This was a post I originally wrote for Seven Sentences. Which is why it’s only…seven sentences. Comment. Share. Enjoy!
I want to dismantle status.
I learn from my students every day. I’m excited to see them charge forward to discover on their own! Even if – no, especially if – it means disproving my preconceptions.
Leadership is a process of service, not command. It’s a product of vision and inspiration. Look at the moon, not the finger pointing to it.
Are you ready to tap into an unending stream of creativity for your business, blog, or third thing that also begins with a ‘B’? The same skills improv comedians use onstage can help.
Unlike stand-up comedy that’s written, rehearsed and performed by a solo comedian – improv comedy is created by an ensemble, entirely on the spot, right in front of the audience. You may not have your own ensemble (or the same massive need for strangers’ approval that I do), but here are three improv performance techniques you can use to squeeze out more creative juice.
1. SAY ‘YES!’ TO YOURSELF!
Agreement is king in improvisation. Multiple actors = Multiple ideas driven by multiple egos. Even if the characters argue, the actors must agree. Are we brothers in a coffee shop? Fancy ladies in a park? The audience doesn’t want to watch actors negotiate – they just want us to be Fancy Ladies!
How many of your ideas never flourish because they don’t make it out of your head? That voice inside that says “NO”, “HARD”, or “DUMB” – that is your internal editor. Turn them off. Better yet, slit their throat and silence them forever. (Too graphic? Apologies. My internal editor’s been dead a long time.) With that nagging voice shut down, now you can get to work.
Write out all of your ideas. Not just the reasonable ideas – ALL of them. Even the dumb ones. No, ESPECIALLY THE DUMB ONES! There’s a reason you’re an entrepreneur and not wasting your genius in a boardroom. Dream up a thing or two that’s too unwieldy to implement. We aren’t making decisions yet – we’re creating. SAY ‘YES’ TO YOUR OWN IDEAS!
2. TAKE IT FURTHER!
In improvisation, the companion to ‘Yes!’ is always ‘And…’. ‘Yes!’ gets us on the same page, but ‘And…’ gets us to the end of the chapter. When I bring my dumb idea to the stage, I rely on my performance partners to agree (Yes!) and then add something (And…) to make me seem brilliant.
To harness this for yourself, simply look at all of the ideas to which you have already said ‘YES’ in STEP 1, and then make them work. (I know, “is that all?” Stick with me…) There are a million reasons why they won’t work. So? Focus on a million (I will settle for one) ways in which they can work. Say “What if…?” a lot. Be open to new avenues and different arenas. Velcro, Superglue and even pacemakers were all invented by frustrated scientists who were trying to create something else entirely. This entire essay began as a recipe for Chicken ala King. Your idea is often merely a starting point.
“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”- Thomas Alva Edison
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Improv comedians strive for an honest emotional core in our comedy – characters and ideas that resonate and draw the audience in. I don’t have to travel to Mars in a unicorn-drawn carriage to entertain someone. The audience will not care about my comedy if they cannot relate in some way.
Who cares if your idea has been done before? I’ll pay cash money for your take on it. Chickens were around a long time before Colonel Sanders gave us his delicious version. Keep it simple and tell your truth. Especially if that truth is Original Recipe™ with a side of slaw…Yum!
“The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.” – Thomas Carlyle
Improv innovator Del Close admonished improv comedians to exalt each other and their choices on stage. Start doing the same for yourself. Don’t think you’re creative? You are. Start thinking that you are. Then know that you are. Then just…BE.
“If we treat each other as if we are geniuses, poets, and artists, we have a better chance of becoming that onstage.” – Del Close
You won’t implement most ideas. Ideas you do implement won’t always succeed. (Be thankful it isn’t happening in front of a demanding, semi-drunk audience.) But ideas you dismiss before they wriggle out of your brain have no chance whatsoever. Don’t say ‘NO’ until you’ve said ‘YES’. Further your own ideas. Keep it simple.
“We probably should have quit four or five times, but we were stupid enough or determined enough to stick with it…”
- JASON EBEL, Two Brothers Brewing.
No salary for eight months? Damn! My hustle seems anemic by comparison. Read and enjoy.
“My posse’s in effect and we’re doin’ the do
And we got more rhymes than your damn crew” - Beastie Boys, Posse in Effect
I have a posse. Why are you laughing? My posse is beautiful. For the purposes of this entry, “posse” isn’t my friends. It’s the people I interact with frequently. More specifically, the ones that enable me to do what I do; my dry cleaner, my bartender, my hairstylist (hate that word, but trust me – she ain’t no barber. Haircutress?), etc. So, my posse is…people I’m paying for goods and services? Well, yeah. At first glance. But the difference is in my attitude toward them. I’ve made them an important part of what I do. They are my posse. My business partners. My Team.
Figo owns three Devrim Cleaners locations. He keeps my shirts crisp, my suits sharp, and he’s fun to chat with. I’m sure he and his family provide personalized service to all of their customers. But when Figo is tailoring my suit, it’s not just A suit. He’s tailoring JAY’S suit. That’s an important difference.
Joe mixes some amazing cocktails. He makes me a cherry coke (cherrys + grenadine + whatever high fructose Coca-Cola approximate they sell) to get me fired up at the start of a long night of comedy. Joe makes devastatingly good margaritas to mellow me out at the end of a long day of #Hustle. I tip well, he pours heavily, and we both benefit.
Stevie has cut my hair for ten years. She’s had to listen to stories about every single time I have vomited in public, yet she still takes personal pride in sending me out into the greater world looking my best.
“Got my hand in my pocket and my finger’s on the trigger
My posse’s gettin’ big and my posse’s gettin’ bigger” – Beastie Boys, The New Style
With the birth of our son 3 years ago, my posse has exploded. We have a pediatrician, preschool teachers, and a cabal of ultra-capable babysitters. All people who I trust fully (or mostly) with my son’s health and well being. Without them I couldn’t leave the house to make the funny without worrying about the little guy. And trust me, my son is always on my mind – so my posse allows me to leave with secure, happy thoughts.
In comedy improvisation, we put a strong emphasis on creating relationships on stage. A scene in which two strangers meet and haggle over the price of a taco can be the most excruciatingly unfunny thing in the world. But two characters who know each other, sharing their lives and opinions and philosophies while *not* discussing that taco? That will be at least interesting, with strong potential for hilarious.
Because I’ve made these people an important part of my ability to create comedy professionally, I’m interacting with members of my team; my co-conspirators in world domination. Because of them, I can be in front of an audience or workshop and feel confident about looking competent. That makes my job a lot easier. And all I had to do was focus a little time and energy on creating basic relationships with my goods and services providers. My POSSE.
Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.
- Mary Anne Radmacher
“No great thing is created suddenly”
“Don’t bring a cathedral into a scene. Bring a brick; let’s build together”
- Del Close
Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ridin’ down the highway
Goin’ to a show
Stop in all the by-ways
Playin’ rock ‘n’ roll
Gettin’ beat up
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
Social media (Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook, and my new personal favorite - Untappd) and the proliferation of portable consumer electronics are changing how & when we interact with each other, so it stands to reason that We, The Consumer demand greater, more personal interaction from the entities who want our business. I suspect things will continue in that direction until ApplePixarCyberdyne, Inc. implants entertainment microchips in our brain. At which point, I hope, there is a serious consumer backlash.