15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Mike Sacks

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Mike Sacks

Hey

 

The podcast took a week off because I was in Chicago, but we’re back today with Mike Sacks. Mike is one of my favorite writers on the Internet, a fellow author, and an editor over at Vanity Fair. Naturally, we didn’t talk about any of that, because this podcast is 15 Minutes or less and we only focus on the best advice someone has ever received (and the best advice they want to share.)

So, hopefully you’ll enjoy it regardless. There are three more episodes in the works and then I’ll start recording the next batch soon. Given that I’m currently out of work, I have nothing but time on my hands.

Show Notes

One major thing to point out: The sound quality via Skype is not great. So at some point I’m going to upgrade back to Zoom.Us and record these, but for now, hang with me since these first six episodes are meant to be an experiment. And when you experiment, you tend not to want to spend a bunch of money on things. (Also: I recorded them all already so … too late now to fix it.)

You can listen to previous episodes of the podcast here. 

You can also check out Mike here over on his website and here on Twitter at @MichaelBSacks

Mike is responsible for the creation of two books I absolutely love, “And Here’s The Kicker” and “Poking the Dead Frog”. I think you should buy both and I hope you get as much value from them as I did in learning from all the comedy legends Mike interviews in both books. The first book, “And Here’s The Kicker” is one of very few books I kept from my old life back in Glens Falls, New Yorker. I must have donated a couple of hundred books, if not more, and “And Here’s The Kicker” was one of very few I retained.

Mike Sacks on the Importance of Showing Up On Time

B.J. Mendelson: What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Mike Sacks: Well, I would say two pieces of advice. One is, I used to work at a record store for in suburban Maryland and Virginia calledKemp Mill Records. It was a small chain, a local chain, in that area. And I worked there for when I was, from 15 to 25 off and on for Christmases, holiday, summer vacation, and such. And the best boss I ever had was someone whom I worked with there. His name is, is Bruce Lee. He was not Asian, he was a black man and he later became a very good friend.

B.J. Mendelson: (laughs)

Mike Sacks: But he was the best boss I ever had. He gave me a lot of incredible advice that I later used when I went outside of retail into the professional world. And one piece of advice that he gave me that I thought in retrospect, I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but in retrospect I thought was great was that I … He was a stickler for people arriving on time. And the store opened at 10 o’clock and he wanted you there at 9:55. And I got there, I … Literally at 9:56 or 9:57 and he said, “You’re late.” And I said “No. I, I’m here on time.”

He, he said, “I asked you to come here at 9:55. It’s 9:57 right now.” And I said, “Yeah, but Bruce, that’s only two minutes.” He goes, “That may be the case but you’re late, and I don’t want it to happen again.” But, so what he was doing and showing me was that the respect you have to show for others and the respect you have to show for yourself and for your job is such that, even if it is a retail job in Maryland, you need to show up on time and you need to do what is necessary for the job.

And that’s something that I’ve, I hopefully have brought to writing and to everything else. If something is due on September 1st, I’m not gonna hand it in on September 2nd. I’m gonna hand it in on, either on August 31st or on September 1st. So it’s just showing people that you work with, and even now extending out to readers a respect that I think, I don’t wanna say it’s missing necessarily in a lot of jobs, but I do think that any job deserves respect. And by showing respect to the jobs and to yourself, that’s really the only way you’re going to grow and improve yourself in your position in employment and in a working world.

B.J. Mendelson: Now, let me ask you. Is that, is that hard to apply as a writer? Do you find sometimes that there’s, there’s either writer’s block or just a struggle that takes place where it’s kinda like, “Oh, I can, I could just write whenever”? So, do you …

Mike Sacks: Right, well that’s a good point. I mean, I, I do think that a common mistake among writers is, they look at themselves as being sort of like Emily Dickinson where they can work on a poem or a piece for as long as they want until it’s right.

B.J. Mendelson: (laughs) Right.

Mike Sacks: But if you, if you’re writing professionally, you have to pull the trigger. And it’s, it’s never gonna be perfect. It’s never gonna be as good as you want it, but at a certain point, you have to turn that in. Someone is waiting for that piece. And I think that’s a good lesson in not only putting through that piece, but then moving onto another piece. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked with in writing where I haven’t seen them in a year or so. I ask them about what they’re working on, they’re working on the same exact thing that I had heard about the last time I was with them. I think it’s very important if you want to make a career in writing, to produce and to move forward, and not to stagnate and circle the drain.

Full Transcript

(You can listen to the whole show by clicking play. The transcript below has been lightly edited for readability purposes.)

B.J. Mendelson: Hey Mike, how you doing?

Mike Sacks: Hello?

B.J. Mendelson: Hey, can you hear me?

Mike Sacks: I can, yes.

B.J. Mendelson: Okay. (laughs) I just get a little nervous with Skype, you know. There’s always, like, that, is it gonna work this time feeling that I have. Uh, but so far, so good. (laughs)

Mike Sacks: Yeah, there’s always a wrinkle with Skype.

B.J. Mendelson: You know, it, it gets the job done and it’s cheap. So … (laughs)

Mike Sacks: Yeah, that’s my motto.

B.J. Mendelson: So, hey, why don’t you introduce yourself to our audience and tell us a little about yourself?

Mike Sacks: All right. My name is Mike Sacks. I work at Vanity Fair full time and I write books, articles. I have my own podcast called Doin’ it with Mike Sacks. That can be found on iTunes, Spotify, and most places where you can find podcasts. My last book is Poking a Dead Frog, Interviews with Comedy Writers. And my next book will be out in about two months. It’s a humor book.

