Big decisions in our lives can change its course, and so can commitment. Sometimes we can’t truly see the life-changing impact in a moment. We never deeply realize its profound effect until we take the time to reflect, even years later, and see.
In 1992 Jane was my girlfriend, my lifeline, and my ever-supportive cheerleader. Most of us need one of those. She also provided me with great wisdom, even more so by default of who she was and where she spent her time. Jane, a recovering alcoholic, lived in Framingham, MA. I never saw her touch a drink and, as far as I know, she never had one while I knew her. She faithfully went to AA meetings. Many times I would gladly join her in a little church hall in Framingham.
While sitting with her and listening to the powerful stories of those amazing people, I started reflecting on my own view of alcohol. I was in my early 20s and could see how big a roll alcohol played in my life. I started recognizing that it was all around us constantly, from signs to ads and shows on TV, in virtually every setting. I realized that it was just part of going out with my friends. It was what we did. Though I drank too much in college, I was a bit more responsible after school. I didn’t love it; it was just the norm with my friends. Because of those AA meetings, however, I started seeing alcohol differently. I started to see clearly how many people needed a couple of drinks in them to have the guts to dance or approach someone they were attracted to, myself included. Hmm . . . interesting.
As I visited Stitches comedy club in Boston at open mic nights, I witnessed many people going up on stage for their first time. Most of them had to have a couple of drinks to have the courage to go up on stage. A few aspiring comedians got totally wasted in order to get up there. They were totally intoxicated, and I’m sure many of them barely remember the experience. They were numb.
Brian Tracy had once asked me a question, “What would you dare to dream if you knew you wouldn’t fail,” and it kept flowing through my head. It was inspiring and scary at the same time. Let me be clear, I had not made a commitment to becoming a comedian, but I had made a commitment to try it once. Because I was so scared, my secret desire was to attempt it once, cross it off my dream list, and move on to something else. Maybe I could make that acting thing work after all. The courage it required and the thought of doing something I was not cut out to do weighed so heavily on me that I thought I was crazy.
Only one thing scared me more than going up on that stage once and bombing. That was going up on stage, not giving it my all, and wondering for the rest of my life, “What if?” I remembered my coveted Thanksgiving Day football game, my last high school game. I had not given it everything. I also couldn’t forget my last varsity baseball game, being on third base and afraid to steal home. It still haunts me.
This time it was my choice. I couldn’t change my decisions of the past, but I could prepare and play all out this time. I wanted to leave it all on the stage, good or bad. What if I did not go all out? I knew that I could live with bombing, but I could not live my life with the regret of attempting it half-heartedly. No regrets.
So, I made a conscious choice that I was not going to have any alcohol before I went on stage to do my open mic spot. I think many people, including me, want to numb their feelings when they actually can serve us in the long run. I was not going to be numb.
No regrets. Being completely sober when I went up on a comedy stage that first night would be one of the best decisions of my lifetime, even though I had no idea at the time. It just seemed like the right thing to do. It was, but it may not be for the reason you think. Being present, raw, and real is what allowed me to get one laugh by accident. That was what I needed. Everyone else thought I had bombed, but I did what no one thought I could do. I got a laugh. Even though it was a mistake, it came from being fully present.
Big decisions have both good and bad consequences. Making the right choice in the short-run may seem the most difficult choice, but in the long run, it can pay dividends down the road in other areas of your life that you can’t imagine at the time.
What do you take from this?
Are you making any of these Top 10 Speaking Mistakes?