Nobody Has the Credentials to Tell You “You Can’t”

through-a-wall

It Starts with Rejection.

Rejection. We’ve all had our fair share, right?

Being in the business of entertainment; being a comedian a writer, an actor, exposes you to more than your fair share, I believe.

Some of us are more affected by rejection than others. We take rejection as ostracism and we can do damage to ourselves and our careers if we take it too deeply to heart. I don’t know about you but I know some people who have given up after too much rejection.

The problem is sometimes too much is only once.

But the good news is I think we can learn to smash through rejection and overcome it.

In order to help overcome rejection, it would first help to have a handle on what it is so that it doesn’t seem so ominous and out of our ability to control it.

Understanding the Science of Rejection

Psychologists say that the fear of rejection is hard-wired into our brains and was established as some sort of survival mechanism.

Not to dwell too much on the primaeval science of rejection and the fear of it but for the sake of understanding and overcoming it, here it goes:

Back in the day when we were hunter-gatherers, we relied on tribes to survive. If you were rejected by the tribe it meant ostracism, which meant you would lose access to the fire, the food, etc. Which would lead to your ultimate demise.

Therefore the rejection mechanism is sort of an “early warning system” according to Psychologist and author, Guy Winch, Ph.D. When our behavior might get us ostracised we feel rejection and that feeling is supposed to trigger us to change our behavior so we stop being rejected.

To top it all off we humans are social animals, so the rejection can really be harmful. So much so Winch has actually labeled rejection as a psychological “injury.”

He’s not too far off considering that rejection affects the same brain regions and neurotransmitters as does physical pain. Which explains why during a break up you can actually feel physically ill, get a headache, collapse.

Also during rejection, our brain produces natural painkillers; Opioids, that can help us cope with the pain and continue on… or like me, make me sleep.

How Not to Let Rejection Get the Best of You

I was fortunate to have very supportive parents. They encouraged me to get up and face the day, despite rejection. I grew up in an actors’ family and got to see my Dad go to auditions, not get the part and not let it affect his tenacity, and belief in himself. I was able to witness him bounce back the very next day and book two out of three auditions.

So when it came time for me to audition, I didn’t allow the rejection part of it to knock my self-worth. And without conjuring up visuals of Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley and “Affirmations,” the popular sketch on Saturday Night Live back in the day, I would tell myself that I’m good enough and that the reason I didn’t get the part is not that I couldn’t act, but because I just wasn’t the right match.

Psychologists have a similar approach. They say you can prepare for rejection better by identifying the qualities you believe you bring into this world. Write them down.

Hell, write them down several times! Own them and know them. That way when you do receive some rejection, you can walk away from it a little stung, but with your head held high, ready to tackle the next challenge.

You should really take a moment–right now– and write down five to ten values you bring to this world! No really. Right now!

When it comes to rejection, I like to simply say to myself, “No is not an answer and it’s unacceptable.” Of course this is when dealing with the industry of show business, (getting a script approved or getting an audition), and not when I’m with a woman trying to get to third base!  And why am I still trying to get to third base with my wife? When you’re married, isn’t third base where you start?

But wait, we were being serious in this blog post, Dude!

You are ‘Perfect’

I think psychologists have a point when they say you should write down your valuable traits. I believe it’s something that will help you deal with rejection.

I tell my students and myself that they are ‘perfect.’ I’ve said it so much to myself that I inherently believe it.

Now before you get weird on me on that, let me explain…

What I say is, you must believe you are perfect in all your flaws. I encourage my students to own that of themselves.

I honestly believe that about myself and I have a ton of baggage. There are stores in the mall that wish they had as much Samsonite as I do. I have skeletons and massive failures. But I believe that has made me who I am and I’m pretty freakin’ happy with that because I am constantly trying to learn from my mistakes, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.

But that’s okay, because if I take the time to assess and evaluate, I can probably learn.

Your biggest mistakes are your greatest lessons. So when you do screw up and you do fail and you are rejected, you learn valuable lessons and if you walk away from that rejection focusing on what you learned rather than focusing on the rejection and self-talking yourself into depression, you’ll do much better with rejection and succeed more often.

Yes, focus on what you learned, move on, continue believing in yourself. Psychologist have determined that rejection is real. It exists, but how deeply we let it affect us is up to us.

We Can Cower or We Can Conquer.

The reason I wrote this blog post is that I’ve seen people–friends of mine–give up their dreams because they were rejected… even once. Then when they hit middle age, they shoulder this huge burden of regret.

When I first auditioned for the Improv, I was rejected three times by co-owner Mark Lonow. If I let that rejection get me down I might never have continued. But on my third rejection from Lonow, I looked him in the eye and said, “You’re not the only way into the Improv, Mark.”

