Nick Offerman's Secret to Success

Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

Chasing success can be grueling.

 

Some nights I go to bed victorious. 

 

Some days I feel like I came up short... as an entrepreneur, a husband or a Dad.

 

But we’re harder on ourselves than anyone else is. 

 

In the midst of it all, are we taking enough time to enjoy what we have right now? Even though we haven’t hit these arbitrary goals we’ve put on ourselves? 

 

In this 2-minute video, Nick Offerman talks about how he was able to remain patient and happy while waiting for his big break on Parks and Recreation. 

  

After watching this video I thought about how much of my own happiness I’m withholding until after I’ve “made it”. 

  

I hope it also inspires you to take some time for yourself this summer and put happiness first. 

 

Wishing you lots of success… and the patience to get there. 

Before his big break on the hit TV show 'Parks and Recreation', Nick Offerman spent 16 years as a struggling actor. Here's what that challenging time taught the star about happiness and patience.

5 Stand-Up Comedy Tips to Be a Better Public Speaker!

My dream has been to one day get Pitch Lab into a comedy club.

It’s taken years.

Voodoo TEDx Pitch Lab

You see, the comedy stage is where I overcame my fear of public speaking.

When I first began using the techniques I learned as a stand-up comedian: authenticity, vulnerability & breaking the 4th wall — not only did my presentations improve, but I started building real connections.

And beat my stage fright.

Jay Voodoo TEDx Pitch Lab

What we’ve learned at Pitch Lab over the years is most of our attendees have one thing in common:

The fear of public speaking prevents them from landing their dream job, getting the promotion they deserve, or helping their team succeed.

Voodoo TEDx Pitch Lab Comedy Karaoke

That’s why partnering with TEDxMileHigh Adventures & Voodoo Comedy Playhouse to give back to Denver has been a highlight of our journey so far.

Voodoo TEDx Pitch Lab Daniel Reskin

Want the Top 5 tips we shared to build better relationships, differentiate from the competition and win more clients?

 
Voodoo TEDx Pitch Lab Crowd Shot

David Letterman's Top 5 Leadership Lessons!

Image via CBS/Worldwide Pants

Image via CBS/Worldwide Pants

Conan O’Brien calls David Letterman “the North Star” for comedians of his generation.

John Stewart describes him as an “epiphany.”

Jimmy Kimmel says Letterman was more important to him than sleep, and he refers to Dave as “my Jesus.” 

Even if you didn’t watch late-night television throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s (back when DVRs didn’t exist), you knew Letterman. 

His biting ironic voice has become pervasive in popular culture, but you can’t truly appreciate the tumultuous rise to fame and notoriety of this weatherman from Indiana until you read his biography, “The Last Giant of Late Night” by Jason Zinoman.

Before we jump in… I get it. The irony isn’t lost on me that Letterman is famous for his Top-10 lists.

But let’s face it, you’re busy, I’m busy, so a Top 5 list it is:

1 – Surround yourself with people who are more talented than you

Especially those who compliment your skill set.

Letterman understood the power of collaborating with talented writers who value one another’s strengths rather than being intimidated by them.

In the early days of his talk show, all the greatest jokes and bits were not Dave’s at all; they were Merrill Markoe’s.

IMAGE VIA  MERrILL MARKOE

IMAGE VIA MERrILL MARKOE

Merrill was a fantastic writer who didn’t love the stage. Dave always excelled at comedic timing, delivery and crowd work.

Together they were unstoppable. 

Markoe was Letterman‘s critical collaborator for the formative years of his television career, creating many essential parts of the show, including the famous “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment

“The show has always been somebody else’s voice. I have ultimate veto, but I haven’t had an idea since I was eleven, really. My viability as a creative voice is limited.”

– David Letterman 

   

2 – Know your strengths and play to them

Throughout his career, Letterman tried standup, hosting game shows, acting and even dancing. 

In 1979, he was offered the lead in Airplane!.

Playing aloof fighter pilot Ted Striker seemed like an apt fit for Letterman’s arched-eyebrow sensibility. But he wasn’t just relieved when he didn’t get the part; he was actually happy. 

In his cameo as an obnoxious motivational speaker on Mork & Mindy, you can practically see the discomfort dripping off Letterman (though the leisure suit might shoulder some of the blame).

