Our family has never been huge TV watchers. But, we have had our share of favorite shows over the years.
Remember when you had to tune in at a specific time if you wanted to watch a particular show? (Yes, kids, that really used to be a thing.)
One of my favorite inventions is the VCR, and later the DVR. It made a big change in our family dynamic when we had the option of watching our favorite TV shows at a time that was convenient for us, rather than whatever time the broadcast network decided to air them.
Now, even the need for a DVR has largely gone by the wayside. Missed your show? That’s OK. You can probably find it on Hulu, YouTube, or even the broadcast network’s own on-demand streaming service.
We get spoiled by this power to watch things whenever we choose, and to pause, rewind, or rewatch bits as we desire
The other day, as I was driving down the road, I was listening to the local radio station as I often do. I was mostly concentrating on the road, only half listening, when I caught the end of something they were saying that struck me as interesting.
My first response? Reach over for the pause and rewind buttons.
Oops. You can’t do that on radio.
Then I started wondering, how many times do I drift off while being with people I love? How many times have I not been fully present, because in some part of my brain, I have been trained to think I can just hit pause, back up, and play it again?
Life has no pause or rewind buttons. We get one chance to experience what is happening around us.
Leave binge watching to episodes of your favorite series on Netflix. When you’re with those you love, be present, in the moment, tuned in. Experience the moment as it happens.
Have you ever said to yourself, “It doesn’t matter, it’s just … (fill in the blank)” ?
I perform at a wide range of events. In the past year alone I performed at a private party with 20 people, corporate events with hundreds, and a 2000 seat theater with huge projection screens (see photo above).
As you would expect, the budget for each of these events was significantly different. A friend of mine, a fellow entertainer, recently asked me, “What do you do differently?”
The answer? Nothing.
That’s not a complete answer. Sure, there are differences. They’re different audiences with different tastes. I custom tailor every show to the specific event. And, different levels of events require different amounts of behind the scenes efforts leading up to them, which is where most of the differentiation happens.
But, my overall commitment to the event? My delivery in the moment? The same.
It wasn’t always this way. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that.
I used to segment the events based on the fee. The most visible aspect to this segmentation was in what I would wear for the performance. I went from casual pants and shirt, to dress pants with dress shirt, to jacket. In my mind a script played out, “Well, for that much, you don’t get the suit,” as if the client would notice or care. Worse, I delivered a different level of performance.
My friend was incredulous. “Seriously? You do the same show?”
I totally get where he was coming from. We have this sense of fairness. How can it be OK to deliver the same product for a client who pays $X as the one who pays $10X ? How is that fair?
That is a valid and interesting question. But, it is not what I am primarily writing about.
Without going too far down this rabbit hole, consider the pilots flying a commercial airline. Economy tickets and first-class business tickets are priced vastly differently. Both will get you from point A to point B. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to fly first-class, you know the experience can be quite different. But, from the pilots’ perspective, all passengers are the same once the cockpit doors are closed. They do they’re job the same way, regardless of how much each individual passenger paid for their ticket.
The real point I am heading toward here is not the pay, or issue of fairness to the client, but rather our own attitude as we approach the task that is ahead of us.
What I have discovered is that it is better for ME to deliver my best possible performance each and every time, regardless of the previously agreed to paycheck. I am the worker in the field from the parable. Sometimes I am the one who went out first thing in the morning to work the whole day. Sometimes I am the one who was standing around idle until 5 in the afternoon.
When I show up at the end of the day and collect my pay with gratitude, having done what was agreed to up front, I am happier.
Naturally, by extension, it is better for the audience when I deliver the best performance I am capable of delivering. Ultimately, that is what it is all about.
When I mentally delivered a different product, begrudgingly holding back at events I knew were not paying as much, it affected ME. I became resentful. I’m sure that resentment showed through in the performance.
When I released that, separating the money from the event, and put all of my energy into delivering the best possible performance for that audience, feeling blessed to have the opportunity to share the gift of laughter with those people at that moment, it filled me with joy and gratitude to be able to do what I do for a living. I know for a fact that that joy shows through in the performance. It is the most frequent comment I hear after a show. “You look like you are having so much fun!” And I am. Every time.
The other interesting thing that I have discovered is that it is actually MORE work for me to deliver a lesser performance.
Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever noticed how much effort it takes to complain about a task and NOT do it, where simply doing the thing would have been so much easier?
How do you go about your daily work? Are there tasks that you begrudge having to do? Are there aspects of your job, or you life, where you feel resentment? Perhaps you feel that the task is below you, or you think, “I’m not being paid enough to do that.”
