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Leslie Odom Jr

The Art of Booking Gigs

You have to try before you can quit.

A few years ago I was watching a really beautiful video of a song called Seriously.

I was really obsessed with it. I listened to it so many times, and it moved me. It put an amazing singer on my radar: Leslie Odom Jr.

As I started researching him, I found out so much more about him. He started on Broadway as a teenager doing a little show called Rent.

Most recently you may have heard of another show he’s been doing: Hamilton.

I think it’s no surprise that both of these shows blew up with him on the stage. On today’s episode of The School of Greatness I sat down with Leslie to discuss what it takes to be a real artist and dominate your field.


“You have to be both a harsh critic and a strong advocate for yourself.”  

When Leslie started, his only dream was to be in Rent. When he made it, he was left to find a new dream. He struggled for a long time not finding any work.

One day his eyes were opened by a mentor as to what he was doing wrong. He wasn’t respecting his industry.

He had to show the universe what he wanted. He started taking beginner acting classes, and really researching every brand, role, producer, writer, etc before going out for an audition.

The moment he made this mind shift, the universe responded and he was booked non stop for six years.


You really need to learn from his wisdom on this one.So, learn how to combat your fear of failure, mentally prepare for huge opportunity, and how to be an advocate for yourself, on Episode 677.

“What the audience is responding to is not your perfection.”  

Some Questions I Ask:

  • There was a time you thought you’d end your acting career, is that right? (8:22)
  • What do you think is the biggest lesson you learned from your mentors? (10:59)
  • Were you proactively calling people at the time? (20:43)
  • What did you see when you watched your audition playback? (28:32)
  • How do you show up with the same passion and drive when you have so much to lose? (30:06)
  • What did you say to yourself right before the mic turned on? (34:23)
  • What was your dream growing up? (40:02)
  • What happens if we dream too small? (42:33)
  • How long did you think before you made your decision not to take the money? (48:04)
  • How did you keep your belief? (53:43)

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The importance of mentors (9:39)
  • What made Leslie take action (17:06)
  • Why you need to respect your industry (24:26)
  • How he lost his fire in his twenties (29:46)
  • What Leslie says to himself before a big performance like the Super Bowl (31:34)
  • How you can be a stronger advocate for yourself (36:53)
  • How Leslies deals with finding a new dream (41:38)
  • Leslie’s struggle between Hamilton and a big TV deal (44:54)
  • Plus much more…

Connect with
Leslie Odom Jr

Transcript of this Episode

Lewis Howes:    This is episode number 677, with Leslie Odom Jr.

Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now, let the class begin.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”

Welcome to the podcast today! We have the incredible, the loving, the inspiring, Leslie Odom Jr, who is an actor and singer. He’s performed on Broadway and in television and in film, and he’s released two solo jazz albums.

He is known for originating the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical called ‘Hamilton’, which was a mega hit success, that is taking over the world currently today. And a performance which he won the 2016 Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical, and the Grammy award for Best Musical Theatre Album as a principle vocalist.

He has been on several TV shows and films and is author of the book, Failing Up. And, wow, we go into some serious inspiration today. I love connecting with him, wish we had more time, because this is amazing.

Make sure to take a screenshot of this, post it on your Instagram Story, tag myself, @LewisHowes, and @leslieodomjr, put it on Twitter, Facebook, all that good stuff.

Things we cover today are, the advice Leslie got from his mentor, when he was about to quit and give it all up in acting, also, how to combat fear of failure. Once you’ve tasted success and big status, how to mentally prepare for a huge opportunity when the whole world is watching you. We talk about that.

How to be an advocate for yourself, and your talent, even when no one else is for you, and why it’s good to be the worst in your class. This one, I’m telling you guys, it’s really juicy and I really think you’re going to love this one.

A big shout out to the Fan of the Week, Lindsay Cable, who said, “I first discovered podcasts when I made the decision to move away from my home state and start a new life. I was driving for Uber in between jobs, and came across this podcast. Now this podcast is part of my daily routine. I make breakfast and listen to this. It sets a positive tone for the day. I appreciate your inspiration drive and, of course, this podcast.”

Lindsay! Thank you so much! I appreciate it! It always in inspiring to know that, it’s funny, I’ve been in Ubers, and lifts, and actually people are listening to the podcast as I get in there and so many people send me messages when they’re in an Uber or a lift, that their driver is listening as they’re in the back seat, driving to their next destination.

So, it’s always fun, I really appreciate that, and a big thank you to all the lift and Uber drivers, who are listening when they have customers riding in with them. And if you guys want to leave a review, you can always go to the section and leave a review right there.

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And, without further ado, we’ve got the most incredible guest on today! Here we go! Leslie Odom Jr!

Welcome back, everyone, to The School of Greatness Podcast. We have the legendary Leslie Odom Jr in the house! Good to see you, sir! Glad you’re here.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Good to see you, Lewis! Thanks, man.

Lewis Howes:                 Now that I know we’re neighbours, hopefully I’ll run into you more often.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, man.

Lewis Howes:                 Congrats on everything, man, it’s been amazing to see your journey. I was just telling you off camera about how I first found out about you from the video called, ‘Seriously’, the song you sang that Sara Bareilles wrote, a couple of years back. We’ll have it linked up in the show notes.

But the way you sang this song, for whatever reason, just resonated with me. I didn’t even know you were the Hamilton guy, I didn’t know everything that you’ve done before, but the way that you showed up, your way of being, was so profound for me, I listened to it a hundred times, plus.

And it just moved me. So, I appreciate you for your voice, and for your ability to connect an idea with people. Very powerful.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Thank you.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, and you’ve got this book, Failing Up: How To Take Risks, Aim Higher, And Never Stop Learning. Make sure you guys pick it up. Christine read it in about an hour and a half. She said she couldn’t stop reading it and diving in, so it’s really powerful.

And I wanted to dive into some of your lessons in this, because you had a journey where you kind of had some success early on. You were on Broadway, as a teenager, I believe, is that right?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 But then, for about ten-ish years, you were kind of working a little bit as an actor, but never really breaking through, and there was a moment where you thought maybe you would end it, is that correct?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Oh, yeah, yeah, I was out here in L.A. I came here, and I never thought I would come here, but after college I had some response out here in Los Angeles, so I came out to try my hand at it, and it was a lot of fun, and it was so new, and I didn’t know anybody on TV, I didn’t know really anybody in entertainment growing up, so I never saw myself doing TV and movies and stuff.

Lewis Howes:                 Because you sang, right? You were a singer?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I sang, yeah, I sang, and then on Broadway I did a show called ‘Rent’ when I was a teenager, and so…

Lewis Howes:                 That’s a small show!

Leslie Odom Jr:               Well, so, you know, I saw the line from me in Philadelphia, to me on stage. I could see how to make that happen. This jump out here, I never saw.

And so, anyway, I was out here, and I’m sure your audience knows it’s a challenging business, it’s a difficult business, and it is. It was getting me down, and basically the central lesson in the book is sort of the words and the advice that I got from my mentor, that changed my life, and led me back to theatre and everything, in a fuller, greater way.

Lewis Howes:                 How important are mentors in your life?

