How to take your own best advice

24 May

Taking other people’s advice is good, too. But as writer-performer Jessica Delfino suggests, why not dive into the Olympics of life and create your own two cents?

By Amy Schroeder

Jessica Delfino quit her day job and hired herself to be a creativist a few years back. Since then, she’s been the best employee and boss she’s ever worked with.

Jessica Delfino and Dame Darcy


If you want to get more traditional with career terms, Delfino is a writer-performer-comedian-podcaster who lives in a bitchin’ Chinatown apartment with the fiancé she met on Craigslist (no joke…the story is kind of a big deal). (She moved in five years ago with Dame Darcy, who’s since moved to Savannah, Georgia.)

Delfino has performed all over the joint, including the prestigious Stoned Spelling Bee in Brooklyn and that show everyone’s talking about, Good Morning America, as a finalist in a national comedy competition. She’s been featured in Jane, the New York Times, and I also like this review that Thurston Moore co-wrote about her in Arthur.

So, how does one earn a living as a vagina rapper?

For starters, Delfino soaks up advice—and lots of it. But not just other people’s—her own is the most important of all. Delfino, who will speak at the Brooklyn DIY Business Association Conference on June 26, shares her advice on advice:

DIYBA: Have you always listened to people’s advice?

Jessica Delfino: When I was younger, I didn’t listen to advice as wholeheartedly as I do today. But on my behalf, there’s nothing like living and learning to give you a kick in the pants the old-fashioned way.

Nowadays, I strive to hear people’s advice. I go out of my way to read biographies, go to talks and readings, chat with people in my line of work and learn from their experiences. With any luck, it may cut out years of trial and error, and everyone knows that efficiency typically makes for good business.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever given yourself?

Just roll with it!

I used to just dive into things and make sense of it as I went. Now, I don’t even leave my apartment without a plan. It can consist of a list, a few notes scribbled down on a piece of paper, or a bona fide plan of action, complete with maps and a typed-out itinerary. I don’t trust myself to remember details anymore. I write everything down. I have my smart phone, fully charged, and at least one notebook and pen with me at all times. With those items, I’m prepared for just about any scenario. I no longer just roll with anything, besides my favorite peeps.

Jessica Delfino with her fiance, Alex M. Smith (

What are your top five pieces of advice you’ve ever given yourself?

1. Listen to the Little Voice Inside.

No, not the crazy voice inside my head that suggests I steal a boat and find a new life in Jamaica. I’m talking about instinct—the inner dialog that I know and trust. We all have that voice, but I must listen very closely, because there are other voices in there, mucking things up, and, no—before you judge—not in a schizophrenic way. I listen for this clarity whenever I’m not sure what the correct decision is.

2. Ask Yourself, “What Would My Rich Role Models Do?”

My Uncle Jamie is a whip-smart businessman who works as an engineer for the government. My best friend David is an achieved young millionaire who runs a dot-com. My stepdad started a business selling fine food wholesale to restaurants when I was a kid, and now he drives a Porsche and lives in Belize half the year.

When I’m in a situation where I have to “think like a staunch business person,” I turn to these examples, and I say, “What would Uncle Jamie/David/my stepdad do?”

I also have strong female role models—Tina Fey, Joan Rivers, and even Oprah Winfrey. I watch how they work and handle affairs. I read their articles, interviews, and take in the advice they impart. Say what you will about Oprah, but you really can’t diss her—she has won at life.

3. Don’t Fear the Reaper.

Not only the infectious lyrics to a killer Blue Oyster Cult jam…also a handful of words I live by. In my line of work, I make progress by being brave and bold. I can’t be afraid of what may come of it. Performing in front of an audience is like diving into the pool, not knowing if there’s water in it. It could be liquid acid. It could be the warmest, velvet-y water ever. I have to dive into that pool all the time, and I can’t do it with fear in my mind or in my heart. I have to jump in with as much confidence as an Olympic diver, which is as hard as it sounds, especially because I’ve never been in the Olympics, and I barely know how to dive.

4. Call Mom or Grandma.

Though my mother and grandmother didn’t take the road of the high-powered female business executive, either could have.

Regardless, they still have brilliant bits of wisdom to share. My grandmother, valedictorian of her class, mother of six, and all-around amazing woman, worked at New Jersey Bell for 50 years, and never drank a drop of alcohol or smoked one puff of pot in her life. My own personal Yoda, she knows exactly what to say in every situation.

My mother inherited that maternal wisdom. She also had six children, ran her own newspaper for 10 years, and has read just about every book ever written. If neither of those two have an answer for me, then there isn’t one. I’m lucky to have them. In short, sometimes the advice of a close family member is priceless.

5. Follow the List.

If I write things on paper, they will get done. I have a stack of notepaper on my desk—I cut old letters and printouts into squares for scrap paper and use them for lists. The satisfaction of crossing things off the list is a high that drugs only wish they could create. Following lists, both short- and long-term, has increased my productivity by 1,000%.

Follow Jessica Delfino on Twitter, @jessicadelfino.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Move your #BHAG2012 forward: Set Next Attainable Action Steps | DIY Business Association - January 12, 2012

    [...] “The satisfaction of crossing things off the list is a high that drugs only wish they could create.” —Creativist Jessica Delfino, in a DIY Business Association how-to called “How to take Your Own Best Advice.” [...]

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