You Don’t Have to Win So Dare to Fail Happy

In certain scenarios I secretly hate it when people say things like ‘you’re gonna do it!’ I know they mean well, but it often tempts me to put a lot of pressure on myself.

For example, when someone says, “I know you’ll be famous some day” I hear that and instantly think: ‘I have to be famous. Crap. What if it doesn’t happen. I’ll have failed this person.’

It takes something I’d like to do for myself and makes it something I have to do for others. And I’m not always the best at that. Even as a kid, I didn’t like doing things other people told me to. Even when those things were good for me. The fact that someone told me to do it, turned me off the idea entirely.

To a certain extent, that went away with maturity, but a powerful sliver remains that mutated into something more psychologically damaging. Rather than rebel against doing what someone tells me to, it becomes part of a narrative in my mind where I simply must do something no matter how impossible it seems. And that makes me anxious and depressed.

As a kid, I would often clean my room when no one told me to. I would look around the room, see it’s a mess and decide to put things away. It was immensely satisfying to look around and realize I accomplished all that. And it only happened because I felt like doing it. Not because someone told me to.

In the past few years I have put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to succeed in life. And when I think about it it feels like there’s a metaphorical gun being held to my head by someone. However, that someone can only be me. It’s all in my mind. So, why does the pressure feel so real if it’s only in my head?

This mostly has to do with my own expectations of me, but a small part of it comes from other people’s expectations of me. When people – who have the best intentions – say something like ‘you’ll totally become a professional writer’ or ‘there’s no reason Hollywood shouldn’t cast you,” that fuels the intensity of the imaginary man who holds the gun. It exacerbates him.

Tonight I came to an epiphany. A way to potentially rid myself of the feelings of anxiety and depression caused by this man with the gun scenario. I’m going to start telling myself that I don’t have to win.

I’m not saying I’m not going to win. I’m not saying I’m not going to try. I’m saying it’s not a choice of ‘win or die.’ Rather its a choice of succeed or fail. And failure is an option. It’s by no means my favorite option – quite the opposite. But it’s not the equivalent of being shot in the head.

It’s just failure. Failure is not something to fear. It’s something to embrace. I have failed before. It didn’t crush me. Didn’t end me. Didn’t make me miserable.

I failed at sports growing up. I played football for one year. I was terrible. Played basketball two years in high school. I sucked.

I got fired from my only real civilian full time job. I had lost interest in it. And I failed.

I failed to get a spot on the touring company with Second City.

I failed at being engaged. Usually engagements end in marriage. This one just ended.

I failed to show up on time to set once and everyone was waiting on me.

I have failed at many things. I used to think of these things as black marks on my permanent record. But that’s not true. They’re simply events. Maybe they hold in them some great life lessons, but they didn’t break me. I’m still here.

I toured with M.I. instead of Second City. I still worked for Second City on their cruise ships and I still work for them as a teacher. And I’m a damn great one too.

I’m currently in the best relationship of my life.

I have made my living as a performer ever since that day job fired me.

My friend’s web series still got made. Me being late didn’t screw up the whole production.

So, maybe I’ll fail at a lot more things. Bring it on. I’m not afraid of failure.

In fact, I’m going to start using a phrase that I often use in my classes to tell to myself. ‘Dare to fail.’ When I say this to my students it’s to take the pressure off of themselves to succeed at improv exercises. I tell them that every great improviser has failed at thousands of improv scenes and games. The only way to get great is to fail a whole bunch, learn from it, get better and fail less frequently.

Now, I’m saying it to myself. But I mean something slightly different.

Here’s the deal: There’s no way to know for certain if you’ll succeed or fail at anything. You cannot guarantee success. If that’s true, then you cannot put the demand on yourself to do it. Because the demand is meaningless. It’s just a bunch of pressure and intensity with no guarantee of helping. It’s not helpful.

So, if I might fail no matter what, then I dare myself to fail with a smile on my face. This won’t guarantee I’ll fail. As far as I can tell it won’t significantly (if at all) decrease my odds of success. But what it will do is take the pressure off myself from myself.

If I ‘dare to fail’ then I’ll still pursue my dreams, but I’m going to make sure I”m happy while I do it. I have put so many things on hold trying to chase my dreams. I haven’t vacationed very much. I haven’t played sports a lot in the last few years even though that used to be one of my favorite things. I haven’t played a lot of video games or my guitar.

There’s so many things that I love to do, but whenever I take too much time for the fun stuff then I scold myself for not spending my time working on my career. And that sucks, because that means my goal of being a successful writer/actor has become the thing stopping me from having fun.

Now, I do believe that those who succeed do sacrifice things for that, but they also find a system to balance it all out. That’s where ‘dare to fail’ comes in. When it’s time to work, I’m not going to worry about being perfect or even good. I’m just going to do it. I’m going to work on something (an audition, a screenplay, whatever) for an allotted amount of time. And even if I don’t feel I was as productive as I wanted to be I’m going to move on. And have some guilt free down time.

I dare myself to fail at life. And I dare myself to have fun while doing it.

Thanks, y’all

‘Know Thyself’ or ‘Bigger/Better’

Who are you? Who really are you?

Who am I? Well, I can answer that question a lot more clearly and in depth than I ever could before. And it’s helped me to be happier and a better version of me. But this isn’t about who I am. It’s about me realizing that getting in touch with who I am is super important for my overall well being. And I think it might be for everyone else also.

