Stuart: Recently, a friend wrote me out of the blue: “I liked your last issue so much, I read it twice. It really helped me rethink how to approach a very important client. Best of all, it worked!”
It meant a great deal to hear, so we set up a time to continue the conversation. His thoughtful note reminded me just how important it is to connect with people in your support network—people that welcome your feedback, your ideas, your life philosophy—and openly reciprocate. The power of community is critical.
Whether you’re a startup co-founder, a professional rising in the ranks, or a passionate advocate garnering support for your non-profit, we know it can be lonely out there. That’s why it’s so important to have (or build) a solid support structure—family, friends, a business partner, or someone extra furry like the Chief Walker of the Woods at Pitch DNA—my boy, Buck.
I know for both auGi and me, our Pitch DNA journey would be far less fulfilling (auGi: and a helluva lot harder), if we didn’t have each other as friends and business partners. Since we first started working together 17 years ago we’ve shared the ups AND the downs, the goods AND the bads, the victories AND the total fails.
auGi: We really, really understand the hard times because we lived through the crucible of stand-up comedy.
For two years, Stu and I traveled together across Southern California performing at every location with a stage. Stu had a head start on me, so he was able to garner some decent laughs. Me? I was lucky to land a single “Ugh.”
One night, while Stu and I were crammed together with dozens of other performers in a sweaty, cacophonous, box-sized coffee shop, where everyone was desperately vying for 5-minutes of stage time, I encountered my first heckler. (In case you haven’t heard the term, a heckler is basically an internet troll, but in the flesh).
I had no clue how to handle him. Double “Ugh!”
Worst of all, the guy was plastered. Every time I attempted to do a bit, he’d make a sound like Jabba the Hutt grunting “Booka chooka bunka plunka.” His relentless disruptions nearly paralyzed me. I worked through the end of my bits (i.e., jokes/stories/a bad impersonation of Yoda), but I never regained my momentum.
I walked off stage completely crushed.
This is something I recommend everyone do after any pitch, presentation, or keynote talk...
Following every show, Stu and I recapped each other’s performance. During these sessions, we’d share notes about our sets: what worked, what tanked, suggestions on how to punch up a joke or story, and yes, even how to manage a heckler.
“Next time some dude like that starts going after you,” Stu calmly said, “just mirror them back.”
“Waddya mean, ‘mirror’?”
“When he goes, ‘Booka chooka bunka plunka,’ you fire back ‘Booka chooka bunka plunka.’”
(I’m sorry we don’t have audio of that moment because Stu’s Jabba impression is priceless)
“So, just to be clear,” I laughed, "I go back at him with ‘Booka chooka bunka plunka’?”
“Yup,” Stu finished. “It will shut down the heckler and win the audience over to your side.”
In that moment, Stu’s hard-earned wisdom, combined with his empathy and friendship, completely turned my night around.
I went from “Stand-up sucks and I wish I was dead,” to “Ok. So I got heckled. Big deal. I can do this.”
Celebrating wins with someone close is definitely a joy. But we’ve also discovered, through the many trials and tribulations of our careers, it’s far more important to get support when things are tough.
Put another way: as I learned during my improv adventures at The Second City, “There are no failures. Only opportunities.”
OUR FINAL WORDS
Friends don’t let friends get Booka chooka bunka plunka’d.
Whether you’re launching your first startup, writing a book, prepping for your 100th keynote, investing in Elon Musk’s next magical mystery machine, or about to perform at your first open mic, find people you can trust, who believe in you, who aren’t afraid to be totally frank with you. Even if it’s just Mom, it’s a heckuva lot easier (and way more fulfilling) to share the ride with others.
Thanks for being the difference makers and change agents in our community. (Now, there’s your 15-cent terms of the day!) We’re so glad to be on this journey together.