Ricky Gervais: 3 Important Lessons on Success


Who better to learn about success from than Ricky Gervais, a Da Vinci of satire known for creating the wildly popular BBC sitcom “The Office” and masterfully insulting every celebrity in the room as the host of the 2011 Golden Globes.  In a piece for Time Magazine, Gervais breaks down the secrets of his undeniable success under the title “Be a Cocky Little Nobody.”  Whether you are a businessman or an artist, you are sure to learn something from the guy with the balls to introduce Bruce Willis as “Ashton Kutcher’s dad” on television… awkwaaard.

1. ( how to) Work Hard

The first essential lesson on being successful, or a “cocky little nobody” according to Gervais, is to work hard.  “I was one of those people who would pride themselves on getting results without trying too hard.”  Sound like someone you know? Sure you can get by alright without trying your hardest, but where is the heart and soul of your work? Real success comes from trying your hardest, doing your best, and putting real work into something you can be proud of forever.  “I was the laziest man in the world before I made The Office but now I’m addicted to that sort of success.”  Put love in your work and you’ll become an addict of the best kind of drug- success.


2. The Dangers and Benefits of Being Different

To be different or not to be different, that’s the question we ask to find success.  According to Gervais’s experience, your choice will bring you different kinds of success. “…Being original is often considered dangerous if you want huge mainstream success.” Sometimes our ideas are so out there they don’t catch, or worse, they somehow offend and don’t sell.  “As a businessman this strategy makes perfect sense, but not as an artist.. From my own experiences I’ve learned that quirky, different, fringe projects that may only be cult, often travel a lot better internationally.”  Different, offensive, original, genius, successful- who’s heard of Kanye West? The lesson here? Push the envelope as far as you can by approaching business like an artist. Or play it safe, but Gervais warns, “this is fine if you just want commercial success but it’s soul destroying if you have loftier ambitions.”


3. Be Successful by Being a “piss taking twat”

You can’t be successful if you aren’t an expert with what you are working with.  As an actor, comedian, and producer, Gervais created his most successful material from what he knows. In writing for “The Office,” Gervais explains he “…worked in a real office for 10 years and since I’ve always been a people watcher, or “piss taking twat,” as it’s also known, it was easy to keep an uncompromising attention to detail.”  It’s all about the details, so write about what you know, know by learning, and learn by being a people watcher basically.


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