Leslie Odom Jr:               They’re everything. They’re surrogate parents, in a way. Your parents can only, you know, we only allow them to take us so far. There’s a lot of reasons why that is, but where you parents leave off, your mentors and teachers can kind of help to complete and supplement your education and these life lessons and things that are just really valuable.

I’ve had a handful that have meant so much to me.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, who was the most influential mentor in your life?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Well, today, it’s hard for me to say the most influential. I mean, there’s been five or six in my life, so it’s not like there’s so many. There’s been like, five or six, real ones in my life, that most of them are still around, thank God, you know?

So they continue to, I don’t have it all figured out by any means, so I still check in with them when I have, you know, when I’m at a crossroads or I have a major decision to make, or even, it’s really helpful to process with someone where you are. To look at the book and look at the movie that I’ve done.

Lewis Howes:                 And the song.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah. It’s like, “Yeah, yeah, what do you think of that? You know what I’ve been working on and where I was.” They can help chart your growth in a really useful way, too.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah. What do you think is the biggest lesson you learned from one of your mentors?

Leslie Odom Jr:               The one that I write about in the book was, I had turned 30, which is a big deal.

Lewis Howes:                 Did you think that was a big deal?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Absolutely!

Lewis Howes:                 At 30 a lot of things shifted for me. First off, when I looked at kids, I looked at them differently when I hit 30. And I thought, “Hmm… That’s interesting.” Like, I felt something different when I saw a one or a two-year-old, in a different way.

Not like these are annoying little kids, but I could see this one day. I don’t know if you felt that?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Well, I think what tripped me out was financially, I was still such a kid. Financially I really…

Lewis Howes:                 Were you in debt still? Or no?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I was in debt, and I had no stability in this profession.

Lewis Howes:                 Do many artists have stability?

Leslie Odom Jr:               No. And you have to reckon with that. So, at 30 I was reckoning with, “Am I comfortable with this?”

Lewis Howes:                 And the uncertainty, financially, constantly.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah. And, “If I’m comfortable with it now, at 29, going to 30, am I going to be comfortable at 39 going into 40? At 49 going into 50?”

Lewis Howes:                 Because there’s no certainty that you’re going to get some big gig, because for ten years, it’s been uncertain.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah. So, that’s what I, you know, you talk about seeing kids, I was like, “How will I ever pay a mortgage? How will I ever take on these responsibilities, if it’s always like this? What’s going to change about this?” Right?

And I was not ready, I was not willing to sign up for another decade like that. I just wasn’t, you know?

Lewis Howes:                 So you were already in your mind, like, “Something’s got to pop and it’s got to work, now, and I’ve got to start making money, or I’ve got to go find something else.”

Leslie Odom Jr:               I just said, “I have to grow up. I just have to grow up, I have to be able to pay my bills.” Because it was the high highs and the low lows. Those lows are low, man!

Lewis Howes:                 Dark.

Leslie Odom Jr:               They’re dark!

Lewis Howes:                 And they can go for a long time. Where there’s not a gig.

Leslie Odom Jr:               It’s ugly.

Lewis Howes:                 Or you could book a pilot and think, “I’m going to make all his money,” and think, “I’m going to be making 15/20 grand an episode,” and then it gets dropped, and you get nothing. But six months of your life was built into this one thing, you couldn’t audition for other things.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Right. And so it was like I couldn’t, you talk about, there is a certain picture or whatever that you’re trying to see when you hit these milestones, be it 25, 30, 35, 40, whatever they are for you, and you assess, you look at where you are and you’re like, “Does this look like what I imagined it to look like?”

Lewis Howes:                 And it didn’t, for you. And so, what did you do?

Leslie Odom Jr:               A mentor of mine, Stuart K Robinson, out here in L.A., he’s brilliant, he was an acting coach for many years, brilliant businessman, life coach, really. He’s one of my mainstays. I met with him for career counselling, really. I wasn’t looking to him to help me stay an actor. It’s like, “You know my skills I have, what else can I do?”

Lewis Howes:                 Really? You were already out the door?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I was applying at a hotel, to be a night clerk, not too far from where we are now. I didn’t want to necessarily be a night clerk, but is it the hospitality industry? Is it being an executive at a network? Casting? What do I transition to?

And he said to me, “Okay, listen, you can quit, and we can talk about that, there are ways that I can help you do that, for sure, but I’d love to see you try first. I’d love to see you try before you quit.”

Lewis Howes:                 Wow! Weren’t you already trying for a decade?

Leslie Odom Jr:               This is after a decade, you’re right! So, I’m looking at him like he’s insane, and he says, well, I think, what you’re doing, if I’m hearing you correctly, is you’re sitting at home and waiting for the phone to ring, and when the phone rings you show up and you do a great job. You put on a nice outfit, and show up, you’re affable, you’re a nice guy, you’re prepared.

“And when the call comes in, you can deliver, and a lot of times you can turn that into an opportunity for yourself. But he phone didn’t ring today, right? So what did you do today, for yourself? In the absence of a ringing phone, did you call anyone? Did you read anything, did you write anything, did you e-mail anybody?

“Do people that you’ve worked with, do they even know you’re out of work? Have you reached out to the people you’ve already worked with?” He said, “You’ve got a pretty nice voice, but you’re not singing at all.”  He said, “Do you know that there are coffee shops in Los Angeles that would love to have you play the lunch hour? You get a little band together and play the lunch hour.”

He just made me aware of all… I was sitting in my apartment in West Hollywood, waiting for the phone to ring. Angry that it wasn’t ringing, not understanding why it wasn’t ringing, and why I hadn’t proven myself enough that these opportunities weren’t coming to me, and what he did was, he got me off my couch.

And so, since that day, I haven’t stopped working since that day, and that was six years ago. I haven’t stopped working since.

Lewis Howes:                 Six years ago.

Leslie Odom Jr:               I haven’t stopped working in six years. Because there is a healthy amount of incoming calls, but I’m never waiting for the incoming call, ever.

Lewis Howes:                 Even today.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Even today.

Lewis Howes:                 You’re pro-actively creating the life you want.

Leslie Odom Jr:               One hundred percent. I’m never ever waiting for somebody to call me, ever again, after that lunch. I left that lunch, like, “Oh my gosh, what have I been doing?” I was ignoring, as a freelance business person, I was ignoring at least half of my business. Wouldn’t you say?

Lewis Howes:                 Absolutely! Yeah, yeah. Wow. And more than that, you were probably doing auditions, what, two times a week on average, so you’re waiting for a callback on these auditions, which there’s a hundred other guys auditioning as well, and they don’t even call three people, or whatever. That’s a hard game to play.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, that was what I needed to hear. I love the India.Ari quote, “You know the truth by the way it feels.”  I knew that he was telling me something true.

Lewis Howes:                 So you were already on the way out, though. You were already checked out, done, tired of doing auditions, tired of waiting for the phone to ring, and said, “I’m done, give me help on how to get a job.”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 And so, one thing he said to you reignited the fire inside of you to say, “Alright, I’m going to try for six months,” or something.

