Over the last 5 years working as a corporate speaker I’ve spent a lot of time discussing with companies how their people can turn the “key” that unlocks success and helps them to achieve their goals.
Then in 2008 I was bet £1 that I couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a 21 night one man comedy show at the August 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Festival.
During those crazy 12 months I uncovered not one but seven keys. These keys underpin my Funny Business talk, which will show you and your people how to take personal action to achieve your goals.
Key 1: Opportunities are all around us.
We’re all busy aren’t we? We’ve got targets, deadlines and projects to complete. The thing is sometimes we’re so busy doing stuff that we miss the opportunities right in front of us that could make massive changes to the way we do business or live our lives.
It’s even worse than that, sometimes we see the opportunity but dismiss it out of hand, the little voice in our head says “that will never work”, or “they’d never listen to me”. Comedians call that little voice the “Editor”. How often have let our “Editor” decide how we act or don’t act?
Key 2: Edit your editor.
You have to understand that the Editor has a purpose. It keeps you safe, stops you taking stupid risks, or saying stupid things, basically it stops you being fired.
It came from our parents, teachers, friends and our experiences. Our mothers said, “don’t talk to strangers”, but now our bosses want us to talk to strangers – on the phone, at networking events, even in speeches at the annual conference.
No wonder we feel uncomfortable! So we either decline to deliver the presentation, or even worse, we panic about everything that could possibly go wrong, and when we finally get up there to present we spend all our time hiding behind the lectern and not looking at anyone in the audience. Or at the networking event we hide away pretending to answer emails on our Blackberries. Then the Editor says, “I told you that wouldn’t go very well” and you agree, and decide never to do anything like that again. We need to edit our Editor and break this cycle.
Key 3: Ask and you’ll receive.
Ask for help. Simple isn’t it? However you wouldn’t believe how many ideas fail because people haven’t the courage to ask for help to achieve their goal.
You could ask to shadow a colleague or perhaps go on a course. You could run your idea by your team and ask for their thoughts on how to make it better or overcome potential problems. But asking for help is not enough unless you take some action.
Key 4: All the world’s a stage.
Malcolm Gladwell (of Tipping Point fame) estimates that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master your chosen field. Compare that to the typical 10 minutes we spend rehearsing the presentation, preparing our sales pitch, or thinking of interesting ways to introduce ourselves at a networking event. And then we wonder why it didn’t go as well as we hoped!
We are typically awake for at least 14 hours a day. But just how well do we use this time? How many people do we not smile at on the street, and then wonder why we find it so hard at a networking event? How many of us do not speak at meetings we attend, and then wonder why we find it hard to give a presentation?
To really Edit Your Editor you have to do something different. You have to build up a whole new set of positive experiences rather than clinging onto childhood beliefs. You have 14 hours a day to do this; you just have to decide whether you’re going to put the effort in. And this comes down to what messages (positive or negative) you decide to listen to from your Editor.
Key 5: If first you don’t succeed…Review!
Things will go wrong (they always do), history is littered with failed endeavours. The Wright brothers crashed a lot of planes before they got one to stay in the air. An average comic can spend 3 to 10 years performing before they attempt a 1-man show that audiences pay to see. The question is do you quit or do you keep working knowing that one day like the Wright brothers you’ll get that plane to fly?
Key 6: Take risks (little ones).
I took a big risk trying to become a comedian, personally, professionally and financially. Some gigs were like performing in a roman coliseum, but more brutal. Most sane people don’t attempt to climb Everest with no oxygen or sail the Atlantic in a canoe, but (and this is an important but) the only way a child learns to ride a bike is step by step, starting on a tricycle, then a bike with two then one stabiliser, and then a parent running behind holding the saddle, and so on until the child wants a motorcycle… It’s the same with everything else – take little risks and build on them.
Key 7: Be a compass not a weathervane.
During my 12 months preparation for Edinburgh things went wrong, I had a car crash, my mum had a health scare, every bank in the world imploded, and it got very tough financially. Life is a journey and sometimes we get blown off course a bit, the question is do we let it happen or do we get back on track and keep heading towards our goal?
My journey brought me to Edinburgh, and now it brings me to exotic conferences in London, Birmingham, and occasionally Cardiff. I don’t know where your journey will take you, but just make sure it is a good one!