Will Ferrell never wanted to be in show business. When he was a kid, he actually dreamt of having a job where he would carry a briefcase to work every day. It’s an odd dream for a young kid to have, but it’s rooted in the experiences of his father.
Will’s father, Roy Lee Ferrell, Jr., was a keyboardist and saxophonist for The Righteous Brothers. He toured with the band for almost 20 years, and Will realized at a young age that he didn’t want a life like his father’s.
His dad was constantly on the road and would be out of work for periods of time when his services were no longer needed at a certain club or venue.
Will could see the kind of heartbreak that came along with a life in the entertainment industry. Prior to joining The Righteous Brothers, Roy was discovered while playing piano in a regular, old nightclub.
He flew out to Nashville to record a country album for a new record label. He worked on the album for a month and was super proud of it. Roy returned to LA to begin promoting the album, and it started to get play on the radio.
But then it all came crashing down when it came out that the record label was really just set up as a tax evasion front. The record was never released, and all of the copies of the album sat in a warehouse, undistributed. Roy was devastated.
Will was always weary of a life in showbusiness. But there was something inside that nagged at him. He first tried his hand at broadcast journalism in an attempt to find a legitimate way to quench his thirst for entertaining. But it didn’t make him happy. On Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Will said,
I cared nothing about reporting on anything. I liked being in front of the camera, but I didn’t care about what I was reading. I didn’t care about going out and getting the big story.
Then, while Will was living at home with his mother, she bought him a gift certificate for acting classes at the local playhouse. Will took those classes and the acting bug began to take hold of him. He moved to LA and transitioned into sketch writing and improv at The Groundlings.
Will continued to hone his craft and eventually got his big break when he got called in for an audition at "SNL" with Lorne Michaels.
Before he got to that point, though, Will made a firm decision to give acting and comedy a real honest shot. When he told his dad this, Roy gave Will some excellent advice that allowed him to become the performer he is today.
Will paraphrased the wisdom he received from his father when he said,
If it was all based on talent, I wouldn’t worry about you, because I think there’s really something there. But you have to remember, there’s a lot of luck. And if you get to a certain point — three years, four years, five years — and you feel like it’s too hard. Don’t worry about quitting. Don’t feel like you failed. It’s ok to pick up and do something different.
That took the pressure off Will. It allowed him to be free and easy and to not worry so much about being successful. It gave him the freedom to focus on his craft.
Of course, he wanted to make it as an actor and comedian, but he realized that making it was essentially like hitting the lottery.
It’s a wonderful piece of advice that we should all heed. I know I have. In life, you can’t really guarantee success in any field. So much of success boils down to luck and the reactions of others.
All you can do is work as hard as you can on pursuing your passions and do your best to have fun with them. Because if you’re happy and relaxed, chances are you’re going to produce better work and be a happier person.
It obviously worked out pretty well for Will Ferrell. I bet it could work out well for you, too. So relax, follow your passions and roll with the punches that life throws at you.
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