Leslie Odom Jr:               What I talk about in the book is, it’s really not about necessarily even leaving a lunch like that, or today, starting something and having a list of fifty things, if you feel yourself inactive, if you feel yourself sitting on that symbolically, even, you are sitting on your couch.

It’s one thing, you know, it really is as simple as a spiritual guide, too. And I just really believe that if you take one step the universe will meet you where you are and help you take two. You will be aided, you will get response to that.

The world, people around you respond to your action. It responds to you doing on simple thing. I love this. I just did this movie about time travel, and a friend of mine posted this quote in the middle me doing this movie, about how a lot of people think and imagine time travel as getting the opportunity to go back in time to change one thing that radically affects your life, right?

If I just went over and introduced myself at that moment, or if I would have just picked up the phone at that moment, you know what I mean? But very rarely do we think about the little thing we can do today that’s going to radically affect.

We think about going back and that one, you can do the little thing today! What is the little thing you can do today?

Lewis Howes:                 That your future self would have wished that you had done.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah!

Lewis Howes:                 Wow! And so, what were those things that you started to do? Over the next few weeks?

Leslie Odom Jr:               The first thing was, Stu at the time taught this class for 25/30 years.

Lewis Howes:                 Acting class, right?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Mm-hm. He just stopped teaching it. It was a commercial acting class, and I was a classically trained actor. I went to Carnegie Mellon University. So commercial acting, it’s literally acting for commercials.

It’s Crest commercials, and Taco Bell, and car commercials, it is not always glamorous, right?

Lewis Howes:                 It’s not, it’s a format, yeah. It’s not Broadway.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, right, and it’s sometimes looked down upon. You’re not going to win any Oscars for commercial work, right?

Lewis Howes:                 But there’s some good money in those gigs! Great money!

Leslie Odom Jr:               Okay! Stu taught a commercial acting class, which can be looked at a certain way, but Stu said, “Hey, come take my advanced class. You’re not doing anything, right? So look, start there! Come next week, it’s a six week class.”

I hadn’t taken an acting class since I’d been in school, almost a decade. So I slept on it, and I said, “He’s offering me something. I’m going to take the beginning class. I’m not doing anything.”

Lewis Howes:                 You were a trained professional.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, I’ve been on Broadway and everything, but, “I’m going to start at the beginning, commercial acting class with Stu, and if it takes me six months to get through all of the curriculum, I’ll work my way up to advanced.”

I took two classes. The very first class changed my life. By the second class, I didn’t finish the six week course, because I started working so much.

Lewis Howes:                 You just started getting gigs right away?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Immediately. And it was what I was learning, but I also think that it was the universe responding to the fact that I was doing anything.

Lewis Howes:                 The energy you were putting out there, yeah. So it was going to reward you.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yes! I felt it.

Lewis Howes:                 Now, were you pro-actively calling people at that time? Or just the act of you doing that, people started to respond?

Leslie Odom Jr:               What happened was, I took the class, like the class was the immediate action that I took. So, the next week, say, I was in class. It was a three hour class, and when I tell you the bells and whistles that were going off in my head while I was doing this class.

Lewis Howes:                 Like what, was going off?

Leslie Odom Jr:               There was one exercise that we did. It’s a class of, like, 25 people, and most of the people are new to L.A., these are very, very green people, all different ages, because commercial work employs all different sizes, all different types of people, these are moms who’s kids are finally out of the house, these are…

Lewis Howes:                 Teenagers.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Teenagers, you know, kids, all these different…

Lewis Howes:                 Beginners.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Beginners, right? From all over the country.

Lewis Howes:                 And you’re thinking to yourself, “What am I doing here?”

Leslie Odom Jr:               A little bit, a little bit. So, one of the first exercises Stu does is two things in that class, that very first class, that blow my mind. Number one, he says, he hips us to the numbers that are involved in the  commercial world. So, Pepsi Cola want to do a new ad campaign – I’m going to get this wrong – but Pepsi Cola wants to do a new ad campaign. How much do you think they’re going to spend on a new ad campaign?

Just so you, you know, what do you think?

Lewis Howes:                 Millions. On a whole campaign? Nationwide? 50-100 million.

Leslie Odom Jr:               You should have taken the class! You’re exactly right.

Lewis Howes:                 But some of them are probably thinking, “Ah…”

Leslie Odom Jr:               We’re thinking 5 million, 15 million, 20 million, these are the answers that he’s getting. We had no idea that the numbers were 50-100 million dollars. So there’s a line out in L.A. that you hear, “They don’t know what they want.”

You know, you go in for these commercial auditions, and they don’t know what they want, and Stu says to us, “We’re spending 50-100 million dollars on an ad campaign. You don’t think we know what we want? We know exactly what we want, we just don’t want to tell you. We don’t want to have to tell you. We expect you to know what we want.”

Like, he’s shattering a myth, an L.A. myth! This what actors tell themselves in L.A., that they don’t know what they want. “We know exactly what we want, and we spend 50-100 million dollars.” So right there, it’s like, “Number one, respect us. Respect what you’re coming in for. You know, yeah, it’s a Jeter commercial, we’ve spent $50 million on it.”

Lewis Howes:                 That’s more than a TV show.

Leslie Odom Jr:               You’ve got to have a certain amount of respect when you’re going in for something like that, if you’re trying to be a partner, if you’re trying to be a business partner with these people, you’re trying to fit. “We have a need today, and you’ve come in to fulfil our need.”

So, when Stu would talk about the research involved, in a commercial audition, okay, like, “Figure out who we are. What commercials have we done in the past? Who are we?”

Lewis Howes:                 “What’s our brand ethos? What do we stand for? What’s our message?”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Because if you’re trying to book these commercials, and I was. I wasn’t eating, this is my rent money, I wanted to collaborate with these people, he was just telling us all the ways that we were not respecting this industry.

He’s like, “It is very easy for you to go from, you feel like you’re going in and you’re rolling the dice, it’s very easy for you to book these things, but these are the ways…”

Lewis Howes:                 All the steps. Do the training. Show up prepared.

Leslie Odom Jr:               I booked two national commercials, the next week.

Lewis Howes:                 No way!

Leslie Odom Jr:               I promise you!

Lewis Howes:                 Just by following the principles.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Just by respecting the industry. So, then, what I thought, Lewis, was okay, so now I’m applying this to commercial acting, to be honest, I haven’t been applying this to my other auditions. I haven’t been applying this kind of respect.

When you get an audition for a CBS show, who are the creators? What other work have they done? Who is ABC? If you’re not self-made, listen, if you’re producing your own work, if you’re writing your own books and you’re making your own content, you don’t have to do that.

I was, at the time, I was an auditioning actor. I wanted to collaborate with people and I was not holding up my end of the bargain.

Lewis Howes:                 You knew the rules of being a good actor, or a great actor, but you didn’t know the rules of the game of booking the gigs. And it’s a whole different art. It’s a whole different performance that you have to do in preparation to get ready to step in.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Oh, yeah! I was still sort of working by accident, almost.

Lewis Howes:                 Right, because you had talent, but you could have built a lot more, it sounds like, than you started to, once you learned the rules of the game of booking.

