Passion Is for Amateurs. What to Focus on Instead.

Image via Lion King Wiki

Image via Lion King Wiki

“Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas.” – Paula Poundstone

16 months ago I left a great company, a company I loved, with the hope of doing something more with my career. I just turned 40. I was tired from being on the road so much. I wanted more time with my wife and kids. It was time for a change, but I didn’t know what was next.

So I read. A lot. Trying to find meaning. Looking for an authentic next step. Wanting to make the most of what is to be “the most successful decade of your career.”

And while I’m far from figuring it all out … (I mean, really, who am I to provide advice on finding your passion, purpose and path?) I did discover a few gems that have helped me tremendously and might help you, too.


Stop doing shit you hate.

You may remember being passionate about practically everything work-related when you were young. I know I do. But, as time goes on, it becomes harder to feel that corporate passion. Especially when nothing feels new. After all, you’re not saving lives. You’re not even saving pets’ lives.

Then Gary Vaynerchuk inspired me to replace the word “passion” with “strength.” This change in perspective changes everything. After that, I wasn’t stuck trying to find passion anymore and created a new plan where I let my strengths guide my decisions.

His message is simple and powerful: Stop doing shit you hate. Nail down your strengths so you can discover your passion.

Ryan Holiday takes the idea of passion one step further in his fantastic book called “The Ego Is the Enemy.” In it, he goes so far as to say you shouldn’t be passionate. Why? Because passion is too deeply rooted in emotion and clouds sound decision-making. Instead, leave passion for amateurs and focus on your purpose.

 

Relax, purpose is everywhere.

Do you ever wonder about your life’s purpose? Does it all come down to a single moment like it did for Simon Birch? Will you be ready for it? What if it never comes?  What if you never invent the next iPhone, cure cancer or land an HBO comedy special?

Then again, what if life isn’t about a single purpose, but rather many different purposes?

Love your partner. Be the best parent you can be. Help your clients succeed. Prioritize your health. Be of service to those in need. All of these are purposes in life.

In Ask the Aged, Karl Pillemer interviews the elderly and discovers that purpose comes down to this:

“The oldest Americans, most of whom also struggled with the question of purpose, tell you to relax. They say that you are likely to have a number of purposes, which will shift as you progress through life.”

Lead with your strengths. They will get you where you need to go. Purpose is everywhere.


There’s no such thing as the wrong career path.

I’ve always thought it’s okay to be on the wrong path, as long as you’re moving in the right direction. But what if there’s no such thing as the wrong career path?  

Turns out, it’s all stepping stones. Choose a goal and go. Anything. Just get moving. Neil Strauss does a fantastic job of explaining at the 36:15 mark. Fast-forward to that part in the interview and listen for 2 minutes. It’s worth it.

The best strategies are emergent. Your path up to this point hasn’t been predictable. It was made up of a series of small decisions. Forks in the road you will continue to encounter for the rest of your life.

I love this quote from Peter Sims’ “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries,” which shines a light on how we prevent ourselves from getting started on our own paths:

“One of the most commons things I hear people say is they would do something new—take an unconventional career path or start a company—but they need a great idea first. I learned that most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas—they discover them.”

 

“Not everything has to be okay. And that’s okay.”

Seth Godin's book “What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and It’s Always Your Turn)” has been a great inspiration to me in facing my fear of failure. His philosophies are:

“Fuck it, ship it.”

-AND-

“He who fails most, wins.”

He goes on to say nothing you do means anything until it interacts with the market. Until then, it’s as if there is no work. Like this blog post I’ve been sitting on for months now. I have to publish it.

No, it’s not perfect. But, for me, it represents a single authentic step forward. There's no simple way to quiet the noise in your head. Not everything has to be okay.

Maybe you’re sitting on imperfect work as well. Work that might change the entire trajectory of your career. Go ahead, ship it. I’d love to read it. Probably. At the very least, I’ll skim it. I’m kidding… send me a link. 

7 Hard-Hitting Questions for Pitch Lab Instructors RJ Owen & Joel Lutz!

Not RJ & JOEL

Not RJ & JOEL

There's no getting around it. We live in an unscripted world. If you mean to make an impression, you have to be able to think on your feet, hurl yourself into the moment and improvise. And like a great improv troupe, successful businesses must rely on similar tools to succeed.

