There’s Genius In Getting Started

aaaaa“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”

Goethe no doubt knew this from personal experience, as we all do. We’ve all experienced the magic in the moment when you forgo making a third cup of coffee, decline to login to Facebook and instead start getting shit done.

Whether it’s tidying up your workspace, designing an app or writing a short story, actually doing the work is an illuminating moment, one that reminds us that nothing else matters. No number of motivational magnets on your fridge, daily inspiration in your inbox or personal growth courses will make a difference. What matters is doing the work.

What about improv class? Or that screenwriting seminar? Or film school? Please. You’ll learn more and spend less by improvising, screenwriting and filming. Who knows? There might even be a platform ready to distribute your movie for free to millions around the world.

But no one’s going to make the movie for you. You have to make it yourself.

Visit or watch a clip (4:30s) about my talk, Winning With A Bad Hand.

Friendly Relationships Are Not Friendships

IMG_1411The difference between a friendly relationship and a friendship is easily understood. You and your landlord have a friendly relationship. You and Doug have a friendship. For most people, friendly relationships aren’t hard to come by. They’re everywhere: the mailman, the barista at your local Starbucks, the kid at the Apple Store who tries to explain to you the purpose of the cloud, etc.

But would you call any of them friends? For many people in our mindbogglingly fast-paced age of one-day news cycles and social media, the answer is “Yes.” But I want to ask: are they really your friends? Do you have their phone number? Can you name one of their hobbies? Do you open up to them about your marriage or finances, or they you?

Don’t get me wrong: friendly relationships aren’t to be discounted. Nobody gets more satisfaction than me from somebody’s secretary who issues a “Pip, pip cheerio and a top of the day to you, sir!” each morning. But can you count on her taking your call at any hour of the night?

I don’t doubt that Facebook has contributed to the confusion surrounding what constitutes a friendship. But I also believe that to some extent it is a product of it. For some time before Facebook we would casually refer to someone as “my friend” when she is, in fact, she is no such thing.

I get it, “friend” is just easy to say: “This is my friend Gladys.” What else are you going to say, “This is Gladys with whom I have a friendly relationship”? Of course not. Way too suggestive. But what’s wrong with “This is Gladys. She fits me for all my running shoes,”?

I’m as guilty as anyone of blurring the distinction. In truth, owing largely to my family and career, my circle of true-blue friends has become vanishingly small. And I’m not sanguine about it: I don’t think it’s possible to have too many friends. On the other hand, the difference between having one friend and no friends is immeasurably greater than the difference between having one friend or two friends.

But no matter how many friends you have, never forget the difference between friendship and friendliness and that with only latter you’re subsisting on the icing without the cake.

Visit or watch me perform the Flaming Marshmallow Balance of Mystery  on the Late Late Show with James Corden.

Soundchecks Aren’t Sex – So Let’s Do Away With The Foreplay

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 2.43.01 PM “If you want to get something done” goes the saying, “give it to a busy person.” Why, then, do so many sound engineers seem to have so much time on their hands?

In my experience, [tweetthis]the less time allotted to a soundcheck the less time it takes to nail it.[/tweetthis] Too many engineers are conditioned by singer after singer who insist that the low end is too high, the high end is too low, there’s not enough monitor, the “color” of her voice isn’t being rendered in its full glory, etc.

My experience last night was typical: I arrived at my soundcheck to learn that a brief meeting had been scheduled to begin at the same time and place. For a moment it was unclear whether I would wait five minutes the meeting to finish or the meeting would wait five minutes for my soundcheck to finish. Imagine my delight to learn that the meeting would wait for the soundcheck: not because I was impatient but because I knew the if the sound engineer had only five minutes to get it right, five minutes is all he would need.

Which brings me to microphones, aesthetics and putting the audience first.

You see, I use a clip a clip-on microphone, the kind that attach to one’s tie or lapel. Informed of this, sound engineers typically balk: “They don’t work in this room”. We then proceed to give it a try and it works perfectly right out of the gate. Here’s where it gets interesting: the sound engineer proceeds to fiddle with the volume and gain until his carefully-managed low expectations are proven justified.

