I recently finished reading Steve Martin's stand-up comedy autobiography, "Born Standing Up". Three stories from the book resonated with me so strongly that I wanted to share them with you, along with my 'take' on each one.
Now, in the book, Steve Martin started out as a struggling magician and standup
comic, and eventually scored a gig as a television comedy writer to pay the bills.
He writes on page 127, "I was growing frustrated with writing for television. Although the income was financing my performance career, I was marking time, and the prize of performing regularly on one of the shows was not materializing. I realized that the performers were just using my material as a starting point and, of course, I thought the better joke was to do it as written. On The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, I was thrown the occasional performing bone, appearing as a walk-on with a line or two in a sketh
, but I felt no resonance from the producers or audience. There was a baffling moment when Sonny Bono
and his partner, Denis Pregnolato
, who were becoming showbiz
entrepreneurs, approached me at work and took me aside. Sonny and Denis had seen me perform--I don't know where--and Sonny said, "Steve, we've been watching you. We think you are the next big thing, bigger than David Brenner
, bigger than Albert Brooks. We would like to work with you and develop a show for you." I nodded my excitement and never heard from them again, not one word." -- Steve Martin
QUESTION: How many of you have been in a similar situation before? A situation where you think all your hard work is finally going to pay off, and finally, you are going to be justly rewarded for all your sacrifice only to have the rug pulled out from under you? I am willing to be ALL OF YOU. How absolutely heartbreaking to get all jazzed up about your future, and then just have it fizzle away, your hope fading with every subsequent day of silence.
LESSON? This has happened to me so many times. Countless times. And it truly IS heartbreaking. I have cried many a tear at the unjustness of the world. And yet, look at Steve Martin: need I remind you that he is now a movie star making millions of dollars per film? Obviously, he did not need Sonny and Denis to make it big. Obviously, there are many ways to the top. Obviously, you can not let anything get you down. Persistence, ladies and gents, is the name of the game. And perhaps the world is NOT so unjust... for those who persist; for those who get back up again when they fall; for those who don't let rejection destroy their faith in success.
But there's more! Later, Steve was doing really well. He had appeared FIFTEEN TIMES as a standup comic on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He appeared for the SIXTEENTH TIME, and this time, not with a guest host, but with Johnny Carson himself. This was big.
He writes on page 152, "My first show back, I chose to do a bit I had developed years earlier at the Ice House... I started a wild flail, which I must say was pretty funny, when a showbiz miracle had occurred. The camera cut away to a dimly lit Johnny, precisely as he whirled up from his chair, doubling over with laughter. Suddenly, subliminally, I was endorsed. At the end of the act, Sammy [Davis Jr] came over and hugged me. I felt like I hadn't been hugged since I was born. This was my 16th appearance on the show, and the first one I could really can a smash. The next day, elated by my success, I walked into an antique store on La Brea. The woman behind the counter looked at me. "Are you that boy who was on the Tonight Show last night?" "Yes," I said. "Yuck!" she blurted out.
QUESTION: How many of you have had a great success, only to have someone criticize you? How dare they? Who do they think they are? Well, they are human, just like us all, and I suppose entitled to their opinion. Nonetheless, when I first saw people trashing me on my IMDb.com message board, I was crushed too. But crushed only until I realized that the only reason they are trashing me is because I must be gaining some fame. Why would people criticize someone they don't even know? The answer: because I was not a 'someone'; I was a 'commodity'. They are not seeing Monroe Mann, the person, they were seeing Monroe Mann, the up and coming celebrity. Same with this comment made to Steve after his awesome performance on the Tonight Show. Bottom line, don't let the critics get you down---the more of them you have, the closer you are to getting to the top of wherever you're going.
And... there's one last story.
Now, Steve had performed 16 times now on the Tonight Show. That is amazing. Would anyone dare to say that he wasn't a success? That he had not yet already 'made it'? SIXTEEN TIMES! Wow! Wow! Wow!
Well, on page 156, right after finishing up his Tonight Show story, Steve writes, "I did have a tiny bit of drawing power, generated through my daytime appearances and my growing presence on The Tonight Show, but mostly my name was a rumor. My dubious status as a headliner led me to a tiny pie slice of folk club in Greenwich Village, the Metro. Now I had an opening act. Still, no one showed up to see me and a new duo, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. I told the club owner that he could let me go if he wanted, that I wouldn't hold him to his contract. He said he wanted me to stay... until the next night, when again no one showed up. We parted with a handshake."
