Friday, December 20, 2013
The house is filled with the aroma of sugar cookies, evergreen and pumpkin pie. There is Scotch tape on the table and wrapping paper pieces fallen to the floor. In the living room, there’s a tree with lights blinking to the beat of a song as they reflect off the ornaments that have been hung. Stockings hang from the mantel like shelf waiting to be filled with small gifts and fruit. Soon there will be carefully wrapped presents placed gingerly under the tree only to be ripped open not so carefully nor so gingerly Christmas morning. As the day continues on into night, and with full stomachs from the Christmas feast, families will shuffle off to bed, knowing they have lovingly and stressfully placed another holiday in the books. Better yet, they have created yet another Christmas memory.
Each year, with great anticipation, I looked forward to Christmas Eve and the family Christmas party. Through the years Mom and Dad made sure my brother and I received a great Christmas. Although we were far from rich and Dad was often laid off in the winter, they still managed to get us a bike or record player. One year they even got us an Atari complete with Pong and Donkey Kong. I even recall receiving Star Trek Walkie Talkies one year. I know we received several gift each year but I only remember a few. However, what I do remember are the family parties.
Each year it was held at my Aunt’s house and was always chalk full of food. It was good food to. My aunts cooked, my grandmother cooked and my mom cooked. They were all wonderful cooks and none of us ever stopped with just one plate, nor, in some cases, did we stop with two. The desserts were out of this world. Cakes, pies, fudge, and cookies spread across the table with tiny hands being smacked as they reached for them before the regular food. If you ever left hungry it was because, well, I don’t know anyone that ever did cause we were always stuffed by the end of the night.
The biggest excitement, at least for me, was when all the cousins arrived. We all have our roots right there in Boyd County, Kentucky but as often happens, people move. As was the case for a few who had moved to Michigan, Ohio and Texas but this time of year it was rare if any of the prodigals didn’t return. When everyone arrived, the laughter reached epic proportions. The older cousins would slip away to do what they did, the younger ones would play throughout the house while those of us in-between bounced back and forth. There was so much fun and happiness there as our Grandparents looked upon us smiling but knowing it wouldn’t last forever.
Sadly, in a way they were right. Mamaw and Papaw are gone as are some of my aunts, uncles, cousins and my Mom. It’s not the same now but it isn’t gone forever. I still remember those times. I remember the drawing of names and the family gift exchanges. Most of all I remember the love and laughter filling my Aunt’s home. So, I guess, in a way, it will last forever because I still have my Christmas Memories. This year make some of your own.
Friday, December 6, 2013
November 11, 1939 the Texas Tech Red Riders come to Shreveport, LA to face the Centenary Gents in a rain soaked stadium resulting in one of the weirdest games in the history of college football. In the course of this game there were 77 punts, 67 of which occurred on the first down. During the second half, the teams punted 22 times in a row. However, there was one record set during this game that perhaps will never be broken. Texas Tech punter, Charlie Callihan, punted 36 times for 1,318 yards. Texas ran only 12 offensive plays that day resulting in a whopping -1 yard total. When all was said and done the final score was 0-0.
The teams decided they would play no risk football and it resulted in mediocrity. Maybe mediocrity is being kind since neither team did anything to gain success. They settled for just filling up the time clock which resulted in not making the most of the opportunity provided. They decided mediocrity was good enough. Worse than that, they perhaps never saw it as a failure to only hold the status quo.
In his book, Good To Great, author, Jim Collins, tackles this very subject when he opens with the words, “Good is the enemy of great.” In the course of this book he gives example after example of businesses settling for good enough ultimately resulting in failure. In contrast, he introduces his readers to organizations/businesses refusing to settle for mediocrity. He displays the results of their decision to be great and not simply good enough...to not stay within the safe status quo.
This is a struggle encountered by every person in most every endeavor. I was given a personal example of this the other day when I created a poster for a show. I was quite proud of my creation until I showed it to my daughter, who I must admit is far more creative than I. When I asked her opinion of my work her response was, “Eh, it’s good enough I suppose.” Good enough? I don’t want good enough, I want great! When she took what I had done into her capable hands it transformed into just that. I was amazed at what it had become. If I had settled then it would have simply been good but I didn’t and neither did my daughter so it went from good to great - took the risk and gained a reward.
Businesses, or anyone really, who become great this is their motto. They understood to gain the rewards desired they must be willing to take the risks needed to achieve it. The same is true for an entertainer. Legends are the ones who refuse to settle for ‘good enough’ they continually strive for greatness. Too many times when we settle it isn’t too long until what we once thought was “good enough” simply becomes “not good at all.” We deem the reward of great simply isn’t worth the risk, resulting in a score of 0-0.