We caught up with Pitch Lab’s own RJ Owen and Joel Lutz to ask them 7 important questions about their origin story, Dad jokes, and why you should sign up for their upcoming improv comedy workshop at General Assembly on June 5th. 

 

How did the two of you meet?

RJ: Joel and I were introduced when a pal of ours started a little breakfast club. We had a lot of similar interests and enjoyed riffing on each other’s jokes in conversation. Later when Jay and I put together the initial concept for Pitch Lab, I knew Joel would bring a lot of expertise from his perspective as an improv coach. It’s been great to collaborate with him.

Joel: What RJ said, except I had to beg him to be included in Pitch Lab.

Why isn’t there more love between improv comedians and stand-up comedians?

Joel: For the same reason Kanye doesn’t like Taylor Swift.  Artistic and crazy doesn’t mix well with corporate and cliché!… wait, am I allowed to say that?

What’s your favorite Dad joke?

RJ: Why did the chicken cross the road?  (Why)

To get to the ugly guy's house.

????

Knock knock (Who's there?)

It's the chicken!

Joel: A man walked into a bar… and fell down.

What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had on stage?

Joel: It was a 90-minute show for railroad workers and it was completely silent the entire time.  Well there was one moment where someone in the back murmured, “This is supposed to be funny? Can I get another beer?!”

Hooray, my work matters!

Everyone has a good app idea. What’s yours?  

Joel: Ummmmm… an app that gives me good ideas for apps!

How has improv helped you in your career?

RJ: I use improv skills every day. Improv’s focus on collaboration and building on each other’s ideas with principles like “Yes, And” are absolutely essential for getting the most out of anything we do collaboratively, and as a designer a lot of my creative ideas come this way.

Treating our team like an improv ensemble cast - where everyone wins or loses based on the success of the team and not any individual - also helps make our team a healthy place where everyone has a say and brings all of their creative energy to the table.

Lastly, we’re presenting to clients all the time. We use skills similar to improv comedians to connect with our “audience” and adjust our material on the fly to respond to their feedback or reactions.

Joel: Improv has helped reshape almost every part of my life. I have learned that how I react on stage to a suggestion or what another actor is offering, is very similar to how I respond in real life to challenges and obstacles.  

One of the best places I’ve found in life, is when I’m open to new opportunities and in a position to act so that I can capitalize on them in a meaningful way.  I believe improv can be a vehicle to incorporate these values/traits into one’s own life.

Why should I sign up for your improv workshop at General Assembly on Monday, June 5th?

RJ: You’re going to learn how to explore new creative ideas and unlock innovation (as buzz-wordy as that sounds) and you’re going to do it through a crazy fun improv workshop. Even really good professional development events are rarely as enjoyable as this one will be - don’t miss it!

Joel: If you sign up RJ will guarantee you a new job, and a Tesla! It’s pretty amazing!

Register now for Pitch Lab: How To Use Improv Comedy As A Tool For Creative Problem-Solving and get 25% off with the promo code 'pitchlab' courtesy of our friends at General Assembly!

RJ & Joel 

RJ & Joel 

Special Event ft. Ben Kronberg @ Thrive Workplace!

Pitch Lab @ Thrive WOrkplace 5/23/17

Pitch Lab @ Thrive WOrkplace 5/23/17

Pitch Lab: How To Be A More Engaging Speaker Using Stand Up Comedy ft. Ben Kronberg

by: Keefer Caid-Loos

What better way to kick off the summer than by hanging out with comedians and learning how to become a better speaker? Am I right?! Pitch Lab had an awesome workshop featuring Ben Kronberg recently. If you weren’t there, you missed out!

Ben is a stand-up comedian based out of New York. He headlines comedy clubs and festivals worldwide AND he has a hilarious Half Hour Comedy Special on Comedy Central!

Jay Mays, Jim Gaffigan & Ben Kronberg 

Jay Mays, Jim Gaffigan & Ben Kronberg 

Jay Mays, Pitch Lab Co-Founder, does an excellent job bringing the worlds of sales and comedy together to help professionals be more engaging speakers. Together, Ben and Jay offered valuable tips and tricks to improve your stage presence and connect better with the audience. 