I don’t know much of anything in the grand scheme of things. I’ve lived for 35 years and had a sporadically successful life sometimes. So, who am I to tell anyone how to do anything?

That said, I think I have a knack for pattern recognition. At least that’s what the I.Q. test said. Wish I could exchange some of that ‘prestigious’ I.Q. for a lot more tenacity and grit. Two qualities that would serve me better than being ‘smart,’ but we don’t get to choose the hands we’re dealt.

And this pattern I believe is in just about every wise person’s repertoire. They seem to all get one concept universally. Some may come to it a bit more by nature, but each and every one of them had to earn this in some real and likely painful way.

The pattern is the knowledge and confidence in the self.

‘Know thyself’ is a very old phrase.The Greeks said it (Gnothi Seauton). And I believe it’s just as relevant today as it ever was.

It’s so simple and short too. It reminds me of Einstein’s famous equation, e=mc^2. A super simple short formula that explains some of the most powerful phenomena in all of the universe.

How can you be the best version of you if you don’t know who you are?

Don’t take my word for it. The message is everywhere. I just saw it displayed beautifully in the Disney film Moana. It’s clearly the thesis of other great works of fiction of Casablanca, The Name of the Wind, E.T., and a number of amazing songs just to name a very small few examples.

Why is it so important? I’m not sure. But I think it has something to do with the seemingly true fact that the greatest power we as individuals have comes into being best when it is manufactured in us.

In other words, our best resource is ourselves.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be willing to ask help from others. That’s important, but before you can achieve greatness, your best course of action is to spend some time getting to know yourself.

If you are great, you must know that before you can believe it. We can’t simply choose to believe in something. Belief is inspired by knowledge. When someone displays a trustworthy act we can use the knowledge of that experience to fuel our belief in their abilities.

The same works with you. How can you believe in your abilities when you don’t really know who you are?

I can’t tell you who you are. No one can truly. If I or someone else told you that you were great that might make you smile but it won’t change how you view you until you look at yourself thru new eyes. See all of you. Forgive yourselves of any past mistakes or screw ups. Encourage yourself. Tell yourself what you have done. What you will do.

Give yourself the gift of accomplishments. If you really believe you’re not worthy of anything, prove yourself wrong. Do something. It can be super small. But do it. It could be something as ‘small’ as making your bed or taking out the trash. Anything you do you are allowed to use as an excuse to shower yourself in flattery and pride. Bring it to your harshly opinionated judges in your heads as evidence that you’re not worthless.

Work your way up bit by bit.

There is a game I have played before called Bigger Better. Get five or six teams of 3-5 people each. Give each team a penny and send them off. Give them a time limit (say 2 hours) to return to base. During those two hours they are going to trade their penny for something ‘bigger or better.’

Usually a rule in the game is that you can only exchange what you have to a stranger. You ask a stranger, “I have a penny. I’ll trade for something of yours that’s bigger or better.” Then whatever they get from that stranger they take to a different stranger and repeat the process. They do this as many times as they can in the time they have.

I have played this twice with two different groups. The second time I played it, one of the groups came back with a car. An actual car that sometimes even worked.

The game is a bunch of fun all the way thru, but the end is particularly great, because it’s essentially a game of show and tell. Everyone tells the fun stories of how they ended up with whatever they ended up with.

And all they started with was a penny.

If you don’t have faith in yourself, I challenge you to an alternate version of this game. Take whatever amount of will power you have and force yourself to complete one task. Make it super simple. Make it ‘to small to fail.’

For example, if you don’t meditate, maybe challenge yourself to attempt to meditate tomorrow for one minute. And try to repeat that the next day. Just one little minute. Sixty seconds of your day. It’s such a small amount of time. Surely you can do it, right?

After you do one day, do two. After two, three and so on. After a number of days in a row (the specific number is individual for all of us, so feel it out) challenge yourself to 90 seconds instead of 60 seconds. After a while up it to two minutes.

Bit by bit, get slightly better and slightly better. Six months from now you might wake up every morning and meditate for five minutes. That’s how I did it. I began so small. And after a while I got used to doing it daily. So, I could increase the time bit by bit over time.

Now, I can honestly say I have the discipline to meditate for five minutes a day. That may sound like a small amount, but I’m proud as hell. And I show no signs of slowing. By my birthday in July I might be up to ten minutes a day. Just a little bigger or better every day adds up over time.

So, who are you? Are you someone who does the things you want to do? If not, become that person. You can do it. It’s not a super power. It’s built into your DNA. You’re a survivor whose ancestors were survivors. Go be amazing. Know yourself as someone who crushes it daily.

A good first step to this process is to start disecting yourself. Take one minute and write about you. Write about a happy memory or a dream or a goal. Anything. Just write about you. Do this once a day. Start getting to know yourself. Fill the page with words that are in some way all about you. The more you get to know yourself, likely the more confident you’ll become.

It’s advice that was given to so many people in an early season of The Simpsons (clip below) that I’m just now really understanding for the first time.

Thanks, y’all!

