You know why Will Ferrell is the greatest living actor? It’s not because of his impeccable comic timing or his giant malleable face: it’s because he absolutely tries his best at everything he takes on. In Tiny Fey’s Bossypants, which is as much a man-management manual as an autobiography, she says this about Ferrell:
He would do sketches that were absolutely his voice and what (I assume) he loved most—Bill Brasky, Robert Goulet, and Cowbell—but he would commit just as fully to tap-dancing next to Katie Holmes in the monologue. He’s the Michael Caine of sketch comedy. He could be in something awful and it would never stick to him.
Turns out he’s a pretty good tap-dancer. But the point is: he’s good in everything, because he tries to be good in everything. He’s been in some terrible films, but he never looks bad, because he’s giving everything he has.
When you get involved with a project, at work or somewhere else, that you aren’t convinced is great, it can be tempting to half-arse your contribution. It’s something I’ve done in the past. But I don’t do it any more. Because you might as well do your best. People will notice, you’ll feel good about what you’ve produced, and you’ll learn more from doing things properly than doing them any other way. If you believe that you need [insert number of hours] to get good at something, you should also believe that those hours should be your best effort. It doesn’t matter whether you’re starring in Anchorman or tap-dancing with Katie Holmes: commit to the project, and good things will happen.
HOMEWORK: Read Bossypants if you can. It really is excellent.