Everyone’s a comedian! Seriously.
Last night I did my first ever stand up slot at an amateur comedy night in London. I’d kept it quiet because I was worried about bombing. I’ve been told that bombing is a crucial part of stand-up, but I’d rather keep the first one to myself.
Thankfully, as it was an amateur night, everyone was very supportive and laughed in the right places, whether they found it funny or not. But it did mean I sat through 3 hours of other people’s amateur comedy too. Just to let you know how dire some of it was, one guy got up who was so drunk he spilled half a pint of beer all over the stage and basically had some weird stream of consciousness going on about hating babies and then got distracted when his ‘one minute left’ signal happened that he started from the beginning and then gave up and walked off stage.
I went on 17th out of 18 acts so you can imagine how tired and if I’m honest, fed up, I was by the time I went on. I even considered leaving half way through the night. After I’d been on I thought to myself ‘Do I really want to spend over an hour traipsing to these venues, sitting for another 2-3 hours through amateur comedy to do 5 minutes on stage, with no guarantee of being successful?’ The answer is a resounding no. BUT! I’m also highly motivated by one of my favourite people on the planet. In several interviews she talks about how she practices and practices and practices..and is asked in this interview for advice on following your dreams. Her answer inspires me. Which is why in just over an hour I will be leaving to pound the streets of London to go to my second open mic night.
Enjoy. (2:24 for the question mentioned above)
I’ve been through a real slump lately. It’s hard to keep my energy up, especially when I’m not seeing dramatic results.
HOWEVER, all is not lost. I have learned some things about myself and I think the more self-aware you the more productive you can be. It’s like being a mechanic and trying to fix a car. If you know how the car is built and what it needs you can get it going quicker and more efficiently than if you’ve never seen under the hood of a car and randomly hit things with a spanner hoping it will spring into life.
Lesson 1) I’m ridiculously easy to overwhelm.
Answer: Break things down in to really small chunks. Recognise small achievements. Stop trying to do so much.
Lesson 2) I’m very impatient
Answer: Look to the greats and see how long it took them. Or re-read my post on Patience and Perseverance.
Lesson 3) NO ONE is going to give me ‘permission’ to do the things I want to do.
Answer: Stop waiting for permission and make it happen.
This is what I want to focus on now. So far on my journey a lot of people have said ‘That is not possible/realistic’. Some people are supportive and tell me to go for it. My mentors (via courses/books/websites/blogs) are saying ‘We’ve already done it and so can you!’
I’m thinking it’s possible because they’ve told me and they’ve given me indirect permission to chase dreams. However, whenever I have a new idea I always look to see if it’s been done before and if it hasn’t I mope and bite my bottom lip and wish I had someone to talk to about it.
Tonight, as I got out my car, I was enjoying another mini taste of freedom. I was on my own, was doing what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted. Walking back to my flat I felt like my freedom was dissolving around me as I heard the usual neighbours shouting angrily at each other, a baby crying somewhere and music blaring. I started feeling trapped again and worried about the future and when I could finally move to a nicer neighbourhood and be free.
Then something occurred to. I need to STOP asking for permission, even from the people I admire. Just because something hasn’t been done (YET!) doesn’t mean it can’t be done at all. Maybe someone else who tried it didn’t have what I have, maybe the time wasn’t right, the audience wasn’t ready or the resources not available. I realised that in some ways I was holding myself back. This is not a new idea, many other people have thought of it before me. But I am also learning that unless an idea strikes you just right and you learn it for yourself, it doesn’t influence you as much.
I need to STOP:
- asking for permission
- restricting my thinking
- listening to negative people
- thinking I need to be given the green light to even try
- trying to conform to other people’s expectations
- trying to do things the way everyone else does them
Who is anyone else to give me permission to chase my goals?!
For about 7 years I’ve had this urge to write a motivational book. One thing I love to do is encourage people to make the most of their time, talents, skills and life in general. When I was 19, it hit me how short and precious life is and since then I’ve wanted to help other people realise this too and get the most out of their time.
The only problem is, I’m not some legendary motivational speaker with a ton of stories to back up my points. Nor am I particularly successful (yet). I thought to myself, who on earth will listen to somebody like me? Then I realised two things. One, this book idea isn’t going anywhere. It’s like indigestion. I’ll be going about my normal day life and then it rears its head and stops me in my tracks and I have to take note. Two, the author of ‘Think and Grow Rich’, Napoleon Hill, was not a rich or conventionally successful man himself. He simply investigated what successful people did and wrote it down into a book.
Therefore, strand two of my journey to freedom will be this book. My desire for it will be to encourage people, to inspire people and get them excited about their lives. I want to throw in some motivational science and theories I’ve learnt about that will help people propel themselves forward.