He knew when he was in a role that was inauthentic to his skill set and said “I’ll never try that again.”

And he never did.

Letterman understood he was happier by showcasing his strengths compared to struggling through his less proficient talents.

 

3 – Embrace improvisation 

Letterman was a host at heart and loved crowd work.

The Late Show began exploiting these strengths with man-on-the-street interviews, impromptu calls to a woman working across the street from his studio and of course his playful banter with Paul Schafer.

One of the core tenants of improv comedy is “Yes, And.” The underlining principle being that you can innovate faster by affirming and building on ideas rather than shutting your teammates down.

Letterman knew that even bad ideas can be a bridge to better ideas. The team at Late Night always saw mishaps as opportunities.

Chaos wasn’t something to eliminate but rather something to relish in.

Letterman was light on his feet and able to break the fourth wall by adding an element of self-awareness. 

When a microphone didn’t work, Letterman would enter the picture, “You know, ladies and gentlemen, what you have witnessed is a screw-up.”

Some of the show’s greatest comedy came through improvisation. Letterman, like all great improvisers, knows that going off script often leads to magic. 

 

4 – Stand for something

Letterman’s entire career was about embracing his role as the underdog. 

He was anti-authority, anti-Hollywood, anti-TV and in some baffling interviews even anti-guest.

His audience loved him for it, and Letterman became one of the most fully realized characters on television—a beloved crank who was off-putting and entirely his own.

When pop star Billy Idol appeared as a guest on Late Night—with his black leather jacket, shock of white spiky hair and a playful scowl—he told Letterman that his songs were so popular that drug dealers were naming their products after them.  

Letterman injected some antagonism into the exchange and sneered, “You must be a very proud young man.”

Great comedians take a stand even if it’s divisive or polarizing. It’s taking a stand that creates love or hate. It’s taking a stand that forges fanaticism. It’s taking a stand that develops traction. 

Letterman wasn’t interested in lukewarm affinity.

He chose to be loved by a very passionate group of people who respected that he stood for something, and he was willing to risk being hated by some in the process. 

“You got a show and don’t have an opinion: What does that make you?”

– David Letterman 

 

5 – Celebrate your team’s wins along the way (sadly, Dave seldom did)

Letterman's gap-toothed grin was a welcome sight in homes across the nation from 1982-2015. Still, he was hardly a barrel of laughs off the air.

Those who worked with him say they knew a different man: an insecure hypochondriac whose fiery temper scared away many of those close to him.

For someone who started out as a no-name weatherman in Indiana, Letterman had plenty of career touchstones to feel good about.

He won numerous Emmy Awards. His idol, Johnny Carson, acknowledged that he was the rightful heir to the Tonight Show, and he was ultimately crowned the King of Late Night. 

The irony: Letterman was miserable even when his ratings put his show at No. 1. 

His self-criticism was reflexive and incessant. He was never truly comfortable unless he was seething with unhappiness.

When it comes to culture, it is said the fish rots from the head down.

Letterman seldom allowed himself to acknowledge the wins he and his team accomplished along the way, creating a toxic work environment ruled by anxiety and fear.

Nor did he care the effect his poor leadership had on his team. 

“This is a shitty place to work, but it will look good on your resume. Here’s a lollipop.”

– David Letterman 

Thank you and goodnight.

Letterman’s success and influence are built on pillars that we can all use to up our game at work.

We can also pay attention to his failings and avoid the pitfalls that come with the whirlwind of next-level success. 

You can still see the influence of David Letterman everywhere.

When James Corden shoots an entire episode in a stranger’s house or when Jimmy Fallon conducts an interview on helium or when Billy Eichner interacts with an unsuspecting passerby on the street, they are all walking in Letterman’s footsteps. 

Now, imagine what he could have accomplished with the right team culture behind the curtain.

# # #

The Last Giant of Late Night Jason Zinoman

If you like this post, you’ll love Letterman’s biography, “The Last Giant of Late Night” by Jason Zinoman.

“Jason Zinoman’s writing is unbelievable, folks. The Smithsonian has already phoned and said they want a copy of his book for their time capsule. Stay home from work, and keep the kids home from school. History is being made.”

– David Letterman 

"I'm Not Joking" with Dr. Peter McGraw!

