Taking Short-Term Risks for Long-Term Reward

When competing in a comedy competition, it’s wise to use safe material, that is, material that you KNOW works with crowds of all shapes and sizes. But as a performer, sometimes hitting the same laugh lines over and over can get exhausting and feel less rewarding.

I was in a comedy competition in New York City last week, and the rules stated that if you advance to the next round, you can’t use any of the material you had already used. I have three ten-minute sets that have historically held up in front of all kinds of crowds, so I initially planned on using these three sets. But once I moved on from the first round to the semifinals and was prepared to use my second killer set, I called an audible at the last second.

I had thought of some new jokes a few days prior and was itching to try them out in front of a live audience. Sure, I knew set number two was going to work, but I had been milking that set for so long (see what I did there?), my itch to be creative won out.

I tried an entire new set in the semifinals and failed to move on to the finals.

You’re probably thinking, “What’s the point of writing a post about taking risks when the risk you took didn’t pay off?”

The point is that, sure, I suffered a short-term setback.

Sure, after opening up my set strong, the next two minutes fell painfully flat, with little to no laughter from the audience. But after lightheartedly drawing attention to this elephant in the room, the rest of the set concluded strong.

The moment I got off stage, I knew I wasn’t moving on in the contest, but it felt liberating to try out something new.

The next day, I listened back to my set, took notes, made adjustments, then worked out the material at three open mics. By the time the third one rolled around, I had a fully functional, laugh-worthy set ready to go.

It killed.

Even though I fell flat during the second round of the competition, I now have a brand new ten minute set that I can confidently take to the stage, knowing I can get laughs.

When we play it safe, eventually it becomes rote, routine, and incredibly boring, even if at one point it was rewarding. When we take risks, life becomes much more exciting, it’s just important to remember that when we fall short of our goals the first time, it isn’t the end of the world. There’s always a chance to learn, improve, and achieve that internal (and external) reward by adjusting and adapting. Don’t let taking a risk stop you when the reward can be that much greater.

What’s one risk you can take that makes you feel uncomfortable? What’s the potential long-term reward if you see it through?

Get It? Got It? Good. Now Give It.

It doesn’t seem like it’s been almost two months since my last blog post, but the internet never lies,* so it has to be true. Time has absolutely flown by and I can’t believe I’m sitting here sipping on an iced latte because it’s June; I can’t drink hot lattes in June because I don’t want to contribute to global warming.

What have you been up to?

Wow!

That sounds great!

Me? Oh, I’ve been doing some traveling, speaking, and I’m doing my best to ignore gorillas. I recently had a pretty funny tweet about sex and balloons too (follow me on Twitter @THEdavidhorning).

Oh yeah, and I’m working on my first book, Find the Funny, for which you’ll see plenty of shameless plugs on my social networks over the next couple of months. I’ve been doing a bunch of reading lately and couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable connections between psychology and many of the basics of creating sketch comedy. Another thing I have noticed is the fact that in utilizing these principles, I have gone from being a political science student who couldn’t stand politics, to the producer of a sketch comedy show in Times Square, to a professional motivational speaker.

Why am I writing a book now?

Because another thing I have noticed is that very few people out there are aware of the power of humor and how it can grow us, expand our perspective, and bring us joy. Not everyone can see me speak, but everyone can download or buy a book. I didn’t leave New York to become a motivational speaker in pursuit of financial abundance (although that’s a big reason why I went there), and that’s not why I’m writing this book. There is a need for humor and perspective in the world. When we turn on the news or read an article, the objective of the network or author is to impact our emotions and tell us how to think. Why do you think the media uses buzzwords like “Horrible tragedy” or “Gruesome”? They’re manipulating our feelings so we make comments condemning anyone who believes otherwise, and click on links to other stories that support our emotional attachment. Believe it or not, we can perceive events, no matter how “tragic” or “gruesome,” however we want. It is within these perceptions that our feelings are created and our actions follow suit. I was called away from a great opportunity with very funny, genuine people in New York City to share with others that OUR PERCEPTIONS ARE OUR CHOICE AND WHEN WE CHOOSE ONE THAT EVOKES POSITIVE EMOTION, WE’RE MORE LIKELY TO CREATE POSITIVE RESULTS.

Because we have been groomed in a society that values the pursuit of getting rewarded for our actions, we often forget that our jobs are all designed to serve others in some way. To work in order to get something is completely missing the point of why we work. While getting a job as a staff writer on a TV show, getting 1 million video views, or getting paid six figures would all be great achievements, these must serve as the means to an end and not the end itself. If we focus on how we can use these rewards as stepping stones to serve even more people, we will have an engagement and meaning in our lives that fill in so many gaps that exist as a result of the pursuit of reward as an end.

We are meant to serve.

True, I charge over $1,000 to speak for 90 minutes. True, my book is going to make me money, but the money itself isn’t the goal in either case. The financial reward is a tool to improve production value and hire help so that I may reach out to even more people and introduce them to a perspective that can change lives for the better like it has changed mine. Each of us has a gift to give in order to leave this world a better place than it was when we got here. If we’re focused on what we can get, it becomes a lot harder to focus on how we can use our gifts to serve. Not only that, but by giving, we inspire others to give and, before we know it, we will have left a legacy that lives on long after we’re gone. That is the real reward.

What are your gifts?

How can you use them to serve others in what you do?

When it comes to reward…

Get it: What are your goals? What actions can you take to keep moving forward?

Got it: Congratulations, you achieved a goal!

Good: Because you received reward from the completion of your goal, that means you were able to serve others well enough that you got something for it. Now it’s time to take another step and

Give it: How can you use the rewards you’ve received to serve even more people?

When you’re engaged and your life has meaning in the service of others, bouts of boredom will be few and far between. Not only that, but the external rewards will pale in comparison to the internal fulfillment you’ll live with knowing that your work is inspiring others.

Thanks for reading. Now, back to either my book or tweeting about sex balloons (Which is what I call condoms. Which is probably why I’m single).

*Correction: the internet lies sometimes