Giving Joy a Big-Ass Bearhug (Oh yeah, and Achieving Goals. Yeahyeah…Goals)

how to achieve long-term goalsDear Diary,

A few months ago, I started really getting down on myself. This comedy shit – is it worth it? Can I really make it? But it’s going to take soooo loooonnnggg…

Thankfully, my perspective on life has been utterly capsized by the teachings of Seneca, one of the three kings of Stoicism and oh, by the way, just the wealthiest financier in Rome. Two thousand years ago, Seneca asked his pupil, Lucilius,

For what end should I toil?

When I become a world-touring stand-up, is that really going to make me happy? It’s my goal…it should, right? No, not necessarily. Why not? Quite simply, it all depends on how I get there.

Above all, my dear Lucilius, make this your business: learn how to feel joy. – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

I’ve had a lot to be happy about in the past few months. Just got married, killing it at work, writing 19+1 minutes a daybut I wasn’t experiencing the joy. As I told my wife at our reception, ‘The entire time I was walking down the aisle, I was thinking to myself, holy crap, I’m walking down the aisle beside chairs we spent hours thinking about where to place, in a ceremony we spent a year planning, on an aisle runner that…’

Accomplishments were coming and going, and on top of not feeling happy about them, they weren’t leaving me satisfied. OK, I made a few grand…how do I make more? And how do I make it quicker the next time? And this one was the woooorst one of them all – Oh no, look how much more money he’s making – fuuuuck!!! (We’ll look at that last one in a future post; it deserves its own hyperlink)…

The fool’s life is empty of gratitude and full of fears; its course lies wholly toward the future…for we are plunged by our blind desires into ventures which will harm us, but certainly will never satisfy us; for if we could be satisfied with anything, we should have been satisfied long ago; nor do we reflect how pleasant it is to demand nothing, how noble it is to be contented and not to be dependent upon Fortune. Therefore continually remind yourself, Lucilius, how many ambitions you have attained. When you see many ahead of you, think how many are behind! If you would thank the gods, and be grateful for your past life, you should contemplate how many men you have outstripped. But what have you to do with the others? You have outstripped yourself. – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

You know when you read something so profound that you put down the book and shake your head in amazement and wonder? Now that’s joy!

These teachings upended my perspective on achievement. Now, when I laugh, I stop, and let my head fall back under the shower head of pure bliss. There’s a long way to go before I start criss-crossing the globe with nothing but a backpack and writing utensils, but I’ve never been so excited about the journey in my life.

The Paradox of the End Goal – Jason Selk

how to achieve long-term goals

Truth be told, Seneca’s teachings on achievement were shaded in by Jason Selk’s Executive Toughness, specifically, his idea of Process Goals. Who’s he? Oh, just the Director of Mental Discipline for the then World Series Champions, St. Louis Cardinals. How’s that for a cocktail party introduction?

Oh me? Oh, I-I teach world-class athletes to, uh, win World fucking Championships. You?

Oh wow, that does sound tough. I’m sorry? Oh yeah, sometimes the wheels on those shopping caaan get stuck. If-if you’ll excuse me…

I’m sure he’s a nice guy. But seriously, if you’re the dude collecting shopping carts from the Wal-Mart parking lot…I’ve heard of starting from the bottom but gyaaaaddaaaymn! Anyways, back to J-Selk.

“…the Paradox of the End goal. When we emphasize the end result [the goal] more than we pay attention to the means to achieve it, we come face to face with this paradox. For example, the baseball player standing at the plate thinking to himself, ‘I need to get a hit” is probably going to hear, ‘Strike Three!” on the other hand the player focused on the fundamentals of his performance (tracking the ball, executing a compact swing, following through) has a much greater likelihood of getting a hit.”

What a STUD! So, I quit my job at Wal-Mart, and started with four process goals:

  • Write & Practise comedy for 15 minutes per day, increasing by one minute every week (Product Goal: Become a world-touring stand-up comedian)
  • Exercise every other day (Product Goal: 160 lbs and Sexy)
  • Meditate for 16 minutes every day (Product Goal: Peaceful)
  • Complete XYZ I work (don’t wanna bore you with that one) (Product Goal: $)

As you know, Seinfeld motivated himself to write everyday by placing an X on his calendar after every writing session. The idea of keeping the chain of X’s going, day after day, provided the spark he needed to keep on keeping on (see Gamification). So, I downloaded the Seinfeld Calendar app and started tracking the completion of these process goals. Here’s how December looks thus far:

Personal Success Quadrant

So, as you can see, I’m a fat ass. A funny, money-making, no shopping cart pulling, very peaceful, but fat ass, all the same. They say you can only focus on three things…fuck! Ha! But just look at that. Look at how I perceive things. I’m killing it, and still beating myself up. Lol. Still gotta lot to learn…

But seriously, if I just get my eating in check, yo, I’ll fuck a motherfucker up. No, stop. I’ll do better than fuck a motherfucker up…I’ll have outstripped myself. Fuck those shopping carts. It’s Sunday, and I’ve been up since 7:30AM making sweet music on these black keys. I can’t sleep past 8am anymore. I’m having too much fun.

Here’s Carl Thomas singing Summer Rain.

