I had a sense that maybe I could create an opportunity that was better than the ones that were being given to me. So I borrowed cameras, I had friends hold microphones and we shot a show in our apartments that we were going to call “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Now suddenly there was another decision to be made. Another crossroad. Do I do “Life on a Stick?” Do I take this big network television opportunity, or do I make another bet on myself and this time my friends as well? Do I make no money, do I try to sell a home movie as the next great television series?
I mean, I was trying to tell people I was a writer and I didn’t even own a personal computer. This was a risky bet, a real long shot. But I said no to “Life on a Stick” and I went with “Sunny.”
“Life on a Stick” went one season and thirteen episodes. We are currently filming our tenth season of “Sunny.” We’ve written and produced 114 episodes. We are signed on for another two years making “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” one of the longest running comedies of all time.
Thank you. Thank you.
Again a bet on myself and this time on my friend — you don’t want this. This will be better.
This time a bet on myself — That’s not better. A bet on my friends and self as well paid off. It paid off in spades. There was power in numbers. And “Sunny” changed my life.
Not only did I have a career as an actor and a writer now, I had complete control over everything I wanted to do. If I wanted to dress in a full body green spandex suit it went in the show.
If I wanted to drink coke, or wine from a coke can as perhaps some of you are doing it went in the show, and if I had a weird idea about putting mittens on kittens, it went in the show.
This was the riskier road but I could not have made a better decision. ‘Sunny’ changed my life and it led to everything: “Horrible Bosses,” “Pacific Rim,” “Saturday Night Live.”
Creating the job as opposed to waiting for it to be offered to me was the way to go. Now I think this is an obvious lesson here. Don’t wait for your break. Make your break. Go make it happen for yourself.
All right. One last story, then I am out of here.
The last story of what led me from there to here is the literal act of agreeing to be here today. When President Hopey came to sit down with me in Los Angeles my first thought was, “Here it comes, they’re going to ask me for money.” Yeah, they haven’t yet. Thank God.
But when he asked me to speak to you today, I happily accepted. And then as is the case with all great opportunities, the reality of what I had to do began to set in. “Dear God” – the kid’s still crying. People are laughing and the kid’s crying. I am worried about that one.
“Dear God”, I said to myself, “I’m going to have to actually give a speech.” I am not a public speaker. I have a voice like a ten year old who smokes. “How am I going to do this?”
I YouTubed commencement speeches given by Conan O’Brien, Steven Colbert, Steve Jobs. This was a terrible idea. Their speeches were so intelligent, so well informed and so eloquent that only more panic began to set in. “What am I thinking?” “How could I ever compare?”
And the truth is, I can’t. I don’t host a talk show or do stand up. As an actor normally you have cut away from me a long time ago.
Now I am not nearly as smart as Steve Jobs. I don’t know how my computer works, I don’t even know how my toaster works!
And the YouTube comments, Oh the world of snarky comments we’re living in. And perhaps that’s the most terrifying thing of all. And what we do now is permanent.
But I didn’t back out. I’m here speaking to you today. And I know I will be judged by all those who care to watch on YouTube and compared. But my lesson is this: I don’t give a shit.
OK. I am sorry.
Now listen up. You cannot let a fear of failure or a fear of comparison or a fear of judgement stop you from doing what’s going to make you great. You cannot succeed without this risk of failure. You cannot have a voice without the risk of criticism. And you cannot love without the risk of loss. You must go out and you must take these risks.
Everything I’m truly proud of in this life has been a terrifying prospect to me. From my first play, to hosting “Saturday Night Live,” to getting married, to being a father, to speaking to you today. None of it comes easy. And people will tell you to do what makes you happy, but a lot of this has been hard work. And I’m not always happy.
And I don’t think you should do just what makes you happy. I think you should do what makes you great. Do what’s uncomfortable and scary and hard but pays off in the long run. Be willing to fail. Let yourself fail. Fail in the way and place where you would want to fail. Fail, pick yourself up and fail again. Because without this struggle, what is your success anyway?