CHAPTER 8: WHAT’S YOUR NINEVEH?
I was delivering a keynote speech in Vancouver, Canada, for a group of speakers. I had told my story of how I went from chump to champ. I covered the critical habits, mentors, and breakthroughs I had to win the World Championship of Public Speaking. There was extra time, and I love opening up for questions. A bold young buck raised his hand and asked, “I loved your story, but what’s the dream you are working on now?” Great question. For my friends who are motivational speakers, this may sting a bit, but what are you striving for now? Are you living your talk? (Walking sounds too boring and cliché to me.) How dare I not move toward my next dream?
Nineveh was a city in the Middle East in biblical times. If you don’t know the story, God wanted Jonah to go and preach there. Nineveh was Jonah’s destiny.
What is yours?
You have a destiny, a calling, a dream. What is it? What is it that compels you down deep? What do you feel you are supposed 40 MINUTES TO YOUR DREAM to accomplish? What’s that deep-seated desire that pops up on occasion? It makes you smile for a moment, but then you are distracted by real life. What is that dream that quietly haunts you?
So, how did I answer that bold young man? What’s mine now? Well, it came to life with a simple question in a restaurant booth. It was a mastermind meeting at BJ’s Brewhouse. Several keynote speakers, including Marilyn Sherman and Mike Rayburn, were getting together to help each other out. Mike was a rock star in the National Speakers Association and had just moved to town. So, as we sat in this circular booth, he posed a deep question. He asked, “What is your crazy, big, ridiculous dream?”
I remember I went last. I sheepishly, and in a wishy-washy manner, spoke up, “Well, you know, I kind of always loved truelife movies. And I remember when the movie Rudy came out in 1993. I had started comedy in 1992. That story moved me and kept me going. I’ve always been drawn to true-life inspirational stories. I had to see every one of them. I got to meet the real Rudy. He told me how he had his movie made. And I thought, ‘Well, what if I make a movie about my story? I’ve been telling my story from the stage for years. But who am I to have a movie made about my life?’”
Those words, “But who am I to have a movie made about my life,” immediately triggered something in Mike. He had been listening intently to my insecurely delivered answer and, without warning, jumped up, leaned in so he was just inches from my face, stuck his index finger out, and with mentor-like conviction, said, “Who are you not to?”
It felt like he reached inside me, pulled up my dream front and center, and made it real. I was not the same after that moment.
If you took the time to answer that question sincerely, how would you reply? Who are you not to live out the dream God 41 What’s Your Nineveh? put in your heart? Who are you to not respond to the inspiration that comes from somewhere deep? Who are you not to?
My own “lack” thinking kept my dream buried. When I said it out loud and got approval from a man I respected—boom. It came to life.
I got excited. Real excited. I was on a mission. I decided to start by heading off to Hollywood to find a writer like Rudy had for his movie. I had to start somewhere. I delivered a training in LA, and in the room, unbeknownst to me, was an actor-turned-producer. I asked her for advice on finding a writer, and she said, “I just saw you speak; you need to write the screenplay yourself.” What? I didn’t know how to do that. She went on to tell me she and her husband make movies for the Hallmark channel, and she reads scripts all day long. She said the biggest problem she sees is structure. She encouraged me to get a book by Syd Field. Ironically, it instantly felt like I went back to 1992 in the comedy club, where I was told my first step was to get the book. That made me smile.
I learned two critical insights I hope will help you:
#1. When pursuing a dream that is not in your wheelhouse, listen to people with real-life experience. A woman who was in the thick of Hollywood experience suggested a book. I didn’t flinch. Done. I couldn’t buy the book soon enough.
I had learned that lesson from my previous crazy dream’s beginning. The best thing I did was get direction from people who were in the arena. When a book was recommended to me by a headliner comedian, I immediately went out and bought it. We need to start our trajectory in a proven direction. You don’t need to get a book; you need to get the right book or take the right course. Who can tell you which one is the right one?
#2. Be willing to take the unexpected detour. If people who are where you want to be suggest a slightly different path, take it. After many pursuits, Rudy found a writer. I followed that idea, but when Ms. Producer said I need to write it myself instead of finding a writer, I did—well, after a big, nervous gulp. It was not my plan, but it is now.
A couple of months later, Hall of Fame speaker, Patricia Fripp called. She was attending a screenwriter’s summit and invited me to join her. I asked who was teaching, and she mentioned several names, including her friend Michael Hauge. I had never heard of any of them, including Michael Hauge. Th en, she said, “Oh, there is one more. I think his name is Syd Field?” What? The guy who wrote the book that I’m reading? Yep. I took that as a huge God wink, knew I was on the right path, and immediately registered.