Leslie Odom Jr:               There was that, and then there was the other lesson that he, I’m trying to get him, so bad, to start his brand of helping, because he just continues to teach and get me out of my own way.

The other thing, he had this exercise where everybody in the class would get up, and he said we were auditioning for a toothpaste commercial, and so, some commercial auditions, they can really feel like there’s not much to hang onto.

Lewis Howes:                 Except for that big check at the end. You know what I’m saying?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Okay! So, he had groups of six or seven go up in front of the class, line up, and Stu was behind the camera, and he would go down the line, and he would ask you a question, “What’s your favourite dessert?” And you would answer. And like, “What’s your name?” first of all.

Lewis Howes:                 On camera.

Leslie Odom Jr:               On camera, yeah, “What’s your favourite dessert?” And then he’s go to the next person. “What’s your name?  What’s the last great vacation you went on?” Right? Went down the line, then the next six, seven people.

And in the class I’m watching everybody do it and I’m trying to form my own [opinion], you know, I wonder what Stu’s looking for, I’m thinking, “Oh, my gosh, people are so green,” and I’m trying to gauge who I think is the best and who not. I thought I did pretty good. It’s my name, and answer a question. I can do that.

So then, he gets through everybody in the class, and he does this thing where he says, “You know, sometimes, we’ve got a lot of things to do in a commercial casting office, and the thing that we’re looking for is going to show up. It’s not about what you actually say. So we sometimes watch these things with the sound off.”

So he turns the sound off, and we watch it back.

Lewis Howes:                 Wow! It blew your mind, probably, what you saw.

Leslie Odom Jr:               It blew my mind!

Lewis Howes:                 Because you probably thought you said something interesting and your tone was so powerful and it flowed, but how was your body language? And your facial expression? And the smile and the eyes?

Leslie Odom Jr:               And the light? The light inside? What mood are you actually…? What are you actually creating in the viewer? What do I actually feel watching? And some of those green people, those people that had just…

Lewis Howes:                 Crushed it, probably.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Because they were love and they were light and they were joy. So it’s like, it doesn’t matter what you said, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t say the right thing. I would call them back. That’s what beginner’s luck is.

Lewis Howes:                 Because they don’t know. They’re being this passionate and joyful person. They’re excited to be there, they want to express themselves.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah! They’re not jaded, they’re not angry.

Lewis Howes:                 They’re not trained.

Leslie Odom Jr:               They’re not trained, they’re not sad, you know what I mean? All those things that, over time, the heartbreaks, and the rejection and all that stuff, that’s what I saw when I saw myself, and I saw it immediately.

Lewis Howes:                 What did you see?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I saw somebody, and I understood him, but I saw somebody that had something to offer, but wanted you to let him know that it was okay to bring it. “Let me know that it’s safe, first. And then I’ll give you everything that I have. Make me feel safe, first.” So I was guarded.

“I don’t have time to make you feel safe.”

Lewis Howes:                 Right. A commercial director or a booker, they need to know who’s going to be great right now.

Leslie Odom Jr:               “Let’s go, let’s go!” Right? And so, I was in my own way. The rejection, the heartache, all that was in my way. And so a mantra that I had after that, I said, “I’m going to come rushing forward, in every single room that I’m in. If you don’t want to hire me, that’s okay, there’s someone behind you that’s going to, though. So, move! It’s not you? Thank you, very much. Is it you? I have something to bring today, I have something to offer. It’s not you? Who is it?”

I’m not going to let that make me cagey or hide, all of that stuff I had done before. So, those two things, respecting who I was going in for, and coming rushing forward in every room. I haven’t stopped working in six years.

Lewis Howes:                 Wow! Do you feel like you kind of lost that in your twenties? Where you were more hesitant?

Leslie Odom Jr:               For sure! That’s what I saw, that was a result.

Lewis Howes:                 You gave yourself feedback. You were like, “Okay, if I was a casting director, this person has low energy, they’re insecure,” or whatever it was that you were. “They weren’t certain, they weren’t passionate.”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Oh, yeah! When I went on that Rent audition, when I was sixteen years old.

Lewis Howes:                 Fired up!

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, I didn’t know any different. Beginner’s luck, I booked the first thing I ever [auditioned for]. That’s beginner’s luck. I wasn’t afraid of anything! Lay it on! You know? I didn’t have any heartache, there was nothing to be jaded about.

Lewis Howes:                 What about now? Since you have been working for six years in a row, you’ve got the Tony awards, you’ve got the performing with the president, all these things have happened, now you do have something to lose, potentially, you could think that way. How do you show up with that same passion and drive when, if you get rejected, maybe it’ll hurt even more?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Oh yeah, that’s the work. That’s the work you have to do, because, yeah, there is more to lose now. I’ve got a wife, I’ve got a kid, I’ve got a…

Lewis Howes:                 A reputation.

Leslie Odom Jr:               A station, yeah! Like, these things in life, and yeah, they can kill your art. That fear, that worry. Those kinds of things can ruin a good career, they can ruin a good instrument. That’s the work, that’s why you keep honest people around you, you stay honest with yourself. You look at that stuff. It’s hard to do, but I watch my work, I listen to my work.

Lewis Howes:                 Really? That’s hard. I can’t listen to myself back.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Oh, it’s awful. It’s awful, but it’s like, you’ve got to check in with yourself to go, “Where can I improve? That’s not quite right,” and that’s the work.

Lewis Howes:                 Wow! What do you say to yourself, or think about before performing at the Superbowl, or a big moment like that? How do you bring it, with poise and passion and love and light, and not worry?

Leslie Odom Jr:               The Superbowl was, I don’t know, when I’m given an opportunity like that, it’s a blessing, it’s a real blessing. You’re given even for a minute, to a minute and thirty seconds, you’re given a platform. They’re giving you, or you’re borrowing a platform, because it ain’t my platform, but they’re giving you [a platform].

And so, yeah, you come up against it. Who are you? What do you have to say? I mean, it really is borrowing a platform, because they didn’t tell me how I should arrange that song, or what I should wear or what my vibe should be, all that kind of stuff.

And so, you have the chance to say what you intend to say. And so, what is the feeling that you’re trying to create in people and what do you want to say? So, at that moment, I wanted to honour, I had some people in my life, and the world, I wanted to honour. To make some people proud.

Lewis Howes:                 Who were those people you were thinking about?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Well, I think that it’s been, the NFL, as we all know, there’s been some players, some professionals that have been really trying to use their platform.

Lewis Howes:                 And they’re getting penalised for it.

Leslie Odom Jr:               In this season, it looks like, yeah. Some of them are going to.

Lewis Howes:                 You were thinking of them?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I was thinking of them, I was thinking of my ancestors. I was thinking of my ancestors in this country and without sugar-coating it, not necessarily, I can’t, all the way, answer what they would feel about me standing up and singing a song like America The Beautiful. I don’t know.

But these are the questions that I’m asking, this is what I wonder. This is who I have to keep in mind, in a moment like that. Does that make sense? And so, when you stand up in a moment like that, you haven’t necessarily answered all the questions, but the fact that you’re asking them brings a certain integrity to the work. It means that you’re not going to get up there, and – I can curse, right?

