The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Jon Hamm is famous for being both more talented and funnier than any good-looking person has a right to be. He also has character: Despite all of his achievements, he has managed to keep his priorities straight.
"Money, for me, is a means to an end: to pay your bills and eat," he continues. "Growing up, we were never rich, but I was around money a lot — I had friends who had money. And I didn't see that people with money seemed any happier than those who got by on less."
Some of Hamm's reflections sound a bit like those of a stoner-philsopher, like when he says, "Money can buy a lot of things, but not everything. Like a time machine."
Other observations make him seem like a mensch:
When I was still in my twenties, I went back to my old high school, John Burroughs in St. Louis, and taught acting, improv, and public speaking. It was a really progressive school — I felt that they had done so much to set me on a creative course, it was only fair to find a way to pay them back a little. I didn't have a multimillion-dollar foundation or anything, so I decided I wanted to just give my time in a direct and personal way. And I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would.
What comes through most is the way the "Mad Men" star remains philosophical about both failure and success. That might have something to do with the fact that, for the first half of his professional life, he worked menial jobs as a bus boy, a dishwasher, a waiter and a bartender.
"Working in a restaurant is a good life lesson for anybody," he says, because "you quickly learn what a difference a little bit of kindness and common courtesy can make for people. It's important to know how to treat people, and to learn how to respond when someone you're working with is having a bad day."
It was as a employee of a Greek restaurant, he says, that "I learned to love work and find meaning in it. To this day, I like going to work, clocking in and clocking out, the satisfaction of a job well done."
Only relatively recently did he break through, and success doesn't seem to have changed much about who he is.
"I think the best advice I have for anyone facing tough decisions is not to let the stakes loom so large in their mind that making a decision becomes impossible. You have to keep a healthy sense of perspective — don't sweat every choice too much or overthink things," he says.
"If you take a wrong step, you'll find the right one. If you lose half your money, you'll find a way to make more. The older you get, the more crucial that is to remember."