Posts Tagged ‘lessons’

A Test Of Stamina

December 6, 2013

Tuesday December 3rd, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

One of the most memorable lessons my grandfather ever taught me has been on my mind in the last few days. I was probably around ten years old, and I did something to really piss Gramps off. I can’t remember now what I did, but it was as angry as I can ever remember him getting at me.

As my punishment, he went over to his work bench area of the basement which looked like the pilot episode for the TV show ‘Hoarders’ and he filled several old coffee cans with an assortment of randomly collected nuts, bolts and washers. Then he cleared off a space on a big wooden table a few feet away, and dumped everything into a big pile. Then he told me to start sorting it all out.

I was to put the washers in one coffee can, the nuts in another and the bolts in a third. Any and all other things I found like screws, nails or hinges were to be sorted out as well and put in a pile to be separated into cans later. I could tell it wasn’t a joke to him, so I didn’t try arguing my case.

I lowered my head and went to work. He wouldn’t let me have a TV or radio on, and for about the first half hour or so he stood there without saying a word and watched me so I wouldn’t slack off. I was intimidated for the first several minutes, as he’d never done anything like that before.

All kinds of questions were going through my head, but Gramps wasn’t about to let me off the hook and I knew it. I don’t know how I knew it, but I did. And at that moment, I decided I’d not let the situation get the best of me and I made up my mind I would stand there as long as it took.

That could have been an hour, a whole day, a week or ten years. I made up in my mind I would not cry, bitch, try to weasel my way out of anything or quit. I really had no choice, as he was five feet away watching my every move. He was in the driver’s seat, but I wasn’t going to let him get the best of me. I put everything I had into that moment, and nothing else in the world mattered.

I can remember Grandma calling us to dinner, but Gramps never told her what was going on. It was odd to see Grandma in a good mood and Gramps pissed off, as it usually was the other way around. We finished eating, and Gramps and I went back to the basement where I kept on sorting until I went to bed. I actually finished off the first load, and he had to go back and make another.

Sure enough, I got up the next morning and I was told to go right back and start working again. I did it for probably an hour, and Gramps came over and told me I’d had enough. He lectured me about making better decisions, and warned me if I screwed up again I’d have to keep doing this.

It was years later until we talked about this incident again. “You stubborn bastard, you totally took me by surprise,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d just shut up and do it. I expected a couple of minutes tops, then we’d talk it out. You wouldn’t back down, so I wanted to test your stamina.”

We laughed about it then, but it wasn’t funny at the time. I was backed into a corner, and chose to not let anything defeat me. I sucked it up and did what I needed to do – pleasant or not. That is exactly the same position I find myself in today. I’ve had all kinds of piles to sort out of late, and it reminds me of those nuts and bolts. If I can get it in my head I’m going to just plow through as much as life can give me, I’ll be ok. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s the only way to win.

My grandfather wanted to teach me a lesson, but we both ended up learning something. Focus gets results.

My grandfather wanted to teach me a lesson, but we both ended up learning something. Intense focus on anything does achieve results.

The 'University of Gramps' during my childhood had many unorthodox courses, but the lessons I learned last to this day.

The ‘University of Gramps’ throughout my childhood had many unorthodox courses, but the lessons I learned stay with me to this day.

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The Maxwell Method

June 7, 2013

Thursday June 6th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Above all else in life, it is of the ultimate importance to me to be a quality person. A few would swear that I am in the final four of the ‘Guess the Antichrist’ tournament, but it’s only a few. I’ve never claimed to be perfect or even close, but when it’s all over I’d like to be remembered for the good I did and the happiness I spread to as many as humanly possible. It’s all that matters to me.

   One of the few things in my power that I can do that I think may have any kind of lasting effect at all in a positive way is to catalog and pass along all the painful lessons I’ve learned during my decades in the entertainment jungle. Hopefully it can help dented cans who have yet to be born to have some kind of a map to follow in the pursuit of their dreams. I had little help in my corner.

   I shudder to think what I could have been had I made better decisions, but it’s much too late to change paths now. I chose what I chose and did what I did, and now here I sit with the results. It doesn’t mean I’ll never catch a break, but I sure did take a long way around. I screwed the pooch.

   The most positive action in my situation is to freely list all the stupid mistakes I made, hoping I can help others who are coming down the pike for years to come. I know I’m not the first idiot to misplay his cards, and that coupled with some rotten breaks has put me deep into the trick bag of life. It could and probably should have been a much smoother ride, but it played out how it did.

   I started another blog about six months ago that has a growing number of articles that will help anyone who may be interested in attempting standup comedy either now or in the future. There’s a lot of practical and timeless information, and I know it can be of tremendous help to beginners.

   I call my program “The Maxwell Method of Standup Comedy”, and I am offering these articles at zero cost as my gift to the universe at http://maxwellmethodcomedy.wordpress.com/. I wanted to plant some positive seeds that will hopefully produce trees that will give shade long after I am gone. It’s the old theory of “teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.” That’s my goal here.

   I sure haven’t made much of an impact in the comedy world. I’ve managed to squeak out a tiny living for decades, but that’s about it. I’m considered a journeyman at best, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about. I totally do. Every last lesson I’ve learned – I’ve EARNED.

   Maybe that was my purpose, and it’s all I can give. I’ve taken some big hits in my life, and I’ve learned some excruciating lessons on many subjects. I know well of what I speak, and if anybody is even halfway smart they’ll study what I have to say and if nothing else do the exact opposite.

   I’m in one of those frustrated artistic moods lately that makes me feel as if nothing I’ve done in my professional existence is or ever has been worth a flea fart. I don’t feel very funny and I don’t even feel like I’m a skilled writer. What I do know is what I am talking about is the correct info.

   I do have passion about standup comedy. I love to create, perform and teach it – even though at this time I still haven’t broken through to a level of recognition I know I have in me. I know I’ve got some natural ability, but I don’t feel even close to have discovered how to construct a career.

   If I’m supposed to learn a lesson from it I’m failing miserably. I’m highly annoyed, and it feels as if all I’m doing is losing valuable time. I was on a roll the last couple of days and cranked out four solid articles. I have a lot more to say, so hopefully somebody can learn something useful.