What can Jay Leno, one of the top comedians around, teach entrepreneurs and other business people? Quite a bit, if you read his book, “Leading With My Chin.” While chuckling through all 270-plus pages, I discovered some kernels of wisdom that everyone can benefit from. Jay is where he is today because he followed two important tenets. I review those, and add one of my own.
1. Determination to succeed. I wrote about work ethic in another column. Jay provides a pretty good picture of what’s necessary to establish yourself in comedy: Drive long distances, work in awful conditions for little or no pay, deal with heckling (including being struck by an unruly patron and having live cigarette butts thrown at him). Conditions may not be as bad today as they were in Jay’s early years. But there’s no mistaking the need for effort. You have to be willing to put in the time if you hope to succeed – in any endeavor.
“I’ve never been better at anything than anybody else,” Jay writes, “which meant that I would always just have to work a little harder to keep up or maybe even pull ahead.”
He put in the effort, and it paid off. Handsomely. (As you know, Jay is ending his nearly 22-year “Tonight Show” career in early February.)
2. A willingness to move for better opportunities. After several years of slogging around the east coast, Jay realized he had to move west to better his chances. “A New York career could take you only so far,” he writes. The rest, as we know, is history.
Has your career plateaued? Do you get the feeling that you can’t go higher or accomplish more? Perhaps it’s time to move on. While moving across the country may not be necessary–Jay Leno is in the entertainment business–a move to another city or state may be appropriate. Ask yourself: If I don’t make this switch, will I regret it five years from now?
3. Do some volunteer work. By this I mean offering your professional skills. These projects, on behalf of nonprofit organizations, service clubs and your chamber of commerce, provide valuable exposure. (The extra experience is nice, too.)
I have written articles for a JDRF chapter. Currently, I’m involved in a writing project for the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce. Doing so puts me in touch with area business people, and the project–program guide for a business expo–will be a nice addition to my portfolio.
There’s a chance I will be compensated slightly for my time. I don’t care about that. I like helping the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce–I also write for their website–and I know that this experience will help me professionally.
Volunteer work is rewarding in many ways. If you’re not already doing so, look for ways you can offer your talents to your community.
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