Getting Uncomfortable – It’s Good For Business and Good For You.

Here are a few things you should know about me:

  1. I always put my hand up in class but lived in fear of being called on unexpectedly.
  2. I hate Charades, costumes, improv or any other activity that requires me to step out of…me.
  3. I am a paid public speaker, have done numerous tv appearances, but get the sweats thinking about making small talk.
  4. I love, love, love Grease (just ask my dad, he took me 6 times in the summer of 1978 when it was in theatres).

I could keep going but I think you get the idea. When I’m in my comfort zone, I’m a rock star but push me outside my boundaries and it’s not pretty (except for the makers of Ativan).

It will come as no surprise then that drama was never on my school syllabus. Drama was the thing that I wanted to love, but since I had no confidence in my abilities, I decided to hate it instead. But oh, did I want to be a part of the show! And in 1988 when my high school was putting on Grease I found a way to cheat the system and be in it, without going too far outside the “zone”.

How did I do it? My good friend, and good egg, Corey Mandell was directing and producing the show so I suggested that I play the role of blubbering Blanche, the affable secretary. Blanche did not have to audition, she didn’t have any lines, she simply played the xylophone, blubbered on cue, and kept in step as Ms Lynch’s sidekick.

It was a win, win, win. I got to be a part of Grease, enjoy cast bonding and laughs, and be a part of something that would be talked about for years to come. It turned out that the cast and crew was an exceptional group that made a performance that defied expectations of a high school show (many of them have established success in the media and entertainment industry).

It was so exceptional, in fact, that 25 years later, when someone joked that the original cast should reprise the show (for charity, this time), 90% of the cast said “Hell ya!”.

Fast forward to early spring of this year…this group of now 40-something professionals, with families and a whole whack of grown-up responsibilities, is rehearsing regularly with the same gusto of yester year (except with more back pain and a lot more wine).

There’s me…in it for the company and good times, showing up when I can and figuring I’ll just step in and blubber when the time is right. When all of a sudden, the person playing Patti Simcox can no longer make it, so the person playing Ms. Lynch is going to step into Patti’s role, and therefore they need a Ms. Lynch.

My high school friends know me well enough to know that if they had asked me the answer would have been “No f’ing way”. So instead they didn’t ask. They told me I was doing it. And in my head, I immediately thought “No f’ing way”.

But then the grown up, entrepreneur, mom, speaker in me told me to suck it up and try. I literally said to myself “the absolute worst thing that could happen is you completely suck. And even if you completely suck, you only have 8 lines so you won’t exactly ruin the show”.

And guess what? I didn’t suck. Not just in my opinion, but in the opinion of my opinionate friends, the professional entertainers I had the honour of sharing the stage with, and my 11 year old niece Sammi, who is the most judgmental of all (her words of support a week prior to the show were “Jojo, you better not suck”).

And guess what else? It was probably one of the most memorable, life changing experiences of my life. Here are just a few of the incredible things I learned:

  1. I like acting. And drama. And I wish I could have learned that earlier in life. But I also learned that it’s never to late to try something new.
  2. There are so many amazing people around us, some who we know for decades without ever really getting to know them. Take the time to get to know them. They can (and will) change your life.
  3. Do the things that make you uncomfortable. Awkward conversations, new business ideas, dating someone who’s not your type. At the very least, it will build up your arsenal of life experience. And at the end of the day, that’s what makes a really good egg.

PS – the show was so good the second time around, we even got press coverage!  Watch the CTV segment here.