It's human law: Things that are going poorly command more of our focus than things that are going well. It likely goes back to early caveman, when noticing something "off" could be the difference between life and death. We still carry this with us, which is why we struggle to celebrate victories and overvalue what we don't have.

Multitalented creative Aisha Tyler began her career as a comedienne and expanded into acting, voiceovers, directing and more. It was stand-up, though, that taught her most of the lessons she's applied to her career. She recently shared the key to great stand-up which, also, is the key to having an excellent career.

Focus on who you serve

Tyler had a long, excellent conversation with Tim Ferriss, and talked about the first time she was heckled. In short, one fool in the audience totally threw her off her game and Tyler's entire set fell apart. As she recalls, the rest of the audience was initially receptive to her. After her meltdown, though, they weren't.

Years later, she shares this powerful insight:

One of the unwritten rules of comedy is that you want to try at all cost to avoid turning everyone against you... You end up derailing a show with 500 or 1,000 people to deal with one person.

This rule doesn't just apply to comedy. It applies to your business, too.

Your job is focus

It's not your customer's job to recognize, or even respect your genius. It is your job to make your idea in the best format to serve your customer. And, if they don't "get it", then maybe they're not your real customer. If so, then it becomes your job to seek your real customers out - and, as Seth Godin says, to ignore the rest.

Tyler had a hard time ignoring the rest, so she flamed out.

There are three solid ways to focus on whom you serve:

  • Blame yourself: Take responsibility when your idea doesn't land right with your customers. It could have been too early or too late, launched poorly or misdirected, and so on. It still was based on your execution. Take responsibility and learn from it.
  • Build a community: Think about your ideal audience well before you even get the idea out into the world. This works in the more abstract, creative arts, too, as you can create an idea in solitude, then build in a gap for community discovery before you officially launch it into the world.
  • Skip the drama: Making a scene or calling someone out for a perceived criticism takes energy away from you doing your work. It also takes your focus away from the customers who actually appreciate you. It is a double disservice.
Published on: Aug 30, 2018