It was the early nineties. I was just a dreamer. Long before I began in stand-up comedy, I dreamed of being an actor. One morning, while eating breakfast at Bickford’s in Framingham, MA, I looked up and saw Mike Farrell. You might remember him as the actor who played B.J. Hunnicut on M*A*S*H.
Instantly star-struck… I politely stalked him. I waited until he was leaving and followed behind him. I worked up the courage and asked him for any advice for my non-existent acting career. He thought about it for a few moments, looked me straight in my eye, and said, “Know who you are.”
My immediate reaction after my chin dropped was “Wow… what the heck does that mean?”
Who are you? Do you know? Have you ever thought about it?
Clarity on that subject is good. It helps you have direction and saves you from wasting time & energy and having too much stress. Many people think I’m a World Champion. Honestly, that may be an accomplishment, but it really is just a side effect of who I am. Who I am is just a persistent guy who doesn’t give up. A guy who was willing to work hard, look foolish, and fall forward.
Many speakers find themselves challenged by the current economic conditions. People who earned much more than I did a few years ago, are now coming to me for advice. I’m happy to help. Most of them were kind and helpful to me when I was growing up in this business. Some “speakers” forgot who they were and didn’t change quickly enough. When other speakers’ businesses went down in the last few years, mine went up.
I’m not a speaker. I’m just a guy who helps other people get what they want. I listen to what people want, and help them find new ways to get it. Zig Ziglar said it best…
“You can get anything in life you want,
if you help enough other people get what they want.”
I’m fortunate enough to have some of the best friends in the world. I surround myself with good people and I’m just glad they think enough of me to let me hang around.
If you were to tell me in 1992 — when I picked up Judy Carter’s book Stand-up Comedy the Book — that some day I’d be sharing the stage and teaching beside her, I would have laughed my butt off. Guess, what I’m doing today? Somebody pinch me!
In my early days of stand-up, I remember Vinnie Favorito pulling me aside after a set and saying, “What are you doing? Profanity? Just ’cause other people are saying it, the audience ain’t buying it from you. That’s not who you are.“
Sometimes we need a reminder who we really are. I realized years ago that I’m not a comedian. I’m glad I did it and learned, but it never really felt right to me. I love inspiring. I love inspirational movies. I live for seeing the “ah-ha” in the eyes of others.
Who are you?
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking
P.S. Thanks for continuing to read this. I’m delighted that my thoughts and effort are worth your time.
P.P.S. I really want to thank Craig Valentine, Ed Tate, Mark Brown, Patricia Fripp, and Mike Rayburn for being true professional and great friends. Also, especially Cynthia Lay and Chey Burns for helping me get my content out there, putting up with me, and still being friends. Thanks. ;-]
The biggest take away for me is the fact of people that were way ahead of you Darren, are now asking for advice. Thats almost insane. Its hard to believe. But it must cement the idea that being a constant student is so important to be successful long term. Lesson number one…. if we are serious about being a student of speaking – “know who you are”.
My email signature, or tag line, brands me with every email I send. It announces my passion:
“Think [AND ACT] outside the box.”
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Anyone can “think outside the box”. So what? Does this make an idea great? I don’t think so. What make an idea great is by making it real — making it work. That takes sweat-equity, persistence, drive and patience.
I like to think of myself as creative, even eccentric, and think creatively (laterally), BUT I also believe in being proactive. Like Richard Branson (of Virgin Airlines) wrote “Screw it, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life and Business”.
One day, a few years ago, I asked myself “How can I use Google Maps and Google Earth to attract visitors to our Province?” After three months of slogging and research I came up with the idea of tracking teams of unicyclists by satellite in the longest ever unicycle race. I made that dream real. My “Ride The Lobster” event attracted 140 participants from 12 countries at its inaugural event — a 5-day, 800-km unicycle race. THAT is what defines me — someone who makes his creative ideas real.
What a profound message! True homor does not need to be composed of trite, four-letter words that are laden with foul language. To me such habits lessen the profesdsdinalism of the speaker/entertainer. That perhaps is a key reason why Bill Cosbie has had my respect for many years.
What a profound message! True homor does not need to be composed of trite, four-letter words that are laden with foul language. To me such habits lessen the professionalism of the speaker/entertainer. That perhaps is a key reason why Bill Cosbie has had my respect for many years.
Great post….authenticity…keep up the good work.
You are a great example to all those that have had the privelege of watching your career
Thank you for all you do. This artical was over the top.
Thanks Darren for being hugely generous in paying it forward. I truly am blessed to learn from you and greatly appreciate your kindness and your authenticity. You inspire me and help me to be a better person…at the end of the day…that is all that matters!
I wonder where some famous actors would be today if they could have heard and remembered that advice
Darren, another great column of advice from you. I really like your style, your conviction, and your willingness to share with others. Thank you.
Thanks Darren for knowing and being who you are and following your heart/passion! In doing so you continue to bring the best to me. Thanks for the great Humor Boot Camp experience this past weekend! Judy and you not only shared great knowledge, your open hearts encourage me to trust in following my passion. Continue being RadiantlyU!