Ben Freeberg and TEDxAsburyPark speaker coach MK Harby talk about Chaos Isn't An Excuse, which will be presented at TEDxAsburyPark on May 18, 2019
MK Harby: Welcome. This is Expert Open Radio. I'm MK Harby. I'm the head speaker coach and rehearsal manager for TEDxAsburyPark. Today, I have someone that's not only going to host this year, but he's also going to be speaking for us on May 18th. He is the comedic, the intelligent, the imaginative, the...did I say good looking, Ben Freeberg. Welcome.
Ben Freeberg: Thanks so much.
MK Harby: Welcome, Ben.
Ben Freeberg: Thanks, MK.
MK Harby: To open things up, we would love to hear a little bit about you and the topic you're going to speak about this year.
Ben Freeberg: Of course, and thank you; I’m excited to be back. I am a standup comic and venture capitalist. I live in New York City, and this year for the theme of CHAOS, I'm going to be talking about how chaos isn't an excuse.
MK Harby: Did you want to tell me what the title of your talk is going to be, or is it a secret, or can you tell us?
Ben Freeberg: I'm just going to keep it simple and use the line, "Chaos Isn't An Excuse." And the idea is that chaos takes over two things in your life; in my opinion, it's your time and your attention, and both of those are pretty sought after today. So I just started thinking about why some days,no matter how busy you are... you eat and sleep for roughly the same amount of time... so why do some days and weeks feel so much more fulfilling than others do? And I just came to the idea that we're searching for chaos, and we love creating excuses and wasting time. It'll be hopefully hitting on some of that.
MK Harby: I like where this is heading.
Ben Freeberg: Thank you.
MK Harby: Aside from the fact that the theme is chaos, why do you think you came up with this topic? Is there something that inspired it?
Ben Freeberg: Yes. As you may remember from my talk last year, I had just been diagnosed with cancer. Actually, it's a little over a year ago today when I started chemotherapy, and I'm all good now.
MK Harby: That’s great to hear.
Ben Freeberg: I was just thinking about what some of the differences were with my life before and after, because it's obviously not the same. There are few things that I really changed and one of them was... there are some times when when I wanted to, you know, take a nap, or spend a lot more time on Instagram, or go down the Netflix rabbit hole... but now instead of doing all of that, I've been choosing to either go to the gym or write, and just stop using being tired or having so much going on to take a break, and just see how much you can push.
MK Harby: Ben, when you're bouncing these ideas across your friends or family or coworkers, is there anything in particular that has resonated with people when you tell them about your idea?
Ben Freeberg: Yes. I think the biggest takeaway, which I'll get into more in my talk, is the idea of "How do you make this actionable?" In theory it sounds great. Instead of napping, go to the gym, right? It'll get you more energized. But that's hard to think of. The thing that stuck with people is, think about the three things that you need to do every day to be happy, and get them done.
For some people, that’s making sure you read for 30 minutes, or you spend time with a loved one, or you spend time working on a new craft. But whatever it is, if you can just start with just three simple things, a few minutes for each one, you can create 30 minutes to an hour in your day...I think that's what will hopefully stick with people and what has stuck with some friends and family.
MK Harby: Have you been working with any other people who have inspired you on this, or are you in any groups, or are you kind of charting new territory here?
Ben Freeberg: Mostly writing alone. I spend quite a bit of time bouncing ideas and jokes and thoughts off of roommates, family, and friends, and my girlfriend. And then I have actually been doing a few writing groups with some friends who want to do everything from open mics to a few friends who are trying to write some different types of sitcoms.
MK Harby: I always like to ask if there are any books or references, or maybe some authors you would recommend to our audience if they want to get any perspective on this?
Ben Freeberg: In terms of comedy, there's a really good YouTube video that runs about 50 minutes long. It's called “Talking Funny.” It's with Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK and a few other comedians just talking about stand-up, which I think is quite interesting. In terms of this idea, I haven't read anything or seen anything so far for users or listeners to engage further with this topic, but I am going to be searching for stuff and hopefully create some of it myself that I'm going to put on my website and hopefully share it at the conference.
MK Harby: That actually was going to be my next question. If some audience members want to get more engaged with either you or your idea, you mentioned you have a website. Anything else?
Ben Freeberg: The website is comedyseller.com. Every week, I write a post that tries to blur the lines between venture capital, entrepreneurship, and comedy. Hopefully it gives my readers just a chance to understand, for people who aren't in the venture capital world, what's going on, what some ideas and trends are.
For instance, last week I wrote about where venture capital is going to be in the year 2030, after interviewing a bunch of VC partners. This week I’ll be writing about NPS, the net promoter score, and help readers understand what it is and why it is, and using humor to help guide that narrative. The site also has links to my talk from last year at TEDxAsburyPark and to some of my sets on YouTube.
MK Harby: Oh, very nice. Okay, so there are lots of ways to connect with you. I have two more questions for you.
Going back to your talk in particular, why do you think the time is right now for this idea? Is there anything going on that you think is going to make people say "Oh, this is a great time for this?”
Ben Freeberg: I'm glad you asked, because there was one moment in particular where... Have you seen the Fyre Festival documentary?
MK Harby: I have not. Should I?
Ben Freeberg: Well, I haven't seen it either, but I think it came out on both Netflix and Hulu within a day of each other. Everyone spends so much time talking about how busy they are and how they don't have time for their hobbies and their interests and everything else, but at the same time they watched this same documentary on two different streaming services to spot tiny differences. It just felt like this huge disconnect between people saying, "Wow, I don't have time to do the stuff I love," but also, "I'm going to spend four hours watching the same two-hour documentary twice."
Because people are doing it. And that was kind of when it hit me, "Just stop." You know? Just stop using chaos and “I have so much going on” as an excuse not to do things, because you can clearly make the time in your day.
MK Harby: My last question. This may throw you for a loop, and I was wondering this last night. Is there anybody you know who doesn't think you're funny, like like a friend or a family member? You don't have to name names, but do you ever get into that situation, or you're at a club, and what do you do? You just try harder, or...
Ben Freeberg: Yes. It's so interesting. At my last job before I started with the venture capital firm, I worked at an investment bank and it was not a great cultural fit, and stuff just didn't land. That wasn't why I left.
MK Harby: You left because they didn't think you were funny is what you were trying to say.
Ben Freeberg: Exactly. But I think most of the people I spend my time with appreciate my humor, and I appreciate that.
MK Harby: Okay. Well, I think you're very funny.
Ben Freeberg: Thank you so much.
MK Harby: I'm asking that question because I'm like, "How can someone not think this guy is hysterical?"
I am really looking forward to seeing you again, and I just want to thank you so much for being with us today, and we will see you on May 18th. You've been listening to Expert Open Radio. Here's a reminder to get your tickets for the largest, highest rated TEDx conference on the East Coast. It's TEDxAsburyPark on Saturday, May 18, 2019, and you will have the opportunity to hear Ben Freeberg talk about his topic on chaos and go into more detail. Thank you again, Ben.
Ben Freeberg: Thank you.
Read more about Ben Freeberg here.