Ben Flashing his Engagement Techniques

Ben Flashing his Engagement Techniques

The public speaking advice from Ben Kronberg was phenomenal. Attendees raved:

"Presenters of all experience levels can benefit from Pitch Lab. You can make your material more engaging, impactful, and memorable by using the simple techniques. So, teachers, sales people, managers, comics, and/or anyone who speaks to audiences—get your butt to Pitch Lab. Fun. Easy. Immediately useful."
-- Dan Leary, CEO, B9 Sales Ops
Chuck Aikens, Volume Nine CEO, Slinging Jokes

Chuck Aikens, Volume Nine CEO, Slinging Jokes

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects about Pitch Lab’s workshops is how interactive they are. The level of audience participation allows attendees to learn hands on.  Attendees like Chuck Aikens, Volume Nine CEO, had the opportunity to slay the crowd, while receiving actionable feedback on how to take their delivery and room command to the next level. 

That's me standing in the back with my arms crossed. What's up!

That's me standing in the back with my arms crossed. What's up!

My biggest takeaway from Pitch Lab’s workshop was that 93% of our communication comes from our voice, gestures, and tone. Projecting when you speak and utilizing pauses for dramatic effect play a more critical role in how people interpret what you say than I realized.

Pitch Lab has some exciting events coming up in the future. Be sure to RSVP to attend the next event: How to Use Improv Comedy as a Tool for Creative Problem-Solving! The event takes place on Monday, June 5th at General Assembly, WeWork LoHi. See you there! -- Keefer

Backstage post-show with cristian whitney, ben kronberg & jay mays!

Backstage post-show with cristian whitney, ben kronberg & jay mays!

How These Companies Used Storytelling to Succeed

Tim Shisler leading "Storytelling for Startups" @ The Commons on Champa

Tim Shisler leading "Storytelling for Startups" @ The Commons on Champa

The companies that succeed in storytelling are the same companies that succeed in sales and growth. The following three stories capture the audience, paint a story, and tie in the product pitch seamlessly. As you go to pitch your product or new service line, take some pointers from the videos below. 

Dollar Shave Club

The market for razor blades was over saturated at best, but Dollar Shave Club was able to break through the noise by using comedy and storytelling in their initial commercial. 

This simple but entertaining video only cost $4,500 but was able to build their business into a multi-million dollar empire. 

Poo Purri

Poo Purri's video is carefully crafted with storytelling in mind. Notice that they don't mention the product in the first full minute. Instead, they paint a clear picture of the problem, using humor to keep the audience engaged. 

Tesla

Elon Musk's pitch captures audience members and got the web buzzing after his Tesla Powerwall performance. His flow of presentation is carefully crafted, starting with the problem and urgency, before moving onto the possibilities-- before explaining how Tesla will get there. 

The three above videos are examples of companies using storytelling to gain awareness and trust. If you'd like to improve your storytelling for the betterment of your company, contact Pitch Lab. We host public and private events that can transform your pitches and speaking projects into compelling stories. 

What is the Fourth Wall?

At General Assembly with Tommy Y & Jay Mays (on his tiptoes, probably)

At General Assembly with Tommy Y & Jay Mays (on his tiptoes, probably)

This past week Pitch Lab hosted a workshop at General Assembly in which we learned about breaking the fourth wall. Since there were a few questions about the "Fourth Wall," I want share the definition and connect it with public speaking. 

The Fourth Wall Definition 

The formal definition of Fourth Wall is a theatrical term for the imaginary “wall” that exists between actors on stage and the audience. 

Obviously, no such wall really exists, but to keep up the illusion of theater, the actors pretend that they cannot hear or see the audience and the audience gets to enjoy the wonderful sensation of being a fly on the wall. The same effect often occurs in movies, only the fourth wall in that instance is a camera lens.

In some movies and television shows, actors purposely break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience. This happens in shows like Modern Family and The Office, when they conduct their interviews for the audience. Another example is Leonardo in The Wolf of Wall Street-- when his character confesses to the audience about how he ended up in his predicament. 

Image courtesy of the lovely & Talented @acting4sales

Image courtesy of the lovely & Talented @acting4sales

How Does this Apply to Public Speaking? 

As we learned, when commanding the room, break the Fourth Wall as many times as possible. This will keep everyone there with you in the moment and engaged in the experience. 

