Unbeknownst to Me
by Darren LaCroix, WCPS, AS, CSP
I remember a day when my mentor, Vinnie, first stuck up for me to one of the other open mic comics. I was getting razzed by a guy named Rob about something, and Vinnie started in on him. Vinnie stopped him and said, “Hey, maybe the kid (me) didn’t get any laughs, but he has courage.”Then Vinnie really got his attitude on and went after Rob, “Are you kidding me? You have been doing the same act, word for word, for a year now. You never try anything new. Yeah, you go up there and get some laughs, but you never change a thing. You are afraid to change anything. This kid didn’t get many laughs, but he has courage.”
Me? I had courage? He was talking about me? He didn’t say I was funny. Everyone knew why, even me, but I got encouragement. Vinnie was impressed that even though I was terribly scared, in fact petrified, I faced my fears and bombed anyway. Vinnie was incredibly protective of his friends and protégés. He always stood up for the underdog. I did not really understand why, but I loved it. It was what I sought from my brother, but got from Vinnie. He was one of the best headliners in Boston, and he was sticking up for me. Wow. My heart grew. My confidence grew. Vinnie had my back.
Vinnie exuded confidence on and off stage. I wanted to be around that. I have to admit I was looking for approval and a pat on the head. Years later Vinnie told me a secret about those days. He said that the video of my first time on stage was not the worst of me. He told people, “You should have seen Darren before he went on stage. He was like a scared little mouse shaking in the corner by himself.”
Vinnie said that as a mentor helping new comics, he saw how bad I was and said to himself,“If I can make this kid funny, I can make anyone funny.” This makes perfect sense years later, but it was all unbeknownst to me at the time. I was quite naïve, thank God! I never realized I was that bad. Though I felt it, I had no idea how much it showed. I had no idea I was a pet project and a personal challenge for Vinnie. I guess being pathetic has some advantages.
Some things are better not known.
What is the lesson I learned?
Courage matters. It matters more than talent. Talented people can get by on talent alone, but that trajectory is a plateau. Courage combined with talent and great desire is unstoppable. It may take more time than we would like, but it will yield an upward trajectory. When you are the underdog, people notice, and almost everyone loves an underdog. People also notice courage and want to pitch in and help. Showing courage with no ego and a willingness to fail is like a mentor magnet.
Courage and discipline make miracles happen.
What do you take from this?
Are you making any of these Top 10 Speaking Mistakes?