You Can Be A Better Version of You

Had a pretty bad bout of depression today. Woke up with a numb feeling in my mind. I had three gigs in a row so I didn’t have time to think about feeling sad, because I had to go to work. When I got home it all hit like a dam bursting.
I just sat on my couch for an hour hating every moment that passed for about 45 minutes. That’s 45 minutes I needed to be working at one of the many tasks I have to do today. But I just sat there.
Here’s the good news. Over the past 2 years or so I have read watched and listened to many many many awesome resources (many of which I have shared on FB). They have equipped me with certain mental tools the aid in getting me out of that toxic mindset.
And after 45 minutes I recalled this. I opened YouTube and watched a couple of motivating videos I have saved for just such occasions and I was able to get off the couch. I then talked myself thru some verbal exercises that helped me to respond to some emails.
Finally, I was able to convince myself to workout. And now that I have I feel 60% better. I don’t expect to feel 100% better. In my experience depression doesn’t work that way. But the amazing thing is how much growth I can measure over the last two years.

Me from 2014 would have let that 45 minutes go on literally for ten or more hours or even multiple days. I am so grateful that I can know for certain that I have improved. I am a better version of myself than I was. I never enjoyed hating the moments. I never wanted to prolong my to do list by accomplishing nothing. But at the time it didn’t even occur to me to try to find a way out. I just thought that’s how life was.

Now, I not only understand that there’s a way out, but I have guide maps on how to find it. And it feels so great.

If you have depression or anxiety, I encourage you to seek help. Below is a partial list of resources that have helped me the most. I think self help tools are very unique to the individual. So, I cannot promise any of these will help you, but I encourage you to keep seeking. There are hundreds of podcasts, YouTube vids, FB pages, books, blogs, etc. that offer self help. Not all are good. And not all will help.

But you owe it to yourself to search thru as many as needed until you find one that does help. Don’t be a version of yourself you don’t like. Be the best version of you. The you that goes to bed at night proud of what you’ve accomplished and happy to face the next day.

I am not fully the best version of myself by any  stretch. I’m a work in progress as is everyone else. Few if any people think to themselves, “I’m the perfect version of me.” So, don’t aim for that. It’s an impossible standard. My advice is to aim to be a slightly better version of yourself tomorrow than you are today. How?
Love yourself:
I used to say the meanest things to myself in my head. I never thought to correct that because they were just thoughts. But I still heard them. And it still affects me. Be nice to yourself.
Take care of yourself:
Sleeping, eating and exercising are big factors in not only how we look, but also how we feel and how we function. Your brain works differently when you eat differently. The better you eat, the better you sleep, and the better you move (exercise) the better you’ll feel, look and act.
Set extremely small goals: 
If you want to start meditating, try doing it for 30 seconds. Or ten seconds. Get in the habit of doing that every day. And then up it to 45 seconds or 15 seconds. Don’t ever feel bad about how small your goal is. They will grow over time.
Get rid of the all or nothing attitude:
In 2014 if I was depressed for 45 minutes I would feel like the whole day was wasted and I would write it off as such. Now I realize that while 45 minutes is a good chunk of time, it’s less than 1/16th of my waking time for any given day. This also applies to if you do have a bad day or a bad week. Try again tomorrow.
These are just a few of the many things I’ve encountered that have helped me. See the resources below for more content.
Thanks, y’all!

 

Videos (this is a playlist of eight videos and as I find more I’ll add them to it):

 

Books:

The Tools by Phil Stutz

The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

Getting Things Done by David Allen

My Fight/Your Fight by Ronda Rousey

Easy Street the Hard Way by Ron Perlman

10% Happier by DAn Harris

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Milliman

Presence by Amy Cuddy

Sites/Articles:

 

 

My Windy Road to Supporting Clinton

Okay. I’ll admit it. I was a Bernie supporter who switched to Johnson after Bernie dropped.
I fell in love with Bernie’s ideas. I giggled at the whole bird landing on the podium thing. I really believed he had a real shot at becoming president and making this country better. I hated watching him trail further and further behind Clinton in the delegate race until the very end.
Then I discovered Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. They – like their party – were completely new to me.  And I liked many of their pitches. “Two former two term republican governors from heavily blue states” and “I want the government out of your pocket book and out of your bedroom” were phrases I caught myself repeating and enjoying.
 
I watched every interview and read every article I could find. I kept up with the polling. And even got quite angry that they kept him out of the first debate. Honestly, I’m still perturbed by that even though I’m no longer voting for him, because I think it shows how rigged our system actually is, but that’s a whole other idea in and of itself.
And I wasn’t completely stupid. I knew he wasn’t a good candidate. He’s not a great speaker. And he would sometime say things such as ‘the pentagon wants to cut 20% of the military budget’ (https://youtu.be/k566Xb7Jb_E – 1:15) that I discovered was not actually true (http://tinyurl.com/hwjmv2g), but rather an inaccurate over simplification of a complex report. But I did feel at the time he was better than the other options.
And I was intrigued by the idea of a Federal Consumption Tax as opposed to our current system. I still am intrigued by this and want to know more about it. But based on the little I’ve researched it seems like a good idea (http://tinyurl.com/zeprctu)
I was also a fan of his marijuana policy, but that didn’t affect me as much, because I live in California where it’s basically legal now and will almost certainly become recreationally legal after November.
 
