When I talk to comedians about the state of their career and how they can take it to the next level, one of the first things I try to assess is why they’re struggling to get where they want to go.
In many cases, they need a better understanding of how to use all the tools at their disposal to grow their fanbase and further their career – something I’m always happy to help with.
But too often, what they need goes beyond a business and marketing strategy. What they actually need, first and foremost, is to conquer the fear of failure that prevents them from success.
It’s incredibly easy to paralyze your career with your own fear of failure. I see it happen all the time – your fear of failure prevents you from doing the things you ultimately need to do to succeed.
Have you ever heard comics say things like this?
“I don’t write a blog because nobody’s going to read it anyway.”
“I don’t want to put any videos on YouTube, because what if it makes me look bad?”
“I block all the negative comments on my videos and website, because I don’t want other people to see bad things about me.”
“I quit Twitter because it’s too tough to deal with all the haters on there.” (see: Jay Mohr)
“I don’t want to produce my own live show, because what if nobody comes?”
These comments (and countless others like them) are made by people whose fear of failure is dictating their career.
Who cares if “nobody” reads your blog initially? The only way to guarantee that nobody reads your blog is to not write one.
You’re not going to put something you don’t think is funny on YouTube, so why would you let your fear of a negative comment prevent you from sharing material that you truly believe is funny? And can you ever really know if something is funny if you don’t put it out there?
You can never know if a joke actually works until you tell it to a crowd – would you not tell it because you’re afraid people will think you’re bad if you do?
Comedy is inherently subjective – the chances are there will be just as many people that don’t like what you do as there are that enjoy it. Not everybody loves Chris Rock. And not everybody hates Dane Cook.
A fear of failure also extends to the promotion of your creations. The vast majority of comedians I know do little to nothing when it comes to promoting their creations (beyond the occasional Facebook or Twitter update), and they actively try to avoid promoting their work because they mistakenly believe that “promoting” somehow makes them less of an “artist.”
This isn’t remotely true. If you hate promoting yourself and your work it’s not because you’re an artist, it’s because you’re afraid.
When you create something as a comedian, you do so because you believe other people will be entertained by it, will relate to it, or will be engaged by it. You inherently believe that your creations provide value to people.
Therefore, you would think you would want to expose as many people as possible to your creation – not for your own benefit, but for theirs. You created something of value, and you want to share that value with them. This is what promotion is – you just probably don’t think of it that way.
So, assuming you believe your creations have value, then why do you refuse (or avoid) trying to share that value with an audience?
It’s likely because your fear of failure is once again getting in the way.
Do questions like these sound familiar?
“What if people don’t like my video?”
“Won’t I seem like a spammer if I’m promoting my stuff?”
“If it’s good, people will just find it on their own, won’t they?”
“Don’t lots of comics make it without ever promoting their own stuff?”
“Can’t I just be a comedian? Why do I have to be a businessman?”
These questions are excuses to justify not promoting your creations because you’re afraid that people may not enjoy what you created. Sure, not everybody is going to see the value you hoped to create, but it’s likely that some people will – and those are the people you should care about.
You shouldn’t create anything you don’t believe is good. And you shouldn’t be afraid to tell the world about something you created that is good. Because if you don’t work to make sure as many people as possible are exposed to it, you’re not going to have a career.
Don’t let your fear of failure prevent you from having the career you desire. Unfortunately, too many comedians do.