I Hope I Screw This Up
chapter 1 Start Reading Here
So here’s the deal, I’m scared shitless right now. I’m two sentences into a sixty-thousand-word book that I think I need to write because my manager, Norm, says my career won’t really take off until I have a book. I got a deal from a huge publisher because they saw me perform and loved how I was able to walk onstage and speak my absolute truth to a crowd of strangers while making them laugh at the same time. I signed the deal and everything was going great until they said, “Okay, now write a book.”
If you think I wrote that because it’s a funny way to start a book, you’re wrong. Right now I’m in a battle with my mind, which is trying to do everything it can to stop me from writing so it can escape the pain I feel in my chest as I type. My mind is trying to tell me that I don’t know how to do this. It’s telling me that this book is going to suck. It’s telling me I’m going to miss my deadline and reminding me of a Facebook comment where someone said my
vocabulary was atrocious, and once I understood what that meant, I was really hurt. The thought that I have to write this book with the English skills of a twelve-year-old has been standing between me and my happiness for the last six months.
So far, I’ve started this book about a dozen times. I tried writing with cowriters, I tried writing alone, I tried writing in restaurants, I tried going to a cabin in Monterey. I almost tried not writing the book at all. I basically forgot everything I’ve ever discovered about creativity and let how I was going to write this book get in the way of why I’m writing this book, which I’m in the process of figuring out.
Here’s a picture of me as I try to write this. As you can see by how high my hair is, I’m having a hard time.
And now I’m thinking about you. You spent twenty bucks, hopefully thirty, on this book with the hope that it would help you in some way, and the first page is just about how scared I am to write it. I’m sorry, the only thing I know how to do is say exactly what’s on my mind. I know that might sound strange, but what’s stranger to me is the fact that most people don’t say what’s actually on their minds. We’re always thinking something, but instead of saying what we’re really thinking, which would free us and open us up to new possibilities, we instead say what we think people want to hear. How much easier would life be if we just said what we were thinking in the moment?
You would have sensed my inauthenticity immediately if I was feeling fear in every ounce of my body and I just overlooked it in order to write the “right” thing. Instead, by baring my soul and telling you what I’m actually experiencing, I’m freeing myself from the pain I would otherwise be hiding and holding on to. Something I’ve learned is that sharing my deepest truth, no matter how scary it is in the moment, is freedom. My only pain would come from repressing that truth.
For instance, if a man were to get in an elevator and there was a beautiful woman next to him, he might be trying to think of something to say to her to open up a conversation. What if he just said that? What if he turned to the woman and said, “I’m trying to think of the right thing to say to you.” Think of how honest, vulnerable, and freeing that would be. Instead of hiding behind some cheesy pickup line, he gives her his heart, his fears, his truth, and he opens up the possibility for her to do the same. Wouldn’t it be attractive if someone
started a conversation with that level of authenticity? It brings out a mystery, it opens your mind, it speaks to your heart. It’s not a corny line; it’s actually true. It gives you the opportunity to respond because now you’re playing catch with a possibility. You could respond with “Well, you could start out by talking about how nice my hair is.” So now you have a conversation that’s playful and freeing you from your fears because you’re taking your truth and putting it out there.
Most people don’t do that though. Most people get on the elevator and see the attractive person and go, “It sure is weather outside today.” And then the other person goes, “Yes, and there was weather yesterday too.” Now both of them aren’t speaking from their hearts. They’re speaking from a place of strategy because they’re trying to get something from each other. They’re not being real with their feelings; they’re salesmen. You would never look in the mirror and say to yourself, “The weather is nice.” You would talk about your fears and what is really going on at the deepest level. When you’re totally honest and transparent about what you’re thinking, you free yourself from it.
So I guess what I’m hoping for here is that whoever might be reading this will be able to connect to me and what I’m experiencing if I just share exactly what I’m going through. I know you may not necessarily be in the middle of trying to write a book, but you might be able to connect on the idea that I feel like I need to do something a certain way to make someone else happy. Have you ever felt that way? Have you felt that you had to do something that wasn’t what you really wanted to do, just to get love or approval from a friend, a teacher, a boss, a spouse, a parent? Do you know what I mean? Can you feel me? ARE YOU THERE?
