Mindy Kaling was hired as a writer on “The Office” when she was 24 years old. Nine years later, she’s now writing, producing, and starring in a sitcom on Fox, “The Mindy Project.” She’s also written a couple books.
Kaling is a very funny, very successful person at a very young age. How’d she do it? What advice could she give to aspiring filmmakers, writers, actors, and comedians who want to be like her?
Back in March of this year, a USC film student asked Kaling during a panel at the 2013 PaleyFest.
Kaling’s answer was classic her: hilarious, honest, and dead on.
The student said: “I was wondering if you had any words of advice to [explain] how to make it, because you’re awesome.”
Kaling answered: “Thank you. I never partied or had boyfriends.”
Laughter and applause filled the room.
Then, more seriously, she said…
“That was my lifestyle, so that I could achieve this. I was just really, really hard-working.”
“…Now, racist-ly, I’m an Asian person. It comes easier to me than it might to you.”
The USC student and the whole audience laughed.
Finally, Kaling said…
“I was just very focused on the show…I just was very singular-minded. I never went out after. I never got distracted. That’s it.”
Kaling’s simple, honest answer reminds me of something one of Silicon Valley’s top startup investors, Paul Graham, says about founding companies.
He says, “Everyone is surprised by how difficult it turns out to be, because it’s not the kind of difficulty people have experienced before…Start-ups are hard but doable, in the way that running a five-minute mile is hard but doable.”
It also reminds of one of my favourite stories and something another young, successful person I know says.
In a meeting with the entire Business Insider newsroom about a year or so ago, our editor-in-chief was reminding everyone that while the pace at Business Insider can seem really fast, everyone should be wary of burning themselves out because “this is a marathon, not a sprint.”
That’s when Business Insider’s 30-something executive editor, Joe Weisenthal, couldn’t help himself.
He kind of blurted out: “Of course, world-class marathoners run faster for 26 miles than most of us could sprint.”
This is true, by the way. Divide 2 hours by 26 miles. Then go run four laps around a track. Compare the times.
Joe’s point was that you probably shouldn’t burn out, but yeah, you’re not going to become world-class without hard work.
It seems to me Kaling and Graham have the same message. If you want something, get focused and get working on it.
(Of course, if that works, and you succeed, you’ll also spend a lot of time being amazed at how lucky you were. For a great quote on that, you must see this one from Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.)
Here’s the Kaling clip:
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