I'm Not Joking Podcast

About The “I’m Not Joking” Podcast

Glimpse into the lives of comedians, improvisers, comedy writers, and other funny people from business, science, and the arts. Host Dr. Peter McGraw sits down with funny people for a wide-ranging discussion of their habits, motivations, and secrets to success.

Dr. Peter McGraw & Jay Mays After a Podcast Well Done

Dr. Peter McGraw & Jay Mays After a Podcast Well Done

Engaging Speaking with Pitch Lab!

This week’s episode features Jay Mays of Pitch Lab (hey, that’s me!)

Every now and again you collaborate with someone that motivates you to take your work to the next level.

For me this is Dr. Peter McGraw: author of The Humor Code, TEDx Speaker & Professor of Marketing & Psychology at CU Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

I had a blast on “I’m Not Joking” talking stand-up comedy, sales and the joke Demetri Martin stole from me:

DPM: What were your go-to jokes as a restaurant server?

JM: Anytime a guest said “there’s a crack in my glass,” I would say, “I’ll be right back with a straw.”

DPM: <Laughs>

Another fun one was when a guest would say “We need more butter.” I’d put one pat of butter in my bare hand, and another pat of butter on a plate hidden behind my back.

When I returned to the table I’d say, “Here’s your butter” and show them the butter sitting in my hand.

It was gross and they’d look at it very confused, and then after a beat I’d pull the butter on the plate out from behind my back and smile, “Just kidding.”

DPM: That would get a big laugh?

JM: Yes! Did you see Demetri Martin’s new one on Netflix?

DPM: I haven’t seen it. Netflix is pushing that one on me hardcore, but I haven’t watched it.

JM: I like Demetri. He’s a cleaner, more accessible Ben Kronberg with his one-liners.

DPM: <Laughs> Hold on! That’s super funny to me, I’m not sure that would be funny to anyone else… because I know Ben and you work with Ben.

JM: Ben’s one of my favorite comedians but he’s not always accessible to the mainstream. Demetri Martin has a joke at the end of his special about a waiter touching his food. I was like, “Aaaah! I’ve used that joke for years. It’s my joke!

Jay Mays &amp; Dr. McGraw Acting Natural for a Very Staged Photo

Jay Mays & Dr. McGraw Acting Natural for a Very Staged Photo

Big thanks to Dr. McGraw for the podcast love! Give it a listen, I promise it’ll put a smile on your face during on your next horrific commute.

Don’t have the time? Well you’re in luck! Click here to skim the transcript and feel like you got the gist!

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

Three years ago I left a company I loved, with the hope of doing something more with my career.

I had just turned 40. I was tired from being on the road so much. I wanted more time with my family. 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 did discover a few gems that have helped me tremendously and will hopefully 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 star in a movie with Chris Pratt?

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 Sales Superstitions and Why Your Team Believes in Them

Voodoo Salesman Pitch Lab

We’ve all been there; you have the opportunity to pitch your dream client.

You take your time during discovery. You gain access to all the decision-makers. You expertly differentiate from the competition. The numbers make sense. Your entire team rallies around the pitch—and you crush it.

But then… nothing. Your dream client goes dark.

Not long after comes the “no.” And it’s over. There’s little consolation. No second prize for “Closed Lost” in Salesforce. 

 

Sales Is Full of Uncertainty

That’s the thing with sales. Even when you work hard and do everything right, sometimes it feels like winning needs a pinch of luck.

So we try to capture that luck. Manufacture that luck.

The belief that we can win is what keeps the wind in our sails, even though deep down we know we can’t control the outcome.

But science shows us that the feeling of control, even an illusory feeling of control, can reduce stress and thereby increase performance. 

 

Why Superstitions Work

Superstitions help us because they provide a feeling of control, and that feeling of control actually helps your salespeople perform better under pressure.

I’ve had my own rituals throughout my career and started to wonder, does everyone? So I asked my favorite salespeople that I’ve worked with over the years, and here’s what they had to say about superstitions:

 

“I NEVER celebrate a verbal close or tell my CEO a deal is done until I get final signature from my client.”

– Patrick M., Pandora  


“We all have reps on our teams that consistently sandbag. Some of my most senior reps still refuse to tell me when they had a good meeting or even move a deal to a higher percentage in Salesforce for fear of jinxing the momentum.”

– Austin L., Smaato


“I once had a building in my territory in SoHo where I literally lost every single deal. It was my Temple of Doom. After a while, I determined the entire building was jinxed and never set foot in there again.”