B.J. Mendelson: That’s fantastic. What’s the title of that book?

Mike Sacks: I’d rather not say just yet, actually.

B.J. Mendelson: (laughs)

Mike Sacks: But it, it’s sort of a … it takes place in the 1970s. I can say that.

B.J. Mendelson: That’s awesome. Are you of any … So this is, this is a tangent but, like, I’m sort of struggling right now with naming my next book.

Mike Sacks: Yeah.
B.J. Mendelson: I want to call it The Internet is Magic. But I’m having trouble, like … You know, I, I feel like a better title’s going to come along. Is at that sort of situation? Or are you just, are you using his title as, like, a PR thing?

Mike Sacks: No, it … The, the title’s definitely what it is.

B.J. Mendelson: Cool.

Mike Sacks: But I think the title would sort of give it away, and … I mean, I guess I could say it, but I- I’d rather just wait until the two months release. What’s your book about?

B.J. Mendelson: So, I’ve been traveling around for about five years and I keep getting the same two questions which is, “Okay, smart ass. Now what do I do?” And then other is where it’s like, “All right, well let’s say I work for a large magazine or I, I work for a radio station, and my boss loves social media and I have to use it. What should I do then?” So its just stuff that’s kinda been lingering in the back of my head and, keeps coming up. But, enough about me-

Mike Sacks: Well, do you find that a lot of people who aren’t familiar with media feel they have to use it just because it’s the in thing?

B.J. Mendelson: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, I had this lady come up to me at a book signing, like, in tears because she opened a small business in Burlington and she put all of her money in social media.

Mike Sacks: Oh, no.

B.J. Mendelson: Yeah, because she thought that was the thing and so she was like, “You know, I’m really happy that you’re here ’cause I, I had all these doubts and everyone kept telling me this is the thing to do, and now you’re telling me I was right.” You know, so it was kinda bittersweet. But, I get that a lot. Like, it’s not just-

Mike Sacks: Well how, how does she put all her money in social me-, how does that work?

B.J. Mendelson: Well, that’s a good question. But, she decided that all of her dollars that she was gonna spend on advertising and promotion went to Facebook and Twitter and all that, and just didn’t, did not go well. But that, that story’s incredibly common. Like, I encounter that quite a bit on the road.

Mike Sacks: I encounter it all the time, too. And I hear about it from a lot of marketing types, publishers that, that are always saying, “You need to push on, on social media,” or say, “I won’t accept anyone as a client who doesn’t have 10,000 followers on Twitter.”
But it really doesn’t it doesn’t really break through for you as a writer, you know. It … Just because you have 10,000 followers doesn’t mean you’re gonna have 10,000 sales.

B.J. Mendelson: Right. Well, you know, I always give, I always give this example. I have about 700,000 Twitter followers, and I did a test when my first book came out. I wanted to see how many of them would actually buy the book through, through a direct link on Twitter. And the answer is 28.

Mike Sacks: Oh my god.

B.J. Mendelson: So …

Mike Sacks: That is horrifying. I mean, the-, what percentage is that, .02?

B.J. Mendelson: (laughs) Just, something a little, a little less than zero is how I like to describe it. But, yeah. No, so I, I use that example all the time, where it’s like, you know, ’cause I hear that. I hear a lot of friends of mine who are musicians who won’t get signed because they don’t have x amount of followers on, like, Snapchat and Instagram. And it’s just, it’s insane. But, let me, I mean, we could always, we could always chat about this a little later. I want to focus on you and some of the great advice that you might have. So, let me ask you, it’s the same three questions I ask everyone else.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Mike Sacks: Well, I would say two pieces of advice. One is, I used to work at a record store for in suburban Maryland and Virginia called Kentmo Records. It was a small chain, a local chain, in that area. And I worked there for when I was, from 15 to 25 off and on for Christmases, holiday, summer vacation, and such. And the best boss I ever had was someone whom I worked with there. His name is, is Bruce Lee. He was not Asian, he was a black man and he later became a very good friend.

B.J. Mendelson: (laughs)

Mike Sacks: But he was the best boss I ever had. He gave me a lot of incredible advice that I later used when I went outside of retail into the professional world. And one piece of advice that he gave me that I thought in retrospect, I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but in retrospect I thought was great was that I … He was a stickler for people arriving on time. And the store opened at 10 o’clock and he wanted you there at 9:55. And I got there, I … Literally at 9:56 or 9:57 and he said, “You’re late.” And I said “No. I, I’m here on time.”
He, he said, “I asked you to come here at 9:55. It’s 9:57 right now.” And I said, “Yeah, but Bruce, that’s only two minutes.” He goes, “That may be the case but you’re late, and I don’t want it to happen again.” But, so what he was doing and showing me was that the respect you have to show for others and the respect you have to show for yourself and for your job is such that, even if it is a retail job in Maryland, you need to show up on time and you need to do what is necessary for the job.

And that’s something that I’ve, I hopefully have brought to writing and to everything else. If something is due on September 1st, I’m not gonna hand it in on September 2nd. I’m gonna hand it in on, either on August 31st or on September 1st. So it’s just showing people that you work with, and even now extending out to readers a respect that I think, I don’t wanna say it’s missing necessarily in a lot of jobs, but I do think that any job deserves respect. And by showing respect to the jobs and to yourself, that’s really the only way you’re going to grow and improve yourself in your position in employment and in a working world.