 

Jim Breaks The 4th Wall with his Whisper Voice

And since we talked about Jim Gaffigan, I want to share one of my favorite clips about cake! Notice what a great job he does changing perspectives and breaking the 4th wall through the use of his "whisper voice."

To learn more about breaking the fourth wall during your public speaking events or pitches, contact Pitch Lab. We can give your group a customized learning session and help them be more engaging speakers. 

 

Pitching Meat Water @ Galvanize -- Platte St.

Our Topic: MEAT WATER!

Pitch Lab Meat Water

 

OUR EXPERT PANEL

Tommy y, heidi mcguire, joel lutz & rj owen

Tommy y, heidi mcguire, joel lutz & rj owen

OUR FAVORITE PART

Pitch Lab presenters posed as eco-friendly, animal-loving entrepreneurs. Their innovation is a recipe for an all-natural, organic protein drink, named Meat Water.

Livestock farming is destroying our environment. Meat Water solves this dilemma by extracting protein from animals while they are still alive, via osmosis. Sure soaking cows for protein is gross, but think of Mother Earth! 

We had a blast. And THE MEAT PUNS WERE PLENTIFUL... SO MANY MEAT PUNS! 

  • "Pleased to Meat you"
  • "Meat the press"
  • "Join us on Meatup"

 

WHAT OUR PRESENTERS SAID

Gregory K. Hernandez

"Pitch Lab is a great group to hang-out with after work. Are you way too serious in your presentations? They can fix that. Are you way too casual? They can help you tighten-up your message. Be brave, you can do this!”

-- Gregory K. Hernandez, Speaker |  Author of Refining Moments


Taylor Gunn

“Pitch Lab is fantastic! It is rare to receive direct feedback from experts on your stage presence, storytelling, and voice command. Pitch Lab provides all of this, not to mention tons of great laughs!!!”

-- Taylor Gunn, Lead Economist, CoBank | Cool Guy with a Cool Name

 

WHAT WE LEARNED

andrew bueno's weapon of choice

andrew bueno's weapon of choice

Denver treasure, Andrew Bueno, closed out the evening with his hilarious take on the meat water pitch then answered audience questions on how to be a more engaging speaker. 

We also learned The importance of moving with purpose on stage. Not pacing back and forth because of anxiety or obligation, but movement to support your words. Check out two of our favorite strategies.

 

BIG THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR

General Assembly

Pitch Lab is proud to partner with General Assembly for a unique Delivery Workshop on February 27, 2017: How To Turn Your Pitch Into A Blockbuster Using Stand Up Comedy

Pitch Lab Invades Startup Denver’s Pitch Battle @ The Garage

The Garage, Arapahoe Street, downtown Denver  

STARTUPS

Brian Timmons, Topbox (1st place winner)
Devin Eldridge, Stow.io
Cameron Smith, Squirrel Box Storage
William Loopesko, GoPawsible

JUDGES

Anthony Franco, CEO of McSquares and Investor
Cory Finney, Boomtown Boulder

OUR FAVORITE PART

Mike Kilcoyne, Co-Founder of Startup Denver, invited Pitch Lab to participate in Pitch Battle in a most Nathan For You kind of way. He asked if Tommy Y (veteran comic and Pitch Lab delivery coach) would join their stellar lineup as a ringer.

Of course we were totally on-board, and Tommy played the part of a zoo-advocate turned entrepreneur pitching his latest development, Growl Energy Drinks for Zoo Animals

Tommy was the third presenter of the evening and masterfully argued that hopping zoo animals up on his all-natural, organic energy drinks would make zoos more exciting and better equipped to compete for the beloved family-entertainment dollar. 

The audience wasn’t in on the joke, and clearly confused at first, but about half way through the pitch when Tommy explained Growl comes in 2 great flavors: Carnivore & Herbivore, the laughs began. Tommy crushed it and had the crowd roaring by the end. 

During investor Q&A Tommy was asked how he got the idea for Growl Energy Drinks. He admitted he was up way too late one night watching documentary about koalas getting drunk off of expired figs when inspiration struck! 

The Mastermind behind the event

The Mastermind behind the event

BIG THANKS TO STARTUP DENVER

We had a blast at Pitch Battle, combining the seemingly disparate worlds of comedy and business to help the Denver start-up community find its funny. 

