Second Place? Don’t Sweat It

Many times in life you might not be someone’s first choice for a job or a role. Often we may not even know it. You rarely know if someone else was offered your job before you were. You may have gotten your place in university off a wait list. It can feel demoralizing to realize that you weren’t the initial favorite for something you wanted to do or be. The good news is, with time, what was once someone’s second choice can start to feel like the inevitable and only choice. Behold:

Trevor Noah knows he wasn’t the first choice to replace Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show (it was Stephen Colbert). He wasn’t even the second choice (John Oliver). But he has no hard feelings. In an interview for The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History he says:

Do you realize that the Wachowski Brothers’ first choice for The Matrix was Will Smith? I’ve never struggled to enjoy that movie with Keanu Reeves. And had you told people it was between Will Smith and Keanu Reeves before the movie came out, I’m pretty certain everyone would have voted for Will Smith. Sometimes you need to be in that position to get the thing. I think it was David Oyelowo who said he’s told his agent, “Every script Denzel Washington turns down, give it to me.” You can go, “Woe is me, I wasn’t somebody’s first choice.” But I don’t know if anyone has noticed how relationships in the world work. Most of us are not someone’s first choice. But that doesn’t mean we can’t end up being the best choice.

Noah isn’t the only example of someone making a role that wasn’t initially slated for him his own. Judy Garland was the third actress asked to star in The Wizard of Oz.  Dustin Hoffman was cast in The Graduate after failing to impress director Mike Nichols with his singing chops during an audition for a Broadway play. And word on the street is that someone thought John Travolta would make a good Forrest Gump. The point is, whether you were the first choice for a job or merely the first person who said yes, you have the same degree of opportunity to make it your own.