Catch yourself when you feel that resentment welling up inside. Change your thinking. Not for the benefit of whoever is asking you to do the task, but for yourself.
Act from a point of gratitude.
Is this a task at work that you dislike? Try being grateful for the big picture. You have a job. You’re being paid. It beats sitting in the unemployment line.
Is this a household chore you dread? Again, look at the bigger picture. You have a house.
There is a saying in the entertainment world, “There are no small gigs, only small performers.”
Treat every gig like a big one. Treat every audience like they deserve the best performance of your life.
What knocks you off of your game? What is something you got into a routine of doing, it was a good routine, then something happened that caused you to stop and you found it difficult to get back to that routine, even though you knew it was good for you?
Perhaps it was going to the gym.
Perhaps it was practicing an instrument.
Maybe it was calling a particular friend on a regular basis.
For me, it was writing this blog.
Posting to this blog on a regular basis is quite helpful to me. Much like physical exercise provides energy, the exercise of writing regularly sparks new ideas that become new bits in my speaking and entertaining business. Sure, I hope that people who read it find something of value in it. Knowing that people read this blog provides an extra incentive to keep at it. But, ultimately, it is what I get from the routine of putting words on the screen that keeps me going.
Doing this blog on a weekly basis was good for my mind. Committing to post regularly created momentum. Once going, it was easier to keep going. That momentum carried me through many times of, “I don’t feel like it…”
So, what happened? What caused the break in the routine? What broke the momentum? My wife had a heart attack.
Not to worry, she’s fine now. In fact, she’s probably in better health now than she has been in years. Cardiac rehab and a return to regular exercise will have that effect. But, make no mistake, it was a huge break in the routine of our lives. It was extremely scary. We had to shuffle a few priorities. One of the things I set aside was this blog.
Just as the momentum of doing something right carries us through the times when we struggle, if we allow that momentum to fade, it can take a significant effort to get going again. Procrastination becomes a regular companion.
Eventually, if what we stopped doing was a good thing, the universe has a way of nagging at us until we figure out we need to get back to it.
With that, I am renewing my commitment to post on this blog regularly. Weekly. New posts will appear on Wednesdays mornings.
Sometimes we need help in sticking with our commitments. Sometimes that boss who drops by asking whether you’ve done your weekly status report yet is just what we need to make the time to do it. It can be annoying. But, once the task is completed, we feel better about having done it.
With that, I give you, my loyal readers, permission to be the nagging boss who asks me where the latest post is if I miss a week. Hold me accountable to deliver on my commitment to doing this weekly.
And as always, I’ll leave you with a challenge.
Where have you lost momentum? What is something that you used to do regularly, but have stopped doing? You can feel the universe nagging at you to get back to it.
Identify that thing, that activity, that practice, and get back to it. If you’re struggling, find someone who can give you the extra kick in the pants to make you do it.
If someone told you their name was Jerry, would you insist on calling them Gary?
Probably not. And yet, that is exactly the scenario with the pronunciation of “GIF”. It is properly pronounced, “JIF”.
Before you click away, understand that this post is about a much deeper issue than the silly debate over a hard vs. soft G. Stick with me a moment. It will make sense in a few paragraphs.
But, first, back to GIF…
Knowing that GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format”, it is logical to presume that it is pronounced with a hard G sound. However, if you ask the inventor, Steve Wilhite, he will tell you in no uncertain terms that it is to be pronounced with the soft G.
That should be the end of the story. And yet, even knowing this, people still insist that it is pronounced with the hard G.
What is something about which you formed an opinion, based on your own first experience, only to find out later that you were wrong? Was it difficult for you to accept it?
A couple decades ago, long before the movies, my family read the Harry Potter books for the first time. My wife read them out loud to our kids. If you are familiar with these stories, then you know that one of the main characters is Hermione Granger. We had never heard that name before. We read it as, “Her Me Oh Nee”. We thought that was how it was pronounced. With every reading of the name out loud, we became more convinced that was the correct way to say it. When we saw the first movie in theaters, we were shocked to find that it was pronounced, “Her My Oh Nee”.
To us, this odd pronunciation was simply wrong. How could they do that? Don’t they know the right way to say it?
Can you relate? Have you had that experience?
What both of these examples have in common is PRECONCEPTION. We form an opinion that seems logical; one that can even be defended as being a reasonable conclusion to have drawn based on the evidence available at the time.
noun 1. a conception or opinion formed beforehand. 2. bias.