I officially stopped supporting Johnson about a week and a half ago or so. I didn’t drop him after his Aleppo moment (https://youtu.be/fOT_BoGpCn4), but I did get out before he failed to name a single foreign leader (http://tinyurl.com/hz72dyh). I dropped him because he basically shit on science (https://youtu.be/BxREh8vzoGo)
 
Turns out that clip was from 2011 and he responded to a question about it recently by saying that he was making a joke (https://youtu.be/GcwFk7rqGQo – start at 5:49). Okay, fine. I like jokes. I do comedy for a living. And I appreciate the he says (same clip) that he ‘cares about the environment,’ but his official policy (and this is from his website http://www.johnsonweld.com) says this: “In a healthy economy that allows the market to function unimpeded, consumers, innovators, and personal choices will do more to bring about environmental protection and restoration than will government regulations driven by special interests.”
And my problem with that is that the evidence for this kind of behavior does not add up. Before government mandated them employers worked their employees in hellish conditions for extraordinarily long hours in exchange for ridiculously low pay. While I would love to live in a world where CEOs care about the environment more than their profits, we don’t live in that world. CEOs are often beholden to stockholders and boards. And those people want profits and growth. They may also care about the environment, but it’s at best secondary and at worst not even a consideration.
So, I dropped Johnson. And who was left…
 
Now, I’m fully on board with Clinton. Truth be told I was likely going to vote for her anyway, because I am scared of Trump more than anything else. But now I believe she really is by far going to be a better president than the other three choices (I’m including Stein just to be nice even though she has way less a realistic shot than Johnson) we have.
I still wish that someone else was running like Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg or Elizabeth Warren. And I wish Clinton spoke more assuredly about how to cut the deficit, invest more in technology & space, completely revamp our education system and be open to the idea of a brand new tax system. But there’s no such thing as the perfect candidate. I LOVE Obama and he’s not perfect either. So, I no longer hold it against Hilary Clinton that she’s not perfect or even as appealing as Obama. She’s the best we have and I’m voting for her.
Please understand I’m not trying to tell anyone who to vote for. That’s a personal decision you must come to on your own. Don’t let ANYONE tell you who to vote for. Think for yourself. Make up your own mind. This is just my story as to how I arrived at my decision.
 
Honestly the thing we need to worry about more than anything is how rigged the political system is when it comes to gerrymandering, making it difficult on people to vote and how at the state and national levels we have a largely unbalanced amount of republicans compared to democrats. At least according to this VOX video (https://youtu.be/15WhOT_lQiA).

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this country. I obviously hope that tensions ease, we get out of debt, we stop shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to education and that our politicians stop spending all their time fighting each other and instead spend their energy to rationally discuss the best ideas for how to run things. But for now, I know the best decision for president as far as I’m concerned is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

#ImWithHer

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Let’s Talk About Depression…

Part of the reason I never used to talk much about Depression is because I was always living in a state of partial (if not total) denial that I even had it. You know how stereotypical alcoholics sometimes refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem at all despite the fact that their lives exhibit clear indicators that they do? Well, that was me in regards to Depression. I thought that I was just sad sometimes. And what I didn’t realize is how negatively it affected my life.

So, let’s talk about Depression…

How Depression Affects My: Sleeping

Many times in my life I have had a problem staying up to ridiculously late hours (it’s currently 1:51AM btw) for no reason other than I didn’t feel like going to bed. That’s one way Depression affects me. I don’t want to go to sleep. It’s not that I can’t sleep. I just long for the peaceful solitude of the late night. Oddly, I never seem to use that solitude to do anything helpful or  productive. Most of that time is spent watching YouTube videos or Netflix.

And you may think that staying up late isn’t the worst of side affects, right? Sure, it’s better than anal leakage (re. Olestra) I suppose. But it still sucks. As a self employed person my time is worth my potential money. And as a human being my time is worth potential good times. When I stay up super late one of two things happen. Either I wake up in the morning and feel exhausted all day or I sleep in til a ridiculous hour and lose so much of my day. And I almost never have a good day when I sleep past 11. There are exceptions, but they’re few and far between.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years of college I was so depressed that I sometimes slept til 4PM. When I worked on my first cruise ship for Second City I sometimes stayed awake til 8AM doing nothing more than binge watching True Blood or House M.D. Those are two examples where I could have been doing something a lot more valuable and satisfying with my time. As a writer it nearly sickens me to think about the sheer number of hours I’ve essentially wasted because of this.

How My Depression Affects: Other People

During my sixth (and unbeknownst to me at the time final) cruise ship my fellow cast mates realized how depressed I was to the point where they were concerned about me. They alerted the higher ups at Second CIty and I had to have a phone call with one of the producers who said, ‘We’ll happily replace you and fly you home if you need it.’ I talked him out of doing that and they let me finish the contract, but I never got much happier. I just got better at hiding it.

My most recent ex girlfriend could tell I was depressed. She gave me an ultimatum at one point. I either had to go to therapy or she would break up with me. I chose therapy. We broke up later for different reasons. But the point is that it was so bad that she not only noticed but felt compelled to force me to get help. That’s not a good sign.

How My Depression Affects: Food and other pleasures

When my depression spikes up I long to fill my mouth with sugar and chips and any other kind of food that’s bad for me. Many years ago I had a stand up joke about how I ate an entire package of Nutter Butters in one sitting. The joke got a fair response from the crowd. I think part of the reason the joke worked was because it was so true. I found a way to make real pain funny.

