Vibrant Life Lessons from People of Earth

Alien Dickery AfootPeople of Earth is a sitcom on TBS that just launched its second season. Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show) plays Ozzie, a journalist interviewing a group of people who claim to have had alien encounters. He starts out mocking them, but finds repressed memories of his own, and soon becomes a member of the group.

I think I am going to join them.

Alien Encounters

No, I have not been abducted and probed. But something weird is going on in my life right now that I can’t explain in normal terms.

As Ozzie and his new buddy Jerry are piecing together clues of an alien presence on Earth, Ozzie coins a term that’s been stuck in my head all week. I think it will be my new explanation for all of the mysterious forces at play that make life so hard. Ozzie blurted out…

“There is Alien Dickery Afoot”

I know, the language is a bit coarse, but it got past the TBS censors so I’m thinking it’s okay for this blog. Ozzie and Jerry add up the clues, realize what’s going on, and call it out for all to hear.

Alien Dickery. Afoot.

This could explain what’s been happening to me.

We’ll start with afoot. Monday, I woke with a sharp, piercing pain in my foot. Friends suggested it could be gout or plantar fasciitis, but whatever it is, it’s killing me.

I couldn’t get a doctor appointment ’til next week, so in the meantime I’m popping Ibuprofen and hobbling around with a cane.

Worse, it’s gotten into my head, and made everything in my life look and feel bleak. Really freaking bleak.

But Wait, There’s More

Last week I was in a strange souvenir shop in Kissimmee, Florida, looking at alligator heads. Actual alligators, chopped off at the head, their eyes replaced with marbles. Even stranger, I was actually considering buying one, when my phone rang.

It was my therapist (yes, I see one regularly) and I picked up. But it wasn’t my therapist – it was her colleague. Suddenly I knew there was alien dickery afoot. The colleague broke the news. My trusted coach and counselor, the one person who always gave me validation and encouragement, had come down with flu-like symptoms two weeks ago.

Then she died.

It was some sort of bizarre infection that led to renal failure. I’m mourning the loss of her, and the huge help she’s given me the last four years. I’m having a good cry right now.

Who’s Mocking Who?

But it occurs to me that there is some form of dickery afoot. Because this renal failure happened to a very important person in my life.

Named Rena.

Yes, let that sink in. Rena died of Renal Failure.

Tragedy or a New Beginning?

At first I thought it was some cosmic message that her time had come, and now it was time for me to sprout my wings and fly on my own. To the next level. To greater success and happiness. So I won’t be Rena’s Failure.

I’m crying again, knowing that a good woman, who helped me and many other people, was cut down in her prime, while she was still healthy and very productive. If this is a new beginning, why does it feel so bad?

Because that’s not what this is. I now know this for what it really is.

It is Alien Dickery Afoot.

So What Now?

All we People of Earth can do at this point, is band together, forget our differences, and fight off the pending invasion. Laugh and cry at the alien dickery afoot that fills us with encouragement one minute, and despair the next.

That, and follow along on TBS Monday nights to find out what Ozzie and friends will do to save themselves. Have yourself a good laugh.

Meanwhile, I’ll have a good cry. For Rena. She taught me Yiddish and how to go easy on myself. My mentor and cheerleader, Rena saw  my humor as my greatest weapon to fight the battles in my life.

She’d approve of my irreverent tone here, and encourage me to find the humor in all of life’s pain. It’s what I’ll need to do now to get by without her. I’ll cry for a while, then I’ll find a way to laugh.

At those fucking aliens, their dickery, and my foot!

How To Use Jedi Mind Tricks For Fun And Profit

Obi-Wan Kenobi, Master of Jedi Mind TricksObi-Wan Kenobi was the Master. He showed us the way with his Jedi Mind Tricks. Call it guile, charm, persuasion or influence, this is a vital skill for Manic Impressives. It’s how we get past our Stormtroopers and remove obstacles designed to stop us from moving forward.

Case in point.  While trying to penetrate the Death Star’s defenses (parking lot at Disney’s Animal Kingdom) the other day, I came face to face with a Stormtrooper  (parking attendant). He greeted me civilly enough, but he was looking to get into my wallet. I was looking to slip past him and save my wallet for overpriced crap still to come.

Step One – Disrupt Their Thinking

Obi-Wan was dealing with highly trained, disciplined actors working from a script. When he said, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for“, he was guaranteed the results he wanted.

I was dealing with a highly trained Disney employee working from a script, guaranteed to get the results Disney wanted. So I had to get him off script. This is the key to successful Jedi Mind Tricks.