Lewis Howes:                 Sure.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Like my mama says, “You’re not going to get up there and show your ass.” Because you have people that have made a moment like this possible. You have people that you owe a certain amount of dignity to, you know?

Lewis Howes:                 And gratitude.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Gratitude. So, it’s just asking questions like that. “How do I make this song, how do I arrange this song?” And they told me they wanted me to sing with a choir of children, that’s all they told me. But what is the arrangement, what is the sound of it? How do I imbue this moment, with all of these things that I’m feeling? And so, that’s the gig.

Lewis Howes:                 What did you say to yourself right before the lights turned on and you were standing there in front of the mic?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Blackout! You don’t focus on – how many people watch the Superbowl?

Lewis Howes:                 About a hundred million? I don’t know. Something like that?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Something like that, yeah. You don’t focus on the hundred million. You don’t even focus on the 66,000 or whatever, in this room, there’s a camera, I try to do an intimate thing.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, think of one person or five people, you’ve got to.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, make it small. These are the people I can see right here, in my vision, there’s a camera out there. How do I make this?

Lewis Howes:                 It’s interesting you say that, because when I speak on stage and if I’m in front of, it doesn’t matter if it’s five hundred or ten thousand people, when I’m speaking, I used to get really nervous, back in the day. And then someone told me, when I asked, “What do I do if I’m just nervous and I feel like I’m blanking out or I’m forgetting something, or I messed up? What’s the secret?”

And this is a guy who performs in front of 20/30 thousand people, speaking every week. His name’s Phil Town. “Whenever I feel like I’m losing myself, or the audience, I focus on one person. And I’ll connect with that one person, and think about what their life is like, and what they’re going through, and connecting the message to just that one person. And, by doing that, in an intimate way, I usually connect with the whole room.”

And so, I started to do that, and I realised, “Wow! There’s so much power in presence and intimacy with a few people, as opposed to, how do I captivate the whole world, or the whole room?” Or really, how do I focus on what a few people might be going through, and speak to them?

And it sounds like you were thinking, “How do I connect with a few of the players who maybe have stood up or taken the knee?” However you want to say it, “And a few of my family members,” or something like that.

Leslie Odom Jr:               “These kids behind me, what example am I to them right now in this moment, because they’re going to feed off my energy.” And I was in front of like, eleven and twelve-year-olds. What do I want to show them about courage and integrity in this moment?

Lewis Howes:                 You said something in here, I highlighted, “You have to be both a harsh critic and a strong advocate for yourself.” And I love that, because I think a lot of actors, musicians, artists, are their strongest critics all the time, and they forget to advocate for their gifts and their work and their value.

How can people, it doesn’t matter what business they’re in, or art they’re in, or who they are, how can people be stronger advocates for themselves, not in an egoic way, but in a way that propels them forwards? As opposed to always, “Oh, I wasn’t good enough,” or, “I messed this up,” or, “I suck!” How do you balance that?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Well, number one, I’ll say – and I’ll give away a little secret right here – number one I say, both of those things are true, but a lot of those artists, the truth is, whenever you put yourself out there, whenever you stand up in front of an audience of people, whenever you are auditioning even, but especially when you are performing, that is you, saying that you believe in yourself.

That is you saying, “I have something of value to offer.” And so, you don’t often see the pep talks that we give ourselves. We don’t show it, because they’re weird!   We don’t show them to people, but it’s on the drive away. It’s before you step on for the Superbowl, you have to believe that you have something to share, something of value to share. You have to believe that.

You study any of the greats, any of the people that you love, you realise that you forgive them anything. You forgive them anything.

Lewis Howes:                 What do you mean?

Leslie Odom Jr:               What I mean is, those of us that are trying to be great, you study the greats, and they weren’t perfect all the time. Sammy wasn’t perfect all the time. Michael wasn’t perfect all the time. Frank, Marilyn.

Lewis Howes:                 They seemed perfect.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Nina, Miles, the whole sort of last third of Miles’ career, he is exploring the margin, because he can play it perfectly. “I’ve already done that, though. Where’s the rub?” He’s exploring the imperfect, right?

What I’m trying to say is, what your audience is responding to, is not your perfection. What’s touching people, what’s moving people, is not the fact that you’re perfect. We’re responding to your courage, we’re responding to the god in you, to the inspiration in you, to the honesty in you, the vulnerability in you.

We’re responding to you bringing us your truth. Whatever that looks like. So, I guess, the answer to the question is, really analyse what it is you love about your heroes and you’ll see these things and you’ll have some patience, and you’ll let yourself alone a little bit. Because you’re on the same path.

It’s like, if Miles was here right now, would I care if Miles played a flat note?

Lewis Howes:                 No, you’d be like, “This is amazing! I get to watch my hero!”

Leslie Odom Jr:               You know what I’m saying? If Michael were here right now, or Nina was here right now, would we care if she forgot her lyrics? It’s like, “Pull them up! Somebody get them on the phone! We don’t care about that! We love you for something else!”

And so, realise that.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, the energy they bring, the passion, yeah.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, it’s not about perfection.

Lewis Howes:                 What was your dream growing up? Was it to be a Broadway star? Was it something else?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Once I really had a dream, once the Rent thing happened, and I sort of, because I say in the book, my dream was not to be in show business, my dream was to be in Rent. That was my dream.

Lewis Howes:                 To be in that musical.

Leslie Odom Jr:               To be in that show. Like, that’s as far as I saw. That’s it. And so, just the way my life has worked out, that happened, and so then I really had to dream a new dream. I didn’t have any dreams before. It’s like, if your dream is to go to the Olympics, you go to the Olympics, and that’s it. “What am I going to do now?”

Like, you sort of have to do that work, and dream a new [dream]. And so, I think part of me, after that, had a dream of like, “Well, I’d love to see what,” because I jumped in on that moving train, “I’d love to see what it feels like to be a part of something like that from the beginning.

And that’s what Hamilton is.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s what Hamilton is. You were in there from the very beginning, right?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah!

Lewis Howes:                 Didn’t you see an early taping of it, or something? And an early scripting?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, yeah. And so, that’s kind of where I found myself the last few years, the world, or the fans of the show, really got to see me living my wildest dream. And so, then again, you have to go, “Who am I? What do I want that’s more than that?” because that really was it.

Lewis Howes:                 And now you’ve achieved the second-biggest dream, so do you struggle to discover…

Leslie Odom Jr:               Kind of, yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Because you’re like, “I can book anything I want, but what do I really want?”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Not that you struggle with, “I can book anything I want…”

Lewis Howes:                 But, “Things are coming to me much easier.”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, yeah. It’s different, it’s totally different now. But, yeah, you have to be careful what you wish for, because you can have it.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, and the challenge is, I think Warren Buffet said, the difference between successful people and really successful people is that extremely successful people learn to say no more than successful people.

I think I’m butchering that quote, but if you want to really achieve your dreams, you can’t say yes to everything, at a certain point. To get to a place, you’ve got to say yes a lot, and then you’ve got to say no to everything to after that few things that really are meaningful.

Leslie Odom Jr:               For sure.

