28 Things I've Learned In 28 Years
Hi, my name is April Brucker. I am an actress, ventriloquist, standup comedian, singer, writer, and singing telegram deliverer living in New York City.
I am posting this in Entrepreneurship because I am my own boss, an indie contractor. Here are 28 Things about business and being self-employed that I have learned in my 28 years of life. Enjoy.
Know where you are going
Being your own boss is an endless swim through uncharted waters. However, it is important to have goals. Write those goals down, even if it is in a notebook that no one ever sees.
Remind yourself of these goals on a regular basis. When I was seventeen I wrote down that I wanted to move to New York, be an artist who created her own work, be on television, write a book, hit Broadway and the list goes on. When times are tough I still break out the list.
Don’t fear failure Failure is the cause of lost opportunities. When I was twenty-three I made my national television debut. I had never seen Rachael Ray and didn’t even own a TV. Next thing I knew, May Wilson and I were in studio being buzzed by Jerry Springer and ending up on the Soup. Some called it a failure. It only made me work harder to show people what I had.
Years later the failure has turned into a success as people tell me they enjoyed the appearance. People compliment May Wilson-my puppet-on her save. They also say “Who is Jerry to judge a ventriloquist? He’s an idiot.” This is all because I bothered to show up.
Don’t be afraid to think out of the box
A few years ago I was frustrated because I was just another comedian in a sea of comedians competing for spots. That is, until my mom and my friend Joe both suggested I write a book about my life as a singing telegram person.
It gave me a new reason to be funny, write comedy, and use my creative muscles in general. Two years later it is a book, ebook, and soon to be musical entitled I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Person.
When one door opens another door closes
A few years ago I worked for a club, got them a ton of money, put them on TV a ton of times and they paid me back by firing me. While the sting was painful I got the opportunity to make internet videos.
I also got the opportunity to start making music, something I never thought I would do, and got a # 1 Hit called “Stay” on the internet. In addition, I fulfilled another dream by hosting a web show and then writing and publishing my book
If people don’t laugh at you at least once a day, you are not ambitious enough
A number of years ago, I made a few puppet videos with underground celebrities. Some of their press folks laughed at me. But I didn’t give up and eventually there were those who clicked. To date my puppets have appeared with Harmonica Sunbeam, Michael Musto, Kate Clinton, Jake Sasseville, just to name a few.
Capitalize on Who You Are
Growing up, it wasn't long before I realized that I am in fact a very weird woman. I speak with an accent people cannot quite place. For goodness sakes I work with puppets and I deliver singing telegrams! The point is, these things set me apart.
I make these abnormalities marketable by making my own videos online, and also practicing my ventriloquism daily so I can be the best I can be. I mention these things when I am asked to describe myself.
Not only does it open doors and sets me apart, but it also helps me stand out amongst other more traditional competitors looking for the same gigs.
Rid Your Life of Spirit Snatchers
A spirit snatcher is a negative person who is not only thankless, but also not supportive of your dreams. A few years ago, my ex-fiance made me choose between him and the puppets.
After months of him putting me down I chose my puppets and I left. My children are not only my trademark but they are my world. Some people believe in my mission, others do not. Those who do not believe do not matter-enough said.
Think Big/Dream Big
Don’t set low goals for yourself. My dreams are big, very big. Sometimes I look at my goals like Mount Everest and wonder if I will ever reach the top. However, thinking and dreaming big not only gets me up in the morning but gets me to sleep at night because I know tomorrow will be another stage in the journey, and if I take advantage of it I will be one step closer to the top.
Don’t be afraid of successful people
A while back I performed for a friend named Blake Mallen. Later, I found out he is a rich, successful albeit cute young CEO. I saw he was on Twitter. Part of me was afraid to tweet at him because he was a millionaire, but the other half of me just took the risk.
I was glad I did because Blake tweeted back and he was very sweet. It also gave me the guts to talk to people who were winners, and those people made me feel good. Bottom line: people can’t give away what they don’t have.
Do not settle
Before I left to pursue my dreams of creating my own web shows, videos, and writing my own books, I worked at a club where I ultimately got fired. I stayed longer than I should have because it was a decent gig, but mostly because I feared never finding another creative home for my ideas.
Shortly before I got the axe I was asking to be treated better because I had done so much for them. My old boss said, “Sometimes you need to settle.” Sand and rocks settle at the bottom, cream rises to the top. It was time for me to go.
Never discuss politics or religion
In my life I have seen this make or break many a business deal or a friendship. As a liberal, I am a strict supporter of women’s rights, anti-bullying, and gay rights. Naturally, there are many people who disagree with these views. As a matter of fact I have worked with some, and I am even related to a few.
However, just because someone disagrees with you does not make them a bad person. It takes more than one idea to make the world go around. I performed for the Saudi Royal Family and they are different than America in a big way. However, because I understood their way it ended up being a very good show. Probably because I didn’t bring up religion or politics ;)
Ask for feedback
Someone once told me during a feedback session that I should become a red head. Then I heard that I should have an Ethel Rosenberg puppet. On other occasions, I have gotten ideas on what direction to head with my career and got joke ideas I would have never thought of. Sometimes your ideas are great, and sometimes other people’s ideas are great, too.
Put family first
I remember reading this in Showing Up For Life by Bill Gates, Sr. and thinking, “WHAT?!?!!?” However, he is right. Your family will be there to support you when you are successful, but they will also be there when times are tough.
I am not saying they won’t drive you crazy, mine does all the time. However, every once in a while I know my crazies have some awesome suggestions and ideas. Ultimately in the end, they are all you have.
