One Saturday night in 1980, I was performing at East Side Comedy Club on Long Island. I was fairly new in the comedy arena and this was my first weekend appearance at a premiere comedy club. To say that I was a bit nervous would be an understatement. Sharing the marquee with me was a young comic by the name of Eddie Murphy. Yes, the Eddie Murphy.
I knew Eddie pretty well back in the day. We performed at a lot of one-night gigs together, at bars, at dance clubs and restaurants in the tri-state area. Even though I was 12 years his senior, I knew from the moment that I met Eddie that there was definitely something special about him. He always stood out from everyone else. Besides being brilliantly funny and having a great stage presence, he had an air of confidence on and off stage that was unusual for someone barely 18 years of age.
After the first show, Eddie and I were in the green room talking about what we wanted to do with our lives. At the time, I was an English teacher during the day and stand-up comedian at night (although sometimes I had difficulty distinguishing between the two). I told him my dream was to break into the comedy business in a big way. Then Eddie said something to me that I will never forget.
“Steve,” he said, “I’m going to be to comedy what the Beatles were to music.”
He didn’t say, “I would like to be,” or “My dream is to be.” He said it as if it were a matter of fact. “I’m going to be.” He wasn’t bragging and it wasn’t his ego getting carried away. There was no conceit at all. His demeanor was calm and assertive. It was a simple statement that came from his heart; he said it with such conviction and utter certainty that I had no choice but to believe him.
Most people view Eddie Murphy’s success at face value and think he became a big star simply because he was talented. Others think it was a matter of luck that Eddie was in the right place at the right time. Personally, I believe there was a lot more to Eddie Murphy’s success than just talent and luck. In my view, the most powerful force at work in Eddie Murphy’s rise to fame was the power of positive thinking.
I’m sure you’ll agree that there are many extraordinarily talented people in all walks of life who never achieve the level of success they desire and/or deserve. You probably know a few personally. Have you ever wondered why? They seem to have what it takes to succeed, but somehow, for whatever reason, they never get that lucky break.
Back to Eddie Murphy. At that time in television history, the original cast of Saturday Night Live retired and there was a search for a black comedian or actor with improvisational skills to replace Garrett Morris. A comedian was quickly chosen, but the producers discovered that this person unfortunately had difficulty reading and writing. So another more urgent, casting call was put out. At the time there were only a handful of black comedians and Eddie was one of them. Auditions were being held at The Comic Strip in Manhattan and as the story goes, within minutes of Eddie stepping on the stage, the powers that be were convinced that he was going to be the newest prime time player on SNL.
Now you can call Eddie Murphy’s rise to fame luck if you want to. But I believe we make our own luck. In other words, what you think is what you get. We manifest the things we desire in our lives with the power of our thoughts. If you are continuously creating positive thoughts and focusing your attention on the things you desire, if you take action with joy, passion and enthusiasm, and believe without a doubt that it is just a matter of time before you achieve your desires, then more than likely that is exactly what will come to pass.
Take note the key phrases to remember are “creating positive thoughts,” “taking action with joy, passion and enthusiasm,” and “believe without a doubt.” I know. It’s easier said than done. Don’t give me that look. The good news however, is that it can be done.
Eddie Murphy is a prime example of “what you think is what you get.” I’m certain he achieved his level of success because he truly believed he was a star long before he became one. It was as if he had a crystal ball and saw how his life was going to unfold. It was just a matter of time before his determination to succeed would manifest in the physical world.
I witnessed firsthand how he carried himself on and off the stage. I had many heartfelt conversations with him. His focus on his craft was laser-sharp. His attitude was unfaltering. And his passion was second to none. He never drank alcohol or did drugs – never. His high was the joy he received from being on stage and making people laugh. I believe that Eddie Murphy radiated so much positive energy and had such a powerful subconscious belief in himself that he attracted what we call lucky breaks into his life. He just happened to have the talent and fortitude to take the appropriate action to seize opportunity when it knocked on his door.
What really separated Eddie Murphy from other talented comedians, myself included, was that Eddie really, really wanted to be to comedy what the Beatles were to music. I mean, really. And he truly believed it was possible. When that combination of desire and belief comes together it is unstoppable. Eddie always knew where he was headed before he got there. More importantly, there was a constant correlation between his intention, his thoughts and what was manifesting in his life.[Ed Note: Steve Rizzo is a personal development expert who uses humor to reach his audience. As a professional keynote and motivational speaker, Steve has made appearances internationally. He has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, and the Oprah and Friends Radio Network, as well as his own PBS special, Becoming a Humor Being. Prior to his speaking career, Steve was a headline stand-up comedian, sharing the stage with comic greats such as Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Eddie Murphy, and Rodney Dangerfield, among others. Pick up a copy of his most recent work “Get Your Shift Together” here.]