The First Rule of Stand-up Comedy
Last night I performed in my third stand-up comedy show.
I am currently taking a comedy writing bootcamp with headliner and comedy writer Ross Bennett. Before my show, I spoke with Ross about my set.
As we reviewed some of his suggestions to tighten up my set, Ross reminded me of the first rule of stand-up comedy:
The only way to know whether something works is to test it.
It doesn’t matter if you think it’s funny. It doesn’t matter what your friends think. It doesn’t matter what the best comedians think. The ultimate arbiter is the audience.
The same principle applies in real estate. No matter what an agent tells you, no matter what the comps or the market reports say, no matter how cool or special your friends think your home is, the only opinion that matters is that of the audience — the buyer.
Willingness to Test
The natural place where this goes in any context is that if you don’t know what works until you test it, then you must be willing to test it. This means you must be willing to be wrong.
You must be willing to go up on the stage and bomb. Every time.
I did not bomb. But I also didn’t feel as great about my set as I did the previous two times. I reminded myself that it was only my third show, and that I am ~~probably~~ being harder on myself that is necessary.
This willingness to test and be wrong — especially in public — is the hard part for achievers. We have a natural desire to “get it right.” Also, we live in a culture that tells us to establish expertise and pursue mastery.
In our culture of mastery and expertise, we often cling to our need to be right.
We cling to this because we misunderstand what it means to be an expert or a master. The minute you think you know something, you close yourself off to learning. If you believe yourself to be an expert, you are not an expert.
A true master is constantly learning. She looks to other masters how much more she has to learn.
The Courage to Be Wrong
Since I started doing stand-up comedy, many people have told me that I’m brave for getting on the stage. That comment makes me laugh. For me, getting on stage is the easy part.
The hard part is letting go of the need to have it all figured out, to know what will work.
I’ve spent so much of my life trying to prove my knowledge and intelligence to friends, family, clients, potential clients, and strangers. The conditioning that I need to be right, to know, to show my expertise, to display my mastery lives deep within m
The willingness to be wrong — in public — is the hard part.
That, for me, is the journey of stand-up comedy. It’s the journey of being a real estate broker. It’s the journey of being a coach.
I might be less than thrilled with how last night went, but I am thrilled with this: I got on stage and tested new bits, and new tweaks to my set, and I was willing to be wrong. I was willing to not get laughs, in service of testing what works and what doesn’t work.
That’s the win.
Creation, Innovation, and Transformation Start Here
If you want to innovate, if you want to take people somewhere, you must be willing to be wrong in your hypothesis of what will work. Content, strategies, mindset, tools, systems — all of it.
The more you can let go of the attachment to being right, the more you can open to creating and innovating. Creation and innovation happens only in the “lab” – in the place of experiments and willingness to be wrong. If you only stick to what you know works, you will miss out on all the things that may work that you’ve never tried
As a coach, or in any service to others, you must be willing to be wrong about what will work. You must be willing to have a situation where the client doesn’t get the results they desired. Because this will teach you as well, or even better, about what works and what doesn’t work.
Transformation only happens when you’re willing to give up a piece of who you are now. That’s how the caterpillar becomes the butterfly. He gives up his identity as a caterpillar to embrace the identity of the butterfly.
If we want to create transformation in ourselves and help catalyze it in others, we must give up our need to be right and our need to be expert.
We must be willing to be wrong.
This may be unsettling, but it is also liberating. Because when there is no certainty, then there is no failure.
There is only hypothesis, experiment, and results.