Lewis Howes:                 You mentioned in your book about dreams. What happens if we dream too small?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I think I just said to you, it really is about ‘be careful what you wish for’.  Because you can get it. And so, if you dream small, small dreams show up, they do. And you go, “Hmm… It doesn’t quite feel like I thought it would feel.”

So, it’s been really important to me to check in with myself and ask myself what it is I want, and why, too. Also, asking why you want the things you want.

Lewis Howes:                 What is that now, and why?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Well, I think, what I want – I’m not going to tell you everything today!

Lewis Howes:                 Give us a little teaser! Give us a little taste!

Leslie Odom Jr:               The music thing is something that I’m really pursuing and I have a sort of vision for how it looks.

Lewis Howes:                 More jazz stuff?

Leslie Odom Jr:               It is the same lane, the same lane that I’m in. But I want to expand that, and grow that part of my business, and I would like to do that, I don’t want to do that to the detriment of my family.

Lewis Howes:                 Because you have a new daughter, yeah.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, and, again, it’s be careful what you wish for.

Lewis Howes:                 You could be travelling all over the world non-stop, because people want you.

Leslie Odom Jr:               And you could pursue that thing where you’re on the road for two or three years. So, I don’t want that, but I do want to continue to pursue it, because I love it and it’s interesting.

Lewis Howes:                 Who do you think has done a great job in doing that in your industry? They’ve pursued the music career, and they have a model that you like. Or they have a family and they’ve got kids, but they’re not constantly stressed on the road.

Leslie Odom Jr:               I think Buble has done it really well.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, because he kind of comes out like two months a year, it seems like, and just crushes it.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, I think he’s done it really well, and I know they just had a tragedy with their one kid. But he lives in Italy, with his family. Like, that’s where he lives. He doesn’t live here. He lives in Italy with his family, and he makes his music when he feels called to make it, he goes on the road, and then he goes back to Italy.

Lewis Howes:                 He sings his Christmas specials and crushes it, and then, yeah!

Leslie Odom Jr:               He certainly could do more. I bet there’s a lot of people that would love him to do more, that would want to see him all the time. But he says no a lot, I think. I think he’s done it really well.

Lewis Howes:                 Wow. I heard, also, that as you were developing Hamilton, because it was a couple of years’ process, right?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 I heard that you got some big gig, a TV show, that was going to pay a lot of money.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 And you essentially had a decision to make, like, “Do I go and finally start making some real money with this show, and move to L.A., or keep doing this Hamilton thing, that I believe in, but who knows what really could happen? I think it’s going to be big.”

How did you navigate that?

Leslie Odom Jr:               A really talented friend of mine called me from New York this week, because there is always confirmation, too. I remember when I first got to L.A. and I was facing all these challenges, and I didn’t really have anybody to call that had been through them.

And I think I say this in the book too, that if you find yourself in that, sometimes you will find yourself mentorless for a moment, and I think that that’s because you’re walking a path that you will then be able to help somebody; be the mentor for somebody.

Because it’s like, in your little circle, not you’re the first person to walk on the moon, but in your little circle, you’re the first person to go through it. These specific things. A guy I really respect, in New York, called, because he’s trying to get his concert career started and so he just wanted some advice about it.

Again, I’m so honoured by a call like that, because I just get to give somebody some love and just pour into them for a second. After I got off the phone with him, I texted him and I said, “There’s one thing I forgot. You’ve made a new decision, and I’m not telling you which way to go, but in making a new decision in your life, know that something is going to come to test your resolve. An opportunity is going to come to test your resolve about this new decision.

“And however you answer that opportunity, will speak to what you really want. I don’t know what the test is going to be, but when you say, ‘This is what I want,’ something’s going to come to say, ‘Are you sure?’”

And that’s what that TV show was. You say you wanted this theatre thing, you wanted to be part of something from the ground up. Okay, here’s a whole lot of money, and a chance to, this other thing that you’ve sort of been pursuing as well, this TV thing, there’s an opportunity for that, or you can go do an off Broadway show and make $800 a week, to be a part of something that you really love, that feels really, really good.

Who are you? Who are you? And you have to answer that. I tried to get comfortable with the money. My mom needed a new roof, and who am I to turn down half a million dollars? I mean, when you have nothing? To go make $800, are you an idiot?

Go to bed, and are you dumb? Go to bed, take the money. In the middle of the night I would wake up in a panic attack. My body was just, “That’s not who you are. You’ve never been that guy. I can’t do that.”

Lewis Howes:                 So, you felt it. How long did you think on it, before you made the decision?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Maybe two, three months. But, after I’d made the decision, then the tricky part was contractually getting out of that other thing. Because I was contracted to do that job.

Lewis Howes:                 Where you can’t do other gigs?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah. I was contracted to do that TV show, and Hamilton I was not, technically, contracted to do. Hamilton was the gamble in every way, but it was deciding that I didn’t want to do it, and then trying to figure out how to get out of it.

Like, “What am I going to do?” It was a stressful time.

Lewis Howes:                 I heard you e-mailed the executive and pretty much just begged in a sense. You were, like, “Please, let me…”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, kind of like it was that thing of troubleshooting, when you call and your cable’s on the fritz, and you call and you’re asking how to fix my cable. And the first thing they say is, “Well, okay is it on? Okay. Is it plugged in? Let’s check the…”

Lewis Howes:                 “Plugged in at the back of the box? Is the light on?”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, right. Those kind of things where you start there and your work your way up.

Lewis Howes:                 Because that’s usually where the challenges are, where it’s like, “If you press ‘ON’ on your computer for…”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah! Hold it down. Yeah, something like that. I had been thinking of all these different ways, how am I going to manoeuvre out of this contract, and it was like, there was somebody that gave me advice somewhere in there, too. Distilling his advice down was, “Why don’t you just ask?”

Before I tried to think of the way, and then I’m going to have to hire a lawyer, just go with a humble heart and ask. You know, there’s probably no way, but start there.

Lewis Howes:                 Start there. And you asked, and what happened?

Leslie Odom Jr:               They were, like, “Sure.”

Lewis Howes:                 Right away! And you were like, “What was I stressing about?”

Leslie Odom Jr:               They were like, “Okay.”

Lewis Howes:                 They were, like, “We’ve got five other people that probably want this gig,” right?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Sure, like, “We’re sad to lose you, but if you’re crazy enough to turn down a TV show to go do an Off-Broadway show for $800 a week, good luck. Moron.” Yeah, it worked out.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah! But then you got the guy tickets or something, as a than you. Is that right?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 You mentioned also, and I like this, “The work you put in when no one is watching is worth far more than the work you put in when the cameras are rolling.” Why is that, in your mind?

Leslie Odom Jr:               You look at this movie, Daveed movie, right now, Blindspotting, that everybody in your viewing public and listening public should go see.

Lewis Howes:                 Is this on Netflix?

Leslie Odom Jr:               No, it is in the movie theatres this weekend. Promise me you’re going to go this weekend.

Lewis Howes:                 Is it out tonight?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Tonight.

Lewis Howes:                 I will go. I just got tickets for Skyscraper, but I’m going to have to go now.

