How I Turned a Twenty Dollar Pogo Stick Into Six Grand

Often in life, it can be the tiniest bit of extra effort that makes the difference. While I believe in putting everything you’ve got into an endeavor, it is surprising sometimes how a small thing can makes a huge difference. More than once in my life, that small thing has been the only difference.

A case in point: Back in my Los Angeles days as a budding commercial actor, you learned pretty quickly to put any unusual skill you possessed on your resume in the rare chance that a commercial would be written calling for a guy who could juggle chainsaws while riding a bull in knights armor. Since you wanted every audition you could get,this usually led to actors padding their resumes with all kinds of amazing talents. Unfortunately, a lot of those actors claimed skills they did not possess. When questioned, many would say, “If they call me and want me to play the part of a professional trapeze artist, I’ll just take a few lessons and wing it.” Most casting calls for commercials go out the day before the audition, so you would have approximately 24 hours to attain this new skill. Emergency rooms in Hollywood are filled with these people. None of them landed the commercial.

So, when an easily acquired skill is asked for, like say juggling one ball, you’d think most actors would put forth the minimum effort needed to ace the next days audition. And you’d be wrong. As an example, I offer you the Pogo Stick story.

My agent calls one day and asks if I can ride a pogo stick. I tell her I cannot. Her reply? “You’ve got three days to learn.” So, I did what I thought was logical. I went to the toy store and spent twenty bucks to buy a pogo stick. And for three days I bounced around my apartment complex courtyard. An older tenant got tired of the “boing, boing” noise and yelled out to me, “I hope you fall and break your neck.” But, I persisted. My hands blistered from the death grip on the handle, but still I bounced. And after three days, I could stay up for over a minute. As long as that was all they needed, I was ready.

When I showed up at the audition, I was the only one who brought his own pogo stick. (With a newly padded handle I might add). About three dozen people were there, but since the auditions were going on all day, they may have been seeing a hundred actors. All of them had three days advance notice, but only one bought a pogo stick. Me. None of them had even bothered to borrow one and practice, but all of them told their agent they could do it.

Guess who got the part? Me, of course. When I got my chance and bounced all over, they nearly hoisted me up on their shoulders in victory. Finally, someone who could actually ride one of these things! It was as if Pavarotti had come for a singing audition and all the other tenors had laryngitis.

For my efforts, I was paid $350 for a day of shooting, plus another $300 for a wardrobe fitting day, which took an hour. Toss in the residuals I made since the commercial ran in multiple regions, and my total take was about $6,000. My total time on screen was two or three seconds. Two grand a second is pretty good pay. And this was in 1990.

All of this to ask, is there some tiny thing you can do that will put you ahead of the pack? I am often surprised at the little things people overlook doing that can make a difference. Maybe we overlook them because we are certain all the others are already doing them. And just maybe, those are the things that will matter the most.