“Los Angeles?”  The phone was ringing and the caller ID said Los Angeles.

“Who do we know from Los Angeles?”

I decided I should answer it.  Usually I don’t answer calls that  don’t identify themselves on my caller ID.  Los Angeles was pretty vague, so I assumed when I picked up it would just be a telemarketer.  I’m too nice to hang up on them without saying something to them, and they never let you talk, so I dreaded picking it up.  I use to work at a call center, so I figure being nice enough to say “no thanks” is the least I can do.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Can I speak with Tim Ga.. Gan.. Ganon… Gag – non..?”

“This is..,” okay they couldn’t pronounce my name correctly, it’s gotta be a telemarketer.  Well, to be fair, no one pronounces it correctly, I’m not even sure if I pronounce it correctly.

“Hi Tim, this is Jenn from Sony Pictures, I’m a casting agent for the show Shark Tank.  We’d like to talk to you about your business, and being on the show…”

Okay this was a little better than a telemarketer.  I had applied to be on the show when the show first came out 6 or 7 years ago.  I thought it’d be cool to pitch my online painting lesson business to the Sharks to see what they thought.  If you haven’t seen Shark Tank (It’s the same thing as the Dragon’s Den in Canada), it’s a show where you pitch your business idea to 4 investors, usually multi-millionaires or billionaires, and you try to get them to partner with you and invest in your business.  They usually poke a whole bunch of holes in your business and try to make you cry on national TV.  It’s a really popular show.

home_about-timI was really excited and nervous to think I could be on the show.  I’m not exactly an over the top personality.  I’m pretty low key (unless I’m at home alone with the dogs, then I’m nuts), so the thought of being an over the top “salesman” on tv was hard to fathom.  I had to fill out this big long application that I took to my lawyer to decipher for me.  After deciding it was okay to sign my life away for the chance to promote my business on national TV, I mailed in the nearly two inch thick contract.

A few weeks later I got a call from a producer from the show.  “Hey Tim, we’ve selected you to be part of casting!”

I had made it to the next step.  He explained that an executive producer would call me soon and start working with me.  They would help me develop a pitch and ideas for how I would present on the show.  Based on how my pitch sounded would be the deciding factor on whether I’d be on the show or not.  I was competing with other people who wanted to be on the show and there were only 30 spots.  There were about 100 of us who were “finalists” to be on the show.

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My homework was to create a pitch on video, send it to them, and they’d call me and help me with it after watching.  So I spent hours creating a pitch, I had a friend come over and help me video it.  I even had to tell him to leave the room while I did it at some points cause I was too embarrassed at how over the top I was acting. I did it over and over and over.  I could barely make it through without messing it up.  I was trying to super inflect with my voice, and I over enunciated every word.  After about 40 takes I got a couple I was happy with.  I loaded up the video on my computer so I could edit it.  I watched it and felt so uncomfortable.  I was acting like a weirdo.  “Oh well, they want me to be over the top, I’ll send it in.”

The next week the producers called.  “Hey Tim, we watched your pitch…uhhhhhhh….”  There was a big pause.  “We have some ideas to make it better…”  Apparently they could tell I was nervous, and a little out of my element.

This was the beginning of six months of phone calls with producers and videos, and going over and over a 1 minute pitch, and I didn’t even know if I would be on the show.  I lost a lot of sleep, I lost a lot of time in work, and I was completely stressed to the max.  I was doing something over and over, day after day, that was way outside my comfort zone.

To make a long story short, I made it to the top 40 and got cut from the show.  The producer called me to give me the bad news.  He felt bad.  He had worked with me 6 months and they just didn’t see it as translating well to TV.  A lot of that was my fault, I’m just not a big personality.  I’m shy, kind of quiet and being super energetic is out of my element.  The producer told me to reapply next year because there’s a great chance they’d get me on since I had already gone through the process.

I didn’t reapply, for various reasons related to business stuff.

That 6 months was completely out of my element.  But there was a huge takeaway from all that work.  I became way more comfortable talking on camera, and being a little more energetic helped me get my ideas in my painting lessons across better.  My comfort level talking in front of people went way up, and my speaking ability improved.  It was because of my Shark Tank casting that I started doing in person painting workshops.  For years I hid behind the camera in my studio and taught lessons online.  It was safer, I wasn’t as vulnerable and I didn’t have to leave the house.  I always wanted to travel and teach my techniques, and I now had the confidence to do it.  So because I did something completely out of my element I progressed in different parts of life, and art.  You never know what it will be that will break you out of your shell.

Doing stuff that is uncomfortable or out of your element is just that, but most of the time the rewards outweigh the discomfort.