I don’t recommend ever saying that, by the way! I did it because I was hurt (one of the side effects of rejection) and I stupidly lashed out.

But the very next day, I went into the Improv, waited three and a half hours to see Bud Friedman. When I finally saw him, I introduced myself and begged him to let me audition for him.

He said, “Come down tonight and do twelve minutes.”

I thanked him and came back that night with my twelve.

When I was up on stage, after six minutes, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Bud Friedman walk out of the showroom.

My heart sank.

When I finished my act, audience members high-fived me. I heard compliments. I was confused. Why did Bud walk out of the room?

I went up to the bar and waited for Bud. When he finally showed up, these are his exact words: “Very nice set, Mr. Corley. I tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to start you in Vegas and go from there… Oh, and I want you to do the show.”

“What show is that, Bud?”
“A&E’s ‘An Evening at the Improv,’ of course.”
“Of course.”

On the night of the taping of the show, I was in makeup sitting in a chair right next to Bud… as I looked into the mirror, creeping up to me was Mark Lonow, the co-owner, who rejected me three times before.

He leaned into my ear and said in this disdain-filled voice, “How’d you slip through the cracks?”

Bud Friedman looked at him in the mirror and said, “Mark, the last time I checked, my name is first on the Marquis.”

I did the show that night and had a really solid set and after that set, my first T.V. set, my career changed. I haven’t stopped working since.

I share this with you because rejection is a part of this business. We must learn to cope with it and not let it get us down.

And just like the picture way up at the beginning of this post, when we encounter the obstacle of rejection when can either give up, go around or break right through.

There are few things I love more than this business. One of those things is the artists who journey through it. If this blog post gave you some inspiration, drop me a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts and your obstacles and how you overcame them.

I would also like to share with you the article that inspired this post. It is a post that shows original rejection letters to famous people. The post is very appropriately titled:

“10 Painful Rejection Letters To Famous People Proving You Should NEVER Give Up Your Dreams”

it’s by Averi Clements at Distractify.com.

I hope it inspires. Go get ’em!

Bill Burr Reveals His Approach To Success

Bill Burr 2014

Have you ever wondered what the secret to success in comedy is? 

Ever feel like it’s just this massively intimidating idea, like this enormous blob of ectoplasmic goop that has no shape or form? 

Building a career in comedy can be so daunting.

School is so much easier! In school they tell you what to do. You know when to take your SAT’s. You’re told how many units you need to graduate, what you’re GPA needs to be.

In college, you’re told that in order to become a teacher, you have to take certain classes, get so many units, take an internship at a company and if you graduate with the right GPA and honors, you have an opportunity to have a job waiting for you when you finally graduate. 

It’s a process and it’s similar for a lot of careers. It usually goes something like: High School-College-Internship-Job-Career. That’s organized and easy to conceive; maybe there’s some variation or advanced degrees for specialties like law, medicine or engineering, but it’s still a process that’s pretty well defined.

When you start out doing comedy, there is no obvious process and nobody tells you what to do. You have to find your own way as you go. You can talk to others, but there’s still no real map.

Or is there?

Comedians always ask me, “what’s the secret to success?”

My favorite response? “It’s not a secret.”

There are successful comedians and artists out there all the time telling you what they did in their careers.

I tell all my students exactly what I did to hit my financial and artistic goals.

The success guru Tony Robbins said, “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.”

By that he means copy their methods not their products. In other words, find out how they got successful and do the same thing.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I can’t tell you how to succeed. I can only tell you what I did to reach my level of success in this business. I’m still learning and still achieving and some years are better than others.

I don’t just try to figure it all out on my own. I look to others, study their careers. I read biographies of other successful artists and listen or read their interviews. Sometimes they can reveal some pretty awesome things that they did to succeed. I jot them down and see if it might work for me too.

One of the keys to success in this business is to realize that show-business is two words and whether you’re a writer, performer or both, if you start thinking of this as building your business you’ll find that it’s a little less daunting. After all, building a business has a simple formula.

The basic formula to building a business is:

  1. Find an Idea
  2. Have a Plan of Action
  3. Secure Funding to Implement that Plan
  4. Sell That Idea to Customers on a Recurring Basis.

Most Comedians have step 1, the idea, (perform stand-up), but they want to jump immediately to step 4 without digging in to step 2 or 3.

In fact most comedians don’t even want to think about step 3, because it means they have to spend money, but let’s leave that aside for now. Let’s focus on steps 1 and 2.

Step 1: The Idea. Comedians have the idea; it’s their comedy or the idea that they want to do stand-up. But what’s really missing with most comedians is the plan of action.

