A couple months ago I performed my first stand-up at an open mic. It was one of the more nerve-wracking things I have done (check out this post to read more about my first stand-up). So after I stepped off the stage that first time, I thought that it would get easier and I would do better each successive time.
I thought wrong.
My second time went much worse. I used different (weaker) material and was much more nervous than the first time because I was at a smaller venue and the majority of the crowd consisted of other comedians. It was a five-minute set and nobody laughed until four minutes in.
The third, I used different material and it was probably my best material, but I was still too nervous. The crowd consistently laughed but it was reserved laughter. I wasn’t giving enough time for people to laugh and I was too modest in my joke telling because I was self-conscious.
My most recent stand-up was my best. I was nervous, scared and hoped the host forgot to call me up, but I looked at these feelings in a different way – I looked at them as essential to have the energy to perform my best. So when I went up there, I focused on executing my jokes as planned, rather than reacting too much to the crowd. I made sure to pause. I made sure to slow down and as a result, I discovered certain lines that I wasn’t expecting laughter, had the most laughter. Although my most recent stand-up is my best so far, I know that always won’t be the case.
There will be times when no one laughs at a joke that before garnered copious amounts of laughter. There will be times when I try out new material and it falls flat.
It’s not a linear progression. There are ups and downs. There are downs and downs and then even more downs, and then after a great amount of persistence there may be several ups in a row but that’s not guaranteed. Neither are the several downs. I can’t know what will happen. All I can do is focus on the process and enjoy it.
3 Ways to Enjoy the Process
- Have a long-term approach. In “The Art of Learning”, Joshua Waitzkin, discusses his approach to performing his best in any discipline. He describes the importance of a long-term learning approach to his discipline. Forget about the destination or result. Invest in improving, not reaching some sort of pinnacle of success. Or in other words enjoy learning. Enjoy improving and learning from your experiences. Each experience is a learning process and it may go great or it may go horribly wrong. Either way it’s a part of the process and that process is the goal. Not some result that immediately becomes unimportant once accomplished.
- Failure is temporary. If something goes extremely bad, know that it is only temporary. It won’t last as long, if you get out there and do it again. If you say something stupid, you are one sentence away from saying something smart and brilliant. That’s not to say keep talking, so I guess that’s not the best analogy, but the point is there is always another opportunity. It may not be the “ideal” opportunity that you created in your mind but there is another one. You will survive. It will be all right. Life will go one.
- Focus on execution NOT results. You can’t control whether or not people find you funny, nor can you control when you get promoted; however you can control the behaviors that will put you in the best position to achieve those results. You can talk to your boss about the promotion. You can finish assignments ahead of time and exceed the minimum standard. You can rehearse your routine over and over again. There are so many things you can do. Do those things. And let the results take care of itself.
It’s easy to get caught up in what you did and did not do. It’s easy to expect progressive improvement each time out. And these expectations make it tough when things don’t go your way. It’s demotivating. It’s depressing. It’s sad. It’s disheartening. But you can move on. You can kick ass next time. You can always kick ass next time.