So, if you have any stories of what you’ve done to achieve any amount of success or fulfilment in your life, do let me know and I’ll add it to the book. Also, I’ll be using you guys for accountability purposes. I will struggle to finish this book on my own (somewhere I have 8000 words of a book I started about five years ago that I didn’t finish).
New York Best Sellers List, here I come!
One of the things I love about the steps to becoming a Free Range Human is the lack of commitment and preparation needed to start a project. The whole point is that it doesn’t tie you down. So very quietly this week I’ve been working when I can (and have the inclination to) on starting a line of t-shirts. 10 minutes ago I quietly pressed the ‘launch store’ button and am waiting for it to start. The whole preparation for it cost me less than £15 and I have about 8-10 products in store. My work for that is done, I can play around with advertising it if and when I want to for little to no money. I’ve lost very little money if it doesn’t work and have already learned a bit about liaising with designers and what’s possible to do.
Excuse me while I do a proud parent moment, this is the logo for my new brand!
If you’re anything like me, patience is not one of your strong points. If I decide to do something I want it done in the next 30 minutes or I get frustrated. However, a good tip I got from Jack Canfield’s book ’25 Principles of Success’ is to do 5 things a day towards your goal. If you keep chipping away doing 5 things a day, eventually you will get to your goal. So for example, once my store has finished launching I could send the link to a bunch of Universities (so far the products are aimed at university students), I could buy one or more of my own t-shirts and be my own advertising, I could send some t-shirts for free to influential people to wear. If I kept plugging away, it could be that my line of t-shirts becomes really popular. I like it because it takes the pressure off me having to do everything RIGHT NOW.
I’m also reminded of a saying about fitness. It goes something like ‘No matter how slow you’re going, you’re still running circles around the person sat on the sofa.’ Linking it to my t-shirts, no matter how slowly they take off, I’m still running circles around the me of 2 weeks ago who was just sitting and wishing for money to fall into my lap. Watch this space for the link to my store!
It’s been 8 days since I started an 18 month project, by the end of which I wanted to be completely free. In the first few days I was really excited because possibilities and options make me happy. Then I experienced ‘analysis paralysis’. I had so many ideas I wasn’t sure which one to for go for or how to get started or who to target things towards. I’d start one idea, get frustrated because things became tricky or difficult and then move onto something else. I spent hours trying to figure out how to get one of my ideas going.
Then with a surge of excitement I remembered I didn’t have to do everything by myself. I contacted a graphic designer on Fiverr (a site where you can contract someone to do any number of things for you, from around a fiver) and asked him if he could help me with one of my ideas, which he completed in less than 24 hours. He’s now working on a second piece of work for me as I write.
I’m also happy and excited because I had my first taste of freedom this weekend. I was able to visit family the other side of the country, do some sight-seeing and do what I wanted, when I wanted. I also happened to write and publish my last blog post on the two hour train journey, using my laptop and the train’s wifi. In the evenings I used the hotel’s wifi to research my idea and contact the graphic designer on Fiverr.
If you take advantage of this kind of stuff all the time it won’t be all that exciting. I try to spend as much time in the moment with the people who are around me rather than staring constantly at something on the internet, so it’s a novelty to me. Not once did any of it have to wait till I got back home, nor did it interfere with my schedule over the weekend, I just fitted it in around seeing my family and relaxing with my wife.
Marianne Cantwell (author of ‘Be a Free Range Human’) suggests you try and put in as many little bits of your dream life as possible whilst you’re on your way. So for example, if you desire variety, even something small as taking a different route to work can be a start. Being able to ‘work’ around what I wanted to do this weekend felt amazing. Not being tied to a location or a time of day was fantastic and I can’t wait for my next taste of freedom.
This is a journal of my attempt to go from stuck in a 9-5 job to complete career freedom in 18 months. I will be using 3 books as my main inspiration.
25 Principles of Success – Jack Canfield
Refuse to Choose – Barbara Sher
Be a Free Range Human – Marianne Cantwell
These 3 authors have each inspired me to reach for something that right now feels completely out of the realm of possibility but which I desperately want. This blog will be sharing how I put into practice the techniques and tools these authors explain to create the life I’ve always wanted.
I want to be able to have an idea and start work on it without the restraints of a 9-5 job. I want to have the financial freedom to give some kid from the Make a Wish foundation the time of their life. I want to be able to stop sitting on my sofa in the evenings scratching out various sums on the back of an envelope, working out how long it will take to save to buy a house or pay for a holiday. I want to be excited on a Sunday night at the prospect of what may be in store on Monday.
