I was a touring comedian for ten years and a very successful one at that; in fact, I hold the entertainment industry record of 106-straight weeks touring on the road. At the same time, I managed to retain my anonymity, which was important to me. In those ten years touring, I met tens of thousands of audience members after shows. The most common opening phrase they used? “I wish I could . . .” followed by their goal or dream that they just didn’t know how to go about achieving. In small towns, it was often just “I wish I could move to a big city where I could have some options.” (Small town people often feel trapped and because of it often become so.)
I found myself uttering the same phrase back in college at nineteen. Mine was, “I wish I knew how to figure out what I should do with my life.” Whether you wish for a new career or better life or more money or to lose weight or to become a rock star, it really all boils down to the same wish: You wish you knew how to make better choices.
It’s choices that determine how much money you make, your career, whether you realize your dreams, who you date, how much weight you lose or gain, and so forth. It’s what I really wished for at nineteen, as well. “I wish I could make better choices.”
Unfortunately, no matter what our education, no one ever teaches us how to make good choices. We never learn a decision-making process we can implement repeatedly, no matter the topic. That’s what I needed desperately in college and when I couldn’t find one, I originated it.
The key to making good choices is to answer what I call the Basic Life Concept Questions (BLC’s). Once you answer the BLC’s, you simply refer to your answers any time you have a decision to make. The BLC’s are your foundation for making good choices. What are the BLC’s?
What do you need?
What’s important to you?
What are your responsibilities?
What are your limitations?
Answer your BLC’s simply and revisit them from time to time, as your answers will change, especially following life-changing events, such as getting married, having a baby, or quitting your job. (What you want today may not be what you want tomorrow.) I find it most helpful to illustrate using my own life. At nineteen, my BLC’s were:
What do you need? A roof, food, clothes.
What’s important to you? Entertaining people, seeing Canada and the U.S., camping and seeing nature.
What are your responsibilities? Finishing college.
What are your limitations? Not talented enough to be a jazz trumpet player.
Another nineteen-year-old might have had completely different answers, like needing off-campus housing so he didn’t have to hear his neighbors combing their hair through the thin dorm walls. This is why it’s crucial to answer the BLC’s for yourself.
Armed with your BLC’s, you can make the right decision about anything thrown at you. I was good at math, so my parents, professors, and high school dean told me I should be an accountant or math teacher. Was either a good choice? I simply checked my BLC’s—nothing in them about math or teaching; hence, becoming an accountant or math teacher would have been a bad choice. I passed.
Since I was ten, I had wanted to be a jazz trumpet player. My BLC’s enabled me to see I wasn’t good enough to cut it. It was hard but I quit pursuing that dream. At eighteen, I had started performing standup comedy. I was quite good. Should I be a comedian? Again, I checked my BLC’s. As a comedian I could travel across the U.S. and Canada, camping and seeing nature on my off-days. I could entertain people while earning enough money for a roof, food, and clothes. Comedy completely satisfied my BLC’s! I pursued comedy as I completed college. (I didn’t quit college because my BLC’s told me it was my responsibility to graduate.)
As I noted earlier, I was a successful comedian for ten years. I have seen and camped the entire contiguous U.S. and most of Canada. So why aren’t I performing comedy any longer?
Remember, you have to revisit your BLC’s, as your answers may change. After ten years as a comedian, look at how the answers to my BLC’s changed:
What do you need? A roof, food. (I had plenty of clothes.)
What’s important to you? Helping others achieve their goals, having a strong social life, playing in sports leagues, seeing family and friends.
What are your responsibilities? Honoring comedy bookings.
What are your limitations? Touring as a comedian.
Whoa, what a difference! What was important to me at nineteen had become a hindrance to what was important to me at thirty-one, actually showing up on my BLC’s as a limitation. (As a comedian, I couldn’t play in sports leagues or have much of a social life—outside partying with audiences after shows—because of the travel schedule.) Seeing Canada and the U.S. was no longer on the radar screen.
I stopped booking new gigs and resigned from comedy after honoring my last gig. I then got a job in education, where I could help others achieve their goals. I currently play sports four nights a week, run two open gyms, have a very active social life, and frequently see my friends and family. I am an educational consultant and wrote a book that was a bestseller and got translated into Russian—God is a Woman: Dating Disasters—which shares my dating and sexual misadventures as a touring comedian, offering what I learned after each story as advice; hence, I am helping others achieve their goals. (The reason I am writing this article, too, of course!)
Many people are unhappy because they fail to realize what’s important to them isn’t part of their life; or, what was important to them years ago isn’t any longer but they are still giving it top priority. If you are struggling with choices or simply identifying your goals, the BLC’s are the ticket. They are universal; applicable to any topic or aspect of your life, no matter how big or small. You can use them to plan your wedding or redecorate your kitchen. (What do you need in your kitchen? What’s important to you in your kitchen? And so forth.) I made a BLC-list to plan a trip for me and my eleven-year-old nephew. The answers pointed to camping in Yellowstone. It was a huge success; he loved it! Additionally, the BLC’s give you balance, as they provide a complete, yet simple picture of your life. Make a list of your BLC’s and start using them!
Ian Coburn is a comedian-turned-author and speaker focused on helping others achieve their goals. He is honored to have the opportunity to contribute this article. He has one bestseller under his belt and shares his entire tangible decision-making system in his new book, Choice – The Meaning of Life: How to Have More and Better Choices in Business, Relationships, Government and Life, which shares his complete system for making good choices (known as the COR-system) and offers examples of its use in numerous topics. Visit www.bestpossiblechoice.com, where you can currently find a free copy of the book! (This early release is available for free for a limited time only.)
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