Claiming Your Space

16 01 2017

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I have been running for over 20 years but won’t call myself a runner.

I’ve been playing piano since I was 7 but wouldn’t call myself a pianist.

I’ve been writing for 30 years but still hesitate to call myself a writer.

And yet with all of these things, I probably have reason to be more confident in those pursuits than I do with comedy, which I have been performing for much less time. Still, I am proud to call myself a comedian, if only reluctantly. It makes me happy.

The truth is, I am a working comedian. I am not working to where it can be my full time job and I’m not sure it ever will be but I get hired to do shows as if others comedians would and it goes well. As I mentioned to another comedian friend, I am at a place where even if it doesn’t go as well as I would have hoped, I feel like I have earned a right to take the stage and I can hold my own. This isn’t an ego thing. It’s just a hard work thing.

I don’t think that unless you have been part of this mind-game that is stand-up comedy you could really understand what that means. It’s like my daughter learning a new dance step. The whole step may take seconds but it can take weeks or months to even get to the point where it’s “in the ballpark.” It’s the same with comedy.

This may be the first positive comedy revelation I have had about myself and though I have no idea if things will progress or not, it really is ok. I am enjoying myself and meeting some really wonderful people and learning to be more confident based on what I know and not what others might think they know about me.

It reminds me a little of losing weight or “getting in shape.” The advice is to not focus on the scale so much (what the scale “thinks” it may know about your health) and focus more on how you feel and even may look (what you, yourself, know). I don’t know – I’m rambling. I just watched “Primal Fear” with my kids (saw it 20 years ago – what a great movie) and my mind is still sort of blown so this is what you get.

I guess the purpose of this blog is to say that we all have a right to claim to be who we are and not just what we do but why we do it. I am an artist, a songwriter, a writer and yes, even a runner, and all of these things funnel up to the dad, brother, son and friend I am. It sort of works that way. Don’t limit yourself. Claim your space. It’s yours. You own it.

Until next time,

Marc

 

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Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

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I should only look so good in my state of nakedness and fear.

There is nothing more vulnerable than putting “it” out there in the world. And by “it”, I am talking about that thing that you have been keeping to yourself and have finally given up on trying to hide from the universe for whatever reason.

Maybe you can’t live with yourself refraining from telling that person how you really feel. Maybe it’s been 3 years of working on the same damn manuscript and you can’t bear to look at it one single, solitary second longer. Perhaps you’ve practiced that solo over and over again, or that pitch you have wanted to try out but were afraid would fail miserably in front of the coach or the audience.

For whatever reason, you have decided the price of living in fear is far worse than the price of any potential embarrassment and you have put “It” out there.

This is what I refer to as my “naked and afraid” moment, or moments. It starts when you’re in junior high school and your chubby, pimply and less-than-macho self cannot resist from asking out that girl to the dance even though every guy likes her. Sure, the advanced math part of you knows the odds but damn those hormones. It just grows and gets worse and worse from there.

For us creative, angst-ridden types, it can be pure torture. Though, as I write and talk to more people, I am convinced that it is in all of us. Many of us are just better at maintaining clearer lines between our inner and outer voices.

I have given presentations on such exciting topics as market share growth and competitive market analyses in front of people who could single handedly decide my career trajectory and have felt way less vulnerability than sending a 100 page script I wrote to a few friends “in the biz” to get their feedback.

Why? Simple. It matters to me. It matters a lot; more than it should. I don’t envy those poor souls who received it and consider their friendship with me too good to actually provide me with the truth, though that is what I need the most.

Here is what I say to them and to you, should you ever be on the receiving end of one of those “can you let me know what you think” requests – be honest. Apologize in advance for the criticism if you have to. Be kind but be honest. As much as it may kill us (slowly) to realize that our biggest fears may be true – that we suck, it’s a bad script, she’s not into you, etc. etc. etc. – it’s only going to be worst later on.

I finished my first full-length screenplay in April of 2015. I sat on it until early this year to even start to make any revisions. After the 5th or 6th time, I just had to let it go into the universe. It was doing no good, just sitting there on my computer any longer. I know it’s not perfect. Hell, it may not even be good. Even worst, it might be the hokiest, cliché, boring piece of shit that anyone has ever read. I’m not totally sure yet because I haven’t received any feedback from those I sent it to (hint, hint).