– Daniel E., Konica Minolta


“I have a lucky business card holder. I used it so much the button broke and wouldn’t clasp, but I still rocked it for years.”

– Ed G., Pabst Brewing


“I’ll never duplicate and reuse a proposal from a previous ‘Closed Lost’ opportunity.”

– Antonia M., IKE GPS


“I have one special mug I'll drink coffee from in the morning if I have a big meeting with a new client or if I’m negotiating a house that day.”

– Ana W., Keller Williams


“I always wear a blue shirt if I’m closing a piece of business and if I know there’s a cattle-call pitch that lasts the whole day, 12 noon is my lucky time slot. (Also, it doesn’t hurt to bring the client lunch with heavy carbs so they slip into a food coma while listening to your competitors’ afternoon pitches!)

– Mike H., iHeartRadio


Getting Lucky Takes Work

If rituals and superstitions provide you a feeling of control, by all means, use them to combat the stress that comes with the territory (pun intended).

sales superstitions

We all welcome a pinch of luck. Unfortunately, it’s not predictable, repeatable or scalable. An even better strategy to feel in control is to develop a winning sales approach.

Lucky for you, Pitch Lab returns to General Assembly on November 6th for our next workshop: Every Great Sales Team Needs A Great Strategy. Here’s Yours.

You’ll leave with insight on how to ask the right questions to understand client motivation, differentiate yourself from the competition and close the right deals. 

Contact us to learn more about how Pitch Lab can help your sales team.

Until then, good luck… I mean, break a leg! 

Make A Good Decision For Once At Your Office Holiday Party!

spike the punch Pitch Lab Corporate Event

The holidays are full of cheer, let them be full of laughs too!

Make a good decision for once at your company’s holiday party and host a Pitch Lab improv comedy workshop!

This year give your team the gift of creativity, communication and collaboration!

Improv comedy is our clients’ favorite team building activity because it’s the quickest way to build empathy, authenticity and vulnerability.

And in today’s workplace these qualities are no longer nice to have — they are paramount.

Through improv comedy your team will:

  • Understand how to be more creative using “Yes, And”

  • Learn to be present, connected, and fully engaged in their communication

  • Embrace a collaborative team culture 

  • Adapt positively to change and be open to new ideas

Find Out How Pitch Lab Has Helped Companies Like Yours:

“The workshop was even more fun than I expected. I’ve already seen positive outcomes in client meetings.” 

– Jacqui G


“Pitch Lab was so awesome! Not sure if I learned or laughed more. We all know a great presenter when we see one, but I never analyzed what makes them great.”

— Ashley B.


“Pitch Lab made me excited to get up in front of people and share my ideas!” 

— Elizabeth S.


Want to learn more about how improv comedy can help your team improve their creativity, communication and collaboration?!

Click the button below and we'll set up a 20 minute phone call to find out if a Pitch Lab workshop is a good fit for your company!


— Thanks & Happy Holidays from all of us at Pitch Lab! 🎄 ☃️ 🎅

Why Slack's Origin Story Matters to Entrepreneurs

MATHOWIE/FLICKR

MATHOWIE/FLICKR

At Pitch Lab, we believe that when it comes to selling, you are the differentiator. 

This is especially true in the ultra-competitive startup world. To this end, we open our entrepreneur-focused public speaking workshops by sharing Slack’s origin story.

In 2008, Stewart Butterfield was an entrepreneur building a desktop game at a time when users were migrating over to mobile devices. Consequently, after only a few years, Stewart and his partners made the difficult decision to shut down.

Stewart broke down in tears telling his staff it was over. Then they offered to give back their remaining money to venture capitalists (about $5 million), but they were told to keep it and try to build something else with a skeleton crew. 

Why? Because the investors believed in Stewart—even without a new business plan in hand. 

From the ashes of a gaming company, Slack was born. 

And the rest is history. 

slack dollar sign

 

Connection Is Paramount

Stewart’s example may be extreme, but an investor is investing in you, not just your idea. And if you blow the pitch, you won’t win regardless of your idea.

You may invest more time as an entrepreneur asking for money than nearly anything else you do. It’s worth it to make sure your time spent selling is authentic and engaging. 

The connection you create may be the one thing that differentiates you. 

