John Ratzenberger on Creating Opportunities

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It’s easy to sit around waiting for your next big break. If you’re tired of waiting, it’s on you to make something happen. That’s what John Ratzenberger did.

John Ratzenberger is well known for playing mail carrier Cliff Clavin on the classic show Cheers. While hard to imagine now, Cliff Clavin was not in the original script. In fact, the character did not exist.

John auditioned for the part of Norm Peterson, the beer loving barfly. After his reading, John could tell that he was not going to get the part. John had a few options. The most common would have been to say “thank you” and walk out with the hopes that the next audition had better luck. Instead, John saw an opportunity. He asked if they had written a bar know-it-all.

“What do you mean?” they asked.

“Well ya’ know, the Romans invented the bar know-it-all,” John quickly adlibbed.

The producers were so impressed that they created the character for John.

Do you know how many people are promoted in a similar manner? Too often, I hear from frustrated employees who can’t understand why others pass them by on the career path. “No one asked me,” they say. These individuals don’t seem to understand that the people who get ahead, take it upon themselves.

To help you create your opportunities, consider the following:

Know thyself.  Be aware of your weaknesses, strengths, and passions. This will help guide and prepare you.

Network.  The more people you know, the more likely you are to gain new experiences, viewpoints, and prospects.

Learn everything.  Not only will this prepare you for the next opportunity, but more knowledge will help you find your next opportunity.

Ask for help. Just because you’re taking it upon yourself to advance, doesn’t mean you should not be seeking assistance.

Pay attention.  To recognize a need you must be aware of what’s happening around you. Be on the consistent lookout for things that can be done better, faster, or cheaper.

If “you want to go where everybody knows your name,” don’t wait for a formal invitation. You may be great, but no one is going to beg you to move your career forward. It’s up to you. Start looking for opening and don’t hesitate to grab them. Cliff Clavin was on the number one show for over a decade. What can your next opportunity bring you?


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