The Blog

Steve Rizzo: Laughing and Learning

Steve Rizzo is a former stand-up comedian turned motivational speaker and author who knows better than most the power of words to both entertain and enlighten. I recently had the change to interview Rizzo about his new book and his work in the edutainment business.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

In addition to writing books, I also teach seminars and workshops for corporate groups and professional conferences. I call it "edutainment" -- educating people by embedding nuggets of information and wisdom in a fun froth of entertainment. After all, you can't teach anybody anything if you can't keep their attention -- and these days, people have shorter attention spans than ever!

Nobody knows this better than Steve Rizzo, whose new book, Get Your Shift Together, is a wonderful example of edutainment on paper between two hard covers. Rizzo is a former stand-up comedian turned motivational speaker and author who knows better than most the power of words to both entertain and enlighten. I recently had the change to interview Rizzo about his new book and his work in the edutainment business.

BJ: The title of your book reminds me of an old joke about Noah and his ark: Noah has just gotten his marching orders from the Lord and rushes home to tell his wife. As Mrs. Noah listens to her husband's news, her brow furrows. She asks, "Are you sure that's what the Lord said: 'Noah, get your ship together'?"

So Steve, tell me what you mean when you say, "Get Your Shift Together."

Rizzo: Get Your SHIFT together is the essence of my thinking and sense of humor. What makes my message so transferable to others is that it's not threatening. I replace the word "change" - which can be harsh and usually has negative connotations - with the word SHIFT which is more positive. Asking someone to SHIFT their attitude is a lot less challenging then asking them to change their attitude. Yet through SHIFTING, your life does change. (Boy, that's a lot of SHIFT in just a few sentences!)

The examples and stories in my book reveal how the power of SHIFTING your focus and way of thinking can affect your perception of challenging circumstances and even life's tragedies - literally training yourself to become a happier, confident, successful person at work and in life.

BJ: I know a lot of writers from a lot of difference backgrounds, but I don't know any who used to be stand-up comedians. What made you change careers from comic to author and speaker? Or, is it really a change at all?

Well, actually it was more like a SHIFT. Many of my comedy friends ask me why I quit stand-up-comedy. I tell them I didn't quit - I simply made a SHIFT in direction.

Growing up as a child, I acquired many fears and limiting beliefs about myself and the world around me. Unaware, I carried many of those unresolved negative labels and limiting beliefs into my comedy career. As a result, I kept sabotaging opportunities that came my way. I knew I had the talent, and I couldn't understand why I wasn't getting my big break. I eventually figured out that I had a fear of failure AND a fear of success. (Talk about not being able to make up your mind!) So I went on a quest to better myself. I read countless self-help books, went to personal development seminars, and listened to motivational CD's. I was determined to turn my life around.

Through the years, I noticed a major shift taking place within me. I guess you could say I was starting to get my SHIFT together.

Eventually, the entertainment industry (directors and producers of television and movies) were starting to show a lot of interest. But ironically, I was no longer interested in them. I was being called to do something else with my life. This gradual SHIFT that was taking place led me to my true purpose in life, which is to show people how to be happy and successful, regardless of their circumstances. The tools I used to better myself are the same tools I use when I speak to groups around the world.

My quest to overcome the obstacles that were keeping me from the life I truly desired has brought my work full circle. I am truly grateful that I've come to the understanding that I didn't quit stand-up comedy -- I simply let go and yielded to a greater purpose, a new dream.

Okay, I didn't simply let go ... Sometimes I held on with white knuckles in a desperate grip, kicking and screaming! The point is, when I finally did let go, I was free to pursue my true dream - to use humor and the power of positive thinking to help people learn the skills they need to get to a better place at work and in life.

I love your emphasis on "laughing and enjoying your way to success." So much success advice is about hard work, perseverance, and determination -- it all sounds so HARD. Tell me more about the fun stuff.

Many of my clients refer to me as the "Attitude Adjuster." I help people realize not only how to start each day with an unstoppable attitude, but how to enjoy themselves throughout the entire process. There's the important part: "enjoying themselves in the process."

For some reason, enjoyment seems to be something that many people leave by the wayside, especially when change is taking place and the pressure is on to reinvent yourself and achieve new goals. Or when you have tight deadlines and things aren't going exactly as planned. Now more than ever, people are having difficulty balancing their lives and they just don't have time to get everything done. Then the stress becomes overwhelming and self-doubt, anger, uncertainty, fear and a host of other negative emotions turn into dangerous mindsets. People allow enjoyment and their ability to laugh and have fun to deteriorate precisely at the time when it's most helpful to have those qualities.

Studies have shown that those who make conscious choices to enjoy themselves and laugh throughout the day are more creative, productive and resilient to challenging situations. They are more likely to easily find solutions to complex problems. In other words, focusing on your happiness makes you smarter. We need to ask ourselves, "How smart am I?"

Here's the bottom line: No matter who you are or what you are doing, whether you are teaching or learning, if you are enjoying the process and choose to find the laughter -- even in tough times -- the odds are in your favor that you'll achieve the outcome you desire.

What's the single biggest mistake you see people making as they pursue success? Or maybe, the top three to five mistakes?

The biggest mistake that anyone in business or in life can ever make is to put happiness on hold. This is something that many people are guilty of, especially corporate America.

I am constantly amazed by the ways people manage to deny themselves the chance at happiness in the moment. They repeat and internalize negative statements like, "I'll be happy when I achieve my goal," or I'll be happy when I'm able to retire," or "I'll smile and enjoy myself when the weekend gets here." "When I'm appreciated and get the respect I deserve that's when I'll be happy." Do any of these sound familiar?

The point I'm making here is that happiness can only be experienced in the present. There is absolutely no reason why you can't plan for the future, set goals, undergo your daily routine, deal with the unexpected and still make conscious choices to enjoy yourself while doing so. People who consistently enjoy the process not only reap the benefits of achieving their goal, they have a fond appreciation of how they earned it. In my view that is the ultimate success.

It's curious to me that we have laws in place to make sure no one infringes upon our right to happiness, yet we are so often a willing impediment to our own enjoyment of life. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to "the pursuit of happiness." Maybe it should read "life, liberty and the happiness of the pursuit."

What do you most want people to learn from your book?

I want them to learn what truly successful, happy and optimistic people know about life. They know they will experience good times and bad times throughout their lives. They have sad days and ecstatic moments. Happy, successful, optimistic people are not exempt from the trials and tribulations of life. In fact, some of the happiest, most successful and optimistic people I know had to overcome unbelievable circumstances to get to where they are today.

What they all have in common is their uncanny way of SHIFTING their focus to a higher part of themselves. They bless the things that life has given them rather than cursing what life hasn't given them, or the unwanted things life is currently throwing at them. They don't ignore these tough times; however, they instinctively know when to SHIFT their mindsets to something more productive. In reality, we all have the power to do this. This is what I call a Power SHIFT in focus.

Thanks, Steve. I enjoyed our conversation enormously. Got any final words for my readers?

Remember, when SHIFT happens, your life changes. So get your SHIFT together. I guess you've had enough of SHIFT by now. I'm sorry sometimes I'm a real SHIFT head. Oh SHIFT I did it again. But seriously folks, may the SHIFT be with you!!!!


For more information about Steve Rizzo and "Get Your Shift Together" visit