Achieving your own childhood dreams is thrilling, but enabling the dreams of others might even be better, according to Randy. In 1993, Randy interviewed a student at the University of Virginia named Tommy Burnett to be on his research team. During the interview, Tommy says that his greatest childhood dream was to work on a Star Wars film. Though Randy tells him they’re done making those films, Tommy is resolute that they’ll one day make more, and when they do, he’s going to work on them. When he was a kid, though other kids wanted to be Han Solo, Tommy always wanted to work on the technical aspects. Randy has a flashback to his own experience at Disneyland as a child, so he asks Tommy to join his research team.
The topic of achieving childhood dreams becomes extremely tangible for Tommy Burnett. Tommy’s deep-seated, positive, optimistic dream of working on Star Wars films reminds Randy of his own Disney dreams, and this largely plays into why Randy chooses to hire Tommy to be a part of his research team.
Randy is tough on Tommy Burnett, and Tommy compares Randy to a demanding football coach. Tommy says he learned not only about virtual reality programming from Randy, but also “how work colleagues need to be like a family of sorts.” Randy teaches Tommy that being smart isn’t enough—Randy wants people “who will help everyone else feel happy” to be there. Tommy becomes a team player, and Randy brings everyone on the research team down to Disney World as a thank you. When Randy moves on to Carnegie Mellon, he brings every member of his team along except Tommy—not because he doesn’t want to, but because Tommy got hired to work on all of the new Star Wars films.
Randy gives Tommy tough feedback (that he isn’t enough of a team player), but Tommy takes it, changes his behavior, and becomes a positive part of the work environment. Randy, as a way to actively show gratitude, takes his whole team down to Disney World—in a way, this is Randy sharing his childhood dream with his team. Tommy, for his part, earned his way to working on Star Wars not by dreaming big, but by joining Randy’s team, working hard, and acquiring the requisite skills so that he had something to “bring to the table” once Lucas Films announced they were making more films.
A few years later, Tommy Burnett invites Randy and his students on a trip to Industrial Light & Magic, which is George Lucas’s effects company. One student asks Tommy how big a part luck plays in the film industry. Tommy says that luck plays a huge part, but being in Randy’s class already makes these kids lucky, because Tommy wouldn’t be where he is without having known Randy. Randy says that day became a turning point with that class of kids, and Tommy had passed on the favor that Randy had granted him many years earlier.
Tommy’s answer to Randy’s student’s question (that luck plays a huge part in the film industry, but that the students are already lucky because they’re in Randy’s class) is Tommy’s way of suggesting that this student shift his attitude and be more positive about the advantages of his own situation. Just as Randy’s feedback and guidance helped Tommy, Tommy’s enlightening response to this student’s question helped Randy break through to this class for the rest of the year.