What It’s Like When I’m Depressed

First of all, I have Depression, but I don’t feel sad 100% of the time. There were times in my life looking back where I realize that I did feel sad 90+% of the time, but even at my worst it was never a 24/7 feeling.

It doesn’t always have a cause. Sure there are life circumstances that come up that trigger it sometimes. But much more often than not it just spikes. Think of it like rain. Meteorologists know more about it than lay persons, but no one can predict it or explain it perfectly well. Sometimes it just rains. And sometimes it rains much harder than others.

The part of Depression I hate the most is that it stops me from doing. I have sat on the couch knowing that I had to go to the bathroom for an hour. My body can ache, but if I don’t have the motivation to get up and walk twenty feet to the bathroom then I’m not getting up until I have to. If I don’t have any need to be awake (like a job or a meeting or something) then I have a hard time convincing myself to get out of bed. I’m not super comfortable in bed by that point. I usually have to pee pretty badly, my mouth is dehydrated and my body aches from sleeping in an awkward position for too long. Yet I will still lie there and scan Facebook on my phone. Not because I’m dying to read Facebook, but because I just can’t make myself get up.

Sometimes when I’m depressed I don’t want to eat. Other times I don’t want to stop eating even when I’m no longer hungry and starting to hurt because of how full I am.

I rarely ever want to exercise. I can’t stand the thought of answering email. And the ideas of creating something like writing a sketch or educating myself like reading a book seem so foreign to me when I feel depressed that I can barely think about them.

And lastly…anger. This one was way more of a problem when I was younger. It doesn’t happen as much anymore, though it does happen. I can get so angry with everything. Other people, drivers, the city, traffic, dogs, elevators, slow internet connections, etc. When I was younger I used to take my anger out on inanimate objects. I once punched a hole in a drywall. Fortunately it was in the back of a closet at my high school so no one noticed it. So, I switched to bricks. And when I was alone and pissed I would full on swing (keep in mind I have never known the proper technique for throwing a punch, so that probably added to the stupidity) at brick walls. Hurt like hell, but I didn’t know what else to do. Thankfully I haven’t punched too many things in the past five years.

What Others Can Do and Not Do

I have amazing friends and family. They’re all great in their own ways. I am so thankful for them.

However, please don’t ask me why I’m depressed. I don’t know. Because I am. That’s all I got. There is no answer to your question and it’s frustrating not to know.

Also, please stop telling me what cheers you up in the hopes that it will cheer me up. I’m happy to hear a story about you having a good time doing whatever, but I don’t need a happiness prescription. I know you mean well, but it’s frustrating. I either have to explain to you why that’s not going to help or I skip that part and lie to you by acting like that was helpful.

Don’t ask me how I’m doing if you don’t wanna know. I’m sad sometimes. I will say when I am. It’s nothing to get bent out of shape over. It’ll pass. I’ve been sad before. I am still me. Chances are excellent that you won’t even know that I’m sad unless you ask me. This is particularly true if we’re on a job together. When I’m on a stage, in front of a camera or teaching a class, almost no one would be able to tell that I’m experiencing anything sad.

I love friendship. And sometimes it’s really nice to talk to people about it. What’s best is if you just will listen. Don’t offer advice. No need. Tell me how you’re doing. Listen to me bitch and moan for three minutes and then we’ll move onto a more fun topic like whether The Hulk is the greatest super hero ever (spoiler alert: he is). Just be my friend. Not my therapist or my healer. You’ll do a lot more for me by just being your awesome self. I chose you as a friend because you’re amazing.

The Good News

I’m gonna be 35 in two months. And one thing I can say that’s pretty cool is that I have a better handle on my depression now than I ever have. First of all, I recognize that I have it. It’s totally real. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it either. We have a healthy relationship – well, maybe not ‘healthy,’ but far from toxic.

I experience the rainy times less intensely, shorter in duration and less often. Today was rough. This whole week’s not been great. I can feel it lifting. I think tomorrow will be great.

Also, I’m rarely completely useless when my depression spikes. Used to I would do nothing when I was feeling the sadness. Now, I can usually convince myself to do at least a few things. Today I convinced myself to go jogging before I had to go to a job. Only got in 15 minutes and I didn’t run anywhere near my hardest, but I got out and did something. I moved my muscles and felt better. I used to not be able to convince myself to do anything close to that.

Resources

I’m not a doctor, but I have healed quite a bit. Maybe some of the things that helped me to heal can help others. They also might not, but it’s worth noting them just in case:

Books:

The Tools by Phil Stutz

10% Happier by Dan Harris

Easy Street the Hard Way by Ron Perlman

An Improvised Life by Alan Arkin

Quotes:

‘One day we’ll all die.’ ‘Yes, but every other day we won’t.’ -Calvin & Hobbes

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

YouTube Channels:

Bite Size Psych

Inspiration Journey

Conclusions

I write this post just because I need to say all this. I need a record to show that I finally know something about what I live with and how far I’ve come to deal with it so much better. If it helps someone else, that’s amazing. Depression is real and sneaky. It often disguised itself to me as ‘natural.’ Everyone felt this way. And I believed it.

