It was a sad day last week when I learned that one of my favorite comedians, Garry Shandling, had passed away. I remember with fondness his stand-up appearances on the Tonight Show, and his ground-breaking HBO series the Larry Sanders Show.
In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Garry Shandling said after his first appearance with Johnny Carson he told his agent that he would love to guest host. She scoffed and advised him to “get that out of your mind,” basically telling him that it was impossible.
“I do not like anyone putting limits on what anybody wants to do in their life,” Garry told David Bianculli in 2007. “I would never say never to anyone. These are important issues to me as a human being and creatively. If someone said, ‘I’m thinking of doings this or that.’ I’d say, ‘Man is sounds like you should go for that. It sounds like something you want to do.’”
Rather than “get it out of his head,” as this agent had instructed, Garry kept making Johnny laugh during his stand-up appearances on the show. About two months later, he got a call from the producers telling him that Albert Brooks had just canceled on guest hosting The Tonight Show. They asked him if he could fill in…tomorrow. Of course he said yes.
“I can’t remember the last time I had a reaction where I froze, I was panicked,” Garry later said. “My hands were shaking … and my palms were sweaty. But I said to myself ‘okay, be nervous now and then get to the work.’”
Life is replete with opportunities to handle the challenges that are brought to us, as we climb the hill towards our goals. What sets most people apart is the emotional response to those challenges. Some people choose to spend hours, days or weeks, agonizing over what to do. Some go so far as to hide their heads in the sand, and let life gradually remove every option, making their circumstances worse and worse until they are forced to make the changes in their life that are available.
What if instead, more people took a page from Garry Shandling? He knew what he wanted, and didn’t let others’ negativity dissuade him. Then, when the opportunity appeared, he felt the fear but didn’t let it take hold. Instead, he focused on his work.
There are times when we may be uncertain, and feel like things are outside of our control. It may seem like life is always an endless list of puzzles to solve and barriers to overcome. Instead of dwelling on it or denying it, successful people accept what they’re experiencing, roll up their sleeves, and don’t lose any time getting into action. They may feel sick to their stomach the entire time, but they never let it slow them down.
It may seem like these people are stronger or more courageous that those who hide from their challenges. I guarantee you they are not. Instead, they simply have a different point of view when it comes to achieving their goals, and an unwavering commitment to achieving what they set out to do — no matter what. That’s what Garry had.
What’s a big goal in your life, you’ve been haphazardly meandering towards? What would your life look like if you fully committed to achieving your goal? What keeps you from doing it, and what are you choosing instead? Now, what’s one step you can take tomorrow that affirms your new commitment and puts you one step closer to your goal?
“Commitment is the enemy of resistance, for it is the serious promise to press on, to get up, no matter how many times you are knocked down.” — David McNally