No Risk….No Reward! Do not settle for good enough because when you look at it, there is nothing in it.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
As I sit here to write, one thought seems to permeate my mind, today is a day of legacy. For the past week all the major new shows, newspapers, and magazines have been taking the country back to November 22, 1963 in Dallas. Stories of young President Kennedy have been on overload in preparation of the 50th anniversary of his assassination. As a nation, we have made him almost mythical as we reference all about him as an Era of Camelot. Although I may question his overall significance as a President, it does not escape me; his legacy is securely woven into America’s fabric and will be long lasting.
Yesterday, in Nashville, another legacy was celebrated. It was a legacy that touched me in a more personal way and although I never met George Jones, I will never forget how he has impacted this country. Over and over people have elevated him to the greatest country singer ever and who am I to argue. I remember the first George Jones concert I attended. It was in Ashland, KY and local favorite, Billy Ray Cyrus opened the show. As I stood there listening to BRC, Jones and the boys rolled up in their tour bus. It was the first time I had seen a tour bus and I knew right then I wanted one. When George strode out to the stage everyone stopped what they were doing and looked upon him, because, well, for us it was royalty standing there. We knew what royalty looked like, shoot, Loretta Lynn grew up just an hour or so south of us, so we knew.
Much like the young president we’ve all been hearing stories about all week, I’ve been reading stories of the Possum as Nashville prepared to celebrate his legacy. Over 100 performers gathered to sing, regale us with stories and just remember a hero. Yes a hero. Although he and President Kennedy have had their shortfalls and indiscretions they will both go down in America’s history books as heroes. So many of today’s entertainers owe a great deal to the “President of Country Music,” part of that debt we owe, is to love those who paid to hear you and be kind to those around you.
Perhaps he lost his footing on this from time to time, but he never forgot it. Paying for funerals for friends, Johnny Paycheck for instance, setting up scholarships, giving young artists tips to help them advance their careers and the list would go on. With all his music and talent that introduced us to the man we affectionately called “No Show” his true legacy will be that of simply being a good man who loved. He loved his family, friends and his fans. So it isn’t any wonder his funeral at the Grand Ole Opry was packed or that his final “No Show” concert was sold out with people standing in the rain outside watching on jumbo screens.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Everyone desires success. Our definition of what success looks like may differ but we all want it. Maybe you define it as riches in the bank and a mansion on a hill or perhaps just a comfortable living would be success to you. A nice family with kids who do well in school or simply a happy life is how you would define it. Regardless of your definition, you want it, we all do and it’s nothing to be ashamed of nor should you feel guilty to want it. Success is a good thing. It’s our definition that sometimes gets out of whack or its all consuming pursuit that causes ulcers but overall it is ok to have success. Bookshelves are filled by authors, each with secrets on how to achieve it, regardless of the definition.
So I've been thinking about this a lot lately and decided there isn't just one formula for success because definitions vary. The areas in which it can be achieved are just as numerous and requires a different matrix to quantify true success. Although there may be some similarities or areas where each overlaps, you can’t just have one formula or step by step process because it’s just too much.
However, I’m going to offer up what I think will help you achieve success. Although you may be able to apply some of it to several areas, I have a specific area in mind but you must decide where and how it may or may not apply to you. I will in no way tell you, “If you do this you will be a success.” No blog, article or book should boast of such a claim. This subject isn't like some gourmet meal you can achieve simply by following a recipe. However here is my two cents worth on the subject, apply what you can to where you can or just toss it, which also may be your first step to great success. Here it goes.
DREAM. We are only limited by the size of our dreams. If you dream small you will achieve small and if you dream big you’re bound to achieve big things.
WRITE. Yep, write. Whether its journals, poems or just three pages in the morning where your mind is flowing to your pen just jotting down what’s there, just write. All the greats do it.
FOCUS. This helps you set goals to achieve whatever kind of success you are seeking to achieve.
DEVELOP. This area encompasses a large area but mainly I am talking about you. Develop yourself mentally, spiritually and your skills needed to gain the success you seek.
EFFORT. Simply put, nothing worth having ever came about without putting forth the effort it took to achieve it.
PROMOTE. This is self explanatory. I was told I was in the self-promotion business more than anything else and as a comic very true.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
I love the TV show NASHVILLE and watch it every week. Even if I am on the road or scheduling prevents me from viewing it, I’ve got my DVR set up to record it. So if I haven’t watched it on my laptop in a hotel someplace then it is waiting on me to get home. There are several reasons I like the show but mainly the songs and I have been to a lot of the places they show. Put simply, I love Nashville both the city and the television show. This new season started with Rayna James recovering in the hospital as a result of a near fatal car accident. After struggling for weeks not being able to sing, she makes a statement that really struck a chord with me. She simply said, I lost my voice and don’t know if I will find it again.”
