Careers

Jay Leno reveals how dyslexia helped further his career

Jay Leno, former host of NBC's  "The Tonight Show"
SGranitz | Getty Images
Jay Leno, former host of NBC's "The Tonight Show"

When it comes to managing his millions, Jay Leno likes to put his money "in a hammock and say, 'You relax. I'm going to go work some more.'"

The comedian tells CNBC that he credits his conservative financial philosophy partly to "growing up with depression-era parents," and partly to being dyslexic: "When you put numbers in front of me, I'm all over the place. If there's any risk, I'm not interested. My money goes straight to the hammock."

Dyslexia has done more than shape his financial philosophy. It's shaped his work ethic.

Leno recalls, "My mother always said to me, since I was dyslexic, 'You're going to have to work twice as hard as the other kids to get the same thing.' I said, 'OK. That seems fair.' And I did work twice as hard to get the same thing.

"I remember going to the comedy clubs and people would line up at 6:00 p.m. for auditions to get a spot at midnight. By 9:00 p.m. guys would go, 'I'm not waiting in line.' They would leave and then I would move on up."

The comedian has come a long way since waiting hours for a single audition: He landed NBC's "The Tonight Show" in 1992, which reportedly earned him as much as $30 million a year. He started hosting CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" in 2015, and he launched a car-care product line just last month.

Even after striking it big, Leno hasn't lost sight of his mom's advice. "Never think you're better, or, for any reason, smarter," he tells CNBC. "Just keep working and plugging away."

CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.