If you think you might have Depression I encourage you to try to look at the behaviors and experiences in your life. Are there any common negative patterns? Oversleeping, insomnia, binge eating, drinking heavily, anger management issues, etc. If something is holding you back from living the kind of life you want to live, there may be ways to help you. Please ask for it. So many others have gone thru the same thing. Don’t give up on yourself. You are probably worth the effort it will take to heal.

Thanks, y’all!

Why I’m No Longer Disapointed At the Sight of My Body

Note: This is not a post about the specifics of how I lost weight. In my opinion, the specifics are much less important than the principles below that lead me to the specifics.

Recently I’ve been going out of town a lot and it’s thrown my workout schedule and eating habits into a bit of a nose dive. I’ve put on a few of the pounds I worked so long and hard to lose the last few years. And I am very tempted to beat myself up over it. The old me would have an internal dialogue that went something like this:

“What the hell, dude? We worked so hard and you’re just gonna throw it all away? Come on. You suck. blah blah blah…”

And not only did I allow myself to talk to myself like this, but I thought it was the right thing to do. Well, I’m happy to report that I no longer think this way.

Now I look in the mirror and say, “Isn’t it amazing that when I let myself go for a few weeks that I still weigh more than twenty pounds less than I did when I moved to California? Congrats, dude. You at your worst still looks pretty great.”

Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t look ‘pretty great’ compared to movie stars or comic book characters (or even other guys who are in shape). But I look better than I used to. And furthermore I like the way I look.

So, how did I get to this point? I learned some lessons over the past few years that helped me out a lot. And I hope that they can help people who have similar situations. Keep in mind, this isn’t just about your body. These are universal principles that apply to how you treat yourself in regards to any goal you have.

  1. Comparing myself to comic book characters and movie stars is silly. 
  2. Beating myself up never helped anything and always hurt
  3. I get to decide what thoughts I believe and what thoughts I dismiss
  4. Even when you slide backwards in your journey, you’re still on the journey. Just move forward.

I’ll break those down a bit further:

1. Comparing myself to comic book characters and movie stars is silly.

It’s totally okay to have a goal. And if you’re goal is to be Mr. Olympia or Ms. Universe, go for it. That’s not unrealistic or a ‘pipe dream.’ It’s a goal. Figure out the steps to accomplish it and go for it. However, it’s a bad idea to not put in the work or make a plan to accomplish a goal and then compare yourself to people who did. Arnold Schwarzenegger worked incredibly hard to become Mr. Olympia. So, it’s wholly unfair for me to want to look anything like him without first committing to working out six days a week for multiple hours a day.

Basically, the choice is to either do the work to try to get what you want or realize that since you’re not doing the work you don’t really want it. No judgment. Either is fine. But that’s your choice. For the longest time I made up option 3 – don’t do the work and then beat yourself up for not being something different. Now, I choose not to make Mr. Olympia my goal. Instead, I juts want to look fit. And I’m doing a decent job.

2. Beating myself up never helped anything and always hurt

When the dog pees in the house you put its nose in the pee to punish it, right? That’s the best choice, right? Well, I’m not an expert on dogs, but I can say that if you try that (which sounds pretty mean) and it doesn’t work after trying for a while then maybe it isn’t helping.

Sounds like a simple lesson, but it took me 33 years to learn it. When I don’t live up to my own expectations I now encourage myself rather than scold myself (ie. put my nose in metaphorical urine). And in the year and a half I’ve been doing that, I have accomplished a lot more than I had in the previous five years combined. So, I’m no longer beating myself up. And it’s working. Try positivity instead of negativity. Might really help.

3. I get to decide what thoughts I believe and what thoughts I dismiss

Thoughts are like leaves blowing in the wind. You don’t know exactly where they came from, but it’s completely up to you if you’re going to hold onto one. You’re allowed to let the negative thoughts blow right past you. Furthermore you’re allowed to manifest your own positive thoughts.

Just start thinking about how great you are. If that doesn’t come naturally, then force yourself to say out loud nice things about yourself. Eventually, it will help change the thoughts that come into your head. You may never get rid of bad thoughts, but if you have a lot of good thoughts coming at you too, you’ll more easily let the bad ones blow right by you.

4. Even when you slide backwards in your journey, you’re still on the journey. Just move forward.

Although my goal is no longer Mr. Olympia I still haven’t met my specific fitness goal yet. But that’s okay. It’s a marathon not a sprint. I no longer let a few backwards moves bother me. I look at the journey as a whole. Since I got serious and started doing this, I overall have gone demonstrably in the right direction. Sure, I’d rather not lose any momentum, but it happens. It’s no big deal. I’m just gonna get back on the horse when I can. I’m strong enough to do that. I know that now. You need to know that about yourself.

So, whenever you slide backwards on your goal, that’s when you need even more positivity. Shower yourself with good thoughts and know that you didn’t wreck anything. You just continued on a journey that’s overall going successfully.

I hope these help. Took me a long time to learn them, but they’re super helpful now. Now, when I look in the mirror I am proud of myself and thankful for everything. Any thoughts of disgust or disappointment are gone.

Thanks, y’all!

I’m Very Torn (Re: How To Vote)

While it’s not 100% sure right now, it’s reasonable to assume that the 2016 election for president will happen between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. And I need insight from other people about what to do. Please read and help.

