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Actor Alan Thicke’s tips for success: To know your kid, you better know your Bieber

Alan Thicke

Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

Alan Thicke has been in movies, he's hosted game shows and talk shows, written books and music, and is even an ambassador for Canadians Abroad in the U.S., so if people only associate him with his Growing Pains alter-ego Jason Seaver … he's perfectly fine with that. Here, the 2013 Walk of Fame inductee, returning to TV next season in the brand new reality show In the Thicke of It, shares his secrets for success

Know your baby, know your Bieber

I do a lot of speaking engagements with boomers and my pitch is that, thanks to technology, we have the opportunity to stay relevant and connected. You don't have to like Justin Bieber's music, but you better know something about him – either that he smuggled a monkey into Germany or he wears his pants too low. If you aren't aware of the things they care about, your kids and grandkids start to tune you out. On the other end of the stick, I try to make sure that my 16-year-old son has some understanding of the things that are going on in the world. I will send him an e-mail about Nelson Mandela or about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone and we'll discuss it at the dinner table.

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Your weakness is a strength

My talk show Thicke of the Night was a dismal failure, but I realized that it is important to know what you are good at and not try to be something you're not. In Canada, I had a successful daytime chat show, but when we went to the States it moved to late night. We got creamed by Johnny Carson and I realized pretty quickly that the late-night shows are best left to the stand up guys – guys that know how to go for the joke and go for the jugular, and that is just not me. I'm more of a good emcee with some functional jokes. I was just totally out of my league. It was a lesson in humility.

Here lies a happy TV star

I'm perfectly happy to have "Jason Seaver" on my tombstone. The kind of success that I had with Growing Pains is often a once in a lifetime experience. I'm grateful that I had it and happy to be identified with the show and the part. He was the dad and partner that I aspire to be, which is of course a little easier when you have a team of writers backing you up.

Flex your brain, not your delts

I have always had what I describe as a proactive insecurity, which I think of as a blessing. I have never been comfortable with the idea of waiting for the phone to ring. You don't wait for someone to come to you, you write a project or collaborate on a project or come up with an idea. I know a lot of actors who are sitting around working on their deltoids and checking in with their agents to see if there are any offers and the answer is no because there a hundred other guys with lesser deltoids, but better ideas.

Rise and scribble

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One of my tenets of life has always been get up early and start taking notes. I wake up every day at 6 am and my house is covered in Post-it notes. Work ethic is so important to me. My father is an 85-year-old physician who still practices medicine in Brampton. I don't think I could ask for a better example in terms of someone who works hard and enjoys his success and that, above anything else, is what I hope my sons have learned from me.

Give kredit where kredit is due

People tend to be pretty negative about the Kardashians, but I think you have to give Kris Jenner some credit. She is a marketing genius who took a sow's ear of a sex tape and turned it into this giant silk purse. We may not like it, but there is definitely something to be learned from her success.

Turds finish in the toilet

I'm not sure that we recognized the level of Leo's [Leonardo DiCaprio] talent while he was on Growing Pains only because a show like that wasn't going to test his dramatic chops. What I do remember though is that he was always pleasant, fun, respectful and smart. We had a lot of young actors of the day on our set and you learn pretty quickly which ones are the despicable little turds and which ones you are going to end up rooting for on Oscar night. Talent is a huge part of acting, but it's important to remember that if you've got five talented guys going for a role and four of them are a pain in the ass the fifth one is going to get it. Leo is that fifth guy.

Push boundaries, show boobies

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I have always encouraged my kids to push the envelope and to get out of the tent and find their own way. Robin's current video is a good example. There has been a lot of commentary — that it's a mile stone in terms of nudity. I'm not sure that I get it — music videos have been dealing with pumping and grinding and body parts for a couple of decades now. I think the shift from booty to boobies has struck a chord and upset some people, but it has certainly gotten everyone talking. I think it's the nature of art to piss people off. You want to be on the verge of trouble without alienating or hurting anyone.

This interview has been condensed and edited by Courtney Shea

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