When I heard that line I thought, “WOW, how profound a statement to make.” Now I know she was referring to her actual singing voice but I thought about how many people in their lives don’t know what their voice is. When my oldest daughter was younger all she wanted to do was be a Marine Biologist. Dolphins where her thing and she researched colleges while she was still in middle school in order to accomplish that goal. But her Mom and I knew that isn’t where her talents lie. She is an amazing creator of stuff. Her mind just works in a way that enables her to create amazing promotional material in moments that would take the average person days, even if they ever get it. It took her awhile to find that out herself. She even enrolled in college wanting to be an engineer before actually finding her voice. My other daughter is still searching for hers and at this point it depends on the week what that voice is but I am confident she will find it.
Finding ones voice is more than their career choice, it’s figuring out who they are and being happy with the results. As a comedian I had to ask myself that question, “Who am I? What is my voice?” Once I figured that out my career started taking off. However, I hear and see many younger comedians struggling with this that in some ways seems so simple, but I know it’s not. Too many want to be someone they are not because they think that is what it takes to be successful. Funny thing about imitating someone is people only imitate originals – only those that have already found their voice. No one copies a copy. I think that is why some childhood stars find it hard to move on as adults, they haven’t found their voice i.e. Miley Cyrus. Finding your voice is about knowing who you are as a person and letting that carry over to your career. Your voice is who you are in your core. So look hard for it because it is worth the effort.
Your voice is unique to you and you are an original. Find your voice.
Friday, October 18, 2013
I recently had the dream show of my career. I returned home to perform in the theater I grew up around. That venue was the one I would go by as a kid and wish I could stand on that stage. Well on September 28th 2013 I did that very thing. I stood there and gave a nervous yet very funny comedy show. As I looked back on the video of that night, I saw they were laughing from start to finish. When I left the stage I had absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Although, because of the nerves, I forgot some jokes I wanted to do, my mind went blank for a couple seconds that seemed like an eternity and I was shaking but no one seemed to notice. However, the question today is: NOW WHAT?
Once I have accomplished this dream, now what will I do? I know the answer to that question because I have been asking and answering it to myself a million times in the last few weeks. But isn’t that always the case when something is accomplished? I was watching the movie El Dorado with John Wayne and James Caan and that question was asked. That’s the time when I had to ask myself the same thing. James Caan’s character, “Mississippi” had spent the last couple years hunting the three guys that had murdered the man who raised him. He had just killed the last man when he met Cole Thornton (John Wayne). After Mississippi accomplished his two year quest Cole asked him, “Have you given any thought to what you will do now?” Basically…Now What?
It’s a question that needs asked periodically in life when something is accomplished. When your job changes or is dissolved, now what? When you lose someone you love, now what? When a relationship ends or a new one begins, now what? Those two words carry a lot of unforeseen weight, until they are used then it’s as if the weight of the world rushes over you. I think it’s this way because you think about and look forward to (good or bad) something so much that often what will happen afterward isn’t given much thought, if any, at all.
With 2013 winding down and 2014 already starting to ramp up with all of its unknowns and challenges, I need to ask myself, NOW WHAT? I have had a pretty good year. I got to accomplish a dream, my calendar was semi-full and people are beginning to think I may just make it. As I look at 2014 I’ve got to ask myself, now what? What will I do to move my dreams to another level? What will I do to take on new challenges? How will I take my comedy career to that stratosphere in which the big dogs fly? What can I do now that will get me where I need...want...to be?
With that I ask you as well as myself - NOW WHAT?
Saturday, September 21, 2013
I have started, deleted and restarted this version of the Red Boots & a Smile blog I bet a half a dozen times or more. Sometimes it’s just hard to be creative. Sometimes it’s tough to draw from all the thoughts that run through my head and narrow it down to just one. Sometimes I just have nothing, nada, blank. Should I be funny or profound? Should I report about my stay here in New Orleans or just life on the road in general? Perhaps a story about me being an original Bigfoot Hunter would be enjoyable for you to read. But here I am at a desk in a hotel room with nothing.
It’s raining outside so walking around the Big Easy would be miserable. I hate getting wet by the rain when all I really want to do is have fun. There are things I could do while here though even in the rain but at this point I just need to get ready for the show I have tonight. This town remains one of my favorite places to visit. The history, the fun, and the ghosts that haunt every nook and cranny make for an exciting weekend each time I am here. If only I had more time.
I could write about how hungry I am becoming and would love a hamburger or Cajun food of some kind. Perhaps I will grab a bite to satisfy the craving I have. Yesterday I had shrimp and some beignets as I always do here. I usually have the crawfish but they are out of season so the one item I was looking forward to the most is still in water waiting for me to return in the spring. So today I will just have to settle for some pulled pork in the hotel lounge.
Today is just a day to work and get ready for the show. I had enough of a “day off” yesterday. Got to keep my nose to the grindstone (which by the way never made much sense to me) and get stuff done. Always stuff to do and get accomplished. I sometimes feel guilty taking a break but that feeling never lasts too awfully long. I am not sure if I would ever have enough time to see and do all I would like to do here in New Orleans. Theirs is just so much here.
