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Martin Short as Ed Grimley

I recently read the memoir by actor/comedian Martin Short called  I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend and found, unexpectedly, a model for worklife balance that’s worth a closer look.


The book delivers the details I expected to find about Short’s showbiz life – from his time on Saturday Night Live in the mid 1980s, to his signature characters like:


  • energetic oddball Ed Grimley (who used the phrase “going completely mental” to mean “being very excited” about something)
  • unintelligible wedding planner Franck Eggelhoffer (from the Father of the Bride movies), and
  • self absorbed, passive-aggressive TV talk show host Jiminy Glick.


What I was NOT expecting to find in the book was a portrait of Martin Short as a professional who’s made a point of balancing work with the rest of his life throughout his career, and who actually created a system to help him do it.


The Nine Categories


Short explains the workings of his system, which he calls “The Nine Categories”. For many years now, he has graded himself weekly in each of the following nine categories:

  1. Self
  2. Immediate family
  3. Original family
  4. Friends
  5. Money
  6. Career
  7. Creativity
  8. Discipline
  9. Lifestyle


Short created this system during a period in his early professional life when he wasn’t getting the work he wanted to get. He was going through a kind of funk and decided to take account of all the things in his life that mattered to him.


When he assessed how he thought he was doing in each category, yes, career wasn’t so hot at that moment, but a lot of other things in his life were going pretty well. Short’s “Nine Categories” check-in allowed him to get a realistic perspective, relax, and let his career progress and develop as it needed to.


Get perspective and allow the right things to happen

The Nine Categories is one of many ways to take account. As a coach, I guide clients through a list of 12 Life Areas (in alphabetical order):

  1. Appearance
  2. Career
  3. Family
  4. Friends
  5. Fun
  6. Health
  7. Home
  8. Money
  9. Personal development
  10. Primary relationship
  11. Service
  12. Spiritual development


Whether it’s 9 or 12, the important thing is to check in with yourself, identify the root of any “funk” you may be in, and gain new perspective.


How are you checking in with yourself?

Martin short says in his book,

Thankfully… my happiness was never predicated first and foremost upon my career.


Questions for you:

  • On what factors is your happiness predicated?
  • What categories would need to be in your check-in system so that you can be happy? Or successful? Or whatever you want to be?