QUESTION: How many of you have had a great success, and felt that finally, things were changing, only to discover that in reality, not much had changed at all?
LESSON: If you have felt that feeling, and Lord knows I have, and Lord knows Steve Martin has, then guess what: you're in good company! Can you believe that even after 16 appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Steve couldn't even fill a tiny club in Greenwich Village?! Humbling, isn't it? The lesson I learned from this--keep going. No matter what. And realize that it's very unlikely that any one thing is going to launch you to the top. You need to take every victory collectively, and be steadfast in your forward motion. At the time, Steve thought he was a washup. But guess what? He kept pushing, and soon, the word about this great comic spread, and he was playing to crowds of 500, then 1000, then 2000, and then, 6000 as HOST OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. And he didn't stop there, because soon, he was playing to sold out crowds of over SIXTY THOUSAND PEOPLE.
The final lesson I learned from Steve's story is that you may need to have lots of 'victories' before the world takes notice on a grand scale. Years ago, I wrote a book with Jay Conrad Levinson called Guerrilla Networking and was invited as a guest on CNBC's The Big Idea. I thought that was going to be 'it'. It wasn't. It helped, yes, but I am still a relative unknown. Before that, I was on The Dr. Keith Show. That too yielded very little tangible benefits. Years before that, my band made it to the semi-finals of a Z100 battle of the bands contest. I thought that would yield big results. It didn't. Years before that, I was in this big Hollywood movie, Swimfan. I thought THAT was going to be it. Nope. And I keep going. Just recently, I released my new book, Time Zen; am finishing up my last semester of law school; and am editing my Iraq war comedy documentary. Will any of these be 'it'? I doubt it, BUT I know that with every 'feather in my cap' I am getting closer, and closer, and closer. I've learned over the years (and have been reminded by Steve Martin's story) that there is no such thing as an overnight success. It's gonna take years and years and struggle after struggle and--ironically--success after success before you become an overnight success.
In other words: KEEP GOING.
Said differently, and in but one word? DETERMINATION.
In conclusion, what am I trying to say? I am trying to let you know that you haven't even done a quarter of the work you need to be doing to get to the top. What have you done that can even come close to 16 appearances on the Tonight Show? Heck, even if you HAVE had 16 appearances, guess what? Who cares?! Obviously those 16 appearances weren't even enough for Steve Martin. My point: don't get cocky. Don't get lazy. Don't get complacent. DON'T GIVE UP. You have so much more work to do. My advice to you? GET OFF YOUR ASS.
***I am available for hire as your attorney, your business and career coach, your financial advisor, and/or your marketing planner. Call me for a free 20-minute career consultation:***
*******************************KEEP READING FOR YOUR 2011 CHECKLIST*********************
So I am glad you read this email. And I really hope it inspires you to realize that 2011 can and will be better than 2010. And that you are going to get over your challenges, heartbreaks, and general feelings of crappiness. :) I promise. I PROMISE YOU!!!
One last thing. Here is your 2011 checklist. Are you ready to make 2011 your most productive year ever? Print out this checklist and make your dreams come true already! This checklist is derived in part from my new book, "TIME ZEN", from my book, "GUERRILLA NETWORKING", from my book "BATTLE CRIES FOR THE UNDERDOG", and my book, "THE THEATRICAL JUGGERNAUT", and from my law school/MBA education as well as some big screw ups I made this year, haha.
YOUR 2011 CHECKLIST
[ ] DREAM BIG -- Make a list of everything you have ever wanted to do with your life. Don't edit. Just write everything--no matter how crazy it may seem. Do this before New Year's Day.
[ ] SYNERGIZE -- Figure out which of these projects you can combine, i.e. if you write down "cooking", "write a screenplay", and "spend more time with kids", why don't you write a screenplay about a kids cooking academy, and spend time with the kids cooking the recipes that you're going to include in the screenplay. SYNERGY BABY (which is a key tenet of my book, "Time Zen")
[ ] CREATE A PLAN -- Write out all the steps you need to take to make those dreams come true. Figure out which steps you can accomplish within two years. Make that your strive for THIS YEAR.
[ ] CREATE SOME TO DO LISTS -- Nothing of great magnitude gets done without a checklist. Just as you are using this checklist to figure out what to get done this year, you should also use a checklist to help you figure out what must be done over the next month.
[ ] STRIVES, NOT GOALS -- Don't kick yourself if you don't get things done exactly at the time you expected they would get done. Don't think of inflexible goals; think always of very flexibly adaptable strives.
