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9 Lessons I Learned From The Jerk (about biz and life)

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Some of my favorite books are by musicians and comedians about their lives and careers. Gleaning life lessons through the page, it helps me to see this journey as a pro-creative with some perspective.

Last week I re-read Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up, a memoir about his 18 years as a stand-up comic. (Ever see his 1979 film The Jerk? It’s a personal favorite:)

Every few minutes he’d share a life or business lesson that made me jump up and realize all of us drive, dedicated creative types have similar paths to success! And I saw that what Steve is sharing are lessons and foundations already included in my upcoming 6-month Rich Creatrix Mentorship:

Here are the nuggets of gold and wisdom from my buddy Steve:

  1. “I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.”

Keep going. It takes time and commitment to succeed. 

2. “Your profession will change, and so must you.”

Steve’s comedy evolved from one-liners to political humor, to absurdist ramblings, mixed with philosophical prop-comedy. He continued to evolve and build, adding and subtracting from his act to stay relevant and push his style.

This is especially helpful for those of us who are life-long learners. If you’ve doubted your ability as a healer, coach, or entrepreneur because you’ve switched lanes a few times, don’t worry. It’s part of some people’s process.

3. “You’ll use everything you ever knew.” 

Everything is material. Your life is filled with lessons to be shared. You’ll pull pieces from different schools of thought, methodologies, and traditions to create your own unique style. Developing that unique style is hugely important to us authenticity-focused creative types.

You’re not scatter-brained, you’re a Creatrix.

4. “My tragic home life made me qualified to be a comic.”

Those of us who find our “mess becomes our message,” know this is true.

I had my own health problems in my 20s that turned into a health coaching career. One client is a financial coach who used to be in debt, who now helps others. Another is a marketing and branding coach who needed help with her own messaging. 

We use our pain and turn it into knowledge and healing. No shame in that.

5. “My best lessons that made me great were from huge failures.”

Steve bombed on stage – countless times. But he kept going, because he learned through the act of doing his comedy what didn’t work… and eventually what did work. 

I’ve been there, too. I launched programs that didn’t run because not enough people signed up. I had a line of supplements that I cancelled after months of R&D because it didn’t feel aligned, and there were copyright issues. 

With dedication and soul-centered searching, you can come out on top. Fail forward. 

6. Professionals pivot. 

Steve was a lot of things over his career. Magician, musician, actor, comic, comedy show writer, screenwriter, and more. He did several jobs at once to pay the bills and stay in the game. He was dedicated, and kept switching things up so he could keep going.

I’ve become a pro-pivoter myself: coaching, writing books, podcasting, consulting businesses, helping entrepreneurs write their own books, helping activists launch their own podcasts, painting, and more. 

I enjoy that this entrepreneurial life gives me the change to be a Renaissance Woman. Because sometimes a path of creation doesn’t work out the way we thought it would. Switch things up, but keep moving forward.

7. Sometimes, you gotta burn it all down 

Several times, Steve describes how he had to burn down his 20-minute comedy act to start all over. Either it wasn’t working, or the bits got old. Entire movie scripts were scrapped. Seems heartbreaking?

Maybe. But it’s a fact that we have to be willing to walk away from something that isn’t working and bring our smarts, energy, and skills to a fresh new way of doing things. 

I’ve “burned down” my business several times, and like a phoenix, have always risen strong and beautiful again… if I do say so myself.

I used to be a well-known vegan chef, but had to shut that down when I needed to eat animal protein for my health. Shutting down my supplement and health coaching business allowed me to build this creative entrepreneur coaching.

From the ashes, you can build something more you, more satisfying, more profitable.

8. DIY: Even the pro’s do a lot of it themselves, until they don’t.

When Steve was in the busiest, final years of his stand-up career, he was still doing much of the work himself. From writing to driving to recording his act, he had the DIY spirit. 

Many of us do a lot of our back-end or technical work ourselves until we reach the point, like Steve did, where we need to bring in managers, assistants, and coaches.

When you reach that point where you can no longer do it all yourself, it’s time to hire a pro. That’s where I come in – and it’s why I’ve hired my own coaches, consultants, and assistants over the years. 

Getting comfortable with that cycle is part of what makes us professionals.

9. Going against the grain 

Finally, part of what helped Steve stand out with his stand up act was being different. He went against the grain. 

In the 1960’s when most performers wore hippie garb, Steve adopted his conservative white suit. When everyone else was getting political in their act, he dropped all of his political jokes and went absurdist. 

To be recognized for our work, we sometimes have to risk standing out in direct opposition to current trends. And to be true originals, we have to do the work of NOT copying others in our field. (I’ve been a chameleon in the past, and work extra hard not to unconsciously look like others in my field.)

My old story of “coming out” as no-longer-vegan is the biggest example from my life and work. How can you “go against the grain” in an authentic, honest way?

The Rich Creatrix Mentorship is open to 10 womxn, and two spots are already filled! Our first group session is August 15th, so apply here today: 

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