The following is an excerpt from Kyle Cease’s I Hope I Screw This Up: How Falling In Love With Your Fears Can Change The World, out now on Simon & Schuster.
When I was first starting to have some success as an actor and comedian, I believed that I was what I achieved. I was completely lost in the story of what I did for a living. I got a lot of love and attention for it, so on a shallow level it was an easy story to buy into. There was a time when I wasn’t willing to go to a party unless the people there knew “who I was” and what I had done. I wore the false story of who I thought I was as a shield. We almost all do this in our own way. Many people think who they are is who they’re dating or what their body looks like or the amount of money that they have. Wayne Dyer once said, “When the thing that you think you are goes away, then you go away too.” That might not be exactly how he said it; it was probably more poetic and smarter sounding than that.
Because I was so involved in the story of what I achieved, I was constantly striving to do and get more to keep that story alive. If things were going well, I’d be happy; at least on a surface level (which, at the time, was the highest level of happiness I knew about). After a while though, I realized that it took bigger and bigger things to keep that story going, and even after accomplishing something massive, I’d feel great for a little while, but within hours or even minutes I’d think, “What’s next?”
At a certain point, my story began to sabotage me and I developed a crippling anxiety that made it hard for me to even stand. I started to create a belief that I might faint onstage. I eventually overcame that anxiety by realizing how powerful my thoughts were and learning how to take control of them. I got really excited to share this information with other people and ended up creating a workshop for aspiring comedians on how to get into a creative flow state onstage. As soon as I created that, I started to hear that some people I knew were talking crap about me, saying how I had gone crazy and started a cult or something.
Any time you do something positive or different from the masses, some people will think you’re in a cult.
One thing I’ve learned from this is that any time you do something positive or different from the masses, some people will think you’re in a cult. Well, they might not automatically assume you’re in a cult, but the point is, when we do something out of the norm we’re often met with resistance from people in our lives who don’t want us to change. Many times people get scared when someone close to them changes or does something different because they are afraid to change themselves. As a society, we’re so used to the judgment and negativity of the world that anything outside of those boundaries can actually feel threatening to the way of life that has become comfortable to us.
You: It’s so nice outside.
Your friend: What are you, a Scientologist or something?
You: I’ll just shut up.
For the record, I don’t have anything against Scientologists. I don’t really know a lot about them; they’re probably nice people. I wasn’t great at science in high school, and I don’t think they even offered tologist classes where I lived, so it probably just not for me.
So anyway, I started this workshop and I really loved doing it because I was able to speak from my heart and talk about comedy too. It was my first taste of what I get to do now, bridging comedy and transformation. I was starting to realize that there was something beyond just trying to build up my story so that people would like me and was getting really inspired by helping people move past their fears and into more creativity. Hearing that people were talking behind my back still bothered me though, and at one point I actually said to Louie Anderson, whom I was working with at the time, “I really want to get over what people think of me.”
What happened an hour later is really crazy because it’s almost like someone heard me say that and decided to make me face it head-on. I was in a hotel getting ready to leave when someone sent me an email with a subject line that said, “Hey, you con man.” The email said that he had just read a blog that another famous comedian had written about me, and he sent me the link to it. I clicked the link and it led me to the blog, which said that the workshop I had created was a total scam and that I was a fraud and all of these insanely hurtful things. It was written by a comic, so not only were the things he said really mean, but they were also really well-written, convincing, and actually pretty funny. Even I started to not like me.
This was one of my peers. I cared a lot about what people thought about me, but as a comic, I really cared what other comics thought of me. It was fascinating how someone who wasn’t there had interpreted what that workshop was about and what my motives were. I might have written it off as just someone else’s misinformed opinion, but when I looked at the bottom of the blog, I could see it was going viral and being shared thousands of times by tons of other comics and fans.
In that moment, my ego went crazy. Blood rushed to my head and my heart started racing. I was having a full-on panic attack. The story that I had been working on my entire life was falling apart. I had the craziest, most depressing thoughts about how this was the end of my career and how I was going to lose all my friends. A car was waiting for me outside, but I told the driver to just leave without me. This was so big that I needed to sit and feel it for a while.
At this point, I knew enough not to numb the pain and get addicted to something. It would have been really easy for me to drain the minibar and separate myself from what was happening, but I at least knew that there was something I needed to learn here. I literally sat, by myself, for several days in a hotel room just letting my mind go crazy.
I was coming up with the craziest, most elaborate plans for how I was going to overcome this. The real problem was that I had a belief there was actually something to overcome.
My mind was coming up with all of these ways that I was going to achieve my way out of it. I thought if I got another Comedy Central special and just totally nailed it, then I would prove everyone wrong and I could repair my story. I was coming up with the craziest, most elaborate plans for how I was going to overcome this. The real problem was that I had a belief there was actually something to overcome.
At a certain point, I started noticing that I was just in an argument with myself.
My mind: How am I going to fix this?
My mind: Why even try, it’s all over. I’m so sad it’s over.
My mind: I’m so pissed right now, I feel like punching something.
My mind: What if I land a huge role in a movie? That’ll show everyone.
My mind: Yeah, but I won’t get cast in any movies, not after this.
My mind: What would be a good thing to punch?
My mind: If I have an amazing gig, that would fix everything.
My mind: Why don’t you just punch your own face, you stupid idiot?
My mind: Yeah, I’ll punch my own face, that’ll show everyone.
My mind was in a perpetual state of creating a problem, fixing it, and then breaking it again. The mind loves to come up with its own problem and then solve the problem that it just created. It’s actually how it creates the illusion that it’s in control.
My mind became so ridiculously chaotic that it just started to turn into this weird character that I was watching. I was sitting on a bed in an air-conditioned hotel room, totally safe, but inside, my mind was destroying itself. Eventually, the insanity of my mind became so outrageous that I couldn’t help but realize it was all a lie. Everything I was protecting, fixing, and mourning was just imaginary bullshit. Then, all of a sudden, it almost felt like my mind moved outside of my head and I saw it as separate from me. I became aware that my mind wasn’t me, it was some other entity on autopilot trying to save its life as it crash-landed into itself. In the moment that I had that awareness, I could feel everything just drop. The argument, the anger, the sadness, and my entire past story totally dissolved, and a space between me and my thoughts opened up. It felt as if I had been unknowingly carrying this hundred-pound weight my entire life, and in that instant, I finally got to let it go. All those voices stopped and I remember feeling how present I was in the moment. I spent the next few hours just staring at the wall feeling total bliss.
When I started noticing that those voices weren’t me, that they were just thoughts happening inside of me, I started to identify more with the awareness of who I am than the mind’s story of who I think I am. I actually noticed that the voices in my head were separate from the part of me watching them. I realized that I was totally safe and the voices were the cause of the chaos. I moved beyond the mind and into the space that watches the mind. It’s freaky, I know.
I spent the entire next day feeling absolutely incredible, peaceful, and in such appreciation for life. I had moved beyond the running narrative of my mind and into the pure awareness that is at the core of my existence. I was totally present with every person I met and felt such a connection to myself and others. The filter that was standing between me and everything I experienced was gone and life looked totally different.
With two #1 Comedy Central specials to his credit, Kyle Cease is a comedian and transformational speaker. He has spoken with renowned teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Jim Carrey, Michael Beckwith, Louis C.K., Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Louie Anderson, and David Wolfe.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.