follow your dreams

Jump

I went skydiving this week. For real.

I jumped out of a plane at 13,500 feet with a guy named Adam who I’d never met until the day of the jump. We fell for 60 seconds at around 120 mph before he pulled the chute and we floated back down to the drop zone at Skydive Chicago.

It was unlike anything I’ve done before and I’ll definitely be doing it again.

The whole morning everyone kept asking me if I was nervous. They wanted to know if I was freaking out or going to be sick.

The truth is, I wasn’t.

I really hadn’t had much time to think about it. I’ve been so busy with my summer tour and my weekly show that I hadn’t had a moment to get nervous.

So when it came to the big day I was just excited. I signed the waiver, got suited up, and next thing I knew we were jumping out of a plane.

Piece of cake.

Those questions reminded me of when I moved to Los Angeles after I finished college.

Back then, I was on a quest to go to Hollywood and follow my dreams. So the second I finished school I packed my bags and headed west. I left my wonderful girlfriend (now wife!) crying in a parking lot and my gorgeous mustang convertible behind, all so I could pursue my passion.

All I had with me was a suitcase of clothes, my computer, my props, and 500 bucks. That was it.

Everyone I talked to had a version of the same question:

When did you know you were ready to move to LA?

My answer was always the same: I was never ready.

At the time, my show wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have enough money or a good plan for when I got to SoCal. I was completely alone. But I knew I had to move or else I might never go at all.

Moving right away meant that before I could get nervous I was already there. I was immediately immersed in a new city with new adventures, so I put my head down and got to work. The next thing I knew, I was taking the bus to gigs in all corners of LA. I found an agent, booked a commercial, and started to build momentum.

I still approach things this way. I dive into something and figure it out as I go.

Sometimes I do shows for several thousand people. It’s a huge responsibility to entertain such a big audience, but I don’t think about it. Instead I do my sound check and preparations like any other show, then head to the dressing room. Next thing I know, I’m being introduced and running onstage. There’s no time to be nervous.

Sometimes it’s better not to overthink things and just do it. Go see a movie without reading the reviews. Take a trip without planning it out. Venture out into your city and find something new.

You’ll never be fully prepared for anything. You can sit around and plan all you want. But at some point you’ll have to just go for it. You’ll have to make your move, take a chance, and jump!

Demand Their Respect

I got heckled for the first time in a while last week.

There was a group of people who had taken full advantage of the open bar and were being loud and obnoxious all night long.

The event was an exclusive night of mystery with a lineup of four of the finest performers in the city, including myself. One hundred guests, four entertainers, and non-stop amazement.

It’s held once a month at a luxury hotel downtown, complete with fully catered hors d'oeuvres, live music, and some of the most mind-blowing acts you’ve ever seen. Plus, a national magazine was interviewing us that night for a feature article coming out later this year.

So yeah, it was kind of a big deal.

Which made it even stranger when those six guests started being so rude. They started yelling things out during the other performers’ shows. Not clever things, not helpful things….just disruptive, rude comments that were distracting the other guests and making it hard for the performers to concentrate.

My fellow entertainers were doing their best to be polite and stay in control of the situation, but word got out and other guests were quick to alert me of “the people in the other room who think the show is all about them.”

Honestly, I’m not sure you can even count these people as hecklers. They were in a world of their own. They were having loud conversations without a care in the world for anyone else in their general vicinity. They weren’t trying to disrupt the show on purpose and they weren’t trying to outsmart the performers. They were just a bunch of a**holes.

Ordinarily I would be patient with a heckler. I would kindly ask them to repeat their comment and make a simple joke along the lines of “Settle down, this is my show!” or something similar. It would get a laugh, win everyone over, and get the heckler on board.

But last week was different.

I’d been watching these people be rude for several hours. I’d seen them yell across the room, interrupt the shows, and refuse to stop talking while my friends were performing. And by the time I got onstage it was really starting to piss me off.

So I took control of the room and began my opening mind reading demonstration.

“You’re an Aquarius, aren’t you? Born in February…February 10th?”

Everyone oohed and ahhed and applauded loudly as I read each person’s mind in turn. Then, as I continued with my act, I heard a group of people talking in the second row. They were at it again.

So I dropped everything. I stopped what I was doing, walked towards the group, and waited for the room to get quiet.

“You have the wrong idea,” I said.

“I do 150 shows a year and I chose to make one of those shows this one. So when I’m onstage I demand your respect. A lot of people in this room paid a lot of money to see me do this. And now I’m up here working and you are disrespecting me while I’m at work. So, yes, this is an interactive performance but it’s participatory on my terms, NOT yours. Understood?”

The ringleader of the group looked at me in horror, shocked that she was being reprimanded in front of other adults. Then, she shut up and didn’t speak again for the rest of my time onstage. They may have left at some point but I can’t be sure, because I was worried about the other 94 people who wanted to see a good show.

I can’t stand people who disrespect me during a show and I refuse to put up with it. I honed my skills doing difficult gigs in tough rooms for little pay and now I realize that while I was struggling to find my voice and learn my craft, I was slowly building up a confidence that can’t be shaken.

I have a confidence in myself now that is only born out of doing a thousand shows. I know when I walk onstage that I am good at what I do. I’m positive that what I do is worth watching and worthy of someone else’s respect. And so, I don’t have to put up with anyone’s bullsh*t any more because I already spent years doing that.

What I’ve learned is that if you value your time and respect your craft then you don’t have to put up with a heckler.

Your family will tell you to have a backup plan or a teacher will tell you to get a real job. People will act like they know what’s best for you, without taking the time to really listen to your plan. And time and time and time again people will shut the door to your dreams in your face.

Those are the hecklers on the journey towards your chosen destination. Those are the people who want to tell you what you should be doing, even though they don’t want to work as hard as you do. They’ll always be there, eager to disrupt and disrespect, and it’s up to you to shut them up.

You have to demand their respect.