In seriousness though, I want them and you future reviewers out there to know that it’s ok. You can start of your feedback email with something like “I commend you on working toward your dream” or “I am so happy your day job seems to be working out for you.” We get it. In the meantime, some constructive feedback might actually turn that stinker into something of real value one day. You know the story – piece of crap athlete turns it around after reading coach makes link between learning style and his pitching. Something like that anyway.

Here’s some things for you hesitant “friend/reviewers” to keep in mind:

  1. We had to do it. We had to write, sing, draw, ask her out, and try to build that deck on our own. We just couldn’t NOT do it. It wasn’t in our blood.
  2. We know that we are all amateurs in this game and yes, we really, really, really want to do something great with “it” but chances are slim and we aren’t go to die from rejection or the truth. (I don’t think.)
  3. We feel bad for asking you. We spent hours – ok, months, with a draft email in our Draft Email box waiting to go out to you asking for this one favor. I made a bid on an entire house that I am not 100% sure I am eligible to buy in a ridiculously less amount of time than it took me to craft that email, by the way.
  4. We understand you are not an expert. We get that these are opinions. But for whatever reason, we need to hear what you think. In my case, I need to hear from people who write, who may have a female point of view (for the protagonist in this one particular script) or have a cultural knowledge that is woven through my script. Or maybe, I just need a friend to read it and say “wow – that was not what I expected.” I am not sure.
  5. If reviewing something is a burden or you just flat don’t want to, just be a mensch and say so. It’s totally fine. I Facebook messaged a comedian I know (peripherally) whose writing I admire. This dude has been on Comedy Central, Inside Amy Schumer etc. etc. – you get the picture. I was on a few shows with him (as I reminded him in my message) and am sure he has no clue who I am. I asked him if he would consider reading my script, fully expecting that he wouldn’t want to or be able to. Sure enough, I was right. But he messaged me back the same day, told me he was super busy and was totally cool about the whole thing. I hated asking him. Hated with a capital “H”. I did it though because how the hell does anyone accomplish anything without the help of others (besides Donald Trump, that is)? I am much more grateful that this guy just said no politely than tried to pacify me. That would only lead to him having to blow me off in the future or refer to me as “some dude who I told I’d review his thing” which is never good.

So, here is my lesson for anyone who is naked and afraid. Go with it. We are all naked and afraid. That Rico Suave looking dude with the French cut fit shirt, George Hamilton smile, perfect hair and huge 401K account? Yup. He’s way naked and afraid. Of what you might ask? Exactly! That’s how naked and afraid he really is. He’s still wearing his costume.

Go out there and show your cajones (figuratively, please) and your vulnerability (that one you can try literally) and it will feel nauseating, anxiety provoking and even a little liberating.

Until next time,

Marc





Reflections, the Serenity Prayer & 2016

4 01 2016

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2015 was about control. 2016 is about wisdom.

I have been attempting to write a blog post for the past week or so, thinking it is the right time for reflection as one year closes out and another begins. This is my third attempt and regardless of whether I feel it is worthy or not, I am going to post it, if for no other reason than to put me out of my (short-term) writing misery.

In trying to frame what I wanted to write about and what I thought might resonate with anyone reading it, I kept asking myself the question of “what have you learned this year that can be applied to not just the new year but also the way in which you structure, approach or otherwise navigate your life in general?” Pretty simple, right?

It finally occurred to me that the good old standby of the Serenity Prayer is probably the best way to organize my thoughts. You are more than likely familiar with this one. The basic gist is “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is really the best advice I have ever come across.

