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Being Grateful for Where I Am

Next week is Thanksgiving, and I think the older I get the more I am starting to understand gratitude.

When I started out doing improv in my 20s, I was so obsessed about becoming famous. So much so that it took all the fun out of it and affected my relationships. Fame was my higher power.

When friends of mine who I started out together in Chicago got success, I could not be happy for them. I took it personally, and went into a deep depression and was convinced I must be doing something wrong.

By the time I was in my 50s, my anger had turned into bitterness and jealousy, and I was ashamed to admit it, afraid what you would think of me.

It affected my marriage, too. Lauren would get annoyed about me about not being grateful for the things that were right in front of me, including our relationship. My life had never been better, and I could not see it.

Then Betsy was born, and after about six months, after we decided to keep her, things started to change. Before Betsy was born, other fathers would say to me: “Just wait. After she is born, she will change you.” I didn’t know what they meant. But they were right. It happened gradually.

I can’t even put the change into words, but the long and short of it is fatherhood did change me, for the better.

I am happier. Even Lauren noticed I can be easier to be around. She has said, “You don’t seem so obsessed with fame since Betsy was born.”

Thank God. I am not perfect. My desire to become famous still comes back occasionally, but today, I am far more grateful for what I have than I was in years past, and I am no closer to being famous. I would say that is progress.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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3 Tips for Increasing Your Gratitude

I don’t say this enough and that is “Thank you.” Next to “Yes and…,” thank you can be two of the most powerful words. Instead of being grateful, I am usually busy comparing myself to others, which just makes me feel worse.

But being grateful and saying thank you for what I do have right now can not only change your thinking, it can also set you up to be able to take it in even more good things in the future. Although I still have a lot more work to do on this, here are three tips for increasing gratitude in your life:

1. Write out a gratitude list
Oprah did this and she’s done alright. Write out a list of the five or 10 things you are grateful for every day, from the little stuff to the big stuff, like having good eyesight, going to lunch with a friend, etc. It doesn’t matter what the things are, just as long as you write them down.

2. Start E-mails and Conversations with Thank You
Starting all e-mails and conversations, especially difficult ones, with a thank you, is one of the most powerful ways of having better relationships with people. You will not believe how it changes your tone. Start by saying something like, “Thanks for getting back to me,” or “Thanks for your interest in class,” or “Thanks for your hilarious e-mail,” before you respond with anything negative.

3. Take a compliment
When you get compliment after a show, after a class or at your day job, say THANK YOU, and nothing else. No excuses, no justifications, no “Oh, the other people in the group are just as talented,” no bullshit. Just THANK YOU. I don’t care how many times you need to say this to prevent the other shit that usually follows. And if you are really advanced at this, try to actually mean it. That takes time, and I am still working on it.

And now, I would like to thank you for reading my blog, listening to Improv Nerd, and taking my Art of Slow Comedy Workshop or classes this year. I also want to thank all the people who have helped me over this year, from every intern we have had; to my wife, Lauren; to my producer, Ben Capraro; to the good people at Stage 773. Thank you also to all of the cities I went to this year to do Improv Nerd and teach: Huge Theater in Minneapolis, Improv Boston, Voodoo Comedy Playhouse in Denver, and Backline Improv Theater in Omaha. Thank you to Matt Besser at the UCB and James Grace at IO West for letting us do the show in Los Angeles, Miles Stroth for letting me teach a workshop in LA, and to Dustin at Feralaudio.com for recording the shows in LA and hosting Improv Nerd on his network. I could not have done any of this without all of you, and I am truly grateful.