attended Oakland’s Skyline High School. However, Tom had also become very accomplished at adopting to new situations. 

He relied on his record as a good student and a likeable person to get away with some classroom wisecracks and comedy. That led Tom to discover that he enjoyed acting and drama. Not only did he work behind the scenes in various capacities, he earned roles in several plays. 

After graduating from Skyline, he studied theater at Chabot College before transferring to Cal State University in Sacramento. In 1977, he left school and became an intern with the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Lakewood, Ohio. There he earned acclaim for his performance in “The Taming of the Shrew” and earned, in 1978, a Cleveland Critics Circle for Best Actor. He knew that his passion was to be an actor – nothing else.

In 1980 he married his college sweetheart, with whom he had two children. Also in 1980, his acting career gained momentum when he was cast in a low budget horror film, followed by the lead in a sitcom by the name of Bosom Buddies. In that show, he played a young executive who lived in a low-rent all-woman boarding house. To do so, he and his roommate dressed as females while at home. The show only lasted two years, but led to Tom getting several other guest roles in other television shows – most notably Happy Days, one of the most popular shows of the times. 

Ron Howard, a regular on that show, was transitioning his career to directing. He was impressed with Tom and offered him the lead in his next movie, Splash. That film, the story of a man who falls in love with an actual mermaid, positioned Tom as a talented and likeable actor who had an engaging film presence. That role led to several more films and television roles for Tom – some very successful, some true flops. 

By the mid 1990’s, he began to be cast in dramatic roles, rather than only being considered for comedies. That transition led to Tom having the lead in Philadelphia and the next year starring in Forrest Gump. Those films earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor in consecutive years. He was only the fifth actor to accomplish that feat, joining Jason Robards, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Luise Ranier.

Tom, that shy boy from the broken family that moved often, went on to become one of the greatest stars in Hollywood history. He has won seventeen major awards for his acting, has expanded his career to include directing, producing, doing voice-over and writing. All the while, he has established himself as one of the finest and most respected actors of his generation. He’s also considered by most to be “the nicest guy in show business” and “the most trusted celebrity”. These accomplishments are the direct result of Tom Hanks being a fearless personal brand.

Fearless Brands are fueled by passion and purpose

Tom Hanks found his purpose in the face of a childhood that was very transient. He learned to embrace his strengths while adapting to and accepting his doubts, shyness and loneliness. For Hanks, the cinema allowed him not to feel lonely, even when he was. Regardless of his drivers, there is no doubt that Hanks’ acting talent is a major factor in his success – success does require more than just passion.

What’s impressive about Tom Hanks is that he has achieved a true level of humility – an ideal few people realize. Hanks is able to accept his shortcomings exactly as they are – without minimizing or exaggerating. The other aspect of true humility is to be able to accept one’s gifts and talents – also without embellishment or being dismissive. 

It’s that genuineness – that authenticity – that endears Hanks to fans, as well as people in the industry. He brings believability to each and every role he plays. That same realness comes through in his non-acting roles. 

We will be entertained by Tom Hanks for years to come. We can also learn a great deal from him when it comes to making the most of our own brands.

Life happens, deal with it – It’s always a mystery as to the direction a life will take. Any number of factors and variables come in to play. Different people – different personalities – can be affected in a variety of ways. One thing is for certain, no two people develop in the same manner. In the face of a transient childhood, Hanks embraced his passion, found his purpose and has contributed immensely to society – he could easily have gone a different route. Don’t let the challenges of life define you or your brand.

It’s ok to be a nice person – A large part of Hanks’ success is his likeability. He’s a nice guy. So many people believe that nice people finish last – they need only look as far as Tom Hanks to see that as a fallacy. Not only is being nice a good way to live, it is a very successful way to live. If your brand is a bit rough around the edges, learn from Tom Hanks – make every effort to smooth out those jagged pieces.

Your brand can thrive in any situation – Hanks has played a lawyer with AIDS, a prison guard, a young boy trapped in an adult body, a soldier, an astronaut, a man stuck in an airport and a man stranded on a desert island – to name but a few of his many roles. What stands out is his consistency in being believable, likeable and authentic. Whatever situation you find yourself in, whether professionally or personally, be true to yourself. Strive for true humility.

Tom Hanks is a megastar – a Hollywood icon. He is uber successful with a net worth exceeding $400 million, yet he is loved by virtually everyone. Why is that? It’s simple – he is genuinely nice, funny, smart and caring. Strive to embrace and exhibit those same traits. Whether or not you’re interested in building a fearless brand, doing so will lead to a happier, more successful life. 

Friday's Fearless Brand Personal Branding

Coach, International Speaker and Thought Partner - Bill’s mission is to add value to the world – one brand at a time. Bill guides individuals and companies alike in building what he refers to as a ‘fearless brand’. This is the process of discovering, embracing and delivering their greatest value – which allows them to realize greater profit. Read More

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