So here it goes:

The things I cannot change (and am still learning to accept):

  1. People judge by appearances. They just do. This doesn’t mean that their perceptions can’t be modified, and even, in some cases, relatively quickly, but take it from me, when your hair is longer, people think of you differently than when it is shorter. When you’re at the airport with jeans and a t-shirt, security looks at you differently than when you’re wearing a suit jacket.  When you’re divorced, some people treat you differently. It just is.
  2. People will have preconceived notions about you and what your capabilities are based on nothing that has to do with reality. Whether at my day job or on the comedy circuit, I have come across people who either thought their work was too complex for me to understand, the comedy business was too messed up for me to have a place in, or personally, lawyers were too “in charge” for me to challenge them. These were based on nothing other than a) what was (or was not) on my resume or what they thought I actually did or knew, b) something someone “heard” about me or c) pure ignorance. Let me repeat – almost every single time this happened, it was relayed to me on behalf of someone who barely spent any time speaking with me. I cannot control this. Maybe it’s a function of our 140 character, twitterized society or maybe it’s human nature. I don’t know. I am also no longer angry about it. I can, however, control the way in which I respond which is best when it is in the “no response” category. The best way to prove who you are is to just do it. It won’t happen in time for someone to give you that work assignment, that gig or even acknowledge that you caught a huge mistake despite their law degree…but it happens.
  3. Time will not stop or slow down – ever. The idea of capturing every moment as time moves faster and faster will not stop the fact that kids and parents grow older, not to mention ourselves. You will look back and wonder where time went. You will see a picture of yourself and think “why was I so hard on myself?” You will reflect on something and wish you did it differently. You will think about your future and wonder if you have time to do something grand. And as you do this, another minute, 5 minutes, day or even year has passed. It’s great to be organized. It’s helpful to have lists. It’s good to have a plan. But it’s even better to just do something – anything.
  4. Some people do have an easier time of it than others. Maybe it’s because of their DNA, their upbringing, a better perspective or luck. It doesn’t matter. This is not in our control. We have no control over anyone nor their situation any more than they do over us; even our children – we are simply here to guide as best we can. We can start to control the degree to which “ease” can enter our lives. Do we react or respond? Do we do the hard work of exercising and watching what we eat, at least a couple times per week or do we put it off? Do we challenge our thoughts and how we judge ourselves or keep playing the same script over and over? This is a lot harder to do than looking at the relative ease to which others seem to navigate the world compared to ourselves. But it’s the only control we really have, not to mention a lot more realistic as we never really know what someone else is going through.

The things I can change (and am finding courage to do):

  1. Relationships – with others and with myself. Disappointment is a difficult prospect for me. I enjoy helping people, being part of a team and generally, seeing people succeed. However, I have come to learn that, regardless of whether it is deliberate or not (and it usually is not), being around people who cannot keep their word is a source of profound disappointment for me. This goes for me, as well. I feel especially bummed when I have made a pact with myself to complete something, respond in a certain way or manage something positively that did not go the way I had intended. I am finding the courage to be more vocal with those that I may not have been vocal with in the past and respectfully articulate my feelings while taking responsibility for the fact that they do belong to me. This is hard for me because it may compromise friendships or prospects, but it is required. I also am trying to find the courage to both hold myself more accountable for learning when things do not go the way I had planned as well as being kinder to myself for failing, or perceiving to have failed.
  2. Moving toward minimalism. I am not joining a cult or about to embark on a process to cull my belongings down to whatever I can carry in a backpack but I am purging like never before. Throwing things out doesn’t necessarily take courage but throwing out associated feelings of the past does. This is a delicate balance in acknowledging those parts of you that maybe you are not as proud of or wish were not there but were and then saying, “it’s ok.” I have a quote that was sent to me hanging on my bathroom mirror that represents this perfectly. It is from Eric Roth, who wrote the screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is as follows: “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
    3. FOMO – You may be familiar with this. It means “Fear Of Missing Out.” For me, I realize that social media has played into this fear a lot. I have written about my love/hate relationship with Facebook (actually, just hate) and over the past 2 weeks, I have significantly reduced my time on Facebook to maybe twice a day and for just a couple of minutes to see if I got any messages. I can absolutely control the amount of time I spend on social media AND the FOMO attitude that kept drawing me there in the first place.
    4. Where I live, at least metaphorically. I am tied to where I am living right now until my daughter graduates, which will be here sooner than it may seem. I am eager to move geographically, for many reasons, and spent a lot of time in 2015 lamenting about how if I could only move physically, I might get the fresh (or fresher) start I was longing for. I realized last year that where I reside had very little to do with where I spent my time, with family, friends or alone. Without sounding too “new agey”, there are people who live in big cities and never leave their apartments and people who live in small towns and have networks with global reaches. I know I can change the scope of my network and my capabilities by focusing less on where I live and more on what (and where) lives within me.