Leslie Odom Jr:               You got to go see Blindspotting. Skyscraper is great, you can go see Blindspotting tomorrow, or Sunday.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, yeah. Sunday night.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Okay, great!

Lewis Howes:                 I will text you when I’m done. In the theatre.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Perfect! It’s so fantastic. And this is what I mean about working in the dark. This is a movie they’ve been writing for ten years.

Lewis Howes:                 Really?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Ten years.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s like La La Land all over! That’s like seven, eight years.

Leslie Odom Jr:               They worked on it for ten years and nobody cared five minutes ago. They were working on a thing, just quietly toiling away on this thing that they cared about for ten years and then the second Daveed has his moment, they’re like, “Maybe we can make our movie now.”

And people invested in it and they made the movie, and it’s beautiful, and the ten years of work shows. Lynn worked on Hamilton for six years. Six years. So that’s what I mean. There is a certain amount of work that we can do once we get a gig, or once the cameras start rolling.

You can still keep working, but, as a guy who spends time in a gym, my trainer’s here, but that work that you do before, there’s nothing that beats the work that you do, the good eating that you do, the work you do, before. Before it’s time. Stay ready, if you can.

Lewis Howes:                 Stay ready, then you don’t have to get ready, is that right? Is that what they say?

Leslie Odom Jr:               That’s what they say. I haven’t been to the gym in, like,  months.

Lewis Howes:                 Really, so that’s why you’re going right after this. You’re like, “Let’s go!” He’s like, “What’s happening, man?” You got to go on the road with him! Get him up at 6am.

Why is it good to be the worst in your class or peer group?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Because you want to train with people that are better than you. You want to be around people [that are better than you]. I say, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re the best in your class, or you’re the best on the team, you might need to find a new team.

Lewis Howes:                 You’re not pushing yourself, yeah.

Leslie Odom Jr:               You might need to find a new team, you might need to find a new class. Because that’ll stagnate, that’ll cut you off. You want to be around people that are going to keep you striving and keep you reaching.

Carnegie was like that. The Hamilton company was like that. I was on stage with Lynn and Daveed, and Oak and Anthony, and Jasmine, Philippa, these people. It’s like we made each other better. In the best way, it was all love!

Lewis Howes:                  It wasn’t competition.

Leslie Odom Jr:               No, no, no. You want to keep up. You want to prove that you deserve your spot on the team as well, and because you’re playing, it’s all star.

Lewis Howes:                 So these were all-stars who were playing for 800 bucks a week? Who didn’t know what was going to happen, right? I mean, you guys believe, “This is going to be amazing, we’re going to make it on Broadway,” I’m assuming, because you wouldn’t have spent two years of your life for nothing.

So how did you guys, I mean, it’s crazy! The belief you guys had in the vision. How did you keep that belief, when everyone probably had other opportunities?

Leslie Odom Jr:               You know what you know, man. You know the truth by the way it feels. You know what you know. We didn’t know that other people would care about it as much as we did. That, you never know. You don’t  know if it’s going to connect, if other people are going to see what you see.

Lewis Howes:                 But you know that you loved it.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Oh yeah! Like, I hope you feel about Blindspotting the way I do, but I know what I think of it. Daveed and Raphael know what they think of it. So you don’t know if it’s going to connect with the wider group, but when it gives you the goose bumps, when it makes you feel alive, stay there. Stay there!

Lewis Howes:                 That’s the juice! That’s the juice. What’s the song you love to sing the most?

Leslie Odom Jr:               It changes, but at my concerts, sometimes, I do this Duke Ellington joint, Come Sunday, that I like. I did it on my PBS special and, yeah, I like it. It’s simple and if it’s well placed, if it’s well timed in a set, it can really drop everybody in the room and feel good.

Lewis Howes:                 Imagine for a moment, you had one last opportunity to sing a line in any song, ever written. Your song, another song, a song in your mind that you haven’t even sung yet, what would be the line and the song, if this was to be the only thing that you could sing last, for the world, what would that sentence or line or chorus be?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I want to thank you for such a simple question.

Lewis Howes:                 Without letting you prepare!

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah I want to thank you for lobbing  just the softball at me right there.

Lewis Howes:                 Well, at least, maybe the one that comes to mind right now. Maybe that one that’s on your mind or on your heart.

Leslie Odom Jr:               I got it.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah. What would that be?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Amen.

Lewis Howes:                 How would you sing it?

Leslie Odom Jr:               You won’t stop! I just answered that impossible hard question!

Lewis Howes:                 Imagine the world is listening, and you got to say, “Amen,” the way you wanted to.

Leslie Odom Jr:               [singing] Aa-me-e-e-en. And then just die. Just drop dead!

Lewis Howes:                 I like that! That’s powerful! Why ‘Amen’? What does that word mean to you?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I think, because you hope that there’s some part of your life, that has walked a spiritual journey, you know what I mean? There’s some part of your life that has been leading you to where you’re supposed to go. So that this whole thing has unfolded like a prayer, like a Bible verse, and the story of Lewis, the story of… You know what I mean?

That it is all played out and we all hope that we die with our family around us and in our garden and a noon. Like, you hope…

Lewis Howes:                 The sun shining on your face, yeah.

Leslie Odom Jr:               It doesn’t happen for everybody, but if you talk about the way you hope, you hope that it’s had meaning and purpose, and that, in the end, you would glean some of that. In the end you would understand some of that and you would have peace at the end and you would have resolve.

Lewis Howes:                 What’s the biggest lesson your wife’s taught you, through all this?

Leslie Odom Jr:               She continues to teach me how to be a partner. She continues to teach me that through her example, and also just through her partnership, her companionship. She teaches me, and also, I learn on my own, and she continues to teach me how to show up for somebody.

I used to think that it was about, partly because of the way I was raised, too, and the way that my dad thought it was supposed to go, that was my example, learning a new thing now. But I used to think that it was about perfecting someone, you know, with love, but you let people know all the different ways they could be better.

Lewis Howes:                 That becomes weighing after a while.

Leslie Odom Jr:               That’s for sure! That it really, with my dad, too, a lot of that was like, the more I’m looking  at you, the less I have to look at myself. So really, it’s been a good amount of time pointing right here, you know what I mean?

You become more good with yourself the better you’re going to be for somebody else, but watching her have this moment now, this, her Waitress moment and getting to support her in that.

Lewis Howes:                 I might go watch her next week. Is she, is it next week?

Leslie Odom Jr:               No, dude, she starts September 4th. She’s there, you’ll come to her… September, October…

Lewis Howes:                 September, and it’s six weeks.

Leslie Odom Jr:               She’s there for eight weeks.

Lewis Howes:                 Okay, I’ll watch it again. I saw her with Catherine McPhee, and it was pretty good, yeah.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, you’ve got to see Nicolette, she’s going to look great.

Lewis Howes:                 Was she singing a duet with you, right?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah, we sing all the time, yeah.


Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, I heard it on Spotify, beautiful, man.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Thanks.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah. I think you guys really connect in that way. I’d love to watch her. So when is that going to be, September?

Leslie Odom Jr:               September and October she’s there.

Lewis Howes:                 Go watch Waitress, on Broadway. Okay, I’ve got a couple of few questions left for you.