See? This is why I do better with audiences. I have no idea who the hell is reading this and how you’re reacting. I guess that’s why I’m in so much fear right now. Like most people, I’ve been trained to try to make everyone around me happy so I can feel loved by them. I was trained to do that so well that I did it professionally as a national touring comedian for twenty years. By writing this book, I’m actually learning how much I’ve been addicted to other people’s opinions of me. This is both scary and exciting. It’s scary to realize that, but it’s exciting to uncover something that I never knew about myself before. I’m doing exactly the same thing I do when I’m onstage, but because I don’t see you nodding and laughing, it makes me think I’m not doing a good job and I won’t be loved. I guess that’s what is really happening here and why I’ve had such a hard time starting this. I’m trying to make my manager, my publisher (Hi, Michele, do you like it?), and everyone else happy instead of connecting to why I’m really writing this book.
I’m not writing it for any of them, and to be honest, I’m not even doing this for you. This might seem like a book that I made for you, but the reality is that you are the muse for me as I continually evolve into my soul. I know I have to write this book because my experience has shown me that if I’m in this much pain, then there is something really important that I need to learn. I’ve had many times where I really felt like bailing on something that I was afraid of, but when I stuck with it, it caused me to grow internally and turned out to be the greatest decision I ever made. I know that as I stay in the room and begin to just accept all these fears and emotions, I’ll begin to transcend my addiction to “doing a good job”
and move into a version of myself that is freer than I have ever been.
Maybe you’re in pain too. Maybe that’s why you picked up this book. Maybe hearing someone face the deepest truth in themselves will awaken something in you, and you will be able to access a new level of freedom too . . . but the moment I take that into consideration, I won’t be giving my gift to its fullest. Why? Because I’ll be thinking more about what you want and how to make my audience happy than truly allowing whatever words want to come through. I just have to surrender to whatever results come out of that place so I can truly tap into the edge of my creation. This book will be much better if I let go of any outcome.
Think of an apple tree. An apple tree is just here to make apples. Apple trees don’t care if we like their apples or not. They don’t care if we make apple juice, applesauce, or apple mayonnaise with their apples. Apple trees aren’t ever thinking, “How many apples will I sell?” or “What will I get for these apples?” If they did care, they’d be so caught up worrying about the endless number of things that could happen to their apples that it would stifle their ability to make them. Even though there is a part of me that doesn’t recommend that you make mayonnaise out of this book, I know I need to release myself from what you do with this information. I’m just here to make apples. Maybe by releasing any expectation of an outcome, I might be able to make ten times as many apples that taste even better because I’m slipping out of “What do I get?” and moving into “What am I here to share?” (or, if you want to go deeper: “What is trying to express itself through me?”).
If I’m writing this to make anyone else happy outside of myself, then I’ll be capped at the level of their expectation and miss out
on the infinite amount of creativity and unknown possibilities that could come from this. Anyone who has made a true impact on this planet, at one point, had to step out of the expectation of the people around them and listen to an inner calling that moved them into a place of originality beyond what they had done before. Like that point, for example . . . that just made so much sense to me and unlocked something inside of myself, and I have never said it before. If I had just started writing a typical self-help book with a bunch of great concepts instead of sharing the actual pain I was experiencing, I never would have written that sentence. Man, that sentence was good. Well, looks like we’re done here. How many words is that so far? Crap, it’s only 1,839. It truly felt to me like 22,910. I thought for sure I was almost done. This is insane, what am I doing???
Okay, well, I guess I can look at what’s happened so far and realize this has already gotten a little easier. My body is letting go of some of the tension that was making this so difficult and I already know a little more than I did when I started, so by the end of this I’ll probably be totally on fire and will have an entirely new level of awareness to share with you. If it’s only been an hour since I started, then what might happen ten hours from now? Now my emotions are moving from 100 percent fear to, let’s say, 50 percent fear, 49 percent excitement, and 1 percent horny. I’m kind of getting aroused by my work. But only 1 percent, so don’t bother coming over. I have to get up early anyway.
Any time we start something creative, it’s kind of like turning on a garden hose for the first time in a while. The water that comes out first is dirty and gross, but once that’s out of the way, what comes next
is some sweet, sweet, garden-hose tap water. So all I’ve done so far is start to get that dirty water moving to make way for some delicious garden-hose water. I think I made that analogy confusing, because halfway through I realized that garden-hose tap water is still not good water. A more accurate analogy would be that hopefully this book is going to start as dirty garden-hose water and end up as crystal-clear Himalayan springwater that frees you from your mind prison.
