In the last few months, I’ve gone to Madison Square Garden to watch Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari perform.
Being a professional comedian at the top of your game is like no other job in the world. I know this, because every morning when I look at myself in the mirror, I splash water on my face and congratulate myself for writing another hilarious email.
Ok, ok. When you watch these comedians, there are multiple layers to their act. It’s not just the joke — it’s reading the crowd, timing, and most interesting to me, the testing that went into perfecting that joke.
The months, sometimes years, to get that 15-second joke right…it’s awe-inspiring.
Louis C.K., along with Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, and Jerry Seinfeld, talked about testing comedy in a recent HBO special. I always love to hear the masters in ANY industry talk about their craft, and this interview was chock full of insights about growth and becoming the BEST.
If you listen closely, you can hear them allude to Big Wins — moments like an SNL monologue, an HBO special, or an interview on The Tonight Show where there’s a huge opportunity to grow their audience. Before they ever walk on stage for these shows, they virtually guarantee their act’s success.
To do this, they constantly test their jokes in low stakes environments — small clubs, shows in small cities, and with audiences that already love them. The top comics are willing to spend A TON of time being bad — bombing over and over so they can deliver where it counts.
Throughout the year, they closely monitor the reaction and tweak each and every joke. Some jokes land, and they toy with them and make them better. Other jokes bomb, and are either reworked or thrown out.
By testing in small stakes environments, when they prepare an act for The Tonight Show they ALREADY KNOW what the reaction will be to every single word.
PSYCHOLOGY OF RISK/TRIPOD OF STABILITY
The psychology here is fascinating. Comedians can go into each show with confidence, knowing that even if they “fail”:
- They don’t take risks going into big shows because they already KNOW second-by-second what the audience is going to do.
- They know their livelihood isn’t dependent on the results of the small club because they’ve nailed the big shows.
See the cycle here?
The meta lesson is: nailing the big things means that you can play around and take risks in other areas.
We can apply this principle to own lives. I call this concept my “tripod of stability.”
By taking care of the big things — my home, my car, my relationships, I can increase my growth by taking risks in other areas like pushing my limits when working out, experimenting in my business or traveling to new places.
In fact, they aren’t really risks at all. If I take 2 weeks to travel and have a horrible time, I’ve lost nothing but a couple weeks of my time.
What’s in YOUR tripod of stability? If you had to write down the 3 things you want really stable in your life, what would they be? For most of us, “a way to make money” is on the list, and the others are deeply personal.
So for example, maybe your 3 are:
- Your job
- Your relationships
- Your home
Or, maybe you’re location independent and your list looks more like:
- Your business
- Your savings account
- Your car
Once you get clear on the 3 main legs of your tripod, you can stabilize those areas and start to seek out risk in other areas — travel, starting a business, meeting new people. So leave a comment below, tell me 3 areas of your life that need to be stable and 1 area where you want to take more risks.
Friday, I’ll tell you about one of the biggest mistakes I see when people start building their own tripod of stability.