Here’s something I learned from years of performing standup in clubs, colleges, auditoriums and a federal penitentiary: Standup comedy is metaphor for life. It’s tough, thrilling, often painful, often fun, always rewarding. And in standup, as in life, there are myriad things that are completely beyond your control. You learn by trial and error, but learn to make the best choices you can under pressure. And when — not if — you fail, you get back up onstage as soon as possible, knowing that the process will ultimately bring you success.
Okay, even though I think everyone would benefit from trying standup at least once in life, I realize that most people don’t want to do it and never will. And that’s perfectly cool. After all, somebody’s got to sit in the audience and laugh, heckle, or get offended and walk out, right? But the biggest lessons I learned in my ten thousand hours or so of professional standup experience can help you to meet any challenge or obstacle in life.
Employ some or all of these techniques and principles and see where they take you. Here they are:
Stand Up. Respect yourself, take a position, stand up for what you believe in. When you know who you are and you like yourself, you can approach life’s challenges with confidence. Build your character by taking on difficult projects and associating with people who are smarter, better, stronger and faster than you are. Never be afraid present yourself as you are. Never underestimate yourself. Be honest, and have a point of view. Be bold. “Fortune sides with he who dares.” — Virgil
Have Fun. This is a fantastic motivation for doing anything! If you’re having fun and you’re committed to your position, passionate about your process, no barrier can stand in your way — you’ll be invincible. It make take some time to win, but if you keep re-energizing your sense of fun and passion you will conquer.
Be Prepared. Timing is important, in standup and in life. Take time to prepare yourself well for any challenge or event. Stay healthy physically so you live in a state of strength and well-being. Work out at a gym and build your stamina. Study and research an upcoming project, and take time to plan carefully. After that, you can let yourself go with the flow. Learn to love rehearsal and preparation. Then you can be spontaneous, knowing you have structure and discipline to fall back on.
Never Take Yourself Too Seriously. Remember that life, like standup, is about the audience, i.e., everybody else. You’ll always do best if allow yourself to let go of self-centeredness and self-preservation. Toss your ego and its expectations out the window and focus on bringing your performance. Get out of your head and into the moment. Once you’re in the moment, stay there, so you can think on your feet with precision.
Never Hang Back, Always Move Forward. Be Proactive. Audiences respond to confidence and like-ability. When you’re onstage, always move toward the audience. Be ready to make friends, and don’t anticipate adversaries. Optimism always pays off, and when you expect good things to happen, they are more likely to happen. Retreat is not an option. Radiate self-assurance, give yourself an inner pep talk, and muster your enthusiasm. Your energy will be contagious and others will go with your vibe.
Respect Others. Respect, but don’t fear others. Never underestimate your audience, or your friends, family, associates or competitors. Refrain from taking anybody, or anything for granted. Start out your day with a moment of appreciation for the people you work with. Recognize and acknowledge the accomplishments of others and know that you are part of a greater reality.
Be Yourself. Let go of the urge to downplay who you are, or to overcompensate for any real or imagined flaw or weakness. Recognize that in the white hot truth, the reality of universal thought and consciousness, no one is above you, and no one is below you. You never have to try to impress anybody, or intimidate anybody, or play any games. Standup strips away everything but what’s funny. Life strips away everything but what’s real. So why feel like you’ve got to bullshit anybody or anything? You are enough, right now, as you are, and if you continue the brave work, you will continue to become more, and greater, exponentially. Trust in that and continue on your path, no matter how tough the challenges.
Okay, that’s seven. I’ve got more, but this ought to do for now. Remember, life, like comedy, is tough but fun. Focus too much on the tough and you break down. Focus on the fun and you win out. So have fun, be strong, keep working it, and you’ll wow your audience. Let the encores begin.