How To Make Your Own Luck
What are my feelings about serendipity versus gumption
luck versus elbow grease?
When do you give up on your dream?
When do you throw in the towel, et cetera?
There’s an old quote
that I attribute to Tom Waits
but I believe it might go back to Socrates.
“Luck is when opportunity meets with preparation.”
And I’ve always found that deeply moving
because Megan and I talk a lot, my wife and
I talk a lot about how lucky we are.
We’re both blessed with whatever it is:
She’s beautiful and an incredible actor
and smart as a whip and a really talented singer.
I can carry a great deal of luggage
and I can experience extreme temperatures for a long time
without any sustenance.
We have our gifts,
and somehow our paths have taken us to places where people said
“We were looking for someone who can carry luggage.
We’re doing a play about a donkey.
You’re the guy.”
So much serendipity plays into it.
I lived, I chose to live like an asshole for some years
and it’s a tough choice.
It borders on irresponsibility.
I would be just this side of broke.
So sometimes I’d run out of money
and I’d have to borrow a month’s rent from my friend.
But I would then find carpentry work and pay my friend back.
So I was just this side of being a deadbeat.
I was flirting with deadbeatism.
And it’s a big question in Hollywood,
and a lot of people make a lot of money off people’s dreams.
You can pay a great deal of money
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for headshots and for acting classes and coaching
and life coaching and personal training and all that stuff.
And they’ll all tell you –
and there are really gross people who claim to have the secret
“Come to my acting workshop and I
I’ll have three casting directors there from, you know,
one of them was an assistant on 50 Shades of Gray Matter.”
And whatever the case may be,
it’s a question people wrestle with all the time.
Will I ever make it?
Is it ever going to happen for me?
When should I throw in the towel
and move back to Cleveland
and see my family and my children
and my congregation
because I’m a priest with kids in Cleveland?
All I can say is it’s a very personal thing;
to each their own.
You’ve got to keep working hard.
We’ve talked about having a discipline.
If acting is your bag,
you know, I always tell people if they say
“How can I get my kid to get to where you are?”
I say take up woodworking
but also find whatever stage
find the biggest stage you can
that you can get onto and
perform in front of an audience,
whether you’re doing standup or
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theater or musicals or sketch comedy.
Or start shooting stuff.
Now we live in an age where you can
literally start your own TV channel right now
using your gadgets.
And just let the world tell you.
Shoot videos, show them to people.
And they’ll tell you if you should keep doing it.
And if you’re good,
if something’s meant to happen
when people see you on stage or
they see your videos they’ll say
“Holy, you know what?
I’m going to somehow help you.
That was amazing.
You can tap dance, you can play the tuba.
That face you make.” Whatever it is.
“I’ve never seen anyone drink that much beer in 90 seconds.
I’m going to call my friend.
He has a show called Jackass.
We’re going to get you on your way.”
And so I mean I started in the theater.
I was terrible at acting.
I wanted to be an actor.
I thought I had something that I could entertain people,
so I got into theater school in Illinois
and I was terrible!
I couldn’t get cast—with good reason.
The reason was I didn’t trust myself.
I thought I was boring because I was from the country.
And so I tried way too hard to be someone cooler than myself
which of course, was just what they call bad acting
But I was able to build scenery.
I was very athletic, so I choreographed fights.
And the theater paid me.
I found there’s so many jobs you can do in the theater.
You can work in the box office.
You can sell concessions.
You can sweep.
There are many places
almost anywhere you would want to work in a creative position
you can start there sweeping.
And curate your sweeping.
Don’t look down on if somebody’s like,
“Well, you could start as a janitor.”
If you want to work at Nike
and you can get in there as a janitor,
show people how creative your sweeping is!
Nobody ever moved that cabinet?
Move that damn cabinet and sweep under it
and let someone—be like,
“Oh yeah, I assumed that everyone has the quality of work that I do.”
Let people see how committed you are to exceptional work.
Because when you don’t do a good job sweeping
I notice that too.
And I say I’m not going to trust that person on their own.
They always need to be told to move the cabinet and sweep under it.
So I mean if you maintain that sensibility,
first of all it makes sweeping a lot more fun
Sweeping can be drudgery or it’s an opportunity to like have fun.
Whistle a song in your head.
You can dance with a broom.
They’re really fun.
In fact maybe that’s a video line I should think about putting out.
All different genres of music, all different brooms.
“Sweeping for pleasure.”
But once you do that,
once you’re locked into that mindset
then you ’ re open to—when opportunity comes along
you’ve done the work.
If somebody wants to cast me as a superhero
this is sort of a truism in my life
I’ve often said I’m athletic
but I have often carried 30 or 40 extra pounds.
And I think, “Man,
I’d love to play a superhero
and if someone would cast me
then I’ll go to the gym and get super buff.”
If I would just go to the gym and maintain a discipline there,
then when someone said
“Oh, he’s funny and he’s the right type for the superhero,
and check out those crazy lats,”
then the work is done.
So serendipity involves—
serendipity is greatly helped by elbow grease.
And that reminds me of another quote from…
Thomas Jefferson, I think?
that I won’t remember.
something in the vein of…
“Good luck is hard to come by,
but when I work hard
I find I’m much more susceptible to experience luck.”
He didn’t say that, I said it.
Nick Offerman said that quote.
Put that on a coin.