When is the last time you did something that was out of your comfort zone?

My answer is “less than a week ago”, and I’m glad I did it.

To be honest, there are a bunch of things outside my comfort zone, for example ball room dancing, but this isn’t a story about dancing. This story is about taking a chance, taking a first step and not worrying about what others might think or say.

I always thought it would be fun to do a standup comedy routine, but the thought of standing on stage, lights shining on you while you are utterly alone trying to get strangers to laugh is pretty daunting… turns out, it’s not just the thought of it, it’s reality.

First things first. If you have something you always wanted to do, you have to take that first step. For me it was signing up for an intro to comedy class, for someone else it might be an art, cooking or dance class or a course on coding, public speaking, how to use software, starting or going back to school or even something as simple as wanting to learn how to play pickleball. Thinking about it isn’t doing it, and time will pass you by… sounds cliché, but it will. You need to take that first step or you may never do it.

For some, there may be economic hurdles, especially if there is a cost for a course or experience. Here’s the great news, you can do a lot of this at home using YouTube or other resources to learn almost anything you want for free. If you’re like me, you may have to reallocate some of the time you devote to passively watching cute and funny cat videos to more active viewing to actually learn something… it’s hard to stop watching cats, but if I can do it, you can too!

There are obviously some things you may not be able to replicate at home – in my example, I couldn’t replicate being on stage in front of people, but there are places that have open mic nights where I could get that experience if I wanted to. Because I took a class, I actually had access to a stage and classmates to give me that experience, but even without the class, I could have made it work. I think this is probably true for most things, but to make it work, you still have to take that first step and get started.

So, what happened? The first thing I discovered is there were some awesome people in my class, unfortunately over half didn’t make it to the end. Some may have struggled with the time commitment, as this was 2 hours a week in-class and at least that much time at home. Some may have figured out that it just wasn’t for them and there was no need to continue… good for them, at least now they know. Some may not have liked the content or language associated with some jokes, and others may have simply discovered that being funny at home or work is not the same as being funny in front of people you don’t know.

I also believe some people just didn’t realize how much writing was involved – believe it or not, you don’t just get to “wing it” on stage. There could be a hundred reasons why people had to drop. The ones that stayed however, were super supportive. I never felt like it was a competition, rather everyone wanted to see everyone else succeed, at least from what I could tell. I have to believe other pursuits would have a similar outcome.

1st ever stand-up routine

A highlight for me was seeing others develop their material and get more comfortable on stage, culminating in a final “showcase” where, in my opinion, everyone did the best I had seen them do – super impressed with my classmates. The absolute best part of the experience for me was knowing my family was super supportive and happy to see me trying something new (it’s also possible they just liked the two hours a week I was out of the house, I may never know the truth). Having someone else’s blessing or support to pursue something isn’t a requirement, but I found it reassuring and helpful.

Will I keep doing this? I don’t know, maybe… actually probably, but only occasionally. I hear some people who have done this say once they heard that first laugh, they were hooked. I absolutely enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel like it somehow filled a void in my life. Comedy is not as easy as it looks, perhaps that’s why there are so few really funny comics. Did I mention how much writing is involved? I would say most of my time for this endeavor was related to writing, and as much as I enjoyed the writing component, and the challenge associated with telling funny short stories, it can be a grind.

Why I’m glad I did it – it reminded me that sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and take a chance. I haven’t done that in a while, and it was good to know I’m still capable of pushing myself a little. It’s kind of crazy to think it took me so long to try this because there was very little downside – if I didn’t like it, I could stop at any time, no one was holding me hostage. This is the case for whatever “thing” it is you’re holding off trying. You may find you love it, and even if you discover you don’t like it, it’s not a failure, it’s just a new data point for you, and at least now you know.

If I hadn’t done it, I would still have that nagging feeling in the back of my mind wondering if I should try it. This removed any curiosity I may have had.  

What’s holding you back… time, fear, what others might think? I bet you can find the time, dealing with fear can be empowering and sometimes you just have to not worry about what others think.  

I hope at least one person reads this and decides to try that “thing” they’ve been putting off. Next up for me… ballroom dancing?