I did it with a powerful left jab, metaphorically speaking. An open-ended question designed to throw him off his game.

I led with, “So what are we doing here?”

“Matthew” (in quotes since it was clearly a stage name for this “Cast Member”) was momentarily dazed, no doubt because the thousands of drivers before me had never said anything like that to him before. But he staggered back to his script.

“That depends on what you want. Regular Parking is $20, and Preferred Parking is $40.”

Step 2 – The Counter Offer

“What I want is Preferred Parking for free.”

It’s important to let people know they’re in a negotiation. Especially people in charge, used to enforcing rules. Just because everybody else complies doesn’t mean you have to.

Stunned by a right hook to his midsection, “Matthew” leaned against the ropes. In a flash, my tag-team partner was on him.

Step 3 – The Reasoned Argument

My wife came back with a classic that had worked before“We’re not parking. We’re just going to go into the park for a bit, go on some rides, eat some lunch, buy a few souvenirs, and then head right back to the car.”

Once you’re in a position to negotiate, you need to do their thinking for them. You must give them the words they need to justify giving you what you’re asking for.

Step 4 – The Close

Obi-Wan closed by controlling their minds. You have to close by controlling their logic and emotions. You do this by giving them the justification for what you’re asking, being charming, funny and nice, and then, this is key, you shut up and let the silence work its magic.

After my wife gave the Reasoned Argument, I closed with, “So we’re not really parking.” All I had to do then was shut up and keep a straight face.

“Matthew” complied. “Alright then, since you’re not really parking, you can go on in.”  Score – Disney 0, Us $40. A knockout by any measure.

Jedi Mind Tricks For Fun And Profit

Using Jedi Mind Tricks is tremendous fun and can be financially rewarding. They come in handy in dozens of situations every day.

It worked for Obi-Wan, and it will work for you. Disrupt Their Thinking, Counter, give a Reasoned Argument, then Close with a straight face and silence.

Ask for what you want, even if you think it’s impossible to get. When I blurted out, “What I want is Preferred Parking for free”, I felt unbridled glee. I guarantee that no one had been audacious enough to say that to “Matthew” before.

I won the round, and that alone could have been my prize.

But by continuing my influence with “Matthew” I achieved my actual goal. No, I didn’t really think it would happen. But I did it with a straight face anyway because I believe in The Force. It has rewarded me enough times over the years that I do not doubt it.

It’s real.

And so are the two 20-dollar bills still sitting safely in my pocket.




What To Do When You Reach Your Goal

The Prize, and what to do when you reach your goalYou set a goal so you get the prize at the end of your struggle. The harder your struggle the bigger your prize. This week I got a big prize from a hard struggle and it felt great. Made me want to dance around and shout GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLL!

Like a spanish-speaking soccer announcer, I wanted to draw out the scoring of the goal as long as I could. To really feel the win, and honor the struggle.

The High

Luckily I was in the right place to do this. For about 30 seconds Saturday night, at the National Speakers Association annual convention opening session, the world revolved around me. The announcer pronounced my name right, I climbed the stage, the committee chair draped a medal around my neck, and the president shook my hand while the photographer stepped in to capture the moment. I received the highest earned designation they have to give, the CSP – Certified Speaking Professional award.

It was the culmination of 6 years of work and a grueling application process. I had to submit an hour-long video and be judged by a panel of CSP holders, charged with determining whether I was good enough to become one of them.

The celebration started the moment they called my name, and lasted four days. They insisted that my 41 new best friends and I wear our medals throughout the entire conference, and told all 2000 attendees to honor our accomplishment.

A Manic Impressive dream – to have hundreds of people come up to congratulate you and start a conversation.

The Crash

But even as I was drinking it all in and savoring the win, I knew it was all going to end. The convention would wrap, everyone would head to the airport, and like the host at the end of a rocking house party, all the guests would leave and I would be all alone again with a mess to clean up.

The crash from a high that great would come, and it wouldn’t be easy coming down.

So now I sit all alone, my new best friends scattered, the phone quiet. I’m back to being just me. Now what?

Begin With The Feelings

You met your goal and the party’s over. Now what? Yes, time to set new goals. But first, it’s important to recall the feelings you had at the start of your goal.

Remember the nervous excitement of thinking you might, just might, be able to reach this one. Remember why you chose to go after it. What it would do for your career. What it would do for your self-esteem and your confidence.