    Now…as for the wisdom to know the difference…that’s a big part of 2016.

    As an aside, since I keep long lists on my cell phone of books, movies, articles, music, etc. that I want to get to, I thought I’d start a “Recommendation of the Blog” section at the end of each blog that you might want to check out, also.

    So, here is the first one.
    Recommendation of the Blog – If you haven’t seen it, check out the documentary “Inside Job” about the 2008 financial crisis – by far the most clear, organized and thorough explanation of the players, dynamics and history that led up to the crisis and how it was all connected.

    I wish for you a serene 2016 and until next time,
    Marc

Thanks for reading and I hope you consider subscribing to my blog and following me on Twitter @MarcKaye1. 





Recalibrate, Don’t Reinvent

18 10 2015

Tiny adjustments. Big effects.

Tiny adjustments. Big effects.

It is not unusual to find ourselves intrigued by metamorphosis. Think “before and after” photos of weight loss, home make-overs or stories of “transforming” one’s life to a place never imagined.

These are the stories that movies are made of. However, in reality, I think the less sexy version has a lot more sticking power. How many times have we read that “diets do not work” – that there is no quick fix, but rather it’s about smaller, incremental steps that you have to weave into your daily routine? 

To me, this makes a lot more sense and applies to much more than whether I’m going to be able to fit into the same bathing suit next year as the one a year before. When someone goes through a pretty big life event, particularly if it is not the most positive (ie. job loss, health diagnosis or, hypothetically speaking, a divorce (he says in jest for anyone who has been reading this blog)) – there is a lot of talk about taking advantage and an opportunity to “reinvent” oneself.

That’s a whole lot of pressure. If you believe, like me, that we are fundamentally who we are with the ability to tweak, learn, and grow but NOT in the business of radically changing our true nature, then this concept of “reinvention” seems like a recipe for failure. 

In looking back over the past year or so, when I ponder those things that have made me really happy, they all come back to the same things that maybe I had lost or had compromised during my marriage. It doesn’t matter what that is and it was my decision all along. However, the one good thing about reflecting on all of this is that is has allowed me to adjust the knobs of my personal “studio sound board” to where the mix is just right…or at least getting there. It’s about recalibration.

I gave a very short blessing to my daughter yesterday during her Bat Mitzvah and referenced a quote that always stuck with me from my English class during my junior year of high school. It was from Ralph Waldo Emerson and you may be familiar with it:

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. 

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages… In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried”

Our contentment ultimately lies within us – not around anyone else. This is a hard lesson because it puts the onus on us to look at our internal portfolio of where we spend our time, with whom, how and for what purpose. And when we do so, we may find some serious adjustments that need to be made – but they are worth it.

Is it time for you to recalibrate?

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks for reading and please consider signing up for my blog or twitter @MarcKaye1.





The EXPERIENCE of Money for Free

26 04 2015

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My parents were very practical folks. They had decent middle-class jobs – my mom was a teacher and my dad a salesman and the goal was never to climb a corporate ladder, but rather to provide a good decent lifestyle. We did not have lavish experiences in terms of vacations, camps, restaurants or any of that and I didn’t really know any better. When exposed to those who had lots of nice cars, vacations and material goods, I would remember my father joking that “money is no object, it’s a noun.”

I thought it was funny but not sure why and the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. It is not money that brings happiness but the things that money may provide in terms of experiences, not things. In this way, money is not really an object of desire. Money, as a noun, is the thing that may help to bring that which one desires. But here’s the good news – you do not need money to get those experiences. Let me explain.

I am intrigued by the question “what would you do if money were not an issue?” I have asked the question, googled it, etc. and the answers are overwhelmingly about experiences. It’s not about buying the Ferrari though there are plenty of acquisition type of answers. More than not, the answers are around running a business or charity, traveling, becoming some type of artist, poet, musician, actor or some other type of experience.