Which of you believes that the Earth is the center of the galaxy, that all of the other planets and stars rotate around the earth? Which of you believes that the earth is flat?
We laugh at these notions now, even scoff at those who would have believed such a preposterous thing. But, had it not been for the evidence presented by scientists who came before us, we could be among those who had it wrong.
First impressions, first beliefs, preconceptions, are extremely difficult to overcome. We might have to admit that we were wrong. Gasp!
What if, instead, we viewed it as being unaware? Does that soften the blow? We did not have all of the facts available at the time we formed our opinion. We were not wrong. We simply didn’t know any better.
The real problem comes when we hold to these preconceived beliefs even after being presented with information to the contrary.
We can have fun debating how “GIF” should be pronounced. But, we cannot debate how its creator intends for it to be pronounced. From a New York Times blog posting:
“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”
What preconceived ideas do you cling to, even in the face of evidence to the contrary?
Actively question beliefs you hold to be true. Be willing to adapt when new evidence is presented.
Be kind to yourself. Chances are you weren’t wrong. You just didn’t know any better. However, once you’ve become educated, accept the truth and move forward.
How long does it take for you to forget what drove you crazy?
We have all had relationships that ended, sometimes badly, and yet we find ourselves strangely drawn back to that same relationship that caused us so much pain. Why is that?
Memory is a fickle thing.
A friend of mine used to say that she judged the seriousness of any given situation by how long it would take before she could find the humor in it. Thus was born our favorite saying when things are not going according to our plans, “How long until this is funny?”
Recently, I performed at a local outdoor festival. Being local, many people I know came out to see the show. Several were coworkers at one of the places I used to work when I had a day job.
Enough time has gone by since leaving that particular employer that most of my memories are good ones. I especially miss the people I used to work with on a daily basis. For me, it is always the people that I miss the most.
When my wife catches me speaking with fondness about this particular former employer, she is quick to point out that at the time I left, I was overflowing with frustration, constantly complaining about the environment, and generally difficult to live with as a result. She’s right, of course. (She usually is.)
It was great to catch up with my former coworkers at this recent event. In talking with them, it was fun to remember the people I used to work with and the parts of the job that made it a decent place to work. However, I was also reminded of the things that used to drive me crazy about the environment. Apparently, it hasn’t changed much.
In case any of you reading this know which organization I am talking about, it is important to understand that I bear no ill will to the organization itself. They do great work in the community and I am a happy customer of the organization. But, just because you like to shop at Walmart, it doesn’t mean you would be happy working there. Meanwhile, some people love working there. It fits their style. Some people simply tolerate it. So it is with this former employer of mine. As I’ve said throughout this blog, it is all about fit.
How do you remember your former employers? Which ones drove you crazy at the time, but now you look back on with fondness, perhaps even wishing you could go back?
What if we could do that in the moment?
What if we could approach our current job as if we were looking back upon it in the future? Which parts would we choose to remember?
What if we could overlook the parts that annoy us now, the aspects that we will wipe from our memory over time, and focus on the good parts, the parts that in the future we will look back on with fondness?
How would that change the way we approach our work each day?
Enjoy the good parts. Tolerate the not so good parts. And, as always, “Thank you for shopping at Walmart.”
When is the last time a choice you made resulted in making someone else mad? Downright, name calling, temper tantrum throwing, angry.
Did you enjoy it?
Probably not. If you did, I’d be concerned.
Most of us do not enjoy making other people angry. More accurately, most of us do not enjoy it when other people are mad at us.
Right there, the last word in that previous paragraph, is the issue. “Us.” It’s all about us. We dislike making other people upset because of how it reflects on us. We want other people to like us. We want to be loved.
We seek approval, affirmation. If someone is mad at me, I must have done something wrong. Right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
When is the last time you were angry? Blood boiling, head throbbing, ready to punch something, angry? What was it about?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that, ultimately, it involved you not getting your own way on some issue.
In those instances, I am also going to guess that once the dust settled, after some time had passed, once you’d had the opportunity to look at things from a broader perspective, you were able to see that maybe the issue, decision, statement, whatever it was that set you off, was the “right” thing. You still might not be happy about it, but you could see it was the best choice at the moment. Even if you were not able to say, “I was wrong,” you were likely able to say, “You were right.”
Leaders are often put into a position of making decisions that are unpopular. Sometimes these decisions make people downright angry.
Many times, the level of anger that results from an unpopular decision comes down to how the decision was made and/or is communicated. That is a deeper topic for another time. For now, let’s focus on the willingness to make a decision regardless of its popularity.