Now think back to all the times you doubted yourself. Those dark moments when you didn’t think you would follow through, when you thought you’d find a way to sabotage yourself. When you thought others wouldn’t think you were talented enough to deserve your prize.

Preparing For The Dark Thoughts

You had them before and you will have them again. Whatever you set your sights on this time, know that you will have to  come up against your demons. They will set upon you when you are tired, weak, and full of self-doubt.

But this time you have some proof. The goal you achieved proves you are talented and disciplined enough to earn another prize. Your resilience will pull you through the darkness of self-doubt, and you will come out the other side with more than you had before you started.

You accomplished this goal and you will accomplish the next one. You just won’t know what it will look or feel like when you do. All your problems won’t magically disappear. You will have to drag them along with you as you crest the next hill on your life’s journey.

The New Struggle For The Next Goal

You’ll get an incredible view for a few moments, then you’ll drop back down into the forest for a while as you struggle to mount the next peak. You may not see the sun for a while, you may slog through mud, mosquitoes and poison oak, and the view may be crap for a bit.

But if you keep moving, one step at a time, you’ll reach a higher peak. You’ll dip down again, struggle in the muck, then reach another, even higher peak. You’ll do this repeatedly until you’re too old and frail for the trudge.

In time, you’ll look back and be amazed at all you achieved despite your flaws and weaknesses.

And that, my Manic Impressive friends, will be your biggest prize.


Why The Big Sick Is What You Need To See Right Now!

What you need to see right nowKamail’s Nanjiani’s awesome autobiographical movie The Big Sick came out two weeks ago and scored 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. What you need to see right now, is this poignant story of a struggling comic overcoming huge challenges to become a world-class artist.

This movie shows how to commit to a path, endure the pressure of family expectations, support others through difficult times, and what’s most important in life. What we all need to do to be successful Manic Impressives. What you need to see right now.

More importantly, we all need to do this to be successful Americans. As another 4th of July slips by, we need to help each other commit to our dreams, and support each other through the tough times.

That’s what America has always been about.

Committing To A Dream

Kamail emigrated from Pakistan to the US as a teenager. Born a Muslim and transplanted into a culture hostile to his heritage, Nanjiani uses his journey as a platform for his art. He doesn’t beat you with it, but uses charm and deadpan humor to win your heart.

Kamail struggles as comics do to get his time on stage. He works hard at his craft to get better, but doesn’t let failure set him back. His painful moments are broadcast on YouTube for all to see, and he bombs so badly at times you wonder how he can get back on stage.

But he does, despite crappy living conditions and in-your-face USA, USA! type racism. He gets kicked down plenty but keeps going. His commitment to his art is unwavering, and a lesson to all of us creatives.

Growth Through Struggle

Though it’s natural to seek comfort in life, there is no growth there for us. Manic Impressives must take risks and lean into the struggle. Kamail is a great role model. He is drawn back to a failed relationship to support a family in crisis, and along the way is forced to confront his own painful shortcomings.

His pattern has been to hide out, deceive his family to stay connected, and sell out his own relationships to keep the peace. But there is no peace in this strategy. Like all of us must, he learns he has to confront his family and carve out his own path.

Kamail grows up during an intense struggle with his family’s expectations for him, and learns to rebel in a productive way. The scene where he finally confronts them is both heartbreaking and hilarious. If all of us can learn to channel our humor in this defiant yet healing way, Dr. Phil would be out of business in a weekend.

The Power Of Supportive Community

The biggest lesson here for us is the need for support. His main competitors are also his biggest supporters. Comedians must compete, but they have a habit of collaborating and supporting each other in ways many of us don’t. When a Letterman or a Leary or a Foxworthy makes a breakthrough, he reaches back and pulls his friends, former competitors, through with him. He creates more success for himself by helping others succeed.

At one point in Kamail’s journey, his closest rivals come to him with the news they are going to New York. They don’t give him a choice. We’re going and you’re going with us. We will struggle, it will be tough, and at times it will suck. But you will come with us and it will be great. We will succeed together.

This is how we do it folks. With the help of our rivals, who become our biggest supporters, our most honest critics, and our network that opens doors for us. When one gets through we all get through.

What You Need To See Right Now!

Look around. See the people who are your rivals, your competitors. Who is struggling in the same direction as you? Link up, give and receive honest feedback, and push each other.

No one succeeds alone.

So you must see this movie right now. Take your spouse or someone who could be your spouse. Take your rival or someone who dreams your dreams. But it’s something you need to see right now before the beer and the fireworks wear off.