B.J. Mendelson: Now, let me ask you. Is that, is that hard to apply as a writer? Do you find sometimes that there’s, there’s either writer’s block or just a struggle that takes place where it’s kinda like, “Oh, I can, I could just write whenever”? So, do you …

Mike Sacks: Right, well that’s a good point. I mean, I, I do think that a common mistake among writers is, they look at themselves as being sort of like Emily Dickinson where they can work on a poem or a piece for as long as they want until it’s right.

B.J. Mendelson: (laughs) Right.

Mike Sacks: But if you, if you’re writing professionally, you have to pull the trigger. And it’s, it’s never gonna be perfect. It’s never gonna be as good as you want it, but at a certain point, you have to turn that in. Someone is waiting for that piece. And I think that’s a good lesson in not only putting through that piece, but then moving onto another piece. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked with in writing where I haven’t seen them in a year or so. I ask them about what they’re working on, they’re working on the same exact thing that I had heard about the last time I was with them. I think it’s very important if you want to make a career in writing, to produce and to move forward, and not to stagnate and circle the drain.

B.J. Mendelson: I agree. I mean, it’s something that I really struggled with over the years. So that’s, you know, 2017 I was kind of like, “Alright. I’m recommitted. We’re, we’re getting this book out and it’s, it’s happening.” (laughs) So, that’s, that’s fantastic advice. Now, let me ask you, so, if you had one thing you wanted to impart on the people listening to this, what would it be? What would be the advice you’d want to share with them?

Mike Sacks: Well, this is something I taught myself and that is what I would want to tell others is that in the end, you have to, you rely on no one but yourself. There’s gonna be no teachers who are going to walk you through life. In the end, you have to teach yourself, and you have to improve yourself. And there’s no rule book, there’s no writing book, there’s no course. There’s no online course, there’s nothing that is as important as you teaching yourself what works and what doesn’t work. Both in business and in the creative aspect of writing. And it really comes down to just sitting down and doing it, and experiencing as much life as possible. Because all these rules that you see about certain writers, like Hemingway would only write from 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and then go for a swim, then come back.

That worked for him. That’s not going to work for you, necessarily. There’s no magic elixir that’s going to make you a better writer, except figuring out and wending your way through this world by yourself. And it, it’s hard to do. It’s hard to create and forge your own path, but only you can do it. You cannot rely on anyone else. It’s a lonely feeling in a sense, but at the same time, you’re not relying on others and there is a freedom. You don’t have to rely on a boss. You don’t have to rely on this person or that person. It’s all on you, which is … There is a lot of pressure in that, but there’s also a lot of freedom in that it’s a valuable position to be in, and not everyone gets to be in that position.

B.J. Mendelson: I think it’s great, and it’s fantastic advice for writers. I mean, the thing I’m … The thing I struggle with right now is I’m looking at Tools of Titans from Tim Ferriss, and I’m just … And it’s exactly that. It’s like, all these different rules and things that these people have done, and I’m just thinking this, yeah. It, it works for you but it’s insane to, to say to someone, “Oh yeah, you should just ditch everything and go hiking through the mountains of Peru.” (laughs) You know, like, that’s …

Mike Sacks: Well, I think usually, if someone is teaching you that, it’s usually someone who can’t make a career of what they’re teaching. You know, I, I took a lot of lessons, courses right after college, taught by writers who couldn’t make a living at what they were teaching, whether it was TV writing or comedy writing or what have you. So you have to be very leery about taking advice. And in the end, what you’ll hear from successful writers across the board is, “Well, I don’t know what’ll work for you, but this worked for me.” And basically, what’s that, what that’s saying is that I had to figure this out on my own. No one else could tell me it. And in the end, you’re going to have to figure it out on your own. No one is going to give you … This is not a math equation where A plus B is going to equal C. It’s very murky and very nebulous, and you have to sort of wend your way through it.

B.J. Mendelson: I think that’s, I think that’s perfect. I think that’s great advice for us to kind of leave it there. So let me ask you, where can we find you online?

Mike Sacks: Okay, mikesacks.com, and then on Twitter, michaelbsacks, I think. And then Facebook, and I guess, anywhere that social media is used, and used for absolutely no reason.

B.J. Mendelson: (laughs) All right, I love it. Thank you so much, Mike.
Mike Sacks: All right. Well, thank you. I really appreciate it.

B.J. Mendelson: Yep. Catch you soon. Bye bye.

Mike Sacks: Thank you.

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15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Rosie Tran

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Rosie Tran

Hey

Alright. So here is the second podcast. The first four were meant to be tests. I’ve now recorded six, so I feel pretty good about continuing this as a series. I’m not so crazy about doing the editing, which is why there’s virtually none. So I think if I were to set a goal with this thing, it would be to find a sponsor to cut a check each month so I can pay for Podcast Motor. D.J. Waldow, who you’ll hear from in two weeks, recommended their service.

Basically they would do everything I’m doing now, except I can just focus on recording these things and let them handle the rest. At that point, once the sound of the show is “professional” I’ll go about setting up an actual landing page for it and do all the stuff I’d encourage all of you to do if you were going to launch a campaign.

We’re not quite there yet, but that’s the plan. You should always have a plan and a goal, right?