It was December 9, 2012. At the Screenwriters’ Summit, I learned that a Hollywood script needs to be in the correct format. I had no idea. I invested in the soft ware. I took classes. I got mentors. I read more books. I did the exercises.
Have you noticed that sometimes we read the book but don’t do the exercises that are in the book? We feel like we need to get to the next chapter. No. Stop and do the exercises. Why? Because it’s that sawgrass experience that we need. Yes, we need to input the data. But it’s going through the exercise that transforms who we are and moves us closer to our dream. We need that experience touching the sawgrass.
I started on my screenwriting journey. Writing a single story in 100 percent dialogue was a different animal. It was challenging. I decided to write once a week. I struggled. I learned another valuable lesson: Don’t work on your dream once per week. You lose momentum. In this book, you are tapping into 43 What’s Your Nineveh? my experience chasing two crazy dreams. You’ll get some “do this” and some “don’t do this.” Working once a week on your dream is a “don’t do this.”
I was told if you are going to write a screenplay, you should study them. Duh. When I was working on my international contest speech, I looked at ten years of contest videos. Back then, there were nine contestants each year, so I studied ninety world-class speeches. Think about that. I was intently trying to figure out the tiny difference between the person who came in first and the person who came in second. My coach could have told me what the difference was (telling me about the sawgrass), or I could intently dive in and study until I got it at a deep level myself (by actually touching the sawgrass). There is a huge difference. With this dream, I was told to study screenplays, so I tracked down the scripts to my favorite movies similar to the one I wanted to write. I found the scripts to Rudy, The Rookie, Miracle, The Blind Side, and Soul Surfer.
You may have heard about the ten-million-dollar check Jim Carrey wrote himself for “acting services rendered.” He kept it in his wallet to help him stay focused on his dream. That was another important “do this” lesson I learned from chasing my first dream. I needed a constant reminder. The first time, motivational quotes were in the corporate beige pushpin board at my day job desk. This time, I needed a symbol of a completed successful feature film. What would that be? A movie poster. I looked at the movie posters for Rudy and The Rookie with Dennis Quaid and hired a designer to make a poster for my future movie. I even added quotes and stars that I could picture being in the film. I had it blown up and put in my office. I also made it my phone’s home-screen image.
That poster is the new motivational image I keep in front of me. What’s your constant reminder?
I’ve also kept myself motivated by staying focused on my why. Remember in an earlier chapter when I asked you to go deeper into your why? You may be wondering about my deeper why. Why this movie?
I grew up in New England and celebrated the holidays with the Polish side of our family. The smells of pierogi and kielbasa filled Grandma’s house. The sight of chocolate roll and Mom’s chocolate cream pie could make you drool. When all my cousins were together at Grandma’s house, they needed to add the standard card table, affectionately called the “kid’s table.” It wobbled a bit. What always made me smile was the joy and laughter in the air. My twin aunts had harmonious, infectious laughs. My cousins and my brother always had the family laughing. I was just in awe of their abilities to make people laugh.
Making people laugh was not in my skill set. Not even close. I was the shy naïve kid sitting back and enjoying the show. One time, when I was eight years old, I got so caught up in the moment, I stood up and shouted out a line. I expected laughs, but instead, it instantly hushed my family. Yikes. I was embarrassed. I slid down in my little chair and told myself, “I will never ever try to be funny again.” I stuck to that. I pursued my love of business. I was an entrepreneur.
Fast forward to 1992. After my devastating business failure, I was listening to a motivational tape by Brian Tracy (personal development guru). He asked, “What would you dare to dream if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” That question tapped directly into that little eight-year-old dreamer inside me. The one who was told, “That’s not for you.” And, “You’re just not funny.” Then, at twenty-three years old, the kid inside of me answered that question, “Anything? I’d be a comedian and make people laugh for a living.” The question brought my dream back to life.
I’ve always been enamored with true-life movies about someone accomplishing something no one thought was possible. I have to get this movie made to inspire the eight-year old dreamer in you and all the people who were told, “No, you can’t.” People who were lied to by well-meaning naysayers. I got to stand on a stage and inspire two thousand people while making them laugh. Now, I feel like it is my responsibility to wake up the little dreamer in other people like you, with the same mission questions.