[ ] DREAM BIGGER -- Stop editing yourself! Make a new list of dreams, and this time, put down the absolute crazy dreams! The really outlandish ones: *astronaut, *movie star, *president of the United States ---- I kid you not, you can do anything you set your mind to. People who say that is not true just didn't try hard enough, and gave up before they found their solution. GET OFF YOUR ASS ALREADY
[ ] HELP SOMEONE ELSE -- Seems crazy, but the more you help others, the more you end up on the receiving end of help from others. What goes around comes around, they say. Spend some time each week helping someone else, and you might just find that things start working out better in your world too.
[ ] SAY THANK YOU -- You know that feeling of not being appreciated? Well, don't be one of those people who is making people feel underappreciated! SAY THANK YOU DAMMIT! Say thank you to everyone and anyone who helps you in the slightest of ways. It costs nothing, and can mean everything (so thank YOU for reading this newsletter, and an even bigger thanks if you forward it along to a friend!)
[ ] WRITE A BOOK -- I honestly believe that everyone should be a published author. The feeling you get when the first copy of a book you wrote arrives on your doorstep, and you tear open the box from Amazon, and you see your name in print, and you flip through the book---that feeling can't be beat. The adrenaline rush is just indescribable. I want you to have that feeling too (and yes, I can help you with that if you like)
[ ] GET OFF YOUR ASS -- bottom line, we all have dreams. Most of us just hide them away in the shadow of a secure job and a 'play it safe' mentality. WAKE UP OUT OF YOUR STUPOR! Rekindle those dreams. Live the life you always knew you should be living. I would rather die trying than live under the pestering answers of 'what if' I had tried'? In fact, I have an even better idea---don't try. DO IT!
[ ] GET IT IN WRITING -- As Samuel Goldwyn once said, "An oral contract is worth the paper it's printed on." Make sure that this is the year you get EVERYTHING in writing. You are not 'delaying'; you are being smart. And this applies to a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT too. If you have a home, or a significant amount of property, and/or children, you should have a will, a living will, and a power of attorney.
[ ] BE PATIENT/DON'T BE TOO IMPULSIVE -- Patience means "being steadfast despite opposition". I made a big mistake though by being TOO steadfast, i.e. I was so impulsive, and failed to control myself, and really screwed up a really amazing opportunity. I am still waiting by the phone hoping that it's going to ring with good news, but I fear I can only live and learn. Please use some self-control in 2011. That is probably my number one new year's resolution: CONTROL YOURSELF MONROE. I made some really bad judgment calls and ended up doing a lot of things I regret--some in my personal life; some in my business life. Altogether, I think I have finally learned my lesson. It reminded me of a great quote by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Self-reverance, self-knowledge, self-control--these three alone lead to sovereign power."
[ ] DON'T BE SILENT -- Finally, if someone has a major crush on you, even if you are not interested, tell them where they stand. Be honest. Be brutally honest. Coming from someone who just started a PhD in Psychology, take note: Believe it or not, being brutally honest with someone is less damaging psychologically in the long run than 'beating around the bush' and ignoring the person. It's easier to get over someone/something if you have a definite answer, rather than not knowing. And tell them in person. Or at the very least, over the phone. Not via text or email! Last year, I thought that a broken heart was the worst feeling one could ever have; now I know that it's not a broken heart; it's the feeling of not knowing why someone with whom you had a strong connection suddenly won't respond to your phone calls or text messages. Please folks: be honest with the people in your life. You're not helping them by telling a white lie. You're certainly not helping them by ignoring them. At least show them that tiny bit of respect and tell them where they stand. Remember how Steve Martin felt when Sonny Bono never got back to him; not cool.
Anyway, I come up with a lot of quotations. Here's one that is completely appropriate to conclude this inspirational diatribe:
"How do you know when you've given it your all? WHEN YOU HAVE SUCCEEDED."
On that note, I know you may be bummed out right now. (In many ways, I sure am.) I know 2010 may not have been what you had hoped. (in many ways, it was not for me.) I know that not everything may have worked out for you. (ditto ditto ditto)
My simple advice: Learn your lessons well, and go out there and kick some butt in 2011. And don't make the same mistakes again!! I sure won't. Neither will you.
Romp on! Meet you at the top!
NO RULES, NO EXCUSES, NO REGRETS.
Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA, ME, Guerrilla Marketing Coach