Make the world a better place
I know it sounds tacky and corny, but if you can be philanthropic in any way, do it. During the Sandy Hook shooting I set up my sales so a portion of my proceeds would go to those children because the story broke my heart.
I remember needing to help not because I had anything to gain, but because we have the choice of what we want the world to be. I know it sounds preachy, but I want it to be a better place. I did my part. What have you done today?
Say Thank you!
Yes I mean send a thank you note after a meeting or a signing or whatever the event might be. People like to feel appreciated. I have said thank you after pitch meetings for television ideas, meetings with entertainment execs, auditions with club owners/casting directors, and to my fans after they come out to support me.
You go to the top of the pile if it is a job. If they are fans, they come out to see you again. Let people know that they count and they will do the same for you.
Make a Gratitude List
When life gives us lemons, it is not always easy to make lemonade. As a matter of fact it is down right sucktacious. On the flipside, it is part of being human. This is why we need to list the things we are thankful for.
What I do daily is list each letter of the alphabet and then write something that I am thankful for that the letter starts with, like A is for Apples etc. At the end I have twenty six things. A strange lady with cats gave me this suggestion. On rare occasions they too have something to offer the rest of the world. Not everything is about you
Sometimes when someone snaps at you or is difficult, they aren’t just a jerkoff who gets their jollies off of making your life hard and being the road block between you and your dreams.
They might be going through a situation at home, a health issue of a loved one, a mental health problem, whatever. They are simply doing the best they can with what they have. Don’t let them ruin your day. Just take it as it comes. Treat everyone like you would want to be treated Yes, the Golden Rule. So cliché. However, in the arena of pitching an idea it can be scary. But here is the thing, behind the suits and iron façade those network execs are people.
They have thoughts, feelings, dreams and fears. Treat them like people. Not only will they like you, but they also might go out of their way to help you.
Not Everyone Will Be Happy You Are Successful
After appearing on a string of television shows and nearing the publication of my book, a former friend of mine and I were out to coffee when he remarked that he thought I had developed an ego , changed and was “hard to take.”
Meanwhile I had not changed, I had simply stopped settling and started fulfilling my dreams. He wanted the same weak loser as before. While it hurt to dump him as a friend, I had to. I can’t have negative people around me. Surround Yourself With People Who Believe in You and Keep You On Track
My mother and I talk every day. Some of the conversation is about what is going on, who I am dating, typical young adult stuff. Then the other part is about my career, where I see myself, and what is next. Not only does it keep me on track, but I consider all my options and get a sounding board before making a decision.
Manners/Positive Attitude Are Non-Negotiable
When I scored my first commercial, I was twenty two. My dad, who is a tax lawyer, gave me the best piece of advice ever. “When you are on set, be nice. Please and thank you always. People like to work with nice people.
If you are a jerk people don’t want to work with you.” While my dad is not in show biz, the advice was nothing short of correct. Shows and bookings have fallen into my lap because people say I am pleasant and easy to work with. No one likes a jerk off. Learn to Laugh
Over the years I have been lampooned on the Soup, have been trashed on Gawker, and then trashed again by an ex of mine several times after appearing on television. I even had a brush with a stalker a few months ago.
In between all of this, I have caught on fire, was almost sold into white slavery, and dated a comedy legend who was quite insane. I can talk about this flippantly because I have learned not just to laugh at life but laugh at myself. It makes me a better comedian and writer, but also a better person.
If Reputation and Character Were to Meet, They Would Be Strangers
Tabloids slash people to ribbons because it is their job. However, I have met and worked with several famous people and they are nothing that you would expect.
Terrible things have also been written about me by people who claim to know me, but I have come to embrace the fact that you are in charge of who you are at the end of the day. No matter what others say about you, you are in charge of being the best you that you can possibly be. Jealousy is a Waste of Time
When someone gets successful and we don’t feel they deserve it, we want to pray for their doom. We are not evil but human. When I was younger, I trashed people who were “successful” all the time. I worked harder, why wasn’t it my turn?
So when I started to focus on my game and felt the arrows of jealousy myself, I realized what a waste of time it was. First off, the word "deserve" implies entitlement. Second, what success someone has is meant for them. Hocus pocus keep the focus, so keep the focus on you! Climb a Mountain, Do Something That Scares You The weekend of my brother’s wedding I ended up climbing Jay Peak in Vermont. I had never been mountain climbing, and it started to storm. I was terrified because we were out of cellphone reception and had encountered a mud slide.
However, we soldiered on and when we got to the top it was beautiful. I want to climb more mountains now because I discovered I like mountain climbing, but it also gave me more courage to follow the real dreams I have without fear.
The Best Revenge is to Live Well
When I began to see television time and my book was published, I had people come out of the wood work to try to be my “friend.” These were people who belittled me because of my passions, made fun of me because I was different, or were just bullies in general.
I thought about telling them off, but someone pointed out that they weren’t worth the energy. Instead, the better use of my time would be to live well, look good, and continue to chase my goals. You Were Not Taken This Far To Be Dropped
During my career I have come to a few crossroads where I wondered why I took the path I did. Why couldn’t I be normal? I could always move to the suburbs, get married, and have kids.
Having a career is hard, but you need to have courage and faith in your vision. When you encounter a fork or block in the road, use it as a learning experience. I wasn’t getting the fulfillment I needed from comedy so I began doing my puppet videos. No regrets. It opened plenty of doors for me. Be Kind To Your Body, You only get one
Imean exercise. I run, kickbox, do yoga, and weight train. All are fabulous. I know when my body is fit I feel good and I get good ideas.
April Brucker | Elite.