Leslie Odom Jr:               Softballs, I’m sure.

Lewis Howes:                 One of them will be. And one of them won’t be. What do you wish more people would ask you about, because I’m sure people will ask you about Hamilton all the time? But what’s the thing you really wish people would ask you about?

Leslie Odom Jr:               I don’t have one of those. I’m pretty good at taking whatever somebody hands me, and talking about what I want to talk about anyway, so if there’s something that’s on my heart. I’ll stop them, if there’s something I want to say, I’ll stop them and say, “You know what I really want to say? I saw this thing today. Blindspotting, go see it!”

Lewis Howes:                 “Waitress!”

Leslie Odom Jr:               Yeah! I’m pretty good at [that]!

Lewis Howes:                 That’s great. How can our community support you? What’s the big things you’ve got going on? We’ve got the book, make sure you guys grab a copy of this book, Failing Up: It’s Never Too Late To Learn To Risk. What else is going on for you?

Leslie Odom Jr:               There’s going to be a record out next year, that I believe in very much, so I hope that if they’ve never heard of me before, or if they listen to stuff now, I hope people give that record  shot.

Lewis Howes:                 Yeah, yeah. I’m going to link up your music and stuff, I’m going to link up the video of Seriously. I wonder if that ‘s the title.

Leslie Odom Jr:               It is that exactly.

Lewis Howes:                 It’s called Seriously, this video is unbelievable, and you do an absolutely amazing job of singing it and performing it.

This is called, The Three Truths, again, a softball for you here. Lobbing it up! So, imagine we are at your last day, it’s noon, your family’s there, you’ve got the sun glistening on you in your garden, and you’ve achieved everything in your life that you want.

Every dream, everything you want to do, you’ve had the experiences, you’ve met the people, you’ve had the life that you want, right? With challenges and heartache, but you’re looking back, but for whatever reason you’ve got to take all of your work with you.

Your books, your music, you’ve got to take it with you when you leave, so no one has access to your words or your music or your videos any more, for  whatever reason, hypothetically. But your family gives you a piece of paper and a pen, and says, “Will you write down the three things you know to be true about your experiences in life?”

These are called The Three Truths, and every other guest gets this softball question at the end, so don’t worry, you’re not alone. And whatever’s on your heart right now, or on your mind, the three lessons you would leave behind in that moment. What would be your Three Truths?

Leslie Odom Jr:               You’re going to find God the quickest and easiest in nature. It’s not going to be in your devices, it’s not going to be in technology. If you’re searching for God, if you’re searching for connection, if you’re searching for, if you’re looking for God, look for Him in nature.

Family is everything, be good to your family. Friends are family, too.

Lewis Howes:                 That’s great. Great truths. See, simple one, softball!

Before I ask the final question I want to acknowledge you, Leslie, for your incredible gift and light to the world, and your ability to inspire so many people through pursuing the thing that you loved to do, even though it wasn’t the sexiest, or the most financially successful, or the greatest opportunity at the time, but you, pursuing the thing from your heart, and being fully expressed, that’s what inspires the world. And I acknowledge you for that.

And I acknowledge you for continually pursuing those things, the types of songs you want to sing, pursuing the lifestyle you want to live with your family, when you could be doing a lot of other things as well. So, you’re setting a great example for all of us, and I acknowledge you. Yeah.

Where can we follow you on social media or on your website, or what’s the best place we can connect and support you?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Well I try to keep it simple, @leslieodomjr, everywhere. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, too, yeah.

Lewis Howes:                 Where do you spend the most time? Instagram, Twitter?

Leslie Odom Jr:               Probably Instagram and Twitter, and less and less, but it is the new fanmail, right? It’s like, instead of people having to put a stamp on something, they can just let you know, “Hey, I saw you in this thing, I dig it.” So, that’s cool.

Lewis Howes:                 Great, so we’ll follow you there. And the final question, then, is what is your definition of greatness?

Leslie Odom Jr:               This is probably going to be the lamest answer, but I just think of somebody that’s skilled. There’s lots of different ways to be skilled. Janice Joplin is skilled in a very different way than Beyoncé is skilled. Rihanna is skilled in a very different way than Michael Jackson was skilled, but you know, I just look at somebody who is highly skilled.

I think this is what it is, I think I’m landing on it, because it’s about individuality. So, greatness is maximising your individuality, like the fullest potential, I want to see the fullest, most fully realised version of who you are. That’s greatness.

Lewis Howes:                 My man, Leslie, thank you, brother. Appreciate it!

Leslie Odom Jr:               Okay, man!

Lewis Howes:                 Powerful!

Leslie Odom Jr:               [singing] Amen!

Lewis Howes:                 I hope you guys enjoyed that one! A big shout out to Leslie Odom Jr for coming on, I loved this inspirational human, this actor, this artist, this singer! He is an empowering creator, uplifting humanity.

Again, if you enjoyed this, take a screenshot and share with your friends over on Instagram. Tag me and Leslie Odom Jr. The full show notes are at, where you can see all the links that we talked about from today, all the resources over on the show notes, the full video interview.

Subscribe to the podcast over on YouTube if you haven’t yet. We’re just about to hit 300,000 subscribers, so if you do subscribe, thank you. If you don’t yet, make sure to get on that so you get notified there as well with all the great behind the scenes and full video interviews.

Also, if you have not entered the contest, go to for your chance to be featured as a guest on The School of Greatness Podcast. Now, we get asked daily, people ask to pay me tens of thousands of dollars to get on the show, and we say no.

So this is an opportunity for you to get on this show, where I fly you out, I pay your flight, I pay your travel, I pay your trip, everything, to get out here, spend the afternoon with me. We have dinner, we hang out, and four other lucky winners will be here as well.

So, go to and get in the contest. All you’ve got to do is share out the video of the Inspiring LIfe episode, follow the page, and opt in, and you’re good to go. You’ve got some opportunities to get called out. And I’m digging it, guys! This is going to be powerful!

Also, a big thank you to You can go to right now to sign up for the free fit test, plus a 30% discount off Lumosity Premium. L.U.M.O.S.I.T.Y. dot com slash greatness.

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And Guys, it makes calls for you, they’ll send e-mails on your behalf, they’ll pay your bills, remember important dates and automatically get things done for you. You need to have some support to help you scale, to help you save time, to help you multiply time.

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Again, if you enjoyed this, take a screenshot, share it with your friends all over the place on social media.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake somebody.”

Let’s go! It’s time to go and this is the perfect moment for me to share, about my show, on perseverance. It’s taken a long time, to get this out. Ten years I’ve been developing myself, and developing an idea for this to come out. Perseverance is the key.

If you want to hear the behind-the-scenes of the talk show launch, you can listen to the previous episode on this podcast as well, where I cover everything behind the scenes. You have an awesome opportunity to achieve great things in your life, but you must be willing to persevere. You must be willing to persevere and continue on.

You must be willing to persevere and continue on.

I love you so very much! You know what time it is: It’s time to go out there and do something great!

Music Credits:

Music Credit:

We Were Infinite by Inukshuk

Melancholy by Ghost’n’Ghost

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