“Does it ever go wrong?”
People ask me that all the time. They want to know if I’m ever wrong onstage or if something ever backfires. Of all the questions I receive on a daily basis this is one of my favorites.
The answer, of course, is yes.
The more shows I do the more likely I am to have a mishap. Sometimes they’re huge dilemmas that derail my performance: I’ve had props break mid-show, batteries die in my mic pack, left my pants unzipped for the entire show, and more. When something obvious goes awry you have to comment on it, fix it to the best of your ability, and try to move on.
But most of the time they’re tiny mistakes that I deal with in the moment. For me, the little things that go wrong on a nightly basis are a fascinating part of my work. Things happen all the time that are completely unexpected. While I’m doing the show I’m simultaneously thinking ahead and problem-solving. Typically, I invent a new path forward during the show and, if all goes well, the audience is none the wiser.
Once I did a show at a mansion in Beverly Hills. I arrived early to set up, with plenty of time to schmooze with the guests. When the show began, I realized I’d forgotten a very important prop in my car which was parked two blocks away. I’d had so much time on my hands early in the night that I got too comfortable and forgot to do a thorough once-over of my gear. On the spot, I created a brand new ten minute piece that didn’t rely on the forgotten prop. Needless to say, that was an interesting night.
The great thing about my work is that the audience doesn’t know what to expect. What lies ahead is a mystery. If something goes wrong and I’m forced to change direction the audiences thinks that’s where we were meant to be all along. What’s funny is that sometimes the new path I take during a show ends up being even more exciting than the path I originally intended.
The same holds true for my career…
Ten years ago, if you had asked me what I would be doing now, I probably would have pictured a completely different path forward.
I didn’t even know about fringe festivals back then, corporate gigs seemed untouchable, and I was just barely starting to zero in on my work as a mentalist. Honestly, I never even considered moving to Chicago.
Over time, I was open to new options and new directions for my craft. I embraced new opportunities and pursued any work that presented itself. We moved to Chicago on a whim and it ended up being a perfect fit for what I do.
It’s easy to feel like a failure when you end up somewhere you never planned to be. It’s easy to feel like you let yourself down and gave up somewhere along the way. But don’t let yourself fall into that trap.
Maybe you’re choosing the path less travelled or making a sudden switch in careers. Maybe you moved to the big city but decided it wasn’t for you. Or maybe you set out to achieve a goal, got burned out, and now you’re searching for something new. None of that makes you a failure.
Remember: no one knows where you’re going except for you. So wherever you end up is the place you’re meant to be.