PA native explores his past and present in new autobiography

In “Life Lessons from a Total Failure: A Journey from Failure to Fulfillment,” 34-year-old author and actor M.J. Dougherty tells the profound story of his life. A native of Scranton, Dougherty accumulated an eclectic mix of experiences that led to him becoming an actor in Los Angeles. His autobiography is a tragic, euphoric and intimate account of his quest for fulfillment.


PGN had the opportunity to sit down with Dougherty to talk about his inspiration for writing the book, the messages he hopes readers take away from it and his future as an author and actor.

PGN: What was your inspiration for writing this book?

MJD: I was going through all this stuff and you think you have issues and you think that it’s singular to you. But then you realize that [to] varying degrees, everybody goes through the same kind of things; it’s just varying degrees of severity. Perspective is so powerful. You may have broken a pinkie and you felt as shattered as I did when I lost everything because it’s your life. It’s real and it means something to you. So, that was something I kind of realized: Everybody’s pain is equal. That’s the reason I wanted to write the book, because I wanted people to realize that we all go through the same things to different degrees and you can’t lose sight of the fact that it all passes. Time marches on. There’s something really refreshing about that.

PGN: What are some of the main messages you hope people derive from your book?

MJD: No matter what’s happening, we can always move on. We can always move forward and you always have two options in life. You can accept the ways things are or change them. That’s a very powerful thing to think about. I don’t think people really think about that a lot. They think, Well, this is the way it is. Well, it doesn’t have to be. You can change it. When we stop trying to control everything and just kind of let ourselves evolve and move forward, that’s when things really start to become good and you start to really see what your life is supposed to be.

PGN: What are some of your hopes for your future?

MJD: I can’t believe I’m an author; it’s not something I ever thought would happen. I’m really proud I wrote a book that people are really liking and that they’re appreciating and that they’re learning something from, because that was the whole point. [People] hear my story, hear what I have to say and then afterwards they open up and tell me about their stuff and what they’re going through. There’s just that human connection and I love that. And it kind of goes hand in hand with why I love being an actor, because [actors in Los Angeles] always say to me when I tell them I want to be on TV, “Don’t you want to be in movies?” I don’t want to be a movie star. If you see someone from TV, you want to run over and be like, “Oh my God, let’s go for coffee!” And that’s what I love. It’s about connection. And now I’m in multiple industries, it’s all about that — connecting with people — and it’s what drives me. It literally gets me up in the morning. I get excited because you never know who I’m gonna talk to or what’s gonna happen. So, I can’t ask for anything more. If I can do this to the day I die, I’m thrilled. My ultimate goal is I would love to be on a sitcom. I was a teller at a bank and I loved it because I got to talk to people every day. As long as I’m doing stuff like that, it makes me happy. I never thought that this book would bring me so much opportunity. But it really has and my whole life is changing on a daily basis. It’s just always something, like, Wow, I can’t believe this is happening. So, if I could just continue where I’m at and keep going for the future, I’m thrilled.