Leslie Odom, Jr., Tony Award winner and author of “Failing Up”, risked $500,000 for his role in “Hamilton.” His willingness to fail led to one of his greatest successes.
Learn more about Leslie Odom Jr’s new book.: https://www.amazon.com/Failing-Up-Risks-Higher-Learning/dp/1250139961
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Leslie Odom, Jr: The willingness to fail led me to some of my greatest successes.
Leslie Odom, Jr: I was really tired of the rollercoaster. I wanted off and I was looking to transition into another career and Stewart said you can do that but I’d love to see you try first. I’d love to see you try before you quit. And this is after 12 years in the business already. And I looked at him like he was crazy. He said, I think you’re
sitting at home on your couch waiting for the phone to ring. The phone didn’t ring. So what did you do today? You have no control over the incoming call. You have no control over the opportunities that will come to you but you have all the control over how you spend your day and what you put your energy toward.
Odom, Jr: More often than not, what I’ve found in my particular path is it really was just the willingness to fail. Willingness to fail didn’t actually lead to failure. In some way, it led to these
moments of real change when, oh that’s, I thought the limit of my ability was right here but it’s actually, it’s a lot farther. I didn’t realize that the ceiling was so high. You don’t find that out until you’re willing to fall on your face trying to tap it.
Odom, Jr: What I saw on that last row at Vassar was something daring and fresh, you know, the first eight bars of that show is like some of the best writing for the theater ever. And that was just the first song. The fact that it kept topping itself, that it sustained that level of excellence was astonishing. Three, four months later I got an email from Lin. And he’s getting a group of people together to read through it and because I’d seen it, you know I thought I had
such a leg up, only in that I knew what a wonderful opportunity he was offering me. What seems obvious now, the show’s so ubiquitous and it’s having such a wonderful life, it can seem like, oh that it was a given that it was gonna be successful but all of us, we were turning down work and making ourselves available for this off-Broadway hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers, people were lookin’ at us like we were crazy. People were lookin’ at us
like we were out of our minds. We happily did it because we believed in it.
Odom, Jr: The biggest highlight was the White House, for sure. With that President and that First Lady, it meant so much to me and to my castmates. To have 40 minutes of his, their undivided attention is a chance to change the world because we might do something today that lodges somewhere in his heart, her heart, the back of their mind. They might see something today, we might touch them in a way today that affects how they make a decision tomorrow. In this business that is like the highest honor and the greatest platform I’ve ever felt that we’ve had to make a difference.
Odom, Jr: The thing that I learned the most from that was from that whole Hamilton experience was the importance of the willingness to risk. I walked away from a television show and guaranteed contract for half a million dollars and people thought I was nuts and maybe I was, maybe I was a little crazy but the bigger the risk, sometimes, a lot of times, the bigger the reward.