James Lipton was interviewing Dave Chappelle for Inside the Actors Studio. Dave told about his early career. His first time on stage, he told his jokes while looking down at his shoes and then looking up at the audience.
Dave went to school the next day, age 14, and told his friends about being on stage with a comedy act. They just said, “Cool.” He began a dual life. In the daytime he was a student. At night he was a successful comic.
He even got to play the Apollo Theater . . . on amateur night. He got booed off stage. Dave said, “Everybody was booing . . . everybody.” He said even old people were booing. People had asked him before, “What if nobody laughs?” Dave didn’t know the answer. After playing the Apollo, he knew.
He failed beyond his wildest nightmares. People didn’t laugh. His friends were there. His family was there. The audience went way past not laughing, they booed. Dave’s reaction and assessment: “It wasn’t that bad.”
What’s the worst that can happen? We fail? Sometimes we’re the only ones that really know we failed. Once we’ve faced failure and endured it, what’s left? We try again. And, if we know that failure isn’t that bad, it liberates us to try other projects where we can fail. Of course, we want to succeed, but there is no joy in succeeding if there is no effort. We need to take chances.
Dave Chappelle takes chances with comedy. His successful comedy career reflects those chances.
No pain, no gain. We set goals and work hard to achieve them. We launch companies. We build communities. If we all set our minds to it; it’s possible that we can eradicate sickness and poverty. We need to succeed beyond our wildest dreams, and sometimes that takes failing beyond our wildest nightmares. It’s a good trade off.