NCU Podcast #007: Alex Weber on the Importance of Sucking, Moving Past Doubt/Nerves, and His Experience as a Motivational Comedian/on American Ninja Warrior

Most people want to avoid sucking at all costs, and especially publicly. It’s terrifying to put yourself out there and open yourself up to judgment, especially when you’re new at something and full of self-doubt. But for motivational comedian and five-time TEDx speaker Alex Weber, sucking is a crucial part of the creative process—and he believes it would benefit all of us to adopt this same mindset.

In his work as a motivational comedian and in his keynote speeches, Alex focuses heavily on how we can get past our fears and failures to do the things we want to do and lives the life we want to live.

When he’s not doing comedy or motivating through public speaking, Alex devotes his energy to TV hosting, with credits on the Discovery Channel and FX.

In this episode we discuss his impressive and unusual world record, how he went from host of American Ninja Warrior to a contestant on the show, his process for keynote speaking versus comedy, and his thoughts on nerves and moving past doubts.

Episode Highlights

2:55 What inspired Alex to use comedy as a motivational tool

7:27 Alex talks about his pre-performance nerves and what helps him minimize his fears

10:32 Alex discusses some of his experience hosting American Ninja Warriors—why it excited him and made him feel whole, how it led him to competing in Season 11, why he believes sports are art, and what he’d do differently if he were to host the show now, after being on the show

17:35 How the experience of being on American Ninja Warriorchanged Alex’s perspective on performing/public speaking

21:15 Some effective strategies Alex uses to inspire peak performance, in himself and as a coach

25:55 The importance of sucking (part of Alex’s Ted talk) and what’s helped Alex push past the fear of judgment and allow himself to suck publicly

30:43 Alex explores what he’s learned about moving past doubt

33:40 The differences and similarities between a keynote speech and a comedy routine, and Alex’s creative process for each

39:29 How Alex maintains his positive mindset

42:12 What advice Alex wishes he’d heard when he was younger, and the best advice anyone’s ever given him

47:37 What inspired Alex to set the world record for the longest amount of time live video chatting and what he learned from fourteen days of non-stop connection

55.48 Alex’s advice for anyone who wants to be the next creator up in his field

1:05:24 The lightning round! The questions aired in this episode:

  • What’s the most important part of your creative routine?
  • How do you think you differ from other creative people in your line of work?
  • How do you think one can expand one’s creative mind and abilities?
  • How do you know when an idea is the right idea?
  • What is the most helpful thing you’ve learned or useful skill you’ve developed in your career?
  • What’s something you do to ignite your creativity or get into a creative zone?
  • When I’m feeling unmotivated it helps me to…
  • I get my best ideas when…
  • When I’m hard on myself about my work, I remind myself…
  • Has anyone ever given you any words of inspiration that you would like to pass along to others?

Alex Weber Quotes Worth Remembering

“Being able to enjoy the process and being able to smile is not frosting on a cake but actually a really impactful way of reaching our goals.”

“Any time we care about something we’re going to have nerves.”

“Nerves serve a great purpose. It’s energy… it will wake you up. It will make us alert and get us rocking. So I think if we can use the nerves it’s a really powerful tool. It’s just to not let them grab the steering wheel.”

“If there are things in our life where we can control a lot of the variables, preparation cures nerves, and if we can prepare, it will really silence all the other crap that’s thrown our way.”

“Once we honestly identify what matters to us, really brutally honestly, and then find out why it’s important to us, then we can figure out how to make that a reality. But it’s really taking that inventory of what I want to do and why do I want to do it as the first really impactful step.”

“Whatever we want to do, there’s this thing guarding it, and it bats us away. Whether you want to call that fear or failures or doubts or nerves or practicality, it keeps batting us away. And if we don’t really want to keep going, we’re not. But if we really care about the thing it does not matter how many times we get batted away. We’re gonna be relentless with it and we’re gonna make it through. So I think having that really powerful want is critical.”

“Over a million people have watched me fail at things. There was no chance of dipping my toe in the water with it. It was being shoved into the deepest of ends of just failing repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly. But the gift of it was that I got over it. I got over caring about failing.”

“Sometimes those thresholds of the pain can be so impactful for us that it’s an easier route to simply stop doing it. But I think that the more we build up our tolerance to those painful moments, the more freeing it is because we learn that they’re not real, and they’re that we can totally progress past.”

“I don’t believe that those fears ever end, and I don’t believe that failures ever end, but what I do believe is that our ability to move past them grows. And that’s where there’s freedom, that’s where there’s a lot of improvement, and that’s where there’s a lot of growth…”

“Doubt is holding us to a perfect outcome. And anything short of us beginning and immediately reaching success at an A+, 100 % success is crushing. It doesn’t support us in doing what we want to do and it’s often an irrational voice. It’s often our voice of insecurity and playing out a worst-case scenario.”

“I don’t think it has to be more complex than that: It’s focusing on what’s in our control, it’s believing in ourselves, and then taking positive action to do it.”

“…sometimes the greatest gift is if someone can just nudge us a little or maybe even pick up our head a little bit to question something, or re-evaluate something, or maybe make a slightly different choice.”

“People have asked if I’m positive all the time, and I’m not. I have down moments, I have negative moments, I have moments of questioning. But I really do think ultimately it’s a choice of what route we want to take… We can note and feel that things are negative or be aware that they’re imposing or daunting or crappy but still choose positivity as our approach to moving forward.”

“One thing that I wish I could continually offer is to just to not fear asking ourselves: Is this really what I want to do? Is this really who I want to be?”

“Creation takes time. Invariably there are gonna be tough moments… and what I’m learning more and more is just to enjoy the experience, because if all we’re caring about is getting to that mountain peak, we’re gonna get there, but then we’re gonna look and there’s a bigger mountain. And if we’re not enjoying the climb and not enjoying getting to that peak, it’s gonna feel empty.”

“There is a finish line that gets 100% of people, and if we keep trying to get through everything, we’re gonna get to that finish line without really enjoying our time here.”

“Say it aloud—‘I want to do this’—and then figure out a step one. Figure out a way to start, and go in with the expectation of, as long as I show up, I have nailed it. Separate from any result, separate from any expectation, and simply set the goal that I’m gonna show and I’m gonna do this, and that is such a win. And then we’ll get all the info of how it actually went and what we can do better, but whatever it is you want to do, fricken start doing it.”

“Everything’s a process. Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. Lay down bricks then take a step back and that’s a damn cool house.”

Mentioned in Episode

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