The problem is that it’s missing both creatively and economically.

One of the things I suggest is to read and listen to what other comedians did in their career to get where they are.

Here’s a fabulous article from Splitsider about Bill Burr on his success.

Bill Burr is one of my favorites.  His blend of honesty, passion and emotion in his material is what has propelled him to the status he enjoys today and what will continue to keep him on top.

What’s important to understand is that Bill wrote jokes for the first few years of his career. “I knew I had to know how to write jokes,” he says.

It might not have been his plan of action but looking back at his paper trail, a smart comedian might get some ideas from that plan. He then said, “I still wrote out jokes for the first ten or eleven years of my career. I was always kind of writing onstage. About six years in, I was riffing and doing that type of thing…”

If you read closely, can you see that Bill is kind of giving you his plan of action? His method? His secrets to success? 

Remember what Tony Robbins said, “find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do…”

So go here and check out this interview with Bill Burr on Splitsider by Phil Stamato.

You might discover that suddenly that enormous blob of ectoplasmic goop might just start to take shape.

The Make-It-Or-Break-It Importance of Remembering a Name

How often do you find yourself in this situation: You’re introduced to somebody, and literally seconds later, for the life of you, can’t recall their names?

Some people instantly chalk it up to their brains not functioning and go as far as convincing themselves that they have a bad short-memory or they’re simply “bad” with names; going so far as to affirm it, saying things like, “I’m bad with names, I can remember faces. I always forget people.”

Does this sound like you? 

If it does sound like you–and I can actually see your head nodding as you read this–then you need to know that this tendency has more far reaching implications than you might think and I can tell you from experience, just read on!

Not remembering a person’s name can interfere with your ability to feel confident in meeting new people, or it can mean the difference between a gig booked or not booked.

Meeting New People

Being a stand-up can be isolating. After all, one of the reasons we do this job is because we don’t have to rely on other people. (I know it’s one of the reasons I got into stand-up). It’s just ourselves and the audience. We can get used to that I don’t need anybody attitude and it can reinforce our inability to remember names of people. 

But we must remember that in this business, a high percentage of all work is gained through relationships. And what I mean by a “high percentage” is “almost all.”

In fact, Steven Spielberg said that “Any movie that ever made got made because of a relationship.”  

I’m going to say that again, A high percentage of all work is gained through relationships and remembering someone’s name and repeating it out loud back to the person you just met can have a big impact and leave a lasting impression. You’ve probably heard examples of business and political leaders and one of the things people say about them is, he always remembered my name! 

That person could’ve invented the printing press or saved the free world from it’s utter demise, that stuff gets recorded in the annals of history, but a person recalls that he remembered my name

Are you starting to see how important this could be?

A handshake is an introduction, remembering someone’s name is the beginning of a relationship!

Confidence in Meeting New People

Did you know that this “forgetfulness” can sometimes cause people not to want to meet new people. They are so afraid they will embarrass themselves when they don’t remember someone’s name that they don’t put themselves in situations to meet new people.

This can totally impede your momentum in the business world of comedy so you can see that having a lack of confidence in meeting people can completely destroy opportunity. 

The difference between remembering a name and not remembering a name is the difference between a stranger and a friend or even a job and no job. 

Keep reading and I’ll address simple ways to fix this.

Take a Moment to Solve the Problem

If you’re one of those people who don’t seem to remember names of other people, take some time to think about why. How many of you, (I mean all three of you who read this), have stopped to ask yourselves, what was I thinking about when she was telling me her name?

You’d be amazed at how many people just accept the fact that they can’t remember names. They just think that that’s the way they are and that’s just the way it is.

But taking a simple moment to consider why you can’t remember names will help you target the problem. Once you do that, you can start to find solutions that work. 

And the solution can be simple.

Change Your Attitude

If you’re convinced that you can’t remember names, then it’s time to change your attitude about your ability. If you tell yourself that you can’t remember names, you’re just affirming that notion and convincing your brain to do the exact same thing each time. In other words, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

So start taking charge and stop accepting that you just don’t remember people’s names and start trying.

Stop being embarrassed if you don’t know someone’s name. Take the initiative and ask! 

Don’t worry so much if you forget someone’s name. Everybody does it. But when you have the good fortune to meet other people, don’t leave the scene until you have their name. And if you forget their name,  use humor!

You could say something like, “I need you tell me your name again… you know, because I’m a good listener…

There’s an old saying, It’s impossible to dislike someone who makes you laugh. Besides when you take a moment to ask when you forget, you show the other person that you care enough to ask.