One of the guiding principles taught to me for making difficult choices as a leader is the 5 year rule. When we look back on this decision 5 years from now, will we still see this as the right choice?
The exact amount of time we project into the future isn’t all that important. Although, it should be long enough that you are beyond hurt feelings of individuals who are going to be impacted by the choice.
If we allow an unwillingness to upset people to stymie our ability to make a decision, we have failed as leaders. In the words of Neil Peart in the Rush song, “Freewill”, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Do take the impact decisions will have on people seriously. Weigh the costs and benefits. Understand the full impact of the decision. Then make the choice. Even if it makes someone mad.
As a final thought, I leave you with this old groaner of a joke:
Johnny: Why are you so sad?
Billy: We shot our dog.
Johnny: Was he mad?
Billy: Well he sure wasn’t happy about it!
Here’s one I heard when I worked at OhioHealth: Watch one, Do one, Teach one.
The person who taught me this phrase explained that this philosophy was engrained in her as a nurse. To fully learn a new procedure, you watch it being done, you do it yourself, and then you teach it to someone else.
That last step is critical. It is what separates common practitioners of any craft from the masters. It is where most of us stop short.
Think about it. If you are going to teach something, there is a level of expectation that you know the material. It forces us to raise our game. We must have the confidence in our skills if we are to teach others.
I believe that is why so few of us teach; we lack the confidence in our own skills or knowledge. That is a shame. There are many people with much to give, who hide behind a cloak of fear.
A clear benefit to teaching others is that we learn more ourselves. One of my friends in college taught classes at another school. He was not the smartest person in our own classrooms. But, he was a good teacher. His own struggles as a student helped him as a teacher because he could relate to his students’ challenges. He shared with me how much he was learning by teaching. He also shared his joy in receiving high marks from his students.
You don’t have to be a master of the material to teach. Some of my most memorable teachers in school were those who, rather than spewing forth their vast knowledge from on high, invited us to join them in their own journey of exploration on the subject. Those shared explorations were far more interesting than sitting through boring lectures.
Now it’s your turn.
Watch one. Do one. Teach one.
(Side note: I take this concept of teaching seriously. I now offer one-on-one coaching for speakers and entertainers who want to better connect with their audiences. If you want your time in front of others to be more powerful, give me a call.)
In one of the gyms I used to go to, there was a sign prominently displayed in the weight room that read, “Go heavy or go home.”
In another context, I frequently heard the saying, “Play to win or don’t bother playing.”
Each of these sayings has their place. If you are a naturally competitive person, then both of these probably strike you as being obvious. You likely feel wholehearted agreement.
One problem with these concepts is that in the wrong circumstances, they can induce substantial unnecessary amounts of stress.
Another issue is they might cause you to give up early. Maybe you look ahead toward the finish line, realize there is no way for you to win this particular race, and therefore stop trying. Give up on this one, move on to the next race, maybe you’ll have better luck there.
These sayings do not fully incorporate the level of influence factors beyond our effort have on the outcome. I’m not talking about making excuses when things don’t go our way. I am talking about accepting the reality that there’s often more involved in the decisions others make than simply the amount of effort that we put into trying to sway them one way or another.
I recently spoke to a group of recruiters for an organization. Their key metric is the number of people they are able to get to sign on the dotted line. The majority of their training is based on classic sales methodology, with “getting to the close” being a key component.
The problem is that they were becoming overly obsessed with that metric of closing the deal. Each person they were recruiting was seen as critical to their success in their job as recruiter. When they were unable to seal the deal with a particular individual, they viewed it as failure. They took it personally. It was creating an enormous amount of stress on the individuals.
I can relate.
I have this same experience in my own business. I tend to view each prospective client as critical to the success of my business. When a prospective client tells me, “we’ve decided to go a different direction” (a frequently used phrase instead of simply saying, “no”) it is easy to take this personally. Being a one-person service-oriented business, the product I am selling is, essentially, myself. As a result, failure to close the sale takes on a high degree of personal rejection.
Do you enjoy rejection? I sure don’t.
The attitude shift that has helped me the most, and that I shared with this group of recruiters, is the concept of Involved Detachment.
What does that mean?
It means going heavy and playing to win… while detaching yourself from the outcome.
It means giving it your absolute best shot, doing all you can to convey your value proposition. And then once you’ve done that, let it go. You’ve done your part, now it is up to them.
This is still very much a work in progress for me. There are good days, and there are not so good days.
