Archive for the 'Steve Martin on being a Professional' Category

When I was 14, I bought Steve Martin’s album “Let’s Get Small“.  I probably listened to in 50 times.  No exaggeration.  I still chuckle when I recollect some of the skits.  ”Let’s Get Small.”   “Excuuuusssse Me.”

A few years back, Steve Martin wrote in his autobiography “Born Standing Up”.  The book centers on the formulative years of his career–prior to when he achieved success.  It is well written and entertaining, but in a low-key way.  He is introspective and honest.  I enjoyed the read.

About two thirds the way through the book, he tells how he quit his main job as a TV writer for shows like the Smothers Brothers and Sonny and Cher and took to earning a living solely as a stand-up comedian.  He discussed how he would tape shows so that he could identify when he stumbled onto something that worked well.  He likened the good nights to drawing a good poker hand.   You play enough hands of cards and, through luck of the draw, aces flop your way.   Steve told how he would use the tapes from these lucky good nights to refine his routine.  This hard work, and not the luck, led to him being consistently good.

“I learned a lesson:  It was easy to be great.  Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking.  These nights are accidental and statistical: Like lucky cards in poker, you can count on them occurring over time.  What was hard was to be good, consistently good, night after night, no matter what the abominable circumstances.”

I probably over-use the phase “blocking and tackling” as in “we want to be good at blocking and tackling”.   I use this to mean I want my organizations to do the little things consistently well.   To me, blocking and tackling is the foundation of any company.  Getting good at blocking and tackling requires commitment, dedication, and practice.   Luck will help at times, but being consistently good, day after day, is hard.   This is the lessor that the Wild and Crazy Man shared with us.