Before Steve Martin became an international sensation, he spent 20 years floundering in tiny clubs.

There were ten years of learning and another ten years of mediocre results until he reached the critical mass that would propel him to the biggest concert draw in stand-up comedy history.

There were many times along the way he wanted to quit. He even told himself that if he didn’t “make it” by 21 that he’d give up. But when that birthday came and went and he pressed on.

We might hear his story and think it’s a simple matter of perseverance and tenacity, but there was another ingredient pushing him forward.

“Through the years, I have learned there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration.”  -Steve Martin, Born Standing Up

To break through the decades of uncertainty and become the comic of his dreams, confidence wasn’t enough. Before Steve Martin, no comic had ever sold out 45,000 seat stadiums, and to believe that was possible was to be delusional. 

And when Steve Martin surpassed the pinnacle of stand-up comedy success, he decided to walk away from it altogether and make movies. He reached the top, looked around, and decided to plot new delusions of grandeur. 

He went on to create and star in timeless movies like The Three Amigos, The Jerk, Father Of The Bride, and many others. 

Delusions of grandeur aren’t always evil—sometimes, they’re needed. Whereas confidence grows out of experience and skill, delusion dances on a bed of imagination and unrealistic dreams. 

Delusion leads to confidence. Confidence leads to skill. Skill leads to certainty. 


This was adapted from an article I wrote called, Steve Martin’s Rules For Creativity

Source notes: Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Lifeby Steve Martin