Ben Freeberg on "Chaos Isn't An Excuse"
MK Harby: Welcome. This is Expert Open Radio. I'm MK Harby. I'm the head speaker coach and rehearsal manager for TEDxAsburyPark. This is my fifth year with the organization and it's a really great place to volunteer. 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 18. 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: All right, Ben. Well, 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 I am excited to be back. You have a few years on me, but I was at the Passion TEDxAsburyPark last year and excited to come back as a host and a speaker. 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: Oh, okay. Are there a lot of venture capitalists slash comedians in New York?
Ben Freeberg: I am trying to bridge the gap pretty slowly, but it's been a lot of fun trying to merge the two worlds. I have a plug at the end which we could say.
MK Harby: Okay. All right. Well, then I am completely excited that you're coming back. I don't know if you remember-
Ben Freeberg: Thank you.
MK Harby: ... but we met briefly after the show last year.
Ben Freeberg: Yes. Of course.
MK Harby: I met you and your parents. They're lovely people.
Ben Freeberg: Thank you so much.
MK Harby: I hope they're going to buy tickets this year and come see you, or-
Ben Freeberg: They definitely will.
MK Harby: Okay. Okay, great. 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: Yeah. I think the title, I'm just going to keep it simple and use the line, "Chaos Isn't An Excuse." And the idea is that chaos... 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 that 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 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: I really like this. All right. Other than 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: Yeah. As you know... and that was my talk last year... was I was diagnosed with cancer. Actually, it's about a little over a year ago today when I started chemotherapy, and I'm all good now.
MK Harby: Oh, great. Okay.
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 going through the Netflix rabbit hole... but now I just, 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 seeing how much you can push.
MK Harby: It almost sounds like you were sabotaging your own joy in a way.
Ben Freeberg: Yes. I might use that line.
MK Harby: Okay. Feel free to not give me credit on that. Okay.
Ben Freeberg: Sounds good.
MK Harby: All right. 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 the talk, but the idea that, "How do you make this actionable?" Is kind of the first question that ... Yeah, and 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.
MK Harby: Right.
Ben Freeberg: 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.
MK Harby: Oh, I like it.
Ben Freeberg: For some people, that is 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, and I think that's what hopefully will stick with people and what stuck with some friends and family.
MK Harby: Oh, I really like that, Ben. All right. Now, have you been working with any other people that 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, and family, and friends, and my girlfriend. And then we also, we have actually been doing a few writing groups with some friends who want to do everything from open mics, to the few friends that are trying to write some different types of sitcoms...
MK Harby: Now, I like to always ask if there's any books, or references, or maybe some authors you would recommend to listeners if they want to get any perspective on this?
Ben Freeberg: Yeah. I think in terms of videos, for one in terms of comedy, there's a really good YouTube video. It's about, I think, 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: Yeah, so the website is comedyseller.com. Comedy and then S-E-L-L-E-R.com. That is where I share, 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.
Ben Freeberg: 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...II'm actually going to post it later today... but writing about NPS, your net promoter score, and really understanding what it is and why it is, and using humor to help guide that narrative. And then also it will have links to ... It does have links to my talk from last year at TEDxAsburyPark, and then also a link to some of my sets on YouTube.
MK Harby: Oh, very nice. Okay, so there's lots of ways. I have one, actually two more questions for you.
Ben Freeberg: Yes, please.
MK Harby: 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 people are going to say, "Oh, this is a great time for this"?
Ben Freeberg: Yeah. I'm glad you asked, because that is ... 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 it came out within I think a day of each other on both Netflix and Hulu, and everyone who spent 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."
MK Harby: Oh, okay.
Ben Freeberg: Because people are doing it. And that was kind of when it hit me that, "Just stop." You know? Just stop using chaos and so much going on as an excuse not to do things because you can clearly make the time in your day.
MK Harby: All right. My last question. This may throw you for a loop, and I was wondering this last night. Is there anybody that 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: Yeah. It's so interesting. At my last job before I started 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?" So I'm looking forward…
Ben Freeberg: I appreciate it.
MK Harby: I am so 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 18 of this year. 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.