Fold, Scrunch or…

 

My life turned into a joke at the weekend – literally!

We’ve all heard that old gag about the person being in a public toilet cubicle and the person in the next cubicle says “Hello?”

And the gag teller replies with ‘Hello’ and starts conversing with the other cubicle dweller only to be talked over, as it turns out other cubicle dweller is on the phone.

Well there was me at the weekend having to quickly and unexpectedly use a public convenience.

There was I, sitting, all systems operating, so to speak, when I discovered there was no toilet paper in the holder!

EEEEK! I was definitely in a bit of a pickle.

Then I heard someone take up residence in the next cubicle!  Brilliant! Saved!

I enquired with a hesitant but loud enough “Hello?”

My voice echoed off the 1970s tiling.

No response.

I repeated “Hello?” this time a bit louder.

Silence.

I thought “Bitch is ignoring me”.

And then a few seconds later came the sound I longed to hear as she said “Hello?”

Relief flooded over me and with thankfulness I said “Oh hi, do you have any toilet paper in that cubicle you can spare?”

But the end of my sentence was cut off as she said “Hi, yeh, I’m here, I’m just in the toilet, I’ll meet you at Coles in a minute.” into her phone, and continued to have a full blown conversation while sitting on the potty!

Bitch.

There I was, totally alone, no handbag (and resultant residue of tissues and receipts that may have come in handy) and no idea of how to get out of the situation.

Let’s just say that I’m now intimate with the number and quality of layers of paper it takes to make up a loo roll tube.

The difference between this event being a disaster and an amusing anecdote is mindset. Over the years I’ve trained my mind to look for the humour in everything as I scan life for material in writing and performing stand-up comedy, but the by-product is the discovery of how wonderful a humorous re-frame of life can be in coping with life’s lumps and bumps.

Both laughter and tears are responses to stressful situations – they each release tension in either one way or another. If we choose to respond in tears and sadness it closes down our options and leaves us without choice, a victim of circumstance.

If we choose laughter (which can also involve tears, but of a different kind) it takes away the power the situation may have had over us, we keep our sovereignty of life and we retain the ability to make positive choices in how to get under, over, past or through the situation with significantly less stress and sadness.

And that includes being stuck in a ‘situation’ in a toilet cubicle with no toilet paper. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones in that cubicle. I thought, ‘what would Indy do?’ And you can bet I was also thinking “Possible comedy material!” – after all, most comedy is born out of someone else’s pain!

So, after all that, I have one question for you;

Do you fold, scrunch… or scrape?

I conduct courses and workshops teaching how to speak with  influence and authority, and to develop your powers of humour and comedy for pleasure, public speaking and life coping skills.

The next Comedy Course for Beginners starts in Adelaide on 15 October – email me on maggie@funnyfarm.net.au for details

The next workshop The Power of Comedy in Business will take place in Melbourne on 25 October – for details click this link  

What a Ride!

 

FF with FBOne of the things that you don’t expect when you give up the day job is the massive internal, personal changes that start to happen as you start out on your journey working full time in your own business.

First there is the good stuff – the massive increase in passion and purpose. It’s perfectly normal to start working at 6am in your nightie in front of the computer because your brain is racing and you need to get it all downloaded and in print on the screen before it melts like the springtime snow.

As you ease out of your employee mindset (not easy when you’ve been one for thirty-something years) you gain a new sense of yourself, of the things you achieve, the things you create and the changes you make in peoples lives with the stuff you have to offer.

Then there’s the darker side; the self doubt, the financial insecurity, the worry of not knowing how this story ends. These thoughts are hard taskmasters but they are also a gift. They force you to develop resilience, to dig deep and really earn your stripes as someone who is bringing something new to the world that will benefit the world. This life game is not for wimps!

One of the mental tussles I’ve been going through is how to actually bring that stuff to the world in a way that makes sense for me and my clients. In other words – what’s my niche? I’ve been doing ok as a generalist coach and trainer but I knew my message and my vehicle for delivering all these goodies needed honing. My lovely coach Leonie explained that it was like giving birth and ideas, like babies, need an incubation period.

Well, just like an expectant mother – and just as wise Leonie had said – it has taken almost nine months before I got well and truly whacked on the head with the ‘obvious stick’! Let me explain; all my life I’ve been a Communication junkie. I worked in Corporate Communications for 25 years and carried on parallel careers in theatre and comedy as well as becoming a coach and an accredited NLP practitioner. After much reflection I realised that it was no different now, and my passion continues to be how we speak to ourselves, how we speak to the world and how we speak to each other.