Friday, September 6, 2013
The first NFL game of the season was last night and this weekend we will all be glued to our televisions watching game after game as a long awaited season gets started. Many, I will even say most, of us will be watching just for the pure joy of the game. Others will watch because their spouse makes them and still others just to keep up with their fantasy football teams. Whatever the reason, it’s the ultimate struggle of strength and will to achieve victory. Every week each team pursues their goal to get to the playoffs and ultimately fulfilling their dream of playing in the Super Bowl. If you have ever suited up in a peewee league or even in the back yard, you have dreamed of playing in that ultimate battle and received the championship trophy. Of course you are always on the winning team. Why dream about playing in it if you are going to dream of winning it. That’s just silly to dream of something and then just shortchange your dream by not achieving the ultimate goal. Dream big or just don’t dream at all.
I remember as a kid playing in the family football game. I would be on one side while my cousin and best friend I had as a child, would play on the other. We did this just so on every other play he and I would “fight” just like they would during those Sunday afternoon professional games. To us it was the ultimate game, our National Championship, our Super Bowl but the odd thing about those gridiron battles, I don’t remember who won a single game. It was for the love of the game and just to have fun that we played. I do however, believe those games helped establish what accomplishing dreams is all about and I think if you ask the pros they will say the same thing. In spite of the work, effort and even the sweet it is supposed to be fun. No one dreams of things that aren't any fun. You don’t wake up excited to tell about the awesome dream of a root canal you just had and can’t wait to fulfill it. Dreams are fun.
Those early games also taught me that, if I want to achieve my dream, make it a reality, it takes effort. All I knew as a child of what I wanted to do as a grown-up was perform. I have always been a ham. I just didn't know how to achieve that dream so I tried a variety of efforts until I landed where I am today, a National touring comedian. I am not sure my cousin Paul knew what he wanted in those days either, but today he owns a very successful business in Huntington, WV, even winning awards for his efforts. Those early days molded us into guys that know what it’s like to have a passion for what we want to do. They taught us to do all we can to make our dreams real even when there is a little struggle because those battles never last too long.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Today begins a long awaited day for many people. Today is the first Saturday of college football season. Even the most casual of football fans look forward to this day and will make this an all day event. Hor d'oeuvres finger foods, and grills will be fired up keeping the football watchers well fed. Refrigerators are full of pop, beer and various of beverages to stay hydrated during the many hours of gridiron battles. Then there are those families that struggle over which game to watch so they have a different game on each TV in the house with the one exception (these kids have to have something to watch in order to not get in trouble).
Fans go crazy when this season hits. They paint their faces, wear a team jersey and exchange their fine china for football shaped dipping bowls for the chips. Never leaving the comfort of home, we root for our favorite teams all the while turning out homes into giant tailgating parties. This is the time of year where families and friends get together to celebrate the ability to keep score as they cheer their team to a surefire win. However, on occasion our team comes up short and cleaning up after such a game makes the task hard to complete.
All this talk of football calls my mind back to my youth. When I was a kid I played in Jr. High school on the community league and we lost every single game. We were the Bears and how we growled at the beginning of each game. We were ready. We were winners. We were champions. During the game that’s how I played each game but to no avail. But these weren't my fondest football game memories. Those are the ones apart from the organized team. The most fun I had was playing in the field down the street in my neighborhood.
It wasn't really a field. Our football field was the backyards of several houses that were aligned perfectly, almost begging for us to play. These were the best times. My brother and I would meet up with all the neighborhood boys take a couple footballs and head to our field. It didn’t matter to us if it was rainy or snow on the ground, we would play. Many a time I would return home covered in mud, wet and on occasion in need of a band-aid. We kept score and there was a definite winner and looser but we didn’t care, we got to play.
No protection, no refs, no stripes on the field, just boys having fun playing a game the whole country loves. Now, none of us who played in that field went on to play in college. So no cameras ever caught us make the “play of the game” but we didn't care. We were all winners on that field, because we played for the love of the game. We played and not once was there a dispute on where to spot the ball or if it was touchdown or not. We just played.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Being sick is never a picnic but when you’re kid it seems to be “worse”. There is lying around, whining, watching what you want to on TV and a bunch of other just awful endurances. That’s the way it is here in my house. One sick daughter, the Doctor said was the first case of the flu he had seen for the season. That’s my girl, always striving to be first. So what has she done today, you might ask? Absolutely nothing. Yesterday she did nothing and today she did nothing. Nothing is the word around our house. Well that isn’t exactly true, we did have a National Treasure Double Feature. Being sick is so bad when you are a kid. The things they will do to get out of school.
