Monthly Archives: October 2013

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 information available to them in the present moment. Truth be told, you really can’t be anywhere else. However, when we get stuck thinking and forget to breathe, we end up losing our powers of observation and we miss what is actually happening right in front of us. This is something we’ve all experienced one way or another:

You’re thinking of an answer and don’t hear what’s being said.

You’re remembering a conversation and you misplace your car keys.

You’re planning your next move and miss vital information.

Improv exercises help us to rediscover that we can operate more efficiently and effectively if we are not overthinking, but instead, being (seeing, feeling, listening) with what is happening.

Improvisation teaches us to pause and breathe before responding, to take in what is happening, and only then, to respond. You observe, listen, and allow yourself the luxury of seeing what is happening in that moment. So it’s not thinking, but rather observing that makes all the difference.  In fact, truth be told, improvisation is not about thinking at all. It’s more about seeing, listening and responding.

For those of you who are nonbelievers, think about it. (Yes, I realize what I just said.) Think about the last time you were in the zone and lost time. Think about that presentation that spoke itself. Think about that answer you came up with that just came to you. That’s what I’m talking about. In those circumstances you were not thinking and yet you were very present.  Improv helps us to exercise that muscle so that the present moment is more available to us or I should say, so that we are more available to the present moment.

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 in the moment, resisting life as it was unfolding and making the same mistakes over and over again.

Oddly enough, it was only after I had stopped performing and began using my improvising skills to help others that I realized the real gift that improvisation had given me – it taught me how to live. Life at its best is spontaneous, captivating, amazing, and hilarious. It is filled with endless possibilities; our first job is to learn to see them.

Endless Possibilities: How I learned everything from Improv is the new theme of this blog. I’ll be sharing with you insights and lessons from my many years loving, performing, and teaching improvisation. You’ll discover how, with a little more awareness, you can learn to trust your instincts, listen with your whole body, open to your creative self, build on the ideas of others, and have more fun. And of course, I’ll be sharing how all this has business applications as well.

So enjoy!  And email me your thoughts.

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 really big, something they can’t do by themselves.” In turn, they must find three other people and do the same thing, three big favors for three other people, and so on and so on, changing the world by the power of three. That’s how it begins, this boy finds three people who need something they cannot give themselves, and soon, pay it forward begins to spread like a virus.
Now I have been asked to do my part, to pay it forward.
I do plenty of favors for friends and family. But this is something different. Pay it forward is not asking me to do something nice for Aunt Susie. Pay it Forward is asking me to pay attention. It is asking me to become more aware of people and their needs. It is a different sensibility, a reaching out where, before, I might have just turned away. As a result, I find myself sensitized to the needs of others in a new way.
I must admit, I did not expect this result. When I first heard my friend say, “pay it forward,” I thought it would be easy. Not that it’s difficult, but it is a change, or perhaps a better word is shift, in how I use my energy. Now, I’m outer focused instead of inner focused, and while you might think this is a burden, I find it a relief from the endless attention I pay to myself.
I’m also discovering that it’s not a bad way to live. I’ll keep you posted on my progress with what I’m calling this new kind of walking in service. Frankly, I am not very good at it–yet.
Please share your own paying it forward experiences. Your stories would be helpful and interesting to me and to others who read this blog.