There’s no denying Amy Poehler is a mover and shaker. Kind of like her overachieving character in Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope.
The three-time Golden Globe host, star of Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live alum most recently stars in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Netflix’s prequel to the 2001 film, and the big-screen movie Sisters, with co-star (and pal) Tina Fey.
But a success story like hers doesn’t simply emerge overnight. Long before she launched Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, an empowering online community for girls, or penned her memoir, Yes, Please, she co-founded an improv theater and training center—Upright Citizens Brigade (now it has four locations) and was a struggling comic, but one who was determined to live her dream no matter what.
Back in June, SUCCESS caught up with Poehler at the annual Del Close Marathon, a weekend-long improv festival hosted by the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City, to discuss her first steps to finding success and find out how she stayed confident back then, when the big bucks weren’t in sight.
Poehler recalls doing double duty early in her career—pursuing her passion of comedy, which wasn’t exactly raking in the dough, while still having to find a way to pay the rent and keep a roof over her head. “I waited tables for a long time, and I kept the faith by keeping the other job [as a comedian],” Poehler says.
It wasn’t positive affirmations or daily rituals that got her through—she felt fueled simply by doing what she loved.
For a long time, she didn’t have any money—but “you just kind of have to be OK with that,” she says.
Poehler looked toward intrinsic qualities to gauge her value and talent, rather than the size of her bank account. “Money is a weird thing. Everyone has a different relationship with it and if you chase it, sometimes it will never come to you…. You have to not let that stress you out and not let that be your measure of success,” she says. So she chased happiness instead.
Her ultimate measure of happiness, of success? “Working with good people, working with my friends, getting to do what I wanted, feeling like I was trying new things. That kept happening, so I felt wealthy because of that.”