I remember when I was kid all the things I wished would happen so I would not have to go to school. There were all the snow days we prayed for during the winter. Then when it rained perhaps a magical flood would wash the school away. Maybe aliens would land or a giant, land walking monster catfish would climb out of East Fork creek to attack the school. But time after time, I would have my dreams crushed. I would even check my forehead every morning for the off chance I would have a fever and have to stay home.
Then along came a guy named Ferris Bueller and his shenanigans which all started because he faked an illness just to take a day off from school. The good times that followed were classic. He was in a parade, had dinner in a nice restaurant, picked up his girlfriend from school and attended ballgame. He was every guy’s hero. He did what we all wanted to do. Ferris was a leader, an icon for us all to aspire. Even when his best friend wrecked his dad’s classic car, it all seemed ok. Why couldn’t all of our “sick” days be like that?
However, today none of that occurred. My day began by making some French toast for our breakfast. Then as I just sat on my end of the couch attempting to work, my little girl ran a fever. While I read, she laid here with her head on my lap and together we watched Nicholas Cage discover two world changing treasures. From the perspective of my high school youth this day was not every exciting. It was certainly nothing to write home about. There were no fast cars, near encounters with the principal or a run in with my dad on the way to lunch.
Today, though, was a very memorable day. I spent it with my daughter who is a freshman in high school. We laughed and talked. I got to hug and “baby” her. We ate and just spent time together. As I look at both of my girls, one just got in from her first week of college, I think how the years have just flown by. They are becoming beautiful young women with big hearts and will change the world in which they live. But to me, their Daddy, they will both just be my little girls. So Ferris, your sick day was nothing compared to the one I got to spend with my little girl today.
I hope there are more “sick” days to come but I am afraid those also are slowly coming to an end.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
When I was a kid I was an expert at playing. I could say, “Red rover, red rover, send John on over” with the best of them. King of the mountain, lawn darts or any number of other neighborhood games I was good, perhaps even great at them. Then behind the house where I grew up were “The Woods.”
The Woods is where I spent summer after summer. We would leave the house early, grab our BB guns and head off to explore. It was in those woods I learned to look for something new. A new section, a new ‘cave,’ or find a new place to fish. My brother and I were not afraid of getting lost or hurt or to even run across danger. In those woods I was in my element. I was where I belonged.
I remember one summer when I was “convinced” Bigfoot lived in those woods and so we set off to find him. What would we do if we found him? Well, we would have captured him, shot him or did whatever it took to succeed in our endeavor. It was the thrill of the adventure we were after. Success, to us, was inevitable, no other option. We had a plan of sorts. Step one was find Bigfoot. Step two was bringing him home in some capacity – dead or alive. Each time, summer after summer, I had a plan I was focused on and committed to.
But as I look back and reminisce, it was never about the trees, the caves or even Bigfoot, it was more about the imagination, the dreams and the fearless exploration. Fear of the unknown never entered into our consciousness. The excitement of adventures got me up every morning and all I had was a bb gun. It wasn’t even a fancy 10 pump but a little lever action Daisy Red Rider. But I still was not afraid. With that gun and my wits I was ready to take on whatever stood in front of me. No obstacle was too big. No “monster” was too much to handle. No matter how deep in the woods I went, getting lost was never an issue. Then I grew up.
Growing up I have misplaced that drive, that sense of adventure and imagination. It was those three elements when I was a kid in Kentucky that gave me a plan, a purpose and I was committed to it, focused on it. I was a success or at least I thought I was….no I was. As I sit here in this hotel room not knowing if my truck will get me home (come on Sally, we know you can do it), I want to find that boy in Kentucky again. He was the one who was not afraid of the unknown, the one who took a measly, inadequate bb gun and set off to hunt Bigfoot, the one that woke up each morning with purpose and was focused on it, the one with a plan he was committed to.
Today, August 17, 2013 I will be that boy again. I will have purpose, a plan with focus and commitment. Today, I will explore the woods again. I will step out on the adventure.
Friday, August 2, 2013
In the classic movie, The Lion King, Mufasa tells young Simba the stars in the night sky were the kings of the past looking down on him, watching over him. Later, when Simba, Timon and Pumbaa were lying in a field staring up at the stars they began to discuss what those twinkly things were. While each had a theory, only one looked at them with any real sense of connection. They brought back memories, pain and in a way some wishful thinking. So, my dear reader, if one night you are out on your porch having a drink finding yourself staring up at the stars, what will you think about?
If you have never given much thought to the idea, let me try to help. Do the stars spark up dreams you once had or even still have? How about memories of being a kid catching lightening bugs? What about lost love and wonder if they ever think about you? Perhaps those stars in the dark velvet sky cause you to just get lost in yourself…in your own mind. Maybe you are one of those people who just doesn't allow yourself the luxury of such an opportunity – to you I say, “You’re really missing out.”
