Back in 1969, my friend Steve turned to his friends and said – “ya know, it’s going to be really crowded. Why don’t we wait until NEXT year to go to Woodstock.” Sometimes we make mistakes! How do you recover from them and more importantly how do you avoid making (at least some of) them in the first place? That’s one of life’s biggest questions, and while there’s no simple solution, there are some simple things you can do to cope when the going gets tough.
We comedians are masters at dealing with “challenges” – you know, things that don’t go quite right. In fact that’s how we learn our jobs. . .by failing. We go up at an open mic night at a comedy club, and we fail in front of a live audience! You can write jokes all day and practice in front of a mirror all night, but until you’re actually in front of a real crowd, there’s no other way to find out which jokes are funny, learn your timing, and figure out your stage presence. Other professions don’t do this. You don’t see any “open scalpel” nights for aspiring surgeons do you? Because if there was such a thing, I’m pretty sure my cheap health plan would make me use it.
Failure is part of pretty much everyone’s life. The results might be different depending on your profession. . . the HR person who makes a hiring mistake, means you’ve got to live with a bad co-worker, a lawyer who makes a legal mistake, means his client goes to jail, etc. . .but the feelings and the way we have to deal with failure is the same across the board. In my keynote at your July conference, I’ll be giving you some quick tips on “Flourishing in Failure,” so that you can move through these speed bumps and on to success.
And of course the first tip would be to make sure that what you did was actually a failure – looks can be deceiving. When I moved to Los Angeles, I lived in a 400 square foot studio apartment in a “dicey” neighborhood. My buddy told me that we were such good friends, that he would take a bullet for me. . .and when he saw where I lived, he thought he might have to. I also did “extra” work on TV shows, movies and commercials. Guess which one I felt worse about? The “extra” work! My mom told everyone to watch the Ally McBeal episode in which I sat behind Calista Flockhart for an entire 30 minute court room scene. But it wasn’t glamourous . . .we extras were referred to as “props that eat.” Whereas the studio apartment helped me move towards my goals . . .it was cheap, which meant I didn’t have to waitress to pay the rent. I looked like a failure in the apartment, but I felt like one on the TV set. . . as I said, looks can be deceiving.