I’m also getting more comfortable. Having done six of them, I feel less rigid about the three questions and the shows are getting more conversational. So in terms of my social anxiety and dealing with that (which I talked about in the show notes for last week’s episode with Jason Falls), the podcast seems to be helping.

(Just so we’re clear: The podcast is being done for personal reasons. It’s helping me deal with my anxiety and depression. So I don’t look at this thing as a money making endeavor. So any sort of sponsorship that might appear is 1. Probably a long ways off  if it happens at all and 2. Not being done to turn a profit.)

Show Notes

Rosie Tran on Why People Fail

Rosie: The reason that so many people fail or so many people have lives that are not exactly where they want to be is because we have this thing called the ego, and it blocks us from taking our own advice. So, we’re really good as a human species at giving others advice, but we’re not good at taking it for ourselves because our ego blocks us from hearing what we need to hear. You know what I’m tryin’ to say.

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: You know. You can’t handle the truth. (laughs) So, I would say that the best advice is to pretend like you’re giving advice to someone else, and then forcing yourself to take your own advice. (laughs)

Full Transcript


(Note: All transcripts are lightly edited for readability purposes.)

Rosie: Hey, B.J., how are you?

B.J.: I’m well. Hey, so you got like a, like a blowing sound in the background? What’s going on there? Is that like, you got the air conditioner going, or …

Rosie: (laughs) No, I live in the lovely city of Los Angeles, where there’s constantly a leaf blower going on outside. (laughs)

B.J.: Yeah, so I was just trying to figure out like, what … What is going on there and like … is he stalking you, or is he like …

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: Isn’t LA the land of like candy and serial killers?

Rosie: (laughs) No, it’s just that … I don’t know, whatever building you … They’re so … LA rent is really expensive just like New York, so a lotta people are in apartments and condos and stuff like that, but it’s not like New York where they’re in high-rises. Most of the buildings in Los Angeles are low-rise, and actually there’s a huge controversy ’cause Santa Monica and other cities are tryin’ to put more high-rises in, and the locals are like, “No, we don’t want more traffic. We don’t want more people. Low-rises! Low-rises!” But it’s kinda making rent unaffordable too.

But, in addition to all these low-rises, there’s a lot of landscaping and other things, so there’s just constantly leaf blowers and gardenings. Every building I’ve lived in. And there’s noise ordinances so they can’t go on, you know, at 7am, but somehow they do at 6 and 7am. (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: So, it’s definitely … hashtag first world problems, but yes, there’s some noise in the background. So, hopefully, the listeners aren’t offended. (laughs)

B.J.: It’s all good. Like we were talking about the first four of these are just complete, like, big experiments. So, there’s no, there’s no production, there’s no … There’s nothing. It’s just … we’re doing the show and then, like, we’re seeing how it goes. Why don’t you introduce yourself to our crowd of like 3 people.

Rosie: (laughs) Actually, B.J., the average podcast has a hundred to 200
listeners, so there might be more people than you think.

B.J.: Oh, there ya go.

Rosie: (laughs) Well, I am a friend of B.J.’s for many years, and I’m a comedian, stand-up comedian, actress, writer, podcaster, et cet … I’m one of those et cetera people in LA that doesn’t really have one job, they have 9000 jobs. (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs) Hey, ya gotta pay the bills, right? I mean, that’s, that’s what it comes down to.

Rosie: I’m an et cetera. That’s what I am. I’m an ETC. (laughs)

B.J.: Before, before I get into like … Cause there’s only like three questions, which I think is like, the beauty of this, is that it’s three questions, and I’m done, but, so … You know the line like, you’re suposed to tell people that you’re always busy, ya know, in LA

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: So, what do you …

Rosie: Well I am always busy, but it’s cause I’m trying to piece together an income. (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs) That’s, that’s true, but, what is, what is the line. It’s like, I have, I have projects in varying states of production. Have you ever used that on someone?

Rosie: I haven’t used that one on someone.

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: But that’s, that’s very true. Some people, I think, just say that, and they’re really just smoking pot and sitting on their couch …

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: … waiting for something to happen. (laughs) I’m actually constantly having projects in various stages of production.

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: One thing I like about being an independent artist is you’re definitely an entrepreneur, but, sometimes, ya know, when you think of entrepreneur, you think of these Silicon Valley magnates who are like ready to make billions at any second. I think as an independent artist, you’re happy to get thousands. (laughs) Or the hundreds. (laughs)

B.J.: Hey, hundreds is good.

Rosie: Yeah, hundreds is good. (laughs)

B.J.: Hundreds is very good.

B.J.: Alright, so lemme ask you, so, the whole gist of this is, basically, like, what’s the best advice you’ve ever given. What’s like the one, the one piece of advice that, that you would wanna impart on someone. So, like, that’s the whole … That’s the whole deal with that. So, lemme ask you, what … What’s the best piece of advice that someone’s ever given you?

Rosie: In comedy, or just in life? (laughs)

B.J.: Hey, it’s, it … See, it … I think if it’s for comedy, it equally applies to life, right? (chuckles)

Rosie: Um, well … (laughs) This advice is very specific to comedy, but …

B.J.: OK.

Rosie: I would say the best advice I was ever given was not by a specific person. It was me reading an article about advice. (laughs) And, I’m horrible because I wanna give this person credit, but I, I don’t know … It was just an article I read online, so I ca … I don’t have the credit to give him. I know it was a him.