Growing up in Kentucky, being out at night was a common occurrence, whether we would be fishing or just playing, the starlit sky was there. As if the floor of Heaven had little holes poked in it with the light shining through. “Can you find the Big Dipper? What about the Little Dipper?” was often heard as we searched the vast expanse for those constellations every kid has seen for centuries. As the years would pass, I would still look up trying to find the dippers and other constellations only not as often, then into the house I would quickly go shutting my door to the night.
However, now days it’s different, I take the time to notice them. To me they are something more – a connection. When I was a kid looking at those little glowing lights, I had dreams like most and like those stars, my dreams seemed like a million miles away, yet very real. They were spectacular but distant and as I grew up they seemed to get farther away from my grasp but still no less amazing. That is until I decided, that kid didn't die. He didn't stop dreaming. He simply just got older but his dreams were still very much alive only dormant.
My dreams, as a kid were more than that, they were my goals – very real and very attainable. As I sit here, my childhood a long ways in my past, my dreams are becoming a reality all because I allowed myself to dream again, to look at the stars again. It seems, they aren't the kings of the past at all nor just big balls of gas light years away, they are where my dreams have been stored for me to find, to reach for and live again.
So tonight I will venture outside, look at those stars and continue to dream….those remarkable and amazing dreams like those stars.
So tonight I will venture outside, look at those stars and continue to dream….those remarkable and amazing dreams like those stars.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
The other day I was enjoying a casual conversation with a friend about her recent successes in taking a Zumba class. She relayed to me, in her mind, she was great at the dance moves that is until she saw herself in front of the wall sized mirror and realized she didn’t know who the person was she was looking at but it wasn’t the same one in her head. Then we joked about how when the music stopped her body didn’t. She has a balanced perspective on who she is and is taking the time to invest in herself for a healthier life. A true lesson for every one of us to learn is, we need to take time to invest in ourselves. Put our money where our mouths are so to speak.
Physical investment is only one part to investing in ourselves, there is also the mental aspect to our lives. What do you do to keep yourself not only sharp but also from going a bit crazy? As I write this, I look around my office and see bookshelves lined with several hundred books most all I’ve read. On my desk alone are six in my “books to read” stack. They range from a book on recovering my creative self to one on ghost stories from New Orleans to a biography on Frank Sinatra. Needless to say I like to read. I also like puzzles from crosswords to brainteasers to seek and finds. This is, in a nutshell, how I like to keep my brain active and sharp (well as sharp as I can get it).
Have you ever felt like “Atlas” carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders or “Sisyphus” pushing a boulder up a mountain only for it to roll back down and having to start over? With the pressures of life and work we need ways to keep from going insane and letting life control us. For me, I keep it simple but varied. I’ll grab my fishing pole and head down to the pond or I work in my yard (shhh…everyone thinks I hate yard work). I tend to my roses (yes I know…shut up) or go for a bike ride. These are just a few ways I use to escape and rejuvenate myself. You need to find your own insanity stoppers and when you do trust me when I say you really will become more productive and focused.
Do you remember the old movie, “All Dogs go to Heaven?” It’s a funny movie that gives a spiritual aspect to the K9 world (notice it said nothing about cats…and for good reason). Without arguing theology, this movie lets us know we are more than just physical and mental but we also have a spiritual part to us. Now I come from a Christian perspective and approach this area in my life from that world view. So to invest in this part of who I am, I’ll read the Bible, devotionals and variety of materials that help me keep a “love my neighbor” attitude. I also attend church to worship my Creator. When I read those self-help books, they get strained through this filter.
I know investing takes time, effort and sacrifice and many say they can’t afford to invest….but I say, YOU can’t afford not to!
Friday, July 19, 2013
Growing up in Kentucky, some of my fondest memories was the times spent fishing. Think Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and you’ll get a glimpse of what summer was like for my brother and I. As the morning sun began to shine through the oak trees scattered through those Kentucky hills, two redneck boys could be found walking to a pond with fishing poles in one hand and bait in the other. Most mornings it wasn’t too long before one of us was bringing in a catfish which would immediately go on a stringer so we’d have it for supper that night. We would sit there all day telling stories about school, our buddies, and of course girls all while hauling in the fish. Those were some of the best summers of my life.
When the fishing slowed and the afternoon sun began to beat down on us, the daydreaming would begin. Staring out into the water with the birds fluttering and the squirrels playing in the trees behind us, many thoughts…dreams…would invade our minds. Although I never asked my brother about what he was thinking, I dreamed of great things. Thoughts of celebrity, being rich and having a mustang filled my mind. Those are still the dreams I’m pursuing in my quiet moments with a little variance but still, they’re my dreams. However, the fun really began when I would catch my brother in a trance, like he was in a whole other place.
My brother, Mike, loves fishing as much as I do…perhaps a gnats hair more. So when I’d catch him sitting there off in his own world I did what older brothers do…it’s in our job description...I’d trick him. I would pick up a small rock and toss it in the water just out of his line of vision. The sound of splashing as the rock hit the water always brought him back to the real world and the words, “Hey, was that a fish?!” were uttered almost immediately. Once he caught on to what I was doing, it became a rock throwing contest. Who could throw the farthest, the biggest or make the biggest splash. The fish weren’t biting anyway, so why not.
