Conan O’Brien’s Burning Building Approach to Getting Stuff Done

A friend asked me a couple of days ago what my advice would be about putting on a show.

I almost instantly launched into a rant about Marc Maron’s recent interview with Conan O’Brien, where Conan talked about his ‘burning building’ approach to getting shit done.

You can listen to the interview yourself over here – but in a nutshell, he says that even though people congratulate him on stuff he’s managed to do in this lifetime, really he thinks the ‘secret’ of this success, is putting himself in situations where he feels he has no alternative BUT to get it done.

This means, for instance, committing to a project deadline before you’ve even had time to freak out about how serious the commitment is and whether or not you can actually do it. The bottom line is, the fact that you’re committed with no escape route or room for procrastination in sight, you just do what you need to do and bam. You’re through the door.

I realise now how much that principle has come into play in my own life…

– the first play I ever produced, happened because the theatre venue sent out an email saying they’d had a show cancellation and did anybody want to do a 4 night run of something in 5 weeks time? Without so much of a synopsis written, I said yes. And we did it!

– the first time I ever signed up to do stand-up (I just rang up and entered Raw Comedy), I had no idea what my set would be. But I knew that a deadline would force me to come up with something.

– When we moved to Canada, one of the first things we did was just book the damn tickets! It made it real. It gave us less leeway to question the sanity of moving across the globe with small children, and more focus on just getting done what needed to be done.

Ergo, my advice if you want to put on a show?

Book the venue. Or the tickets. Just make it real.

The rest will follow. (You’ll make sure of it).

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