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

 





Acceptance AKA “What If…”

29 09 2016

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There is a school of thought or belief that the individual journey we are on is exactly the one we are supposed to be on.

It is phrased in many different ways. Perhaps you have heard things such as “it was meant to be” or “it happened for a reason”. I don’t personally subscribe to either of these but do believe, as difficult as it may seem, wherever I find myself (physically and metaphorically) is really where I am supposed to be at that moment. It took me many, many, many difficult moments, however, to finally get here.

To me, I have spent more time than I care to admit thinking about life’s more challenging moments in terms of “why is this happening?” and “what is the lesson I am to take away from it?” However, it hit me today that I have never asked myself why certain things are not happening, as well.

I am incredibly grateful for the thousands of things that don’t happen to me and people I care about every day – illness, grief, pain, loss – particularly when these very things afflict so many innocent people all the time.

But what about all the good things that are not happening and seem to be so far out of reach and why stew on this today? Well, I am traveling for a few days and always feel doubly melancholy when I’m away from my kids and not within a 5 mile radius. Luckily, I’m on the same time zone, so it could be worse. With each time zone, it gets exponentially worse, in fact.

This made me realize that so many of the “dreams” that I have for myself – which all revolve around creative pursuits – would be pretty difficult to activate fully without a significant amount of travel, which would invariably take me away from my children a lot more and given the fact that homes schooling isn’t an option, probably for the best. So, what if, and I hesitate to even suggest this at the risk of sounding too “airy fairy”, but what if the universe was holding back knowing that it’s simply not the right time for this?

What if we had the knowledge that what we are going through and experiencing, both good and bad, is all purposeful because, believe it or not, this is the exact right time to experience it – as long as we did not miss the opportunity to take from it the lesson of its intent to move us forward on our journey? Similarly, what if we also knew that those things we long for so achingly may not present themselves just yet because it is simply not the right time? What if we had patience and faith and ignored all those self-help books that give us 10 steps to achieving all our goals in the next year?

I’m going to have to keep thinking about this one but I think there’s something there. Glorious, painful and mysterious all at once – just like life.

Until next time,

Marc





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





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





Oh Captain, My Captain!

20 01 2015

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“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” – Whitman

This is my favorite quote recited in Dead Poet’s Society. The way some women describe that they are addicted to Romcoms is the same way I am addicted to movies about guys who wear their passion on their sleeves, don’t give a crap about what people think and follow their heart – Dead Poet’s Society, Moonrise Kingdom, The Fighter, hell, even Tootsie.

My kids are close to 14 and 12 and are at the perfect age for me to introduce them to some of the movies that really made an impression on me. I try to be careful because these “old” movies take a little persuading but as I build up my credibility, they inherently know they might like them and give me less of a hassle.

Lately, we have been on a Robin Williams kick so this fits right in. I also like to do my Mike Brady thing and talk about the “message” or “lesson” afterward, which lasts about 90 seconds before they are back on their iPhones. But, hey, 90-120 iPhone free minutes watching a movie together – I’ll take it.

The best comedians are poets. Poets are people who, when done beautifully, have imaginative and powerful ways of expression and conveying a message. The poem and the comedy set both are the tip of the iceberg. They serve simply as the part you witness, see and experience. Underneath it all, it is darker and murkier and has taken time to craft and produce what most only get to see from the surface.

The DVD (from the library, of course) of Dead Poet’s Society was sitting on my counter for about a week. Maybe it was a subliminal message to “Carpe Diem” but I finally decided to sign up for a boxing lesson this morning. Coincidence? Maybe. I am not a fighter as anyone who knows me can attest to. I am not athletic either and have found moderate success in sticking only to those pursuits where no one has to depend on me in a team environment – running, swimming, piano. (Yes, piano playing does make me sweat sometimes so I’m counting it in as this is my blog.)

That being said, I was always intrigued by boxing – the strategy and sheer resilience that it takes to physically and mentally keep yourself going. I hear it’s an amazing workout, too, so I figure it can’t hurt.

More than anything, I want my kids to know that it is ok to keep growing and learning. It is ok to not have it all figured it out. It is ok to decide that you want something different or find your own path, even later than others may have. It is ok to seize the day.

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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