Really listen to a person’s name when they tell you. Imagine the spelling of that name. If you can’t imagine the spelling of that name, then ask them, how do you spell that? 

Ask Them to Spell It

Recently, immediately following a screening for my movie, (“STRETCH,”  available on iTunes and Amazon October 7th; I know, shameless plug), a female producer came up to me to talk to me. She was a really attractive woman wearing Christian Lou Boutin shoes–about $700–so I knew I would have to stay focused. 

She introduced herself and told me her name. She then introduced her boyfriend; “Kuldeep.”  

Because the name was one I hadn’t heard before, I almost just let it go. I remembered by mind saying, Aaah! It’s not worth the effort, he’s only the ‘boyfriend.’ 

But I stopped myself and I put a smile on my face and said, “I’m sorry, would you say that again?” He repeated it and I looked him right in the eyes and said, “What an interesting sounding name. How do you spell that?” He told me and that brief interchange took an extra thirty seconds, but that name was now visually cemented into my brain. I could actually see it.

The producer’s boyfriend’s body language actually changed and he now looked like he felt like he was part of the discussion.

And the producer? Wow! She looked like someone just surprised her with her favorite flowers! That little gesture of really wanting to know her boyfriend’s name seemed to impress her. Either that, or she thought I was hitting on her boyfriend!

It was at that moment I felt the entire conversation shift from less of a formal gotta-meet-everyone-here, to a gotta-get-to-know-this-guy-better, type of thing and that’s when she asked the coveted question most writers want to hear at this type of thing: What else do you have?

This producer actually asked me what else I’ve written so can she read it! For a writer that’s huge. That’s like a booker saying, Send me your stuff, I’d love to have you in my club.”

I took her business card, took a moment to actually read her name on the card to add another layer of memory.

Before they left I shook their hands and said, “A pleasure meeting you, Kuldeep.” Then I shook the producer’s hand and I said, “It was so cool of you to come up and say hello, Nila. I will email the Christmas script so you can read it…  I let a beat pass and I said, “Oh, and Nila… amazing shoes!”

Her face lit up, and she did a little pose, rocked her shoe a little bit and let out a genuine, “Oh my God. Thank you!”

Because, really? Nobody wears a seven-hundred dollar pair of shoes and doesn’t want to be complimented on them!

Evaluate and Follow Up

I felt pretty proud of that introduction. It actually went from a “glad-handing” obligation to a real opportunity, in good part to the extra effort of remembering someone’s name.

I took a quick moment to evaluate what I did; I actually took a moment to really listen. It became important to me to really listen and remember their names. Because I knew on a conscious level that I did not want to walk away from that introduction without remembering their names so I did. 

Also because I did that, I initiated conversation, (how do you spell that, etc.), it kind of put me in control of that conversation. I felt like I was sort of running the show. It demonstrated a level of confidence we (including myself), don’t always have in initial greetings. I felt like I was on stage and they were looking to me for the answers.

Does that make any sense? Those new acquaintances looked at me differently and their respect level shifted instantly.

I met several other people that night. I had to remind myself consciously to stay engaged and stay cognitive of remembering their names. Really listening. Actively listening.

I also met a pretty famous director that night. He also asked What else do you have? He also liked the Christmas script idea and actually said, “I would love to direct that.”

I’m not really a big fan of those ‘schmooze fests,’  but I have to remind myself that they are part of the game.  After all high percentage of all work is gained through relationships, as some guy once said way back at the beginning of this blog post.

So what happened with that producer and that boyfriend? When I got into my car to leave that screening, I immediately keyed the contact info into my smartphone, I sent her an email about what a pleasure it was to meet her and Kuldeep. I also attached the Christmas script she was interested in, (I keep all important docs in my phone!).

In the subject line I put: “[Director’s Name] said he wants to direct this!”

That script was read immediately by that producer with the great shoes, and the process has begun to get it sold. It has a good chance too, I think, because that guy Kuldeep?  Turns out he’s a millionaire business mogul who finances films!

So when it comes to remembering names… don’t you think it’s time you make it a priority? 

Let’s do this! 

Ira Glass on The Creative Process

Ira Glass on the Creative Process

Do It Again and Again…and Again…

This post was shared by student Patrick Kanehann who’s followed this mantra and has continued to get better and better and better!

Ira Glass, the host of radio’s “This American Life,” shares his insight on doing what you want to do and how to get good at it.

If you truly believe you’re doing what you want to do then do it over and over and over again. And when you feel like quitting, do it some more.

It’s what I tell students in my classes. When you first start, you might not be that good. But when you keep doing it, you get better and you get better and soon you start to realize that your work begins to meet your ambition.

Take a look:

 

Leave a comment!