It is easy to view an opportunity as being impossible to win. As the level of the events at which I work has elevated, so has the level of the people I am being compared against for the time slot. While it is pretty cool to be considered alongside some of these people, it can also be intimidating. I view many of them with such high esteem that it seems pointless to even bother submitting my proposal.
But, just as there are factors beyond my influence for which another person might be chosen, there are also factors beyond my control which cause a client to select me over the others being considered.
Got that? It is not my job to tell them “no”. There is a reason that they chose to contact me in the first place, to include me in their search.
My job is simply to understand as much as possible about the client’s goals, put forth what I have to offer as clearly as possible, do it well, and then let it go.
Where can you apply this concept in your life and work? In what areas are you being overly concerned with the outcome? Are you quitting before you even start?
As a ventriloquist, I regularly practice in front of a mirror. My practice studio has a large one permanently mounted on the wall.
It is very helpful as I work on the character animation to be able to see how it looks by watching myself in the mirror. Each character needs to act and react, just like in a traditional play.
Sometimes, especially as I am developing a new bit, I will spend hours working on nuanced movement for delivery of a single line of dialog, looking for the precise motion to get the biggest reaction. If I have a joke that I know in my gut is a good joke, but it is not getting the laughter that I think it should, I go back to the mirror and work on the delivery, adjusting timing, phrasing, and gestures.
Dancers often practice in front of a mirror. The dance studio where my kids studied has a wall full of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. It was an essential tool for them to learn movement.
That wall of mirrors in the dance studio also has a curtain that can be drawn across the entire expanse. So does the mirror in my practice studio.
Why? Because at a certain point in the rehearsal process you need to shift from thinking of what is being reflected back on yourself and focus instead on what you are projecting to the audience.
You need to draw the curtain, turn around, and perform for the audience.
Many performers miss this critical transition. Mea culpa. Like many entertainers, I started performing as a way to get attention, to seek approval. The applause was the goal. It signified to me that I was doing something right, that I was valued.
I can tell you the exact moment when it dawned on me that I was spending way too much time looking in the mirror, seeking applause as a way of improving the reflection.
It was a game changer for me in my entertainment career.
More importantly, it was a game changer for the audiences I serve. Now when I walk onto the stage, my focus is entirely on them and what they are receiving rather than on what they are reflecting back.
This same concept applies to leaders. Some leaders are focused on the mirror. They stand looking into the mirror, with their team behind them. They see the team’s purpose as one of reflecting positively on the leader.
Perhaps you’ve worked for a leader like this. Perhaps you are one. It’s annoying.
A mirror can be a useful tool. It helps us develop our technique. The key is to realize that the mirror is not our target audience. We are not here to perform for ourselves. Entertainers need to perform for an audience. Leaders need to lead a team.
Use the mirror. Practice in front of it. Hone your technique. But, know when it is time to draw the curtain, turn around, and focus on the audience.
What image do you convey when you walk into a room? If you were able to watch yourself enter a meeting where you are in charge, what would you see?
I confess, I am a Justin Timberlake fan. But, even if you do not have the kind of JT bromance that I do, there is something to learn from his performance during halftime at this year’s Superbowl.
As always, there were critics who called the show “lame”, “mediocre”, and even “boring”. These critics were not watching JT’s face.
I challenge you to watch it again. This time watch through a different lens. Maybe even turn the sound off. Focus on his face. Here’s a direct link: https://youtu.be/2z3EUY1aXdY
Do you see it? Unbridled confidence, without a trace of arrogance.
When I watch JT perform, whether it is this halftime show, or the Netflix special of a previous concert, or perhaps someday actually attending a concert in person, what I most admire and feel drawn to is that absolute confidence that he belongs on that stage.
Coupled with that confidence is an air of welcoming you, the viewer, to come along for the ride. There is a sense of, “Hey, let’s have some fun together.”
Some performers display confidence, but there is also an air of arrogance about it. It’s more exclusionary. It’s more like, “I deserve to be here. I’m better than you. Watch me. Aren’t I great?”
This same attitude plays out in places beyond the stage. Think about how your boss, or others up the executive chain, walk into a meeting room. Do they treat you like a stereotypical Catholic School teacher, telling you to sit down and shut up? Or are they like JT – clearly in charge of the situation, but inviting you to be an active participant?
How do YOU behave in this situation? When you are the one in charge, do you lord it over people? Or do you maintain order while inviting participation?
Exude confidence. But, in the words of Han Solo, “That’s great kid. Don’t get cocky.”