The Discomfort Zone
James Altucher

Are we in the Discomfort Zone?

Hi James:

That’s hilarious. When I first started reading, and you said you were going to entertain on a NYC subway, I thought, “Ohmigod. Is he serious?”

I ride the subway five days a week. And I know that it can be a hostile environment. Sometimes, passengers start hating on entertainers immediately. (I only hate on them if they’re annoying, like singing a song I hate and doing a bad job of it). But most of the time, passengers just let the entertainers do their thing.

And I’m SO glad you stuck to one-liners. I don’t think a story would have gone over well.

One time, during rush hour, there was an African drummer playing. He sounded good. Then he stopped playing to give some history on African drumming. Well, one lady was not interested, and she told him to, “Be quiet!”

She told him she just wanted to ride in peace. He tried to quiet her down, but she was not having it. Again, she told him to be quiet and some other stuff that I can’t repeat here.

He just ignored her and then resumed playing. She just sat there. I guess in a state of unpeacefulness. The rest of us just kept quiet. Like I said, he sounded good.

Then there was this other time when I saw male gymnasts.

Not like Cirque du Soleil gymnasts. More like street gymnasts. It was the middle of the day, around 12p, and I was on my way to Brooklyn to get my hair done.

The next thing I know, three men (probably in their twenties) introduce themselves and then explain that they are about to do some incredible flips and spins and other stuff.

So, they got the crowd all hyped up. We were all waiting to see what they were going to do. But I was partly not believing they could do it because there isn’t much space in the aisle of a subway car.

But, sure enough. They started doing flips. Then they joined themselves together and rolled down the aisle like a wheel! Then more flips and double flips.

It was beautiful.

Those guys made a decent amount of money that day, I’m sure.

So, on the one hand, you have the African drummer who got hated on. And on the other hand, you have the male gymnasts who got much love.

What made the difference?

Well . . . the way I see it, for entertainers to be well received, they should remember three things:

1. Time of day. This is crucial. In my experience, rush hour is not the time to try to entertain people. They’re not interested (like the lady). People either want to get to work or go home . . . fast. They don’t want to be entertained.

2. Type of entertainment. Have your stuff together. You have people’s attention. Do something memorable and something that has universal appeal (like the gymnasts).

3. Length of performance. Keep it short (like you did). You’ve only got a couple of minutes before the next stop. Hit it and quit it.

Alrighty . . . keep up the good work. You were brave to have tackled the NYC subway.

Maybe next time, you will be fear-less and won’t have any problems stepping into your Discomfort Zone.