Okay, now I’m starting to have fun and these pages are starting to turn into a playground. I’m slowly starting to slip out of the self-imposed rules I had put on what this book is supposed to be and what is acceptable for a book about transformation. I had in my head a vision of what the book should look like that wasn’t coming from my heart, it was coming from a mental projection of what I thought was expected of me. I started thinking that it had to be like all the other books, which would actually stop me from being original. Now that I feel like I’m stepping out of that cage, I’m seeing all sorts of possibilities for where this could go. Like maybe one chapter could be a scratch-and-sniff chapter. Okay, bad example, but the point is, the doors are opening and ideas are starting to come through. There is still fear for sure though, like after I came up with that scratch-and-sniff idea, my mind was like, “That is so stupid, words don’t have smells.” But now I’m telling you about that thought, so I’m free again!
PS: I just thought of a word that has a smell. The word is “moisture.” What do you think that word smells like? My friend Dan says, “Moldy sponge.” I say, “Rotten orange.” But it turns out the word “moisture” smells like fresh waffles with motor oil and leaves.
I just realized that I don’t even know why I think writing sixty thousand words is such a big deal. Hold on, I’m going to Google how many words we usually speak in an hour. Holy crap. (Thanks for holding, by the way.) I found out we would average somewhere between ten thousand and twelve thousand words per hour if we talked nonstop. That’s really exciting to me because I do events where I speak onstage for two days straight. I literally walk onstage without any idea what I’m going to say and then speak from my heart for like eight hours a day, both days. The only preparation I do is to relax and play in every moment leading up to the event so that when I’m onstage, the only difference is I’m three feet higher. If I can talk for two entire days in front of thousands of people, this is nothing.
What I feel happening now is that my mind is starting to get evidence that it’s not going to die from doing something that it hasn’t done before and is starting to get on the same page as the creative, apple-tree part of me that wants to express itself. Now I’m at 62 percent excited, 35 percent scared, and 3 percent horny, so let’s play tonight by ear. I can feel my mind piling on all the reasons why this is going to be fun and easy instead of giving me evidence of why I’m a terrible person with an elementary school child’s vocabulary. That would be scrampulent. (Just because I don’t know all of the words, that doesn’t mean I can’t make words up.) It wouldn’t only be scrampulent, it would be markoviltly scrampulent.
The moment that we do the thing is when we learn how to do the thing. I feel like I read that somewhere or have said it before or something, or maybe I just saw it on a bumper sticker. I wonder if it’s plagiarism if I spend a paragraph debating on whether I wrote it or not.
Anyway, I think it fit the moment, so I’ll keep it for now and ask my editor later. If you’re reading this, that means either that I actually did come up with it or that plagiarism is fine if you question it right after.
Where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to say our minds are always trying to figure out how something is going to go, but they can only project what will happen in the future based off of what’s happened in the past. Almost all of us see ourselves as our past stories. We believe that our identities are contained within the boundaries of what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve failed to accomplish, what we’ve looked like, what we’ve learned, etc. Anything outside of what we’ve experienced before is threatening to the identities we’ve had our entire lives.
From speaking on thousands and thousands of stages, changing careers from a successful stand-up comedian to an unknown transformational speaker, and constantly making leaps that seem really scary, I’ve learned that when we haven’t done something before, our minds are under the illusion that we can’t, so they’re horrified that we’re moving beyond the story they have built to protect us. Can you feel what I mean by that? Here’s an example: If you think “who you are” is someone who makes $20,000 a year and then someone offers you a million dollars, then to your mind, that’s actually dangerous. It’s very possible that you might sabotage that opportunity, subconsciously trying to protect the limited story that you came from. This is why many instant lottery winners go broke.
Many people get a lot of love and connection from their limited stories. We learn that when we’re depressed, when we’re stressed, or when we’re having a hard time, people are there to comfort us. Often that makes thriving, becoming successful, and changing
really scary. Most of us would admit that we may be afraid of failure to some degree, but many of us might not even be aware that we are just as afraid of success. Your identity thinks that if you succeed, you’re going to be something different than you are now and the limited story that you’ve been identifying with is going to die. It’s actually saving its life by not letting you succeed.