For a long time, I fell into the bucket of “if you can’t do something full-on, it’s not worth doing at all” which is nothing more than a cop-out. That is a very alpha-male, Wall Street way of looking at the world. My personal pace is more slow and steady. I am not sure where you may fall on the spectrum.

It’s also easy to say “hey, it’s not even money. I just have no time.” Here’s my take on that. For me, yes, there was a time when I literally could not squeeze any more time out of my life – family, small kids, graduate school at night, working a full time job, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping…on and on and on. The good news is that there does get to be a time when something, even one thing frees up and you get to choose how you fill it, whether it is TV, gaming, sleep or a new experience. That’s the ticket.

All those experiences you would have if money were not an issue are attainable, given you have even a modicum of time.

Travel? Sure, the Tuscany trip would be amazing. Ask yourself why? Fantastic food, meeting new people, taking in beautiful nature. You can have all of those things is smaller bite size chunks right here. There are thousands of MeetUps, amazing restaurants and fantastic hiking trails. Is it the beautiful countryside of Tuscany? No, but the experience of surrounding yourself with things that bring you gratification may not feel all that different (and cost you a lot less).

Want to start a charity or open a business? Get in line. Don’t have that “full-on Wall Street” mindset aforementioned. There are so many little things you can do to get started. Like anything – diet, exercise, learning an instrument – you have to just get started.

So basically, all I am saying is that we are living in an amazing time when we can surround ourselves by rich experiences at only the small price of a little momentum. Yesterday, I featured at a comedy show for a headliner that travels all over the country and a host that has been on the same journey as me since I started. It all started because I got tired of not having the experience I wanted. It wasn’t that I had to be on Last Comic Standing. I just wanted to have the feeling of having a comedic voice. You never know what it may lead to. I promise you, you will feel so much better.

What are you going to do tomorrow? Listen to the Dalai Lama and don’t die never having really lived!

Until next time,

Marc





Who are you?

5 01 2015

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I think way too much. Always have. There’s at least a dozen comments in my high school year book that say as much. And, by the way, that’s not a compliment.

The brain doesn’t shut off when it should.

The brain analyzes things that don’t need to be analyzed.

It’s getting better but it has more to do with just being tired than anything. There are some benefits to getting older and more tired, I guess!

At this (what I hope) midpoint in my life, I have been increasingly turning my attentions to who I want to be, not what I want to be. It was a real eye opener.

Just the other day, in walking my son through his high school course catalog, it was a natural question to ask him – the same question adults have been asking adolescents for decades: “what do you want to be when you grow up.” What an awful question. I still can’t answer it. Then, you go on that job interview and you get the dreaded question: “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Another awful question.

What, where – they are the wrong questions. The question we should be asking ourselves and our future workers, parents, friends is “who do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s not as easy as you may think. Of course, those Miss America “motherhood and apple pie” response of “a contributor to world peace”, “a role model”, etc. are bound to come up.

Truthfully, though, not everybody should want to be Ghandi or Mother Theresa. We need Wolves of Wallstreet (honest wolves) and mercenaries and missionaries. Understanding who we are and who we aspire to be are incredibly helpful in avoiding years and years of jobs and relationships that are not aligned with the real us. Once we are able to understand the 3-5 descriptions of who we want to be, it helps to guide and narrow down our choices – not a bad thing.

For a couple of years at work, I was on the interview circuit – meaning I was asked to interview candidates by co-workers for various jobs. It was really interesting because you could tell the difference between those who defined themselves as a specific role versus those who had a more multi-faceted view of who they were. I am not going to opine on what my opinion is because it is only that. I have no answers or conclusions; only observations and opinions. However, I will say that when I came across a candidate who espoused that he/she would “do anything needed to get the job done, day or night, and give up this and give up that”, it sent red flags my way. I applaud the work ethic – I really do. My only issue is that, again in my opinion, when someone defines “who” they are in such an unbalanced way, they are typically not very good at dealing with disappointment, failure, change and feedback.

I don’t know who you are – I am still figuring out who I am but I do hope whoever it is – it is a tapestry of goals, ideas, skills and roles – for both of us.

Until next time,

Marc








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