The best part about what I do is that it requires me to be fully in the moment. Since my act involves audience participation I have to be engaged and present for each and every show.
I work hard to remember people’s names and pay attention for little moments that may occur during my performance. Sometimes people spill a drink or call out a funny joke. Sometimes they say something silly or can’t follow simple instructions. Being in the moment allows me to comment on those situations and often those tiny ad-libs become the most memorable part of the show.
I’m acutely aware of how many people in the world are NOT living in the moment. I go through the checkout line at the store and the cashier doesn’t even look me in the eye. People run into me on the sidewalk because they can’t look up from their phone. Everyone is distracted; thinking about something else, doing two things at once, planning for the next thing.
I feel alive when I’m doing my show because I’m hyper-aware of my surroundings. I can hear who’s laughing the hardest and can see when someone isn’t enjoying it. And I choose to comment on those things to bring people closer together. I want them to think to themselves, “Wow, this is special. This is new and different…and only for us!”
I was talking about this to another performer recently and commented on how hard I work just to remember people’s names, let alone other details about them and special moments in the room.
He said, “Oh, I never bother to remember their names. It’s too much work. The second they say their name I’ve already forgotten it.”
TOO MUCH WORK? You have an opportunity to make people happy and give them a feeling of joy and amazement and you say it’s “too much work”? Unbelievable.
To me that performer’s outlook seems to mirror our daily lives. Most of the time we’re just a number in line at the DMV or the randomly selected person who gets an extra screening when going through TSA. Those moments aren’t personal. Our whole life is becoming an endless string of absentminded baristas, lazy store clerks, and unhelpful receptionists. No one is willing to do the work to be present for one another.
The job of a performer is a true gift to the world. We get to connect with people in a way that they so desperately yearn for. They want to be seen and heard and feel like they were truly part of something. You can’t do the same show you always do because the audience will see right through it. You can’t phone it in and not show up. You have to be in the moment.
I don’t care how amazing the new iPhone is. I don’t care what latest gadget is on your wrist or turning on your lights. I don’t care what’s happening on Twitter or Instagram. Those things are poor substitutes for living in the here and now. But, as we continue to settle for mediocre customer service and distracted friends and coworkers, we’ve forgotten how amazing it feels to really be part of something in the present.
Being present is an incredible feeling, but you have to put your phone down and look around. You have to really see what’s going on. That’s why I love what I do and try to be onstage as often as possible. And I’ve been taking that feeling offstage and trying to make the most out of every moment of my everyday life, too.
Those texts can wait. The e-mails aren't your biggest priority. I promise you. Put your phone on silent and pay attention to what’s happening in front of you. All that matters is this moment right here and right now…and I’m fully immersed in it.
This past Saturday I woke up at 3am to watch Eliud Kipchoge run a marathon in under 2 hours. Tears were streaming down my face when he finished the race. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen so if you haven’t seen the last kilometer yet check it out here.
What I’m Reading Right Now: “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson.
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