Tricked into Growing

I am all for taking risks, lifelong learning, ‘getting out of your comfort zone’…for my students.

For me, I’m pretty comfortable being comfortable. I only get uncomfortable when I’m tricked into it. Like the other day when my friend Tara asked if I would perform in her site specific dance piece set in a bar. I don’t dance and I hate bars so, of course, “no thanks, I’m good.”

But she tricked me! When I was working with her cast a few weeks ago on some improv games, Tara got me to go behind the bar. You may know this but I’d never been behind a bar – it is juggler heaven! So, I’ll be performing in Stop Drop Dance, way out of my comfort zone.

A decade ago my friend Avner Eisenberg tricked me into become a better clown. I was still running The Clown Conservatory and he was out from Maine teaching a workshop for my students. “Jeff, you’ve got it bad here. You’re the big cheese, the Director. You’ve got no chance to suck.” This didn’t sound bad to me at all. “I can help you. Come take my workshop in Maine this summer. No one will know you and you can suck for two weeks straight.” That sounded terrible but he convinced me and I did it really well — two weeks of sucking so badly that, when I told Avner’s other students on the final day of classes that my lawyer had just finished negotiating a contract with Cirque du Soleil, they laughed, then stared and then shook their heads in disbelief.

I went out with Corteo because it was a good career move and it helped with the family budget. It was only after I got back from Maine and started packing that I realized that my students would be watching me to see if I did what I taught them and if I sucked on stage. Tricked again. I had to ask myself, before every show, “How will I avoid being a hack today? What part of the show will make a little better?”

Recently, my friend Chris Ertel, author of “Moments of Impact,” said he thinks my book about that career move, “The Secret Life of Clowns,” is all about learning and development. Not what I intended to write or what I intended when got my lawyer to negotiate that contract. Avner helped me keep growing for 500 performances of Corteo and then, inadvertently, got me to write a book about it, another uncomfortable event.

Make your friends uncomfortable – trick them into growing!

Jeff juggling