Ricky Gervais used to the "laziest, least ambitious person" he knew.

The comic star admits he didn't try hard enough to make the most of his career when he was younger and it took him a long time to develop a hard work ethic, which eventually paid off with his hit sitcom 'The Office'.

He told Radio Times magazine: "I used to be the laziest, least ambitious person I knew. I never really thought about even having a career. Being a working-class Brit I believed it was better to never try than to try, and run the risk of failing.

"Americans are brought up to believe they can be the president of the United States. British kids are told, 'Don't be stupid. It won't happen for you.'

"This is my greatest regret. It's a disgusting attitude and potentially a waste of a life. Writing and directing 'The Office' was the first thing I ever tried my hardest at. The reward was revelatory."

'The Office' aired in the UK in 2001 and proved a huge hit, and was later converted into versions in the US, France and Germany among many other countries.

While he is keen to encourage people to follow their dreams, Ricky, 50, is wary of children's aspirations in the modern world, and thinks many have the wrong idea about fame.

He added: "A recent university survey asked a sample of 10 year olds what they wanted to be when they grew up. They answered 'famous'. Just famous.

"I never tried to be famous. I was willing to be the centre of attention in a small group of friends for saying something funny. Even interesting. I wanted to be the funniest person in the room, not the most famous.

"I guess I always wanted to be eminent. Being known for something. Being known for being good at something. Maybe even the best at something."