The journey starts now. 22nd May 2017. No matter what my circumstances are I will be posting on 22nd November 2018 to let you know how far I’ve got.
Judy Garland once urged us to ‘always be a first rate version of yourself instead of a second rate version of someone else.’ For a long time I thought ‘Easy for her to say.’ For people who are talented and successful of course they are happy to be themselves.
Then one day recently I was reading ‘Be a Free Range Human’ by Marianne Cantwell and for some reason, the message just clicked.
Marianne talked about how as a coach she felt restricted when she wasn’t being herself. Once she relaxed and coached using her personality instead of hiding it, not only did she enjoy herself more, but her clients appreciated it too.
I realised that I haven’t done a lot of things because I couldn’t be like the people I admire. If I couldn’t deliver a deliver a comedic line like Ellen Degeneres or write like Pat Conroy what was the point of even trying? A huge weight lifted off me when I realised the whole point wasn’t to try and be like Ellen Degeneres or Pat Conroy but to be me! All this time I’ve been trying to repress my personality but I should be using it as a strength.
Now I feel a lot more excited to create stuff. I can do what I like without trying to be like someone else. It feels great!
So, if you’re anything like me, your job isn’t working out for you. But you don’t know what you want to do. Frustrating isn’t it? You get this feeling that there has to be something more than this. This CANNOT be it for the rest of your life.
You shuffle through your work day, trying to look busy whilst really all you’re doing is working out how many hours until retirement.
Let’s see….36 hours a week, roughly 48 working weeks a year, for another 40 years…
Then you see how long you have left and you cry.
You voice your concerns to loved ones who shrug their shoulders and say ‘That’s life’.
Well, sod that! Life is way too short and precious to feel this depressed 36 hours a week. Without even having to look up any scientific research I KNOW I am more productive, creative, helpful, happy, giving and hardworking when I am enjoying what I’m doing.
So, for the past few days I’ve been making a list of all the things I enjoy doing. It’s pretty varied, from random acts of kindness to scaring people (what can I say, I’m complicated), from watching documentaries on body language and deception to playing Hide and Seek. Let’s stop pretending that we are shallow two dimensional people and that we always have to be professional, or silly, or the student, or the parent. We can be all of these and more.
How can you create a life you will love if you can’t list what you love doing? My list is currently 24 items long and growing. The next step will be figuring out how to get paid for doing those things. (Just in case you’re interested, I have already been paid to play Hide and Seek, I guess that makes me a professional).
Walking into my office, I saw a stack of paperwork waiting for me on my desk. The same paperwork I had been doing day in, day out, for months. The same paperwork that would build up again and be waiting for me tomorrow.
It wouldn’t have hit me so hard if I hadn’t been at a concert the night before. The singers and dancers had genuine smiles on their faces, loving what they did for a living. Watching them move across the stage they seemed to be having the time of their lives. I wanted that level of joy and passion in my job.
I was literally bored to tears.
I decided I had to find something I was passionate about, that I enjoyed doing, that I found worthwhile. Common sense, family and friends all told me the same thing; that work is meant to be boring and hard. You go to work, do what you have to do and try to enjoy your evenings and weekends.
But why should that be the case? Why should I just muddle through with a half decent job, trying to pay my way through life, living for the weekend? Who dictated that work must be boring or hard? Why should the best bits of my life be squeezed into tiny time slots throughout the year? Must I really wait until retirement, which isn’t even guaranteed, before I live my life properly?
If it had been a Hollywood movie, I would have resigned there and then, walking out of the building to some epic guitar solo (in slow motion). In reality I had rent to pay and food to buy and I stayed in that job for another YEAR. (I know, stupid.)
It did, however, start me thinking. I decided to start trying to find what made me happy, what I was passionate about and how on earth I could make a living from it.
I am still discovering, but know for sure that one single formal job is not for me. Not just any job. For the past few years I have been reading about so many people who have broken free from the daily grind, the rat race or the career cage. I refuse to believe there is something special about them which sets them apart and makes that kind of life off-limits to me.
There are 2 reasons I am starting this blog. I have made several false starts towards becoming what Marianne Cantwell would call a ‘free range human’. I need some accountability. Without no one but myself to answer to I give up way too quickly and easily. I plan to share this with friends and get some support.
The second reason is that I also want to show that I am a real person, in a real 9-5 job that is sucking the life out of me and making me die a little each day. I want to share the ups and downs of the journey I am about to take from living in a 2 bed flat, not able to save much money to buy a property, deeply unhappy with my professional life, to feeling alive and excited about what I do each day and actually thriving financially and contributing so much to the people around me.
My motto for this journey will be a quote I love.
‘The question isn’t who is going to let me. It’s who is going to stop me.’ Ayn Rand