I won’t be voting for Trump. There’s no scenario where I will be doing that. No offense to those who are Trump supporters. I can’t judge you. You’re just making the choice you think is best. But I do respectfully disagree with your choice.

I might vote for Hilary. Here’s where I am very torn. I don’t know whether to help put her in the White House or not. She is not a terrible candidate by any stretch, but she’s not exactly what I want in a president.

Now, I understand that pretty much nobody gets a president who is exactly what they want. But my self controversy comes into play because there is a candidate who appeals to me more than Hilary.

His name is Gray Johnson. And if you haven’t heard of him, he’s on the Libertarian ticket. This former governor of New Mexico  seems to agree with me on a lot more than Hilary does. If you wanna hear a good long form interview with him I suggest the Rubin Report.

I’m not gonna get into the specifics as to why I prefer him to Hilary. If you’re interested, ask in the comments and I’ll happily tell you. But this post is about me asking for your opinion.

Should I vote for the candidate I genuinely believe would be a better president or do I vote for the person who has a realistic chance of beating the candidate I disagree with the most? And by the way, I want advice from anyone and everyone. I don’t want to limit myself to democrats or independents. My question is more universal:

If the candidate you preferred the most had no realistic chance of winning, but the candidate you kinda liked was the only one who could beat the candidate you fear the most, who would you vote for?

I really appreciate any opinions/insight anyone has, please.

Thanks, y’all!

I Eliminated the Scary Pile…and It Feels Amazing!

For my whole adult life there has been a pile of stuff on my desk. Its synonymous with how I think about myself.

In the pile could be anything: unopened mail, unpaid bills, paid bills that need to be filed, notes to myself, business cards, old to do lists that I don’t want to throw away just in case there’s something on one of them I may need later, photographs I don’t know what to do with, etc.

Sometimes the pile was tall. Sometimes it was short, but it was always there. I moved with the pile. Every time I moved I would say, ‘Go thru everything in the pile before its time to pack up my desk.’ And every time I would inevitably stuff the pile into a box, move it to my new place and put it back on my desk. This includes five moves in Chicago and my move from Chicago to LA. The pile was my Sisyphean task – or at least one of them. =)

Some days I would get ambitious and devote an hour or more (yes it got so big that I would need to devote more than an hour sometimes) to sorting the pile into stacks to help me plan out how to go thru some of it. This would only happen when the pile got so big it felt like a monster with a life of its own. And sorting it did help, but it never helped enough for me to eliminate it.

I can’t tell you exactly why I never completely eliminated the pile. It was a mix of many reasons: poor time mgmt, busy life, a fear of working on tasks, depression, etc.

The reason I am telling you all this is because today 2/17/16 I eliminated the pile. A few weeks ago I got the pile down pretty small and thought I would eliminate it then, but then I got super busy. I was discouraged. It had been the closest I’d ever come before then and I was bummed when it didn’t happen.

But today I did it. The pile is gone. My life is still super busy and tightly packed. And there are other burdens I still need to deal with, but this one is done. Eliminating the pile wasn’t a miracle cure all, but it’s a huge step for me. And I wanted to take a moment to celebrate it by telling you.

I know the pile isnt gone for good. There will inevitably be times where I have to put stuff in the pile to deal with later. But the pile no longer scares me. I know I can eliminate it whenever I want. It just takes time, organization, a plan and the power to execute it. By conquering it once, I removed the fear.

Do you have a ‘pile’ in your life (either actually or metaphorically)? One thing I’m learning bit by bit as that there’s little to nothing in your life that you can’t master. The control is yours to take. All you need to do is understand that and then you can begin the process of discovering exactly how.

Thanks, y’all!

Life Lesson: Actions Define Priorities

There are several lessons I’ve learned in the last few years that have really changed how I look at my life and more importantly what I’ve done with it. I am not hugely successful at the moment, and I may never be even though I’m working hard to become that. However, I now feel like I have a real chance. And the reason is because my vision and procedure feels very clear to me for the first time. So, I’m going to write posts about what I’ve learned. Maybe it can help you as well.

This first lesson took forever to sink in, but once it did it changed my life a lot

Lesson: Priorities are determined exclusively by your actions. Never by your intentions.

You may feel in your heart that you’re a Broadway singer or lion tamer or whatever. But if more of your waking time is spent playing video games than working on your craft, you know that you prioritize leisure time over your desire to realize your dream. Not to be harsh, but even if you really really want to prioritize your passion, you failed to do so. Your future self did not benefit nearly as much from playing video games as he/she would have from disciplined hard work.

There’s no reason to feel bad about that. It’s your life. You’re allowed to play video games. But if you’re gonna do that, just be honest with yourself. Video games are what you value most. It’s liberating if you think about it. I heard a quote once that said, ‘if you don’t care where you wind up, you’re never lost.’ And that’s pretty cool. Soak up that video game time and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s your right to make it top priority guilt free.

However, if you don’t want video games (or whatever takes up most of your particular time) to be your priority then you have to make a change. How do you do that? I can’t tell you what specific strategy would work for you, but here are two possibilities.

My therapist had me fill out a calendar each week. I would fill it out after I did stuff rather than before. Then at the end of the week I would total up the approximate time I spent on my different activities. It showed me what I was truly prioritizing – Netflix.