This is why so many sound engineers and entertainers now use those aesthetic monstrosities which I call “microphone helmets”. First popularized by Madonna, they minimize the distance between the speaker’s mouth and microphone. Newer, more low-profile versions replace the clumsy, horsefly-on-the-face look by employing a smaller microphone head which is then taped to the face, frequently becoming unstuck. The entire monstrosity is one compromise after another. Designed to be as invisible as possible, they’re invariably a United-Colors-Of-Benneton hue resembling the skin tone of no human being.

“What’s the big deal?” you may ask. “A microphone is a microphone.”

The issue isn’t the microphone, the issue is aesthetics. For example, I typically wear a Hugo Boss suit onstage, my philosophy being that [tweetthis]if you’re no better dressed than the audience then you belong in the audience.[/tweetthis] After donning a well-fitted suit and tie, shined shoes, a shave and a haircut, why would I then want to done something on my head that looks like I’m broadcasting trackside from the Indianapolis 500? Headset microphones are ugly, cumbersome and require frequent and distracting onstage adjustment by the speaker. And while they no doubt make the job of sound engineers that much easier, they make the audience’s job that much harder.

In 2017, [tweetthis]amplifying a well-modulated speaking voice should be the technological equivalent to soap: wet it, wipe it, goodnight.[/tweetthis].

Return to or learn why it’s easier to be funny if you look normal.

Celebrate Consistency

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Getting a low-key run in on a travel day is a gratifying private victory. Bergen, Norway.

Consistency is underrated. We like the huge paydays and the big public victories. But a life of consistent pay and private victories? Not so much.

But there’s a utility to humble consistency that contributes to big outward victories. As Olympic gold medalist in the marathon Frank Shorter puts it, consistency increases one’s margin of error. And the more consistent you are, the wider your margin of error. And the wider your margin of error, the more diminished the impact of those errors.

Missing a key workout or deadline has an outsized impact for the inconsistent. The consistent, though, know that tomorrow and the next will easily make up for the occasional setback.

Whether it’s fitness of finances, the same principle applies. Who is more impacted by a big, unexpected expense: those who have saved consistently or those who have saved inconsistently? To ask the question is to answer it.

An avid (albeit mediocre) runner myself, I used to get satisfaction only from the completion of a long run or a hard interval workout on the track. Something I could brag about. “These are the workouts” I told myself, “that separate me from the weekend warriors”.

I was wrong. What separates me from the weekend warriors isn’t the killer workouts, it’s getting in some kind of exercise six or seven days a week. For decades. Cheesy as it sounds, this is why I now tend to raise my arms in victory after completing even a 30-minute jog: I did something positive when it would have been easier not to.

Whether it’s exercise or smoking, consistency becomes self-reinforcing. A Navy SEAL doesn’t have to think about doing push-ups right out of bed any more than a smoker must think about having a cigarette: it’s automatic.

So stop thinking in terms of quantity or even quality. Instead, think of one or two things that would positively impact your life and pursue them with consistency.

Visit or see my presentation Winning With A Bad Hand.

Self-Pity, Cigarettes And A Magical Question

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Feeling sorry yourself is powerfully addicting.

Once upon a time I had an on-again-off-again relationship with cigarettes. At no point during this time did I think of myself as “a smoker”, as such. Instead, I saw myself as one of those lucky few capable of smoking at infrequent-but-regular intervals without thinking, let alone fixating, about my next pack.

Still, I never seemed to stop entirely. It was sort of like being single while thinking of myself as ultimately married, yet making no effort to quit being single. Then one morning I woke up, as I often did, with the unmistakable signs of a cigarette hangover. I cast a clear-eyed gaze at the sad, crumpled pack of Marlboro Lights on my dresser and asked myself what turned out to be a magical question that would serve me very well in the future.

The question was this: “How long is this going to last?” The question is magical because the answer is the same for everyone, namely, “As long as I decide it does”. When feeling self-pity or, for that matter jealousy, ask yourself “How long is this going to last?” and see if the the truth of “It’s up to me” hits you with the full force it hit me.

Return to or see the teaser for my talk Winning With A Bad Hand.