But, it was, a psychologist social anthropologist-type article, and he was talking about advice and giving advice and giving unsolicited advice, and I would say the best thing that I got from that article was that we all have unlimited knowledge. So B.J., you’re like the smartest person. I’m like the smartest person. But when we … The reason that so many people fail or so many people have lives that are not exactly where they want to be is because we have this thing called the ego, and it blocks us from taking our own advice. So, we’re really good as a human species at giving others advice, but we’re not good at taking it for ourselves because our ego blocks us from hearing what we need to hear. You know what I’m tryin’ to say.

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: You know. You can’t handle the truth. (laughs) So, I would say that the best advice is to pretend like you’re giving advice to someone else, and then forcing yourself to take your own advice. (laughs)

B.J.: I like it. I like it a lot. So, have you used that on yourself? Like, is there an instance that you can think of where … That you’ve applied it to something you were working on or something you’ve encountered?

Rosie: Um, oh yeah. I’ve used that a lot on myself. For some reason there’s this … There’s psychological phenomena … Oh, here’s a leaf blower. I’m gonna actually …

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: (laughs) It’s so loud. I … I totally use this on myself and it’s … For some reason, there’s a psychological phenomenon of when we give ourselves advice. It’s like so hard. Like we can’t do it. But it’s so easy to give others advice, right? Like, I think in my mind the person that’s like overweight and they know everything to do about dieting and exercise, yet, they’re still overweight, right?

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: So, I would say one of the best times that I took this advice for myself was ya know … I’m happily married and I love my husband so much, but, about five years ago, I was in a very, ya know, toxic relationship. The guy was just a total a-hole. Not a good person. And, I can’t … I was one of those girls, making justifications … “Oh, ya know, he’s fine,” this and that, XYZ, blah blah blah, “It’s OK,” ya know.

And, I kind of started listening to myself, and I’m like, “I sound like an abused housewife.” Like this is me making justifications. So, I took that, the advice I would give to any other woman, any girlfriend, or any guy friend that came to me telling me about this type of relationship … I would tell them to run for the hills. But, for some reason I myself was putting up my blinders and accepting this. So, I was like, I’m outta here. This if, if this was any other person coming to me with this situation, I would tell them to leave. So, I took my own advice, and I left.

B.J.: Nice. And, it worked out. I mean you, you got married and now it’s, it’s almost happily ever after, right?

Rosie: Yes! My husband’s awesome, and he’s not perfect. I’m not perfect, ya know. We’re human, unfortunately. But he’s a pretty awesome guy, so … I think that, You know relationships are hard. I know you’re divorced, and we’ve talked about it. But, it’s like you gotta take your own advice sometimes and just cut the cord. And, I think a lot of people don’t wanna break up or divorce because they’re like, “Oh, I don’t wanna be a failed marriage,” or, “I don’t wanna be a divorced person,” or “I don’t wanna have a,” ya know, whatever. But it’s like, sometimes you just gotta put your ego aside and say, “I’m out.” (laughs)

B.J.: And then … It sounds like Ryan Holiday article.

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: I wonder if it’s one of his.

Rosie: I don’t know.

B.J.: I wonder if it’s one of his. But, OK. So, the, the last thing that I always ask people is what’s the one piece of advice that you would wanna give to anyone that’s listening? And, could be on … it could be on anything. Like it could be, ya know, not just comedy, but life in general. Anything you want.

Rosie: So, what’s the one piece of advice I would want to give to someone else, or give to myself, or, who? (laughs)

B.J.: Let’s say, let’s say it’s like a total stranger that’s listening to us, and you’re like, “Hey, what’s, what’s something that I can share with them that might be, that might be cool to share with them?”

Rosie: I don’t know if would have one piece of advice I have … I may …

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: … have a bunch of things. But, I, I would say, ya know, you know yourself. You know yourself. People … There’s a lot of unsolicited advice that’s given, and …

B.J.: Sure.

Rosie: … A lot of times people are just projecting their own BS on other people, ya know. I constantly got marriage advice when I first, um, got married, by people that were divorced and people that were in unhappy relationships and I was like, “OK, I’m not gonna take marriage advice from you. You’re, you’re …”

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: “You have a failed marriage.” (laughs) So, I would just say trust yourself because there’s a lot of negative, crazy people out there. Ya know I got a lot of comments negative from men and women, ya know. Women, a lot of bitter women in LA, ya know, jaded women …

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: … Saying, “Oh, good luck with that!” Ya know, men are all cheaters and men are all liars and the same from, ya know, bitter, jaded guys, “Oh, women, they just want money,” and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and whatever their negative connotations were about relationships.

Rosie: And then the same thing with career. Same thing with career, ya know. When I said I wanted to be a stand-up, so many negative haters. “Oh, good luck with that,” and blah-blah-blah blah, and, um … So, there’s just a lot of negative people out there, and I would say the best advice is just, it’s sooo hard when you just have to ignore them all and I’m sure, ya know … “You doing your bull … Social media is bullshit,” and you probably had to deal with a lot of ignorance and dumb people, so … (laughs)

B.J.: Yeah, no, I had … I was on CNN and … No, it was on, it was on CNBC, and this guy took a picture of himself. I guess he was watching and like he’s just like flipping me off. And he’s …

Rosie: (laughs) OK (laughs)

B.J.: And that, that was his response to the interview, and I always love that. I always think about that and so, yeah. I mean like, you’re, you’re always gonna encounter people that tell you, don’t do stuff that they clearly can’t, or just don’t have the drive to do.

