Treading the boards

Alisdair Chisholm reflects on a morning’s work and decides that being smug is not a good idea

Last Monday, at 2.00pm, I was sitting in a favourite harbour café, looking out at some mighty fine boats and thinking of buying one, waiting for my friend, Zane.

Zane is a top notch magician and a swing singer of some acclaim. And mostly when we meet on a Monday, I hear about his weekend gigs. We have much in common, have created a couple of best selling magic tricks together and share a quest for the perfect cup of coffee, but our real bond, across our different worlds, is the gigs.

We chase each other all year, covertly working out who has been out there, on their feet, changing the world and making some cash, the most.

As I waited for him, with a double espresso macchiato, pondering whether it would be bad form to take a few hits on my e-cigarette, I was feeling smug as you like. I already had five paying gigs under my belt that very morning and I was going to tell him about every one of them.

At 7.30am, I put on a 30-minute ‘motivation show’ for my Monday Club. Wanting to do something locally – I usually work hundreds of miles or a few countries away from where I live – I started this club for anyone who can rustle up a fiver for breakfast to set them up for the day and motivation to see them through the week.

It is a mighty fine way to start the week, at least it is for me. I was there at 6.00am, setting up, singing Wonderful World badly to myself, just downright happy. The session went well, with that very definite but indescribable buzz in the room, the kind of atmosphere you get when you have a couple of hundred people who have a newly found sense of purpose about them. For my part, it is the only gig where a couple of people turn up in their pyjamas, and it is worth it just for that, although it does, unexpectedly, turn a profit. One of the great things about it – apart from building up a nice little cash pot, which I plan to blow on the final session, mostly on champagne – is that I have to create new material every week, a perfect creative pressure.

From there, a quick dash for an 8.30am ten-minute session with all the teachers at a local school – they have just about got over me saying, at the first session, that if they didn’t like what they were doing then they could always go and get a proper job. Actually, I admire anyone who can spend each and every day with the same people, let alone with the same group of around 30 kids. The ten-minute session is a single message showpiece, this time ‘Action is All’, hammered across with a story, a wild visual and a stunt.

Next, a 9.00am meeting with a local businesswoman, Clare. To add some sense of formality to this 20- to 30-minute meeting, we have it in a private room at a local coffee shop. I always prepare five questions for this meeting, focused mostly on activity, and I suspect that the real value of this session is that Clare has to prepare for it and so it makes her get together a ‘To Do’ list. ‘Change what you do to get what you want’ was the original starting point for these meetings but it has turned out that ‘the more you do the more you get’ is a more appropriate message right now. Clare is no fool but she also wasn’t very busy, so she is getting that habit back.

Then at 11.00am I have a 30-minute talk to a group of kids, late teens anyway. They are strung out, mixed up, down at heel and all out of luck, yet strangely full of life and I can’t help but feel that ‘there but by the grace of some mighty other worldly being go I’. All they lack is a goal and the sense of purpose that brings, and that is my job, so they will be fine, trust me.

Lastly, at 12.30pm, I do a 20-minute session at a local gym to around 80 people. This is part motivation, part sales pitch and mostly a bit of fun and is easily done.

All of which is why I am smugly waiting for Zane, who pings me to say he can’t make it, having picked up a last minute gig and I order another coffee anyway, and remind myself again that feeling smug is never, ever, a good thing.

Pack it in, good fortune.


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