Nick Offerman defines good luck—and how to make your own

Nick Offerman defines good luck—and how to make your own


Nick Offerman: 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.” And so I mean, 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 of people’s dreams. You can pay a great deal of money 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’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? And so 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 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 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, just was 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.” Well, 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. Good luck – 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.

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