Rosie: And they’re never gonna take responsibility. They’re never going to say, “Oh, well maybe B.J.’s successful,” or “He’s successful because of,” something they’ve done. It’s always gonna be, you know, well, you know, “He got lucky,” or “She’s,” whatever or, “B-it’s because she’s an Asian girl and,” or whatever. Who knows? There’s just like so many … I think the internet magnifies it. It …

B.J.: Yeah.

Rosie: Cause there’s this sense of people feeling anonymous, so they feel like they can just say random stuff that they would never say in real life. But, there’s a lot of like super-crazy (laughing) weird people out there and (laughing) I, I, it, the internet makes me sad sometimes. It makes me happy when there’s puppy pics, but… (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: A lot of … And kitty pics. But, a lot of times it makes me sad cause I’m like, “Wow, people,” A lot … 90% of these comment-hater trollers … I’m like, “Wow, these guys need therapy.” (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: It’s bad. (laughs)

B.J.: It’s true. No, it’s, it’s totally true. Hey, um, but ya know, sometimes they think, “Well, if I’m a big enough troll, I can get elected president.” Ya know.

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: So … (laughs)

Rosie: (laughs) Yeah, that’s sad.

B.J.: So there is that.

Rosie: That’s very sad.

B.J.: Hey, lemme ask you, um … So … Just, I wanted to like go back so … Just specifically about comedy advice, did you get something that you thought was particularly useful? Like, I’m asking completely, selfish self-interest here. Like, what …

Rosie: I did get, I did, I get, I got a lot of miscellaneous advice. Um, this is …, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that really stood out. But what I would have done if I would’ve … If I could take my career back … I’ve been doing stand-up now for almost 10 years. If I could go back and in, hindsight is 20/20, and do something different, I wouldn’t have moved to LA. I moved to LA when I was like 18 or 19. I would’ve gone to a small market, like San Francisco. San Francisco is a huge city, but it’s a small stand-up market.

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: I would’ve gone to San Francisco or Chicago or Miami or like another market that was like a small market. Austin. And I would’ve become the queen of that city. And then I would’ve come to LA or New York. Because what happens is, when you’re trying to develop as a comedian in LA or New York, you’re like, it’s a win-win slash win-lose, because, it’s like, your career could catapult at any time. But also, you’re like around these like amazing, huge headliners and stars and celebrities. You know, I’ve done shows with Robin Williams. I’ve done shows with, you know, Joan Rivers. I’ve done shows with other people. And so, you’re there’s so many opportunities, but also, it’s kinda like … You’re also fighting with every other celebrity. Like I did a show … I, I won’t talk bad about this guy on the air.

B.J.: (chuckles) Sure.

Rosie: But, I … There was like a celebrity comedian on a show and he did not wanna go after me. He didn’t wanna follow me. It’s not because I’m so funny, but because we had some similar material. Not, ya know, exactly, but he … It’s like he just didn’t wanna follow me and I was like shocked by that because he was a big star. But, it’s all ego, you know?

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: So, I would’ve become the big fish in a small ocean first. Because what I’ve seen is people that make it really really really really big in LA or New York. They were a big fish in a small pond and then they kinda like, got all their eggs in a basket in the small pond and then came to the big pond. If that makes any sense at all. (laughs)

B.J.: No that, that’s actually it’s great advice, on a buncha different levels. Like it’s also great life advice too. Ya know, i-if y-you [00:13:30] …

Rosie: Yeah.

B.J.: You get really good in a, in a … where there’s not too many eyes on you, and then once you’ve got a professional …

Rosie: Correct. Yes.

B.J.: So that’s genius. I love that. (chuckles)

Rosie: That, that is what … The only thing … If I could go back … There’s so many things about my career that I’m so happy about, but if I could go back, that’s what I would do. Because the people that I’ve seen in LA that just really blew up out of left field … They didn’t blow up. They were developing for 10 years in like …

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: … Austin or San Francisco or Chicago or Seattle. And then they kinda got their eggs in a basket. They got an agent, a manager,and they came to LA. They came to work. They didn’t have to deal with any of the comedy politics that, you know, um, mediocre shows and all these like crappy, like bitter, like up-and-coming comics, right? (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: They just like cut the crap.

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: So, that’s … That … And people that did it like that, I think they looked at comedy very much in a business perspective. Some of them I think had no clue, they just like, it was a happy coincidence. But, as far as like straight to like, straight to the big time, straight to like making six figures, seven figures doing stand-up, that is the pattern that I’ve seen over and over and over again, is, they were the big fish in Toronto. They were the big fish in wherever. And then they kinda rode the wave or got hype or buzz or marketing or whatever you would call it, as a social media guy, right? (laughs)

B.J.: Right. Hey, no, we’re two episodes in and I think that’s, that’s the best advice that we’ve gotten so far.

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: (laughing)

B.J.: Hey, where can people check you out?

Rosie: I have shows sporadically but I-really really what I wanna promote is the podcast, Out of The Box podcast, and following me on Twitter, because, um, sometimes I have booked shows way in advance and touring shows. But, sometimes I have shows last minute, like, I, last night I had a, um, show that kinda just came out, and someone was like, “Hey can you do this show?” So, if you really wanna catch me, follow me on Twitter @FunnyRosie and follow the podcast and that would be the best way to find out about me.

B.J.: Cool. Thank you so much for joining us.

Rosie: Thanks, B.J. Have a great day.

B.J.: You too.

