How the new Tonight Show host is reinventing late night while showing us all how to own our entrepreneurial space.

In his first week as the host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon did what he always does: He delivered the goods.

Many pundits believed that the entire genre of late night talk shows had run its course. The golden age of Johnny Carson and Jay Leno and David Letterman had come and gone. We were in a perpetual farewell tour.

Sure, there are some funny guys still going strong. Conan is hilarious. Kimmel kills. I remember in college when I would set my alarm every morning just to wake up to Jimmy doing the morning sports on KROQ. The new school of late night is amazing.

But, the reason why Jimmy Fallon is the Sidney Crosby of late night is because he’s taking an old game and making it his own.

Those other amazing entertainers are great. But, they’re playing the same old game. As the new host demonstrated in his inaugural week, he took his unique signature and tatooed it on late night.

We shouldn’t be comparing Fallon to Carson. We should be thanking Lorne Michaels! The Tonight Show is like watching Saturday Night Live, every night of the week. Why? Because that is what Fallon has been cultivating his entire career. The man is reaping what he’s sown.

And, my gut tells me he’s just getting started.

How did Jimmy do it?

Years before the changing of the guard at the Tonight show began (again), Fallon had been developing and honing his comedic style; the substance of which is reinventing the talk show genre before our very eyes.

But, he wasn’t just practiced in creating his amazing, often collaborative, content.

Fallon is way more entrepreneurial than that.

He’s been practicing for this moment. In fact, I say it was a pre-ordained set-up! This thing has been in the making for years. On his opening night monologue, Fallon mentions that he didn’t know how he got to his esteemed position. And, in a sense, I believe him.

He doesn’t need to know how he got there. He wasn’t concerning himself with that. Instead, he concerned himself with creating amazing stuff, every chance he got.

That’s what the new pre-ordained looks like:

  1. Make first.
  2. Refine until awesome.
  3. Make some more.
  4. Patiently trust the outcome to take care of itself.

What if it really was that simple?

The reason I’m so excited is because we’re witnessing the equivalent of what the iPhone did to our flip phones. Apple didn’t just create a better communication device. They offered a signature contribution that reinvented what a phone even meant.

But, beyond the innovator’s solution, I also don’t want to miss the good news for mere mortals like you and me.

Way beyond the disruption that Fallon is bringing to late night, he’s also demonstrating to all of us what’s possible when we make the habit of creating our best work our best primary offering to the world.

What Jimmy Fallon does best is he takes his body of work… and puts it to work! It’s what Brian Clark calls a media first mindset. By leading with his stuff, the form plays second fiddle to the content while he puts himself in the best possible position to rule his space. It’s not about clever sketches. Nobody can beat that signature content because he’s the only one who can sign his work that way.

And, the best news of all is you and I can do the same if we’re willing to do the work to put ourselves in a similar position.

Is it sustainable?

The only real concern anyone can lob on Fallon right now is more a query than grenade: Can he sustain this level of quality into the future?

It’s an understandable question. But, it fails to notice that this isn’t a new initiative he’s offering.

Look in the opposite direction and the answer becomes obvious.

Jimmy Fallon has been doing this for years! This is more culmination than inauguration. If he’s been doing it from SNL until now, why shouldn’t we expect him to keep on trucking?

What about you?

The big lesson to learn from Fallon is the same lesson friends like Seth Godin have been saying for years… If you want to reinvent, start yesterday.

Let’s pretend you are your habits for a second. Of course, you’re more than that, but let’s start there. If you have the habit of doing the hard work of becoming first, you will live into a legacy you didn’t think was possible.

That’s what Fallon is showing us. It’s an invitation for us to go and do likewise. And, if Fallon’s life so far is any indicator, being the real article looks pretty fun too.

© Dane Sanders

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