Catch the next Pitch Battle by joining Startup Denver on Meetup

Or if you are an entrepreneur that wants to pitch your startup, sign up here 

*And thank you to Jim Darling for taking these dope photos!

Rx Windshields @ Galvanize – Platte St.

Our Topic

Our Favorite Part

JD Lopez, comedian & producer of Left Hand, Right Brain Podcast played the part of an optometrist entrepreneur and taught us that sometimes the difference between a loser (Clark Kent) and a hero (Superman) is merely a pair of glasses. Hence the unbridled powers of his “prescription windshields” business plan! 

After his mock pitch, JD opened up about vulnerability on stage an acknowledged that some things that take away from your performance can’t be controlled. What can be controlled is how you react to them.

JD then spoke to the necessity of sticking to your guns during a set/pitch and the importance of keep moving forward with confidence no matter what, because with patience your material will eventually get the audience back on your side. 

WHAT FOLKS SAID

First-timer Gregory Hernandez, Author & Speaker, stopped by the show and shared his thoughts on our event and the realization that as a leader or sales professional you are on stage and life is a constant audition.

Read his awesome writeup, Send in the Clowns!

What We Learned

20 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills

BIG THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS

Ratio Beerworks: Our fans appreciate you almost more than we do! 

Why Pitches Fall Apart & 5 Tips To Make Sure Yours Doesn't @ General Assembly!

OUR TOPIC

Storytelling Workshop: Why Pitches Fall Apart & 5 Tips To Make Sure Yours Doesn’t

OUR INSTRUCTOR

Led by storytelling expert, Tim Shisler, who works with a number of accelerator programs including Techstars Boulder, Galvanize, Travelport Labs and Catalyze CU. 

Tim's professional speaking experience includes TEDxBoulder, Ignite Boulder, Society of American Travel Writers Global Convention and TBEX workshops.

WHAT WE LEARNED

Great pitches, the ones that lead to action, are constructed in a way that brings together the human need to ‘fight or flight’, with an actionable solution.

We dove into the science of storytelling and why the hero's journey is more than just a Hollywood structure:

TAKEAWAYS

  • A storytelling framework to understand why stories work and how to improve yours
  • Techniques on how to quickly connect and form a trusting relationship with audiences
  • Actionable feedback on how to improve your delivery and room command

 

Energy Drinks for Zoo Animals @ Galvanize – Golden Triangle

Jay Mays kicking the night off

Jay Mays kicking the night off

Our Topic

Energy drinks for zoo animals.

OUR FAVORITE PART

Daniel Reskin, stand up comedian and producer Casa De Haha, played the part of an animal-loving zoo advocate and entrepreneur pitching his all-natural energy drink for zoo animals.

After his killer pitch we opened up audience Q&A and the discussion quickly turned to tips on preventing nerves before a big show.

Daniel pointed out that anxiety and fear are not the enemy and are actually a powerful tool to be used on stage to give you an edge. He reminded us of the quote,

it’s not about getting rid of the butterflies but getting them to fly in formation.
— Daniel Reskin

What Folks Said

I was nervous going into my presentation at Pitch Lab because I’d never been a part of anything like this, but the experience was both fun and encouraging. The instructions about how to prepare were clear, the audience was friendly, and the professionals providing critique were genuinely interested in helping me become a better public speaker. Pitch Lab somehow created an enjoyable way to practice public speaking.
— Jackie, Whole Foods Team Member
Most of us rarely get to practice public speaking, let alone actually get good at it! Pitch Lab literally gave me the opportunity to give a pitch to a panel of professionals and a listening audience who gave me valuable feedback on what I did well and what I could do to improve. Thanks to the Pitch Lab team for putting together such a wonderful experience!
— Christian, Co-founder Highlanders Toastmasters Club

WHAT WE LEARNED

10 Lessons from Standup Comedy to Make You a Better Speaker

Big Thanks to Our Sponsors

We’re proud to partner with General Assembly for our first interactive Storytelling Workshop on November 14, 2016: Why Pitches Fail & 5 Tips To Make Sure Yours Doesn’t


And also…
Galvanize
321 Media Productions
OpsAnaliticia
Universal Mind
Mozman Sales Consulting