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Jason Falls

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Jason Falls

A lot of people ask me about podcasting. As part of the whole, “Ok Smart ass, now what do I do?” response I get after they read “Social Media is Bullshit.” The conventional wisdom (that I agree with, in this case) is that if you want to do a podcast, you should record three or four test episodes to see how it goes.

After those “test episodes” are done, you decide if you want to go ahead with doing the show or not.

Now here’s an added wrinkle: The odds are good you won’t see financial results from doing a podcast. They’re good for branding, networking, and PR, but they’re not terribly good at much else. Plus every asshole has one now, so … There’s that too.

You have to take that into consideration too. If you do a podcast, you have to have the right expectations and goals for it, otherwise you may find yourself 200 episodes in and deeply disappointed.

So, in the way I do everything (full transparency), let me tell you about 15 Minutes.

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson

Some of you know I suffer from depression and OCD. So there’s a whole lot of social anxiety I deal with every day, particularly outside of business settings. In business settings, I’m awesome. Put me on stage in front of a thousand people (been there, done that), I’ll have them all laughing. Get me to tell jokes to an audience where they all speak different languages, and I’ll have them all laughing at the same time. (Been there, done that too.)

Get me alone with a girl for like twenty minutes? Hilarity and awkwardness will ensue. Same deal with just hanging out with people in a social setting. I’m crawling up the wall and counting the minutes until I can leave.

I tell you this, because that makes me the worst person to do a podcast. They’re intimate experiences. But at the same time, if I were to do one, it would be good for me from a psychological perspective. Ideally the show would get me comfortable talking to people in non-business settings. With practice,  I’ll get better at doing so, and maybe that’ll kill some of the social anxiety that I deal with.

And so, a podcast was born. There’s no goal with this thing other than helping me get comfortable in talking to people outside of a business setting. You should know that upfront. I’m doing this for me, but that doesn’t mean there’s no benefit to you.

On the show, we’ll have a wide array of guests (even you. Seriously. Just email me at bj@bjmendelson.com if you want to do an episode) and each guest will share the best advice they’ve ever got; and then some advice they’d like to pass on to you. All in 15 minutes or less.

(Test) Episode 1: Small Business Marketer, and fellow author, Jason Falls

My first guest was Jason Falls, author of “No Bullshit Social Media” and the co-author of “The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing”. Above, you can hear Jason talk about his own battles with Imposter Syndrome and why faking it until you make it isn’t the terrible advice I always thought it was.

Below, you can hear the episode in its entirety. Fair warning: Since this a test episode, and I like to share everything I do, I did no editing on this episode. So this is the raw audio, and you can tell I was really nervous in my interview, repeating myself and saying “uh” a lot. Social anxiety for the win!

The second episode (recorded today) I’m a bit better, but just take this as a heads up before you listen to the full first episode. My goal is that by the end of my test episodes, I’ll be in good shape in terms of my interviewing ability. We’ll see.

Full Transcript

(Note that the transcripts are lightly edited to remove the “uhs” and other annoying things that make a transcript hard to read.)

B.J. Mendelson:                   Hey, how are you doing?

Jason Falls:                             Fine, how are you?

B.J. Mendelson:                   I am well. I realize I haven’t talked to you actually like verbally in about a few years.

Jason Falls:                             (laughs) It’s been a while, yeah.

B.J. Mendelson:                   All right, cool. So thank you for doing this.

Jason Falls:                             All right.

B.J. Mendelson:                   This is just like,  I’m just testing it to see how this goes, and then like I’lll post it anyway because I don’t fucking care. (laughs)

Jason Falls:                             (laughs)

B.J. Mendelson:                   You know, the whole point behind this was I was just tired of, do you listen to the Tim Ferriss podcasts?

Jason Falls:                             I don’t listen to the podcasts, but I’m vaguely familiar with what he does.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Okay. So, I mean, the podcast it sounds so slickly produced, but there’s a solid six minutes of commercials-

Jason Falls:                             Nice.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Before any episode starts, and it’s just like just give me the content and end. Like, that’s all I want. It was just …

Jason Falls:                             (laughs)

B.J. Mendelson:                   Right?

Jason Falls:                             Yeah.

B.J. Mendelson:                   So yeah. Let’s, let me get right into it then, and then I can let you go ’cause that, the whole idea is to do this in like 15 minutes or less.

Jason Falls:                             Okay.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Each week, like, (laughs) that’s sort of the “Get your shit and get out”  kind of thing.

So, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Jason Falls:                             Wow. I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is to stop and think about your intention of, of what you’re doing, and unfortunately I didn’t really get that advice until I was in my 40s  but, I had  a friend of mine who I was talking with about just stress and things like that in general, and he said, “I think one thing that would help you is if you stepped back with everything that you do personally  and professionally, and say ‘What is my intention? What am I going this for?'” And, you know, it really kind of goes back to the same types of advice that I’ve been giving people in business is, “What’s your goal? What are you trying to get out of it?”

So if you don’t know your goal, then you can’t possibly prescribe activities that will get you there because you don’t know where you’re going, and so it’s the same thing in life, whether it’s the relationship with your children or your spouse or, you know, why you’re participating in a volunteer activity or even what you’re doing in business. What’s your intention? What are you trying to get out of it? What are you trying to accomplish? What are you trying to help somebody else accomplish? And if you know that and think about that, then you have a lot more clarity and a lot less distractions to get where you’re going, and so I think it kinda reduces stress, keeps you on a straight and narrow path, and for the last couple of years since I’ve gotten that advice you know, business and personally life for me has been oddly a little smoother.