What are some of your stories about getting started and keeping going?

Stop Thinking Like an Employee

assembly-lineOne of my comedian friends was recently brutally upset by the fact that he had to pay an admission fee to a comedy competition to be considered for it. He failed get into one of the regional prelim competitions so he was told by the organizer that he needed to resubmit in order to be considered for other regional prelims.

He was very upset by this and felt unsatisfied when he vented his frustration to the organizer who runs the festival, so he went public. He vented his frustration on Facebook and Twitter, “exposing” the principal of this festival. In addition, he made various personal accusations and assumptions about the organizer with other comedians in the thread, slinging insults about not only how unprofessional the guy was but also about his clothing and spelling.

WTF?!

The irony being that if you’re accusing someone of being unprofessional while slinging insults about a person’s spelling, clothing, financial situation or other personal attacks, YOU are the one who is being unprofessional.

Pretty ugly.

It all boiled down to one thing. The comedian who was upset spent “seventy dollars” to not even be considered for the competition.

All around; very frustrating. I get it.

This comedian is not alone in his complaint. There are a ton of other comedians who are upset by the results of competitions and the expenditure of real dollars to get into these competitions or to go out on the road, etc.

Let me try to sort some of it out…

This is show-business. Show business is two words, there’s the “show” and there’s the “business.” This business is no different than any other business in that you have to spend money to make money. You have to speculate to accumulate. Sometimes you have to raise the money to be able to invest it in your business. How you raise the money is up to you. But spending money on an administrative fee for a competition is a necessary cost of doing business.

It’s hard for creative people to deal with that, but…

That’s the way it goes.

I remember, a number of years ago, having to pay $25 dollars to a comedy booking company for them to take the time to look at my tape. I’m old school and didn’t believe in so-called PAY-TO-PLAY. So I bitched and moaned to my wife and my parents and any one else who would listen to me about how I thought I was getting “screwed.”

But this particular booker had 25 weeks of work on their schedule. I paid the $25 dollars, didn’t get a review in the time they allotted. I submitted again, paid another $25. Same thing. I sent a letter (remember, it was before e-mail).

They sent a letter back saying that they had so many submissions, that sometimes they just can’t get to a tape before the deadline and that I would have to submit again. I did. Another $25. I was already $75 in the hole! This time they called me and offered me a week of work as a feature act. I thanked them for considering me and while I had them on the phone I said that I would be traveling all the way from Los Angeles to the East coast to do this gig. “Is there any way you could tack on a couple more weeks so I can better justify the cost of travel?” They did. (In business, it’s called an ‘upsell.’). While you have them saying ‘yes,’ get them to say “YES” again!

Sort of like doing your act. If they laugh at the punch line, tag it, top it and do an act-out, to get more laughs from one premise. Same concept.

They gave me 2 more weeks. While on the gig I met the headliner who taught me how to sell t-shirts. I had a great time, gave them solid shows. I showed up early, and I over delivered. I made it my goal to give them the best shows that I was capable of. Then I called their assistant, asked what kind of wine they drank and sent them a “thank-you” case of Merlot; $110. They called me, thanked me for the wine and booked be for 10 more weeks that year.

In total I spent $75 on the submission, $110 on the wine. That’s $185.

That year according to the W-9 I received from them, I made $8250.00. Not a ton of money, but remember I was working as a feature act.

Most Comedians Think Like Employees

Was it worth it for me to spend $75 for the submission, then $110 for the wine? You bet!

But most comedians don’t think this way. In fact, most comedians lack even basic business acumen. Because most comedians think like EMPLOYEES.

How many comedians know the average profit margin of the average business? How many know the definition of cost-basis? I’d bet that there’s not many. Because traditionally our experience is as an employee. Why should I have to spend money in order to get paid?

But you’re not an employee, you’re a business. So it’s time to start thinking the way businesses think. And that’s profit margin and cost-basis.

A quick “ALT-TAB” over to Yahoo Finance, will tell you that the overall average profit margin of all the industries listed is 7.8 percent. What?! 7.8 percent net profit margin?!

After investing $185 in the booker, (all tax deductible, don’t ya know), I made approximately 45 times what I spent. That, by the way, puts all industries listed on the stock exchange to shame in terms of profit.

Would I have earned that if I just bitched about it?

So suck it up, guys. You may have gotten into comedy to skirt the system or not do a nine-to-five or get out of the “rat-race,” Not participate in the business world.

But here’s the reality: You are not only in the business world. YOU are the BUSINESS!

The beauty of it is, is that the business is COMEDY! Hell yeah!

Tune in, tune up, and kick ass!

Have any ideas you can share with how you make a living? Love to hear them!