So the upshot of it all is I’ll be channeling my coaching and training through the mediums (media!) that I know and love best:

  • More Than Words – Powerful presentation coaching.
  • The Funny Farm – Stand up Comedy for Beginners
  • The Joy Protocol – comedy shows
  • Personal and Business Coaching

It’s very exciting because as soon as I knew exactly how I wanted to do all these things, exactly the right people showed up in my life to make it all happen and it’s happening soon!

As Bill Hicks said, this life is just a ride, and what a crazy wonderful ride it is!

The Highs and Lows of Comedy Festival Life

Melbourne FB cover

I’ve been in Melbourne for the last week, away from my  home city of Adelaide, with friends and colleagues Kate and Kehau performing our show Three Stuffed Mums. 

It has been an interesting, enlightening, heartwarming time in many ways – and we still have one week to go. In other ways it has really brought  home for me the absolute value of having capabilities in resilience, in self-knowledge, positive mindset and so many other things I teach people about in their day to day lives.

If you thought the life of a stand up comedian is all laughs, then think again. It probably is for that top two or three per cent in the industry who have agents and managers and publicists etc to do all that other production work for them, but for most comics at the festival we have to do all that plus perform the show itself.

A typical example is the activity of flyering. That’s where you go to hand out flyers in the street to passers by in the hope they will come to the show either that night or some other night. If you were thin-skinned then the amount of people who reject the offer of a flyer, who often won’t even meet your gaze, might cause you to crumble as it could be very disheartening. On the other hand when you realise that how people respond to you is actually mostly about them and not so much about you (unless you’re punching them – then it’s about you!)  it takes the heat off. Ah well, some people just have bad days, and some people aren’t as nice as we would like. On the other hand when you do manage to engage someone in genuine conversation it’s a real joy and lifts the spirits so much.

It’s not uncommon at large comedy or Fringe festivals to have a fairly small audience for performances. They are really not money-making exercises – more a ‘trade show’ kind of thing. A small audience for a theatre production would not have quite as much impact as it would on a comedy performance where the energy and interaction between the performer and the audience actually feeds and fuels the performance to a much greater extent. At times like those with a small group you not only have to lead in as far as it’s you doing the performance regardless of the energy offered by the audience (smaller groups can feel inhibited about being overtly demonstrative with clapping, cheering and laughing), but you also have to lead yourself with a positive and determined mindset while building the rapport with the audience. If you can inject energy, build rapport and make it ok for them to be loud then the energy tends to rise throughout your spot and the audience gets the laughs they came for. It’s like they need that permission from the person on the stage and the rest of the group to laugh out loud.

The third challenge is being away from home. I’m finding that the older I get the more of a  homebody I’m becoming. Two weeks away can seem like a huge chunk of time, but the ability to prioritise, concentrate energy on the task at hand and do the job that I’m here for actually helps to not only make the time pass quickly but also makes it more enjoyable. There’s a certainty in routine that’s satisfying and assists in self-sufficiency – and we all know that the more we get what we need from internal sources rather than external sources then the more resilient, happy and healthy we are – big bonus all round!

We’re enjoying this marvellous opportunity to play at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We’re getting good audience numbers compared to other first time shows and we’re having a ball not only performing but connecting with our audiences and having the opportunity to connect with other comedians. The bottom line – making people laugh is a lot of fun!

Top 3 Emotions of my First Week in Business

maggie1 Last week I finished up in my day job. After commencing coaching and NLP studies last year and working part time on my coaching, training and comedy business, I’m putting out my shingle for the business on a full time basis. I’m using my experience of 25 years in corporate communications, 23 years in theatre and 12 years in stand-up comedy to teach people and organisations how to be clinically, chronically happy.

This first week has produced some interesting insights, so here are the top three things I’m feeling in my first week of working for myself:

 1. Freedom!

I’ve been a faithful wage slave since I was 16. If you take away my four years of study/uni that’s 32 years of getting up in the morning and attending a workplace. Now my workplace is in the spare room and I am totally responsible for how I shape my day, my week and my entire future. The resulting emotions are a mixture of ‘Eeeeek!’, Yay!’, and ‘Really’? It’s only been a week so at night I’m still dreaming that I’m conducting wrap up sessions for my team at work or working through the day to day issues of the office. And then I wake up and realise that’s all in the past now.

 2. Freak out!

Closely related to Freedom, the freak-out in the first week is the gap between the comfort of the schedule of work I’ve mapped out and the knowledge that until the business gets traction then its income will be less than desired (which is actually ok and normal – unearned income is fine as it goes but unsatisfactory in that it doesn’t show me whether I’m doing it right). I’m having to absolutely live what I teach, manage my mindset and take appropriate action, which is all very cool because it’s what I ask my clients to do and if I only talk the talk and don’t walk the walk I’m not being a very good role model.