Here’s me singing Summer Rain with my noise-cancelling headphones on…

C-C-C-C-C-Cuff yo chiiick…

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About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
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5 Responses to Giving Joy a Big-Ass Bearhug (Oh yeah, and Achieving Goals. Yeahyeah…Goals)

  1. Fabulous post Michael! Very inspiring. I think I need to read Seneca.

  2. How to practice comedy as part of a balanced life is a question I’m interested in.

    • Hey Lwam!

      Long time – too long. You need to read Seneca? I think I need to read Thoreau!

      How to integrate comedy into a life that demands the attention of baser pursuits (i.e. making money) is something I’ve struggled with for the past year. The wedding had me doing errands every other night of the week, and my job (and I assume your career, too), requires at least 1-2 hours of extra work every evening, including weekends.

      If we can split the practise of comedy into three parts – writing, rehearsing, and performing, I’ve really only figured out the first two. Per the idea of Serial Rituals from the Power of Full Engagement by Loer and Schwartz:

      • Start with something small, something you can do on a daily basis.
      • Increase the duration/effort incrementally over time.

      .

      In my case, doing purely stand-up, I committed to:

      • Writing/Rehearse 15 minutes everyday.
      • Adding one minute every week.

      Easy enough, right? Not exactly. Sometimes, when you’re tapped for ideas (or worse, have ideas that suck balls), 15 minutes can seem like an eternity! Luckily, it gets easier over time, and after four weeks, I literally cannot stop my brain from working. It’s more than a muscle – it’s like feeding a pet that gets stronger and stronger and now all it wants to do is play fetch (and wow, what a bark!).

      This week, I’ll be doing 20 minutes everyday. It’s funny, because I look at the number 20 and feel like a pussy. 20 minutes???!! C’moooonnnn…but when you factor in the Creative Process, in that three out of the five steps in creativity occur away from the desk (i.e. when you’re not sitting down and writing out a joke), 20 minutes can become really, really powerful, because the right side of your brain continues to work and work and work when you step away. In a lot of ways, I’m writing for 35-40 minutes a day, because ideas are popping into my head all the time. Heck, this Drake vs. Puff Daddy joke I just posted was primarily written as I got ready for work!

      So, yeah, start with something small, something so small that even Pressfield’s Resistance can’t convince you not to do on a daily basis. Something I’ve realized lately is that you learn the path not be reading about it, but by walking it. That said, because we’re driven by nerdy things, there’s the knowledge often services primarily as a catalyst to get to the next level.

      Hey man, you’re made for this. Theatre background, compelling stage presence, AAAAAAND a visible minority!!! Dayuuuuuummmmnnn, son! Your Wikipedia page is already half-done!!!

      Most of all, you were born for greatness. WE were born for greatness.

      Talk to ya soon, Mr. Valedictorian, UofT Law. Can you believe that some people are proud of being the high school valedictorian? Jeez. 96% average in high school, eh? Oh yeah? Me? I did better than all of the people that got 96% in POST-GRADUATE LAW.

      Oops. what I meant to say is that look back at all of your previous achievements, and see that you have already outstripped yourself.

      Jagdeo

      • Haha thanks for the confidence boost Michael, although I should disclose that I was valedictorian because I was elected and not because of my marks! And I very much appreciate your solid and specific advice for creativity, that helps a great deal and I’m excited to try it out. Without that daily commitment it’s easy for months to slip by without doing anything. I went to watch an
        open mic on Friday; it was my first time venturing out again in 5 or 6 months, and it felt good. Feels good to be back on the wagon. I look forward to seeing you onstage bro!

        • Oh, now you’re just bragging! What you’re saying is that the people with the highest grades, the best of the best, said to themselves, ‘Nope! Lwam is the best AMONG US.’ You’re like the lawyer version of the warrior that is selected to represent an army in antiquity in single combat. I’m imagining you running out into battle screaming at the top of your lungs right now lmao…

          Anyhoo, I think I might be spouting PURE SHIT with regards to this ‘Let’s hold hands and devote miniscule amounts of time to comedy‘ thing. Hear me out on this one…

          Chris D’Elia, one of the very few comedians to really become a legit Headliner within seven years of starting, said on the Fighter and the Kid podcast last night that he got there by, ‘…obsessing about stand-up, getting on stage 3-4 times per day.’

          Perhaps we need to decide to stop nibbling around the edges, to stop investing time into our so-called passion like they’re actually our hobbies.

          On the other hand, maybe there’s a happy medium, in that the idea of the Serial Ritual (starting small and adding incrementally) is really a way for us to prepare ourselves to be ready for the commitment of getting on stage 2-4 times per night. Perhaps you start with one performance a week and then add one performance every subsequent week, or one night a week with two performances. I dunno…

          Let’s agree on this: at some point we have to be on stage 10 times a week. Or else we’ll just improve waaaaaay tooooo slowwwwllllyyyy.

          What do we really want in life? For what end do we toil? Answer that, determine what you’re willing to sacrifice, and git ‘er done.

          Honestly, I dunno. But it does worry me that I think that I’m on the road to becoming one of the best by investing very little time on stage.

          As always, we feel our way through the dark, but I guess the good news is that we need not fear it. Men have endured much more difficulties than we ever have. Cato slept with a sword and Plato’s text before attempting to take his own life. When physicians stitched him up, Cato renewed his efforts by ripping off the dressings and freeing his soul.

          Your fellow sherpa,

          Jagdeo

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