What book (just one) changed your life?

Answer by Vincent Buscemi:

“ I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years spent learning, four years were spent refining and for were spent in wild success.”
The one book (just one) that changed my life was:
Born standing up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin
Martin’s rise to success embodies the truth spirit of Mastery. Let’s use George Leonard’s 5 keys to Mastery from his book Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment to help guide us though Steve Martin’s stand up career.
Key 1: Instruction
“There are some skills you can learn on your own, and some you can try to learn, but if you intend to take the journey of mastery, the best thing you can do is to arrange for first rate instruction.”
Martin’s first mentor went by the name of Eddie Adamek. Eddie worked in the popular Frontier Land located inside the Disneyland Park. Eddie taught Martin an assortment of rope tricks that Martin would then perform in front of the Disneyland guests. This mentorship instilled in Martin a dedication to craftsmanship, and a devotion to learning, that would lay the foundation for the rest of his successful career.
Key 2: Practice
“The people we know as masters don’t devote themselves to their particular skill just to get better at it. The truth is they love to practice-and because of this they do get better.”
Martin fully understood that mentors could only take his skills so far and if he wanted to become a success he had to commit to the practice of Deliberate Practice.
In early in his career, as a young magician, Steve Martin would keep scrupulous records of the audience’s reactions to each of his individual gags. After taking such detailed notes he would then attempt to devise a plan to improve his act for the next show.
Martin explains that this constant and intense analysis of his act was one of the main reasons for his wild success.
Key 3: Surrender
The courage of a master is measured by his or her willingness to surrender. This means surrendering to your teacher and to the demands of your discipline.”
At the age of twenty-eight, Martin decided to give up his moderately successful career in television writing and fully surrendered to the life a comedian.
After making this decision, Martin had to face the hard truth that this meant he would be spending all of his time on the road. He would be moving from city to city making it near impossible to create any lasting relationships with anyone he met on the road and also very difficult to keep in close contact with his family. Despite all of these negatives, Martin fully immersed himself into the role of the traveling comic and received an education that only the road could teach him.
Key 4: Intentionality:
“Intentionality fuels the master’s journey. Every master is a master of vision.”
In the beginning of Martin stand-up career, most of his critics did not understand his jokes, and Martin’s new style of comedy did not fit the current status quo. However, one night while listening to a Lenny Bruce comedy record Martin realized that Lenny Bruce’s comedy also did not fit the current trends in comedy.
This observation led Martin to understand one important fact about comedy:
Comedy Could Evolve.
From this point on Martin would forgo the current comedy trends and he would envision a new comedy act for himself.
Key 5:  The Edge
“The trick here is not only to test the edges of the envelope, but also to walk the fine line between endless goalless practice and those alluring goals that appear along the way.”
It was Martin’s flirtation with ‘The Edge’ that finally led to his wild success.
Instead of telling jokes with punch lines, Martin would perform ‘anti-comedy’. He would let the tension in the room build throughout the entire show and never give the audience a chance to release the tension by laughing. He didn’t want to use a punch line to tell the audience when to laugh; he wanted the audience to figure out went to laugh on their own. It was this practice of ‘anti-comedy’ that led to his success.
As Steve Martin puts it:
“I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product.”

What book (just one) changed your life?


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