B.J. Mendelson:                   And who actually said that to you? Where did that advice come from?

Jason Falls:                             It was actually a friend of mine who happens to also be a therapist. His name’s Tom Clark, and you know, he does a combination of therapy and then teaches mindfulness meditation which is something else that I’ve been doing for three or four years now, and so he just said, “I think understanding your intention is going to help you get past a lot of this peripheral stress that you’re dealing with,” and sure enough he was right.

B.J. Mendelson:                   I love it. So, let me ask you how have you utilized this advice? Like, if you can give us one example of a way you specifically used it?

Jason Falls:                             Sure. Well, I think, um, you know, specific examples, like for instance, from a business standpoint, I have always sort of juggled multiple roles. I’ve worked at agencies and brands, and I’ve had companies that I’ve engaged as clients and whatnot, and that’s how I primarily made my money, but then there’s this, you know, secondary  Jason Falls brand on the side that’s about speaking and writing, and things of that nature, and so, it supports the other piece of it. Then they kind of support one another, but it’s also separate in some ways.

And so I actually sat down this past fall and said, “You know, if there is such a thing as a Jason Falls brand, what’s my intention? What am I trying to do with it?” And I realized that I didn’t really have a clear direction on what I wanted to do with my speaking and writing activities outside of the official work role in whatever capacity that I was working with my company or someone else’s company, and I thought about it and realized that I have a passion that lies in helping small businesses, but I hadn’t really been focusing on doing anything to help small businesses over the course of the last 10 years.

I’ve been working with medium to large enterprise companies and clients of agencies and so on and so forth, and so, as I turned into 2017, I said, “You know what? The blog at JasonFalls.com, the email newsletter everything I do that’s outside of the work-related things that I do, um, is gonna be focused on helping small businesses either get online or optimize what they’re doing online because the statistics are still pretty true. About half of all small businesses don’t even have websites.”

B.J. Mendelson:                   Right.

Jason Falls:                             So there’s a lot of progress to be had, and so I’ve kind of dedicated my personal business ventures and speaking and things like that to be focused on small business because I defined my intention.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Let me ask you the big question and the last one: If you’re able to share with someone advice of your own-

Jason Falls:                             Mm-hmm (affirmative)

B.J. Mendelson:                   What would that one thing that you’d want to share with people?

Jason Falls:                             I mean, obviously I think the easy answer is to say that you should define your intention but I think that another, I want to go with a different route on that, too, because something else that I don’t know that I can ever recall anybody telling me this as a piece of advice. I think I kind of carved this out for myself, but for a long time I sort of had this battle with the imposter syndrome where you don’t think you belong, you don’t think you’re good enough, you don’t think you’re smart enough. It’s kind of a self-doubt thing, and, and sometimes it can paralyze you.

Generally I overcome it pretty well, but it’s kind of always thinking that you’re gonna be found out, that somebody’s gonna realize that you’re not as smart as you report yourself to be, and so the things that I’ve kind of developed over the years is this understanding that especially in new jobs or new situations and new relationships be they personal or professional, you really have to be okay with and be comfortable with faking it until you make it, and what I’ve learned over the years because I’ve been in several different roles in several different jobs and you actually don’t fake it as long as you think you do.

You know, once you get into the role, and you learn who you need to talk to to solve certain problems, and you understand the client or you understand the role, and your, day-to-day tasks you very quickly, you know … It’s where intuit things about what you’re doing and become the person who’s making it rather than faking it, and so, I made an actually career transition about 10 years ago. I was a college athletics PR guy, for about 12-15 years, and then I transitioned into mainstream marketing and PR in advertising. I had no earthly idea if I belonged, if I was smart enough, if I knew anything that would be relevant.

I didn’t know if my skill set would transfer, and so I just kind of buckled down and said, “I’m gonna fake it ’til I make it, and I’m just gonna focus on making it,” and you know, literally within like a month of being at my first ever job at an advertising agency in the quote-on-quote real world outside of this little niche focus  of college athletics.

I felt really comfortable and knew that I was doing a good job and having an impact on my clients, and so, I was faking it until I made it, and I’ve done that in client relationships and, and other roles ever since, and I’ve realized that you should really trust your instincts and trust your knowledge and know, that you’re not an imposter, that, that you’re not gonna be found out, and if you are, it’s gonna be found out that you know what you’re doing.

B.J. Mendelson:                   I love it, and believe me, that’s something I really have struggled with. You know who else actually had that issue? That, I heard a couple years ago is Chris Rock.

Jason Falls:                             Yeah.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Yeah, and-

Jason Falls:                             Yeah, that, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. (laughs)

B.J. Mendelson:                   So that was the first time I’ve heard that. I’m really glad that you touched on it. So, tell us where we can find you online.

Jason Falls:                             I am very easily found.  JasonFalls.com is the website. I’m Jason Falls on most major social networks, so I’m very easy you connect with there, and then my day job business is the Conversation Research Institute, which is at ConversationResearchInstitute.com or there are links there from JasonFalls.com.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Wonderful. Hey, look at that. We did it in 15 minutes or less. Honest.

Jason Falls:                             (laughs) How ’bout it! (laughs)

B.J. Mendelson:                   I love it. Thank you so much.

Jason Falls:                             Thank you B.J.

B.J. Mendelson:                   I’ll catch you soon.