How Nick Offerman Learned To Be Happy, Anywhere
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Nick Offerman: How I Learned to Be Happy — Anywhere

The comedian on the joys of taking it slow, hugging it out, and cheese

Offerman Press Photo_c George Saunders-1280x704.jpg
George Saunders

When I was a kid, a lot of people described me as “an old soul.” I took after all four of my grandparents, who had a rich sense of humor. My affinity toward them made me want to see the world through their eyes.

It's something that I think about all the time. Recently, I was in the bathroom, or maybe on an airplane, and I thought, I can have a good time damn near anyplace. Whatever my situation, I’m able to look around and say, “There's a lot to be thankful for here. It’s not raining any harder than it is. And there's a sandwich at the end of this trail.”

Be ready to accept change

The greatest piece of advice I ever received was from one of my theater teachers, Shozo Sato: “Always maintain the attitude of a student.” It has made my life profoundly more enjoyable and successful. All it means is to understand that we're imperfect. Even if my grass is cut, the bird feeders are full and the tax man is off my back, that’s only today. As soon as tomorrow hits, there's all kinds of unpredictable stuff. So we have to stay open to change.

Don’t price yourself for quick sale

The worst advice I ever received was after I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in my mid-20s. I’d worked on a couple of films, and people said, “Hey, you make funny faces. You should move to Hollywood.” I’d heard of capitalism, so I gave it a try.

I got some fancy meetings with studio heads, and one guy sat me down and his advice was, “You have to be a shark in this town.” I said to myself, If that’s what it takes, this is not the business for me.

I decided not to devote myself to chasing the business. While I was waiting for a big break I could earn money building decks and cabins.

If I’d had that particular kind of ambition, maybe things would have gone more quickly for me, but I think I would have been chasing quantity rather than quality. I understood that whatever my particular vintage, whatever the terroir of my grapes, I had to let them mellow, and eventually, somebody would come tap my cask.

If you love your work, you’ll love your life

There was a time when I was broke and living in a warehouse. I subsisted on cheap groceries. A huge block of cotija cheese and some tortillas, that was my big thing, because if you were neat enough, you never had to wash any of your dishes.

I learned that as long as I am doing work that I love, I can be happy indefinitely. But more importantly, I learned that young ladies that might visit my warehouse space did not share that indifference to quality grocery items.

My motto: “Hug before punch”

Recently, I saw a guy being aggressive on a tram car at the Atlanta airport. My blood was really up, and I wanted to shove the guy. But I was able to look at him and think, What did your dad do to you? Why are you in such pain that you have to treat people like this?

That, to me, is “Hug before punch.”

If somebody ever did try to pick a fight with me, I could say, “Listen, before you punch me, what if we just hug real quick?” I think it might have a disarming effect.

Leave your phone in the car

I’m as big of a jackass with technology as anybody. So when I'm in my woodshop or when I'm hiking, I make a point of leaving my phone alone. It’s deeply enjoyable to sever those weird little tendrils that are always attached to the dopamine centers in our brains, and have hours of freedom, with unfettered access to all your senses.

(Nick Offerman's new book, "Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside," is out now.)

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