3. Fun!

I am having the best of fun. I get to be home with the doggies and make hubby a cup of tea when he gets home (he still insists on making dinner). I get the quiet and solitude of working alone when I need to and I get the creative juices going working together with my great partners in comedy and coaching, and I get to go networking regularly, meet new people and strike up new relationships – the best of all worlds. I get to manage my time as I want it and when I go for acting and comedy gigs I don’t have to second guess myself as to whether it would work in ok with the day job .

This ‘self-employment’ thing is an experience unlike any I’ve ever had. I’m sure it will be something of a rollercoaster, but at least when the time comes I won’t be left wondering ‘what if’. Whatever happens, this is a time in life that I would not swap for anything!

If you’d like to work with me have a look at www.maggiewood.com.au (new coaching site coming soon) and email me on maggie@elegantconceptsgroup.com

Making the World a Better Place One Laugh at a Time

dab-93947_640 A conversation with a group of friends on the notion of success in comedy provoked me to write down for the first time my mantra when it comes to comedy.

I’ve verbalised it often enough but never written it down before and it has been an interesting exercise. It goes something like this:

I measure my success by the amount of laughs I get, because for those 5, 10, or 15 seconds everyone who is laughing has forgotten their worries. If there are 50 people in the audience and I get 6 good five second laughs during a spot then that’s a cumulative 25 minutes when the world in that room was totally bereft of sadness, worry or depression. We’re succeeding alright, reducing sadness laugh by laugh. 

You see, to me, comedy isn’t just that time you’re on stage with an audience. It’s all those other times too when you’re with one person or a group of people and the opportunity is there to observe the topics at hand from the lighter side, to expose the absurdity of the situations and to laugh about them rather than to worry them or fear them.

The psychology of laughter is a fascinating thing. Laughter byypasses the conscious mind and directly hit the subconscious. Creating that pathway brings a fertile ground for new and fresh thinking, destroying prejudices and other types of barriers to open thinking and so helps to build new neural pathways created by new thoughts that in turn allow new ways of being to be explored.

The physiology of laughter is also fantastic. That great big intake of breath for a belly laugh increases the oxygen in the blood. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases our immune system. It eases anxiety, improves one’s mood and builds your capacity for resilience.

Because of what I do I’ve become accustomed to looking for the funny angle of a situation before any other option and if I feel that will help whomever I’m speaking with, I’ll use it. It isn’t for every situation, obviously.

As a Coach and an NLP practitioner I know that when someone is in a state of appreciation and gratitude then it’s impossible for them to simultaneously run the strategies of fear and doubt. I believe the same is true of laughter – when one is consumed by laughter that flame extinguishes all negativity, even if only for a brief period of time.

I’ve always been in awe of my fellow comedians, especially female comedians who experience some tougher obstacles to a career of funniness than the blokes. I feel it is one of the noblest vocations around and the people who do it are delivering a lifesaving service to our communities. With all its health benefits comics should be able to bulk bill on Medicare!

After all, we’re just trying to make the world a better place, one laugh at a time.

Cutting Ties to the Past

sign-43984_1280Way back in the mists of time, when dinosaurs stalked the earth and the gods still supped with the mortals (so, somewhere around 1978) I used to be an apprentice hairdresser.

Yes, no shit. I spent four years shampooing, cutting, tinting and asking people where they were going for their holidays.

I loved the job. I loved the busy-ness, I loved the creativity and I loved helping people look absolutely smashing. I hated the usual things about being an apprentice – i.e. not having control of what I was doing (hell, I was 17 and like every other 17 year old I knew everything, didn’t I?). I hated drying the stinky perm towels in an ancient dryer because the boss was too mean to launder them more than once a week and I hated the worst job of all – picking the rollers and hairpins out of the piles of swept up hair cuttings at the end of the day. I would do this and dry retch the whole time. ‘Twas shit. I was also scared that one never saw an old hairdresser. Where did they go? I saw the 40 year old ones develop dowagers humps from bending over all the time (now being seen in younger techno geeks), but not older, retirement age ones. It remains a mystery to me.

It was at that time though that I was issued, through my college course (City & Guilds of London Hairdressing Apprenticeship), with my kit for the job. My own personal set of rollers, hairpins, pincurl pins combs brushes and scissors.

To this day I still cut hair. I’ve cut my son’s hair his whole life. He’s 19 now and he’s only been to a hairdresser once (when he was 15, they didn’t do it right, they didn’t understand his white afro like I do). I cut my dad’s hair from when I started til he died in 2008. I cut my mum’s hair till she went to the salon in the sky in ‘95 and I mostly cut my own hair because I cannot be arsed explaining to a hairdresser what I want when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself. My husband struggles with this. I think he sees self-done haircuts as a signifier of poverty. Personally, I see them as soothing my need for control.