This was a good technique to help me realize exactly what I was doing at that time, but it didn’t help me to change my behavior. This simply provided valuable awareness. I had to do something to break the pattern.

What I do now to help me prioritize my time to what I want invovles a very large Google document. Basically, I took some time to write out what I wanted to accomplish, and what specific tasks I needed to do to try to make that happen. Now, every night I write out my ‘action items’ for the next day. I stopped calling it a ‘to do list’ because that verbiage made me feel sad. ‘Action items’ makes me feel a bit better about actually taking action. Now, I spend more time accomplishing the tasks I think will help me succeed.

This doesn’t mean I no longer watch Netflix. There are days where I consciously decide to spend more time on leisure than work. I need those. We all do. But I am in charge of when and how often those days happen. Most other days, I spend my time trying to push myself toward my goals.

In the end, what I learned is that there’s a big difference about what’s in my head vs. reality. For example, in my head I know I’m a talented actor/writer. But I wasn’t spending very much of my time doing either. And no one else lives in my head. So, they don’t know that I’m talented unless they see something I’ve done.

I recently told a friend/colleague of mine that the problem with many of my talented friends is that we’re all way better than we can prove. So, how do we prove it? Go do it. Make something that shows off your acting, writing, etc. Go make a hundred things. Choose to spend your time doing what it is that you know you can do in your head.

Again, the choice is yours. If you prefer a life where you spend time indulging yourself on things you enjoy, go for it. But if you want to become something different than what you are, you need to change your priorities. And that means taking action and doing things differently.

Thanks, y’all!

Dear Fellow Improvisers: Let’s Work Hard to Change the Game (re: Sexual Harassment)

Usually my blog posts are more like journal entries designed to help me. I’m happy when someone else reads them, but it’s not why I write them. This entry is an exception. I want to inspire people to do stuff to make the improv community a better place for everyone.

Right now there is a lot of awareness going on in both the L.A. and Chicago improv communities about sexual harassment. And this is a great thing. I have heard some stories that make my skin crawl. The idea that so many women have had to put up with such intense and awful shit is horrible. So, I’m very thankful that all of this is now seeing the light of day. Obviously, it would be nice if this had never happened at all, but it did and now we need to deal with it.

Awareness is great, but it’s only one step in the process. The next step is action.

As a student, colleague, coach, director and teacher I am quite sure I have stepped over the line and made someone feel uncomfortable. Like many of my fellow male improvisers I fully admit that I am part of the problem. I don’t believe I’ve ever done anything on par with some of the horrible stories I’ve heard, but the point is that I have contributed to sexism in the comedy world.

The major hurdle for me personally (and I assume many others) is that I don’t know how I’ve contributed. I don’t always know how I come across to others. I don’t always know which of my actions are acceptable and which cross the line. I promise that I have made and continue to make a conscious effort to not be part of the problem. However, I often feel like I’m walking around a dark cave while trying to avoid touching any of the stalactites. I know I shouldn’t touch them, because the oils on my hand will damage them, but I can’t always see where they are.

So, as someone who needs help, I’m asking that we take action. I can’t speak for all men, but I myself know that I don’t always realize that what I’m doing could be making someone feel uncomfortable. How do we fix this? Well, let’s think about what improvisers are really good at…taking workshops. We love signing up for classes and workshops. It’s like our favorite thing.

My proposal therefore is to humbly request that someone (if not several someones) in all the improv communities who are experts on this kind of thing (like human resources professionals for example?) start writing workshops and offering to teach them. My second request is that the major improv theatres/schools out there start shopping around for these workshops to offer as part of their repertoire of classes.

Ideally, I’d love it if the theatres would pay for the cost of the workshop for their teachers/coaches, but I’m guessing many won’t be able to afford that.

I’m asking for the opportunity to make an effort to get educated. What can I as a teacher/coach do to make a more safe and open environment for my students? Give me your knowledge to help me be better.

In addition, I think we should do another thing we already do great and start utilizing our blogs, podcasts and youtube channels to get information out there. Flood this community with education and concrete actionable steps to not only help us with the overall sexual harassment problem, but also make us the best at dealing with it. Our industry is only as good as the people who are in it. Let us, the people who call ourselves improvisers commit ourselves to becoming leaders in the world of gender equality and creating safe environments for students and players to learn and play.

I devote precious class time on the first day of every class I teach to foster trust amongst the students in the class. I believe as many others do that we improvise our best when we feel like we can completely trust our scene partners to make us look good. This isn’t a secret concept. Most everyone I know believes it. So, let’s extend that concept outside of just our scene work to how we interact with each other in the whole community.

Historically, we all think of improv as ‘an old boy’s club’ where harassment occasionally happens. Some male teachers unfairly prey on their students. People often over indulge in drugs and alcohol and do stupid things. These are just par for the course. But that way of thinking doesn’t help. We have the power to effectively change the game. So, let’s do that right now.

God knows, we all talk a great game. Improvisers are always posting articles about being better versions of ourselves. We’re theoretically very opposed to sexism, racism and any other practice that belittles groups of people. Predominantly we’re some of the most liberal people I’ve ever met. So, let’s put our time and energy where our mouths are and become better.

Let’s do such a great job at bettering ourselves that other industries look at the improv community and say, ‘Damn, they got their act together. We should copy what they did and try to become better.’

We can do this!

Thanks, y’all!