The Power of Persistence

brians-new-headshotSomeone once said half the battle is just showing up. If that’s half, then I say the other half is staying there once you do show up. After about 25 years of touring as a comedian, I sure hope I’m right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to give up but after doing two shows today–one for my church, then driving an hour away to do a birthday celebration for a lovely 74-year-old lady, I can tell you I always seem to be glad I chose to keep going. I did a speaking engagement and the title of this article was the title of my speech. I want to share how I’ve been able to persevere through some very tough personal times and career setbacks.

One way to stay in the game, no matter what career you’ve chosen, is to diversify your talents. This gives you more experiences, more knowledge and continues your education. I was mainly doing stand-up for the first ten or so years on my journey, which is fine, but I felt I needed to do more in the entertainment field. I could see I needed to set myself apart from other comedians and also use all of my talents. The first thing I did, about eight years ago, is publish my first comedy book, “Make Love not Warts.” I found that getting interviews for radio, podcasts, blogs, websites, etc., became a thousand times easier when I added “Author” to my title. As a result of all these interviews and networking with people, I got involved in internet radio, which eventually led to my own radio show, then to a radio segment I do now called “BTS Entertainment Corner” on ” What’s the Story?” radio show and publication. I’m not telling you this to brag, this is an example of what happened when I exercised another talent I have. I now have three books and I’m in talks with Lerue Press about another one. I have also started spreading my acting wings over the last five years or so and as a result, I have three Web TV series, independent movie roles, and voice-over work. So diversify your talents, especially those that complement each other and your chosen career path. I have met more people because of these activities than I would have if I just did comedy exclusively, which leads me to the next point.



Networking will keep you energized towards your ultimate goals and once you meet the right POSITIVE people, there’s no telling where it can lead. The best way is to use your talents to help others, especially in your field. You can’t help being lifted up when you lift those around you. Networking online is great, but don’t forget to get out in the real world as well. There’s nothing like face time with others to help keep the dream alive. Networking is how I got to know Tamara McClure, the Editor-in-Chief of No Strings, and a really good person in general. You would not be reading this right now, in this magazine, if not for networking and, of course, meeting Tamara.  As a matter of fact we’re now working with a great network of people on the NSAEN Online International Film Festival.

I still network as much as possible and the best way I’ve found is having something to offer to people I want in my network. I love the indie scene and web series, so I offer people a chance to have me spread the word about their projects on my radio segment “BTS Entertainment Corner.” I don’t charge them, I get content for my show and they get exposure–a networking dream. Once again not bragging, just giving an example. You don’t have a radio segment? Start a blog, vlog or podcast about your career field or interests and offer others in your field an interview or article about their projects. This is the best way to find new contacts and a following.


I’ll start with a question for my next tip. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

I’ve found most people, myself included, feel overwhelmed when they have a big task, project or even a big dream in front of them. This can lead to saying “I quit” before they even start. It’s what I call “the big picture syndrome.” Break any project down into small parts and the pressure goes away. I’ll give you an example from the world of comedy. When I started doing stand-up, putting together a 5-minute set that was funny was one of the toughest things I had ever done. On top of that, I knew that to even get paid, I’d have to put together 15 minutes, then 30 minutes if I wanted to move up the ladder, then 45-60 minutes if I wanted to make enough money to survive. I also had to remember the material, which was daunting in itself. I learned to start joke by joke, connect them to each other so they made sense and make it all flow together. Breaking it down and building it back up again helped so much. It’s the same with those long drives. “How can you drive 10 hours then get onstage?” people ask. If you look at it like that, it seems very tiring and stressful. I break the drive up in my mind, I think “Let’s see, I left at 9am, I wonder if I can make the NC border by noon.” I try not to wear myself down with thinking of this huge, long drive, I break it down into segments. This keeps me fresh for the stage.


When picking quality projects and/or “gigs,” I use what I call “qualifiers.” To keep yourself motivated, you need to be doing things that are worthwhile to YOU! When I’m offered to perform for an agency, a club or even an individual, I go through some qualifiers in my head before I say “yes” or “no” to the client. Money, how much I’m paid is always a consideration, but not the only one. What if it doesn’t pay that much, but is close to a family member I want to visit? What if it could put me in front of the right people? What if I’m opening for a well-known act? It could also be for a charity or maybe I’m working with a good friend. If you can find a reason that makes you feel good about accepting a task or project, that will keep you in the game as well. There are also times I turn down gigs for a variety of reasons or “qualifiers.” Nothing drains your energy more than doing something you’re not very excited about and it always, somehow, affects your performance. That’s why businesses that treat their employees like crap are run by real idiots, in my opinion.

If you’re good at what you do, treat people well, explore new ways to use your talents, be selective in your pursuits and break the big jobs into smaller pieces, you may find that persistence has become your existence!!!



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Comedian Brian T Shirley has been in the Business for 20 + years. His act is derived from growing up poor, divorce, the USAF, partying, relationships, infomercial's, sports, and more. He has performed all over the U.S., Canada,The Bahamas and Japan. He also works Country Clubs and corporate events all over the U.S. He has done special engagements such as a tour of Japan to entertain the troops, opening for Huey Lewis and The News, The "Laughter for Love" benefit for Va. Tech, & a Country music festival for Dodge trucks. Brian has performed @ The Jokers Wild Comedy Club inside the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island,The Bahamas & for Carnival Cruise Lines. Brian is also a philosopher.he's written 2 books of wisdom &wise sayings called "Make Love Not Warts", and "Four Score and Seven Beers Ago..." (Which recently won the "Amazing Book Cover Art Award" in a contest sponsored by LeRue Press) BRIAN"S THIRD BOOK , "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Club" contains short stories about his life on the road as a professional comedian. Brian has created and hosts a WEB Series about being a stand-up comedian on the road called "BTS On The Raod" which can be seen on Youtube, American Hearts Radio WEB TV Network every Saturday @ 8 PM EST and in the online magazine No Strings Attached-E News. Brian's a weekly guest host on a segment called "BTS Entertainment Corner" on Janice Hermsen's radio program "What's The Story" every Friday @ 2:30 PM EST on Brian also co-hosts a monthly radio show on The Lina Jones Diamond Network called "The Lina and Brian Hour". Brian has done Voice over work for the award winning WEB Series "U.S.E." (2014) and the feature film "Inside Ben" (2016) and he's a main character in the animated feature "Professor Gravitron Saves The Universe" (2016).


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