When I booked the movie 10 Things I Hate About You and moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, I lost a lot of friends who thought I was “going Hollywood.” Some of my first experiences with success made me think that maybe I’d rather stay small and safe than risk it for the unknown. Had I listened to that voice that wanted to keep me small, I might not have experienced the massive growth I’ve gained by constantly moving toward my edge or been given the opportunity to learn that true friends will love me unconditionally. We don’t know if we’re going to get love in the same way we’re used to if we’re successful, so our minds often pull us back into circumstances that are comfortable and familiar, even if they don’t match the life we really want.
For me, writing this book, and living on the edge of my heart as I do it, is competing with my protective story that says I’m not an author, and right now every word I type is slowly, and a little painfully, undoing that false belief. As I keep going, I know I’ll realize more and more that I’m not my past story—in fact, I’m not any story, I’m just this moment, and the more I release those limitations, the more I will begin to open up to possibility and make room for an entirely new perspective on myself to come through.
This book is literally me giving myself advice, and I’m realizing that the true reason I’m writing it is to move past my own fears,
tap into an infinite oil well of understanding, and put into practice everything that I learn in the process . . . and by the way, as you read this, feel free to take only the things that feel good to you and let go of anything that doesn’t. Hell, I won’t even take all the advice in this book. I haven’t written it yet, but what if some of it sucks? I mean, a ton of it’s going to be good—and be open-minded—but also do research within yourself to find what feels right for you.
This isn’t about me telling you how to change your life, this is me giving a megaphone to my inner voice and as a result, maybe you’ll give yourself permission to start listening to yours. As we go deeper, we might end up finding out that they’re actually all coming from the same place. That might be too deep for chapter one, but the unlimited source of infinite possibility that lives within me wanted to say it, so screw it.
So, my job here is to work on me even more than I work on the book . . . whatever ends up on the page will be just a by-product of the internal growth that will come from shedding the things that have been keeping me small and from stepping into the highest version of myself that I have ever been.
I can feel a guidance that is trying to pull me into a new way of being, and if I actually take the advice that is coming through me, a new layer of possibility will reveal itself. Or, in other words, as I go deeper into the onion of who I am, I’ll find the tomato at the center of that onion and will be able to make a delicious onion-and-tomato sandwich. I’m not good at metaphors. My metaphors are like the chocolate mint on a hotel pillow: when you want to go to sleep, you have to either eat it and brush your teeth again, or just move it to the nightstand and eat it tomorrow.
I know that just because I haven’t done this before doesn’t mean that I can’t access the ability to write an amazing book. We all have the exact same level of ability to tap into the unlimited creativity available in every moment.
If you realize you’re just this moment, then you are infinite possibility. You, me, Obama, Oprah, and a homeless person . . . we’re all the same. We’re all just heart and lungs and infinite potential. The only thing that separates you from any human being is your belief in your past story; other than that, we’re all the same. When we stop using our limiting stories as barriers to the outside world and other people, we start to discover an entirely new type of collaboration with life that is effortless, inspired, and open-ended.
Look, I’m feeling much better!
As you can probably tell from the picture, I’m starting to get really excited to keep writing this book and to learn what I need to learn. I hope you’re excited to stay with me, because something tells me a lot of potential, a huge amount of opportunity, and tons of new possibilities are going to be uncovered along the way. I know “potential,” “opportunity,” and “possibility” are almost the same word, but I felt like I needed a lot of emphasis in that sentence because this chapter is almost over, and I wanted it to feel exciting for you because my mind still cares a little what you think. I also don’t have a mextrimal amount of words to describe what could happen.
Maybe this book will show us what happens when we step up, create from our heart, and start learning how to love every part of ourselves. Maybe it’ll show us what it’s like to drop our resistance to life and live in total flow. Maybe it’ll accidentally help us minimize anxieties, addictions, codependencies, and other fears. I seriously don’t know. And even though that’s probably scary for both of us, I know that on the other side of that fear is a freedom that will bring both you and me more into alignment with our naturally creative, unconditionally loving, and effortlessly playful selves. I’m honored to be on this journey with you.
So, there it is, chapter one. The result of walking into my fear, staying in the room, and being okay with not knowing. Welcome.