Anyway, the thing is, I lost my cutting comb.

I do not know what happened, but in the past couple of weeks the comb I use for cutting hair has disappeared. It’s the comb I’ve used since my apprenticeship and it works in perfect harmony with my scissors, which I’ve taken care of and I’ve had since that tender age as an apprentice.

Son needed a haircut but cutting comb is nowhere to be seen. I’m stumped. I cannot use a normal, mere mortal, civilian comb! That just wouldn’t be right. So I had to seek a new one out. EEEk!

In town today I walked into one of those hairdressing suppliers with a fabulously pun-y name like Hairhouse Warehouse or similar, and the chick in charge came up to me, fixed her mascara’ed, lined eyes upon me, and from underneath her product enhanced swept fringe asked if she could help me. I looked straight back and said ‘Yes, I need a cutting comb’. It was as if she’d been told I was the queen in disguise. Her back straightened, her eyes widened and a very respectful sales assistant showed me their range. She obviously recognised a veteran of the trade.

I got the new comb. I regarded it suspiciously. It’s a different shape from the 35 year old one that’s gone missing, but nevertheless I used it this afternoon to cut son’s hair. And oh boy!

This comb with its new shape but still fabulous cutting comb qualities had me cutting faster and more accurately than I have in years. It’s easier to hold and easier to work with the scissors. I finished the cut in record time and I must say I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Which is all a long winded way to say, don’t do what I did. I feared having to use a new comb and I mourned the loss of the old one, when in reality the old one’s just a comb and only has the meaning I give it, and the new comb is a boon to my speed and accuracy.

I had attributed too much of what I did to the old comb. Yes we’ve been through a lot that comb and I, but let’s face it, it’s just a piece of plastic with no feelings and it wouldn’t be very resourceful of me to mourn it, would it?

So, what I say is welcome change, expect things to get even better than before, and as for the past, the good memories (and people) will stay, no matter what. Here’s to another 35 years of cutting!

Trusting the Tao

Trusting the Tao

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The Tao is always at ease.
It overcomes without competing,
answers without speaking a word,
arrives without being summoned,
accomplishes without a plan.

Its net covers the whole universe.
And though its meshes are wide,
it doesn’t let a thing slip through.

From Steven Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching

The words above have been a very real, very practical lesson for me recently.

We’re getting ready for another great Adelaide Fringe, and I’m writing a new show with my Three Stuffed Mums colleagues called Still Stuffed. Its a brand new show, with all new stand up comedy and songs, following on from the great success we had last year.

The songs are fine, they’re all written and being arranged right now. All new stand up – that’s another story. I don’t know how other writers operate but I cannot just sit at a computer and write funny – especially when the funny is for spoken delivery.

For me, that means it has to come from spoken origins. And its not a linear process either. Ideas, or phrases or sentences pop up, that generate further ideas that progress out from that original trigger like the ripples on a pond. The most important thing then is the idea, and the next important things are the words that convey that idea. The words can be swapped around like the idea trying on different outfits, but as long as the idea is intact and still inhabits my mind in its original form, there’s that leeway to play with. And then after a few days of musing (or weeks) it gets commited to screen via the keyboard. The words, if you’re not careful, have a way of pegging the idea down like the guy ropes of a flyaway tent. Done properly they neatly package and deliver the idea concisely, precisely and with punch. Done badly they bog it down and kill it. So you can see where I’m starting from.

So, all of this is to say that you cannot force the process. At the same time you have a deadline called ‘opening night’ looming ahead that tends to focus the mind and has the capacity to instill panic. So, what to do?

Me, I have learned to pick up my copy of the Tao Te Ching to remind myself to chill out and that all will be fine. That calms me enough to trust again that what I need will be delivered as long as I do my part in the process. And when I do, its a kind of self fulfilling prophecy, the ideas flow more freely, the mind is more open to receiving new ideas, not tense with panic, and things start to shake up in good time. And I have to say, things are coming together very nicely re the stand up, much better than I anticipated, actually. Adelaide Fringe 2012, I cannot wait for opening night!

If you’re in the vicinity you should pop down and see our show at The Maid, which also has some great comedy shows not featuring us. Our senior Stuffed Mum, Kehau, runs the venue with an aim to helping new comics put on their first Fringe shows without going into bankruptcy to do it. She and her husband Glynn work their butts off to make sure this happens so they deserve support for that alone, I reckon.

Whatever you do, and wherever you are please support your local artists, take part in your local culture and entertainment, and most of all, have fun!

Have a great week!

Maggie 🙂

NB: When looking for the correct stanzas to illustrate my point about trusting the flow in the writing process, I went to the internet version of the translation and blindly clicked on a chapter number. It turned out to be precisely the best chapter to describe what I was trying to say. Bravo Tao!