- Shut up! You’re ruining my dinner.
We need a better way to communicate and solve problems … with everyone.
We all know that listening, paying attention, and being kind is essential to every good relationship. And yet, most people feel they can no longer talk to a colleague, a neighbor, or their Uncle Pete at the Thanksgiving dinner table without starting a fight and ruining the meal. Divisiveness is the new national pastime. So, we seek solace from kindred spirits and block out everyone else.
While understandable, walling out others is preventing us from fully doing what we humans are brain-wired to do, connect. To connect we must be willing to participate, and to participate takes time and effort, two precious commodities many of us are often unwilling to part with, including me. Take time. You can ask me to do many things, but don’t ask me to slow down. I want and need to say things and do things. It’s how I roll. Or used to. ... Read more
- Showing Up
Woody Allen says, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
You know how to show up. You could not be in business if you didn’t. However, there are those times when we get lost in our thoughts. Our minds are busy thinking about everything but what is happening right now.
Showing up is more than having your butt in a chair. It’s about paying attention to what is going on in the moment. Your body is here but your mind is thinking about a meeting you went to yesterday or wondering what you should do on the weekend. Our intention is to always show up but sometime we get hijacked. Neuroscience tells us why:
On an average the human brain has about 77 thousand thoughts a day. We probably need only about 20 of those thoughts. The rest of the 57 thousand thoughts are thoughts we’ve had before or commentary on what we are experiencing. These thoughts serve no purpose.
This is the work ... Read more
- Working with Robin Williams
I’ll never forget the night that Robin Williams walked into our theater at Chicago City Limits and asked us if he could perform with us. It was in 1983 when he was in New York City shooting Moscow on the Hudson. As you might imagine, we were surprised and thrilled. We were just getting ready to begin our Saturday night show. We had recently gotten some good reviews and the house was packed.
Robin came backstage with us as we quickly changed the running order of the show to accommodate him and his amazing skills. He loved the idea of improvising a Shakespearean play so we did a Shakespearean “Caller’s Option.” A caller’s option is a scenic game where a cast member (the caller) stands on the side and every once in a while freezes the action and asks the audience how to continue. Unbilled and unannounced, Robin was going to make his initial entrance in a Shakespearean caller’s option.
The caller got ... Read more
- The Book is Here!
After promising to write a book about improvisation for years, I finally did it. The book, “A Doctor and a Plumber in a Rowboat: The Essential Guide to Improvisation” is a work of love. I coauthored it with my long time friend and colleague, Tom Soter. The book shares the essentials for performing and teaching good improv, but it’s about more that that. In it we explore the life lessons that improv teaches, we talk about how we can all learn to be more creative and spontaneous, and share how the principles of improv can improve your writing and presentation style. There are also plenty of photos of improv groups and quotes about improv from well-known artists.
I will take the next 30 days to, as one friend put it, “bask in the ‘just finished my book’ glow” and then I will start preparing my next book which will be a book devoted more specifically to improv and business. At ... Read more
- Endless Possibilities: It’s all right here
I tell new improvisers they all ready have everything they need to be a good improviser. They never believe me. They always think they have to be quick and clever when all they need to do is be what they are – human. And so far, all of my students have fit that category. Well, there was that one…
Life has provided us with a great body and five senses that help us to navigate every moment. If we paid attention to what is happening in the moment we would never have to worry about what to do or say next. That being said, very few of us trust that this is true. Improvisation gives us the opportunity to discover this truth for ourselves. Time and time again we are given situations or topics that we must respond to and we discover that we can!
In my corporate work I use improv exercises to help clients relax and discover the depth of ... Read more
- Endless Possibilities:
How I learned everything from Improv
People either enjoy improv or it makes them nervous.
Those who enjoy it love the thrill of watching performers work without a net and the excitement of magic happening right before their eyes. Those who do not enjoy improv usually feel that way because, in my humble opinion, they most likely have never experienced really good improv; because really good improv is spontaneous, captivating, amazing, and usually hilarious. There came a moment in my long career as an improviser when it occurred to me that this is what life is supposed to be like also.
Truth be told, I had that thought early in my career, however I did not have a clue as to how to take the rules of improv and apply them to my ‘real’ life. What I was willing to do on stage, I was not willing to do on the stage of life. So I slogged through my life, refusing to be ... Read more
- Pay It Forward
I recently received a tremendous gift, something that would be impossible to repay in kind. It was an act of great generosity and I wanted, somehow, to do something for this person that would be helpful and meaningful in return. So I asked him how I could pay him back, and he said, “Please don’t pay me back, pay it forward.”
Pay it forward. I had heard this expression before. It was the title of a movie. And oddly enough, it happened to be playing on HBO shortly after I spoke with my friend.
In the movie, Kevin Spacey plays a social studies teacher who gives his seventh grade class an assignment: Think of an idea to change the world and put it into action.
Haley Joel Osment plays a 12-year-old student in Spacey’s class who comes up with an amazing idea: He’s going to choose three people and do something for them. He tells the class that “it has to be something ... Read more
- Looking For the Humor
Years ago, too many for me to comfortably tell you, I studied at Second City in Chicago with Del Close. Del was the master! We were his students and we hung on every word that came out of his mouth… or most of them. He was struggling at the time with substance abuse and there were moments when we had no idea what the heck he was talking about. It did not matter to us, we listened knowing that bits of his genius would come through at points in his rants and we did not want to miss them.
It was from Del and later from George Todisco, the visionary that founded Chicago City Limits, that I learned the wonders of improvisation. Creating something from nothing is a high better than any substance can bring.
There is much to tell about Del, George and improvisation, however, today I am going to focus on one aspect that Del taught us – observing life. ... Read more
- Got My Mojo Working
This is how Wikipedia defines mojo:
“Mojo refers to a magical charm bag used in hoodoo, and in modern usage may also refer to sexual potency.”
Welcome to my blog. Today I am discussing mojo. My definition is broader than Wikipedia’s. I define mojo as our urge to create and be innovative. It is that spark that makes us vibrant, that charm that makes us appealing – call it charisma, call it presence, call it dynamic it makes us sparkle, smart, exciting and desirable. When our mojo is in swing, we are smokin’. And when it is not, we’re average. You may even say boring. So when I talk about mojo, I’m talking about the charm of life itself.
I have recently observed that many people are beginning to feel that their mojo is missing. Many have taken a hit in this economy – they have been laid off or have had to tighten their belts so many notches it is beginning to ... Read more