 

The best entrepreneurs always work on themselves.

Are you as authentic and engaging as you’d like to be? 

Take the time to invest in how well you deliver your pitch. It’s something we can all do better. 

Join us at Denver Startup Week and learn 5 comedy techniques that will make you the differentiator. 

Why Breaking "The 4th Wall" Will Make You a More Engaging Speaker

jim gaffigan whisper voice

What Is "The Fourth Wall?" 

The formal definition of The 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 of your favorite 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 great example is Deadpool -- when Ryan Reynold's snarky humor and profanity is directed toward you about his true feelings in the moment. 

Image courtesy of Julie Hansen, @acting4sales

Image courtesy of Julie Hansen, @acting4sales

How Does this Apply to Public Speaking? 

When commanding the room, you break the fourth wall by "calling the room." How exactly do you call the room? Acknowledge the obvious in your surroundings... if you notice it, your audience notices it. This will keep everyone there with you in the moment and engaged in the experience. 

 

Watch Jim Break The 4th Wall with His Whisper Voice!

And since we frequently discuss Jim Gaffigan in our workshops, I want to share one of my favorite clips about Jim's addition to cake! Notice what a great job he does both changing perspectives and breaking the 4th wall through the ingenious use of his whisper voice.

Want to learn more about how breaking the fourth wall will help your team build better relationships, differentiate from the competition and help more clients? Let's chat! 

 

Going Rogue with Denver Startup Week Organizer, John Wilker!

John Wilker

John Wilker knows what it takes to create events that don’t suck. 

He delivers awesome technical conferences for his independent startup 360|Conferences, brought the first Ignite event to Colorado and has helped organize Denver Startup Week practically since its inception. 

Did I mention he’s also author of the Sci-Fi book series Space Rogues? See what happened when Pitch Lab caught up with John Wilker to talk all things Sci-Fi, why old electronics are good for his back and how he got the nickname Chicken Bone!

 

What’s your favorite Dad joke

When the cashier at the grocery store asks me if I want my milk in a bag, I say, “No, just leave it in the carton.”

 

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning a gold medal for? 

Nacho eating. I’ll destroy you at that. 

 

If you were a hoarder, what would you hoard? 

I like that you used “were.” 

Old electronics. It used to be books but, after a few moves, my back was like, “Hoarding, OVER!”

 

Do you have a nickname?  

The one and only nickname I’ve ever had was because I answered when someone called their dog. The dog’s nickname, Chicken Bone, transferred to me. 

In my defense, I wasn’t really answering to it; I didn’t hear what was said. Still, try to explain that to someone laughing so hard they double over while pointing and saying “Chicken Bone!”

 

What was your favorite TV show and movie growing up? 

TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation.My folks and I always made sure to be home to watch it. Kids today are so lucky with DVRs and Hulu. I used to have to time my pee breaks to fit within three minutes of commercials!

Movie, so many. GooniesContactLabyrinth (“you remind me of the babe”). Most of the early Star Trek, the original three Star Wars (don’t get me started) and of course Fifth Element! Also, Robot Joxis an old guilty pleasure. It’s so horrible.

 

How did you decide to transition from science-fiction fan to author? Was there a specific moment or catalyst that started your journey? 

I’ve always been a writer to a degree. One of my last desk jobs, I used to write an email every week to let people know I’d brought in donuts. The emails were usually short stories, sorta mentioning donuts, but often not. I knew I was on to something when coworkers signed up to get the emails even when they didn’t want an actual donut. 

Space Rogues came about because I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for years but never got very far. When 2016 rolled around, my November was light, so I started and just kept going. Before long, I was half-way through the month and then I was done. (For the record, I finished on the last day around noon, LOL.) 

When I came back to the story a week later — it’s always good to let it sit after you’re done — I liked the story and thought it was worth sharing.

Space Rogues Cover John Wilker

 

For those not familiar, what is Space Rogues
 

Space Rogues is my first self-published novel. It’s your average — though to me, most awesome, ever — science-fiction adventure story. I’ve always loved Sci-Fi like FireflyGuardians of the Galaxy and Farscape, so my writing is very much in that part of the genre: fun and dialogue heavy, lots of witty banter and action. It’s not even remotely hard Sci-Fi, so you’ll never know how FTL works, or how comms can span the galaxy.