Soon we began skipping rocks, counting when the rock touched the water to see how many times we could make it skip. Who would go home that day as the best Rock Skipper of Boyd County? What a great way to spend a lazy summer afternoon. If you’ve never skipped a rock across a pond then quite frankly your childhood has been robbed of a great memory. It’s such an accomplishment to see a rock you’ve thrown skip 12 or 14 times across the water. As we played I noticed each time the rock hit the water it would make an impact. Ripples would spread across the water and it didn’t matter how small of a rock, there was always a ripple. That’s when I realized everything has an IMPACT.
Over the next several blogs I am going to write about how each of us can have an IMPACT - An IMPACT on our own lives, on the lives of others and especially on our careers, specifically as a comedian. IMPACT will be an acronym for Invest, Motivate, Purpose, Authenticity, Communication and Teamwork. Come back to see how YOU can I.M.P.A.C.T. the Pond You Are In.
Friday, July 12, 2013
The great philosopher and Jedi Master, Yoda, once said, “Do or Do not. There is no try.” That in a nutshell is the difference between Dreamers and Doers. The above quote was given when Luke Skywalker only dreamed of being a Jedi Knight and was struggling with putting in the work it required. When asked to get his fighter jet out of the muck he simply said, “Ok. I’ll try.” It even goes deeper with him, though. Just moments before, Yoda reprimands him for being so negative saying, “Always with you it cannot be done.” Only when Young Skywalker decided his dream meant more to him than his comfort did he move from being just a Dreamer to becoming a Doer.
Often times we hear people say things like, “When I win the lottery…” or “If only I were rich…” But they never play the lottery or put themselves in the position to become rich. They are simply dreamers. There are many who dream of becoming a movie star or American Idol winner but never go to a single audition for either, they just sit back and dream, taking no action to accomplish them.
Have you ever woken up and thought, “That was a great dream. I wish I could remember what it was.” Then you go back to sleep hoping to re-capture it but you don’t….it’s gone. Dreams can be stolen from us because we simply wake up from our sleep. The same could be said with the dreams you have for your life. They can be stolen when you are awoken back to the “real world.”
There are many dream stealers in our lives. It can be those family and friends who say to you, “Why are you doing this? Why don’t you just get a regular job and start enjoying life?!” Never realizing it’s because of your dream you do enjoy life. Have you ever told someone your dream only to have them look at you like you’re being silly or childish? They are dream stealers. However, I think the one of the biggest dream stealers is our own “Lack of Commitment.”
Larry the Cable Guy, tells a story of when he was starting off as a comedian and getting known via the radio. He said in an interview that after a show when the other comics would go out to party, he would retreat to his hotel room and write new material not only for his stand-up routine but for his radio spots which were beginning to be heard around the country. Today, according to Forbes, Larry is one of the Top-Earning Comedians of 2013 and it’s because he’s not just a Dreamer but a Doer.
Accomplishing your dream requires effort, hard work and a commitment to it. You must be willing to do and doing, many times, comes with sacrifice. So today, my question for you is this, Are you simply a Dreamer or are you a Doer?
“Do or Do not. There is no try.”
Sunday, June 30, 2013
As I sit here to write the next installment of Red Boots & a Smile I struggle to focus on a single topic. Should it be a funny story from my childhood or from yesterday? Maybe you would like to hear me brag about my daughter returning from Haiti or about how proud I am of my youngest as she learns the value of hard work (side note she’s not fond of it). For a moment yesterday I almost became a great uncle but alas it was a false alarm but I will be soon. Oh here is one, NASCAR and how disappointed I was that it rained them out last night. Nah, no one wants to hear about that.
Looking around as I sit here thinking, my dog, Shadow, is lying beside me as he always does. He is such a great dog. I have a hot cup of coffee on my desk, the steam rolling up reminding me to take a tiny sip or suffer a burnt lip. The aroma of sausage being cooked for a breakfast at lunch time fills the house. This is only second to the aroma of bacon filling wherever I am, especially if I were on a creek bank someplace fishing. CMT is playing in the background so I can hear my country music, which is never too far from me.
Maybe I should write about the sun here in Florida shining bright with Palm trees casting shadows all over my yard. But in only a matter of moments clouds could roll in, thunder begins booming and you start contemplating the cost of building an ark. Then in a matter of minutes blue skies once again. However, right now, not a cloud in sight. Very picturesque out there…postcard worthy if I had a camera. So it is in my day to day, rather, my morning to morning life. I know very interesting, huh.
