The Twenty Dollar Lesson

“You will get more out of a two minute conversation at one of our events than you will from a week’s worth of emailing.” – us, constantly

I was at an open mic night last night (yes, another reference to stand up comedy…get used to it) and I watched something happen, listened to the ensuing conversation for a moment, and then dove in with both feet.

After the show was over, the show’s producer and I were sitting down chatting with one of the comics who was hilarious that night.  The comic was looking for representation and some ideas on growing his online presence and draw, and so we were having a good conversation about those topics and more when a linebacker walked up to the table…

Well, not an actual linebacker…but a really big dude.  Big…like “approaching Chris Farley” kind of big.

We stopped our chat, looked in his direction, and he nervously asked “How do you get involved with doing karaoke?”

Collective “Huh?” ensues.

Sidney pointed him towards the lady setting up her karaoke equipment for that to take place that night, and says “Right there…her name’s Holly…go ahead.”

And Goliath lumbered off towards her.  I watched him as he took a few steps…stopped, and then turned back around to return to our table.  “I’m an idiot,” he said, “I meant comedy.  How can I do this open mic night thing?”

Sid looked him up and down, and asked the obvious “Are you funny?” question.

Goliath proceeded to try and tell us a joke.  It didn’t really go well.

And here’s where the differences in personality really start to kick in, and where a valuable lesson in networking can be learned…because, again, there’s more in common between stand up comics and geeks than you might originally think.

The comic we were with started going into a long, drawn out explanation of “The Process” (see?  sound familiar IT people? we’ve all had this in meetings) and how you need to watch hours and hours and days and weeks worth of comedy and learn a million things before you ever even think about getting up on stage and blahdeblahblahblah…

Sidney interrupted by pulling a $20 out of his wallet and handing it to Goliath.

Goliath…looked confused.  “What’s this for?” he asked.

Sidney said “I’m giving you this $20, and you have two choices.  I do this show here every week.  Be here next week by 7pm, and either hand me back the $20, or show up with a copy of The Comedy Bible that you’ve gone out and bought with that $20…and you can even keep the change…and one joke that you can get up on stage and tell.  Just one joke.”

“Ummm….okay,” said Goliath.  “Thanks.”  And he wandered off.

As he left, the comic we were chatting with originally piped up with “That was stupid.  You just lost $20.  You’re never going to see that guy again…and if you do, he won’t be funny.”

Sidney just kind of shrugged, and tried to steer the conversation back to venues to be looked into for comedy shows, merchandising, planning, etc., …but the comic was having none of that.

“No really…what the hell were you thinking?  If you really want to do stuff like that, just buy a few copies for people to borrow or something.”

Again…Sidney just kind of shook his head, shrugged, and tried to get back to business.

Again…comic’s not having any part of it.

So I decide to go ahead and pipe up and explain it.

“Who hasn’t done something stupid with $20?  We all have, right?” I asked.  The comic nodded.

“So then $20, in the grand scheme of things…not that big of a deal.  Right?”  Again, the comic nodded.

“And if you spoon-feed someone something, they almost never do anything with it.  They have to show they want it…that they need it…that they have some drive and ambition of their own.  Giving him the book would do nothing.  So Sid just took a $20 gamble.  If the guy has the motivation to actually go out and buy the book, then maybe he has the motivation to read it.”

The comic was nodding as I continued.

“And if he has the motivation to read it, then maybe he has the motivation to show up here next week…with a joke.  And the motivation for the week after that.  And the motivation to keep working and working on his material until he has an entire set.  And maybe the motivation to keep working until he can headline and book rooms and sell out theaters…and you know who gave him that first piece of motivation that he’ll always remember?  Sidney.”

“Damn” said the comic.  “I should’ve given him $20.”

Sidney knew the guy wasn’t going to have a killer joke queued up when he walked up to the table…we all knew that.  But he did two key things:

He encouraged someone to try something new, no matter what anyone else said.

He was willing to extend himself, offer a little advice, and point someone in the right direction so that they could help themselves…with the dangling promise of offering more help down the road if the other person followed through on their end.

Just like our networking events, and what we’ve said about them a million and a half times – we can provide you the opportunity.  We can give you every piece of advice, hint, tip, trick and schtick we collectively have in our brains to try and help you out.

But you still have to show up, apply yourself, and be willing to extend yourself a bit in order to actually get anything out of it.

We can’t spoon-feed you a killer network.  We can’t.  And even if we could, we wouldn’t, because they still wouldn’t be your network because your network is something that you have to build on your own.

So no, we’re not going to hand you $20 and tell you to go buy a book.  Most of the books out there suck.  Besides, we have hundreds and hundreds of entries out here – – for you to read through that will teach you and tell you everything you need to know about networking.

But we can’t click your mouse for you.

UPDATE: It’s been a week, and so I wanted to come back to this today to let you know what happened last night.

Goliath showed up.

He handed Sidney back the $20.  Said he couldn’t find the book in any book store, and he doesn’t have a credit card so he couldn’t order it online.

Sidney took the $20, put in his wallet…and then walked Goliath outside where Sidney grabbed an extra copy of the book out of his car and handed it to him.

It was like watching a kid on Christmas morning – guy’s eyes lit up, and he rapidly began promising to read and study the hell out of it…and to return next week with that one joke he could tell on stage.

That’s all for this time.  Go read something else now.