 

What’s the one thing you want Sci-Fi fans to know about lead character, Wil Calder? 

For one thing, he (and I) had friends in high school, despite what one mean reviewer said. 😱 Second, he’s my kind of hero. Altruistic to a fault, but honorable in his own way. Kind of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds rolled up with a little Inigo Montoya mixed in for honor.

 

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? 

One is advice I’ve gotten, and one is my advice: 

One: Don’t read reviews. 

Two: Don’t be impatient. Self-publishing is so easy that it’s easy to make mistakes. I pushed Space Rogues out too early. I hadn’t invested in proper editing and proofreading, and I paid for it. I still do since I gave so many copies away people still randomly show up to write a review about a copy that’s not what’s available on the store now. It kinda sucks since I can’t really fix it, LOL. Make sure you go through the steps before sharing your work with the world. 

For what it’s worth, I'm sure you made Seth Godin proud by publishing too quickly. He says folks sit on their work for too long, paralyzed by the goal of perfection. It takes courage to say “fuck it, ship it.”

Space Rogues Cover Idea Sketch John Wilker

 

You’re a busy guy with 360|Conferences PLUS your work supporting the Denver startup community, yet you still managed to get two Space Rogues books published with a third promised in 2019. How do you find time and stay motivated to write? 

I’d say that I don’t sleep, but that’d be a lie. I love sleeping! Really, I try to keep busy, lest my natural lazy tendency overtake me. Plus, I really hope to improve everything I’m involved in — whether it’s Denver or the iOS or Android community, etc. So that keeps me going. Adding in writing has been a great outlet for me. I try to sneak in a page or two of writing when and wherever I can. 

As far as staying motivated, it’s a struggle to be sure. It’s so easy to just stay indoors and do nothing, but I haven’t gotten to where I want to be in life yet, so I have to keep working on it!

 

Denver Startup Week Logo

What’s your origin story in regards to Denver Startup Week? 

I was at the first meeting that kicked off the entire thing. Lunch at the Wynkoop Tavern. Heady times for sure. When I was approached after the first year — the original committee tried to do it all themselves — I eagerly accepted. 

For one thing, I can’t help but try to give back and make Denver better. Of course I was hopeful that my efforts would lead to opportunities. (Hint, hint universe!)

I’m still involved in much the same way as I was at the start, and I still love it. I’m given a lot of latitude to plan things that I think can make the week better, which is awesome.

 

What’s your most unforgettable experience at Denver Startup Week? 

Oh man, so many. From getting an email that literally just said “Drones!” to having one of my good friends, Eryc Eyl, DJ the opening party in his DJ Saviour Breath costume, and knowing how much “distress” it caused people.

 

Amongst all the speakers you’ve seen at Denver Startup Week over the years, what’s the common trait that makes them great? 

I’d say a willingness to add value. As I go through the submissions for headline/spotlight events, that’s the first thing I look at. Is the speaker trying to add value to the community and the week, or are they simply looking for one more speaking engagement to add to their LinkedIn profile. If the latter, I don’t even give it a second thought. They get rejected. 

“I want to work with people who put the Denver community before their personal fame and fortune.” 

 

When RJ Owen at Pitch Lab first approached you with the idea to be part of Denver Startup Week, what was your initial reaction? 

“I love this!” There are so many venture capital, money, funding and growth talks during the week that I like the headline/spotlight events to be more broad. I’m all about topics that help us be better humans.

 

Why do you think Pitch Lab was so well-received by the Denver startup community? 

Beyond being awesome, I think Pitch Lab was a change of pace. There are always so many similar events, so something that turns pitching on its head is welcome and appreciated. I heard lots of great things about Pitch Lab!

 

Denver Startup Week Crew 18000 Registered

Last year was your biggest attendance on record with 18,900 registered. How do you top that? What can the startup community expect from Denver Startup Week this year? 
 

Well, we’re aiming for over 20K. (Gotta keep those numbers growing!) I know on the headline/spotlight side of things, I’m working on some content to be kind of “DSW 101” on Monday for folks who are new to the week. I feel like the sessions we’re announcing are across the board great and an awesome example of what Denver has to offer the world!

 

Big thanks to John for everything he does to support the Denver startup community! 

Click here to learn more about John and his events that don't suck.

And we'll see you again this year at Denver Startup Week, September 24th - 28th!