Now, I have left out what I do during those mornings. I will write a joke or send a song idea to some of my buddies in the music business. By the way, I have no musical ability whatsoever. I will call or email bookers all over the country so I can perform in your hometown. I used to tell people I should have been born an Italian because of my love of the food but as I enjoy very busy traveling schedule, I’ve changed it to, I should’ve been born a gypsy. The redneck version would be a Ramblin’ Man (thanks Waylon Jennings). I will read a section of a particular book in which I’m currently engrossed or the latest copy of Country Weekly. What a life, right? It really is harder than I make it sound…..really…it is.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Let’s play a little game. Answer to yourself if you recognize the following couple of phrases “HOOWWWDEEEE.” Or “Me and Marcel Ledbetter…,” How about, “Hey Grandpa, What’s for supper?” Here are the answers in order: Cousin Minnie Pearl, Jerry Clower and a skit from the old TV show HEE HAW involving Grandpa Jones. Country style of comedy didn’t just originate with Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy but each of those guys look to the former as their heroes and influences.
Ok, are you ready to play again? Let’s try “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Crazy,” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” I know. Those are easy ones, right? The answers are, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash, respectively. Today’s country singers, Blake Shelton, Jason Alden and Carrie Underwood stand on the shoulders of those music trailblazers and not ashamed to say so.
I can hear what you are saying, “Vic, what are you talking about?” Well, not put too fine a point on it, comedy and country music have been indelibly linked since the beginning of time it seems. This is not to say that Hip Hop artists and comedians such as Katt Williams don’t hang out but the marriage of comedy and music seems most prevalent in the country scene. It isn’t strange to see a country star at a Larry the Cable Guy concert or vice versa. I remember the Cable Guy telling me a story of him in Vegas hanging out with Kid Rock (now Kid Country it looks like) and listening to some of Bobby’s country songs in his hotel room.
Why do you suppose this is? Here is what I think on the subject. I think it’s because both genres of entertainment share fans. Country fans are some of the most loyal fans to the artists they love. They will pay hundreds of dollars to see their favorite singer, camp all weekend at a festival or sell out tickets in a matter of minutes (remember Garth Brooks craze and now Taylor Swift). I just read this morning about Abercrombie & Fitch discontinuing a t-shirt because Swift’s fans stood up for their artist protesting the company.
They feel the same way about their comedians. Attend any Larry the Cable Guy show and you will see grown men dressed like their favorite funny man hollering “Git-R-Done” at every opportunity. Strict beer drinking rednecks now enjoy scotch because of Ron “Tater Salad” White. A boy from Texas put bumper stickers on pick-up trucks at the local tractor supply that read “Silence. I keel you!” because he has a dead terrorist as a friend.
Then there is the story telling. Whether it’s Blake Shelton asking, “What do I have to do to win you over?” or Bill Engvall telling us that “RV doesn’t stand for Recreation Vehicle but rather Ruins Vacation.” It’s the stories fans can all relate to. One of the greatest compliments I received from a fan was, “Man, you are so authentic. I like that.” I hadn’t thought about that before but that’s what it is to be in the country, be it music or comedy.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words (names) will never hurt me.” Do you remember that saying we all used as kids when some bully was calling us names or saying something ugly about us? It was a phrase I think we were taught so we would learn to ignore what was being hurled at us. However, it just isn’t true. Words are powerful.
Nathan Hale used his last words to inspire a new nation when proclaimed, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King used his words to give direction to a movement as he simply said, “I have a dream.” Since the beginning of time words have been used to cause wars and reunions. Put some music to some rhythmic words and you will have a number one hit song people just can’t get out of their heads.
But words don’t have to be so grandiose as to bring people to their feet or garner applause. If you are a parent, the simple first word of your child put a lump in your throat. Sitting in the hospital the words, “How are you?” bring comfort as you await news of the surgery. Whether it’s in a comedy club or at a cookout, laughter roars when a word is properly placed at the end of a story. Perhaps you have even been wounded by the words of the one you love who says you should just be friends. Depending how spoken or even arranged, words can evoke a multitude of emotions.
Growing up one of my favorite short stories was The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County. Whenever I read that Mark Twain classic I actually saw the frog jumping or the birds on a wire. Country music star, Tracy Lawrence does the same thing with his hit song, Paint Me a Birmingham. Too often when we think of “visual” we miss how words can be used to garner up pictures in our minds whether it’s imaginary such as the two examples given or from memories of our past. Words can produce a vast array of imagines transporting us to a whole other time in our personal history or even to a different world altogether.
Words are powerful and can move mountains no matter the source, be it an actor in a movie, a comedian on stage, your child in your arms, or just someone you pass on the street. So as you become a regular reader of this blog you will see words that will generate a lot of….well….everything. Perhaps you will laugh or remember a time or cry or just shake your head but you will see words that have been thought out and put together with you in mind. So from my mind (which can be a weird place) to yours, I hope you enjoy “Red Boots and a Smile”