You may know Leslie Odom, Jr. as a Tony Award winning actor, best known for playing Aaron Burr in the musical Hamilton.
But before he landed that life-changing role, he came very close to quitting.
Around his 30th birthday, Leslie found himself unemployed, struggling to line up work, feeling frustrated and defeated. He figured it was probably time to ditch the performing arts and transition into another career. Something more sensible and stable.
Around 25 minutes into this podcast interview, Leslie shares what happened next.
First, Leslie met with a mentor. He explained that he was ready to quit acting/singing. He wanted to discuss his career options, figure out his next chapter.
His mentor said, “You can quit. That would be fine. But before you quit, I’d love to see you try.”
Hearing this, Leslie felt confused. He’d worked on TV. He’d worked on Broadway. He’d been working hard for years, trying to build a name for himself, trying to build a career.
Leslie asked his mentor, “What do you mean ‘try’? I’ve been trying! What do you think I’ve been doing?”
To this, Leslie’s mentor replied, ”I think… you sit on your couch and you wait for the phone to ring. When the phone rings, you show up and you do a great job. But the phone didn’t ring today. So what did you do for yourself today? Did you read anything? Did you write anything? Did you practice? Did you prepare? Did you email anybody? Do people know that you’re out of work?”
Leslie was humbled. He realized there were so many things he could do to improve his situation, so many ways he could advance his career, if only he would just… try.
This is such a powerful lesson for anyone who’s got a dream—whether it’s getting a book published, getting a college scholarship, or getting fifty more customers.
If the phone isn’t ringing today, try.
If your inbox isn’t full of client inquiries today, try.
If you’re feeling invisible, feeling like nobody knows you exist, try.
Try doesn’t mean sit on the couch and wait for a big break.
Try doesn’t mean dawdle around doing pointless things on social media.
Try means take action. Take whatever resources you currently have and do something to improve your situation. This might mean taking a class—or teaching one. It might mean blasting out a newsletter, sending a press release, or starting your own podcast. It might mean reading a book—or writing one. Most likely, it means taking an emotional risk that you’ve been avoiding. It means waking up tomorrow and doing it all over again. That’s trying.
It’s amazing what happens when we actually try—when we make a full-hearted effort instead of a half-hearted one. Book deals happen. Media appearances happen. Art happens. Revolutions happen. Beyoncé at Coachella happens. Hamilton happens.
Before you quit, see what happens when you try.