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Dismantling Status

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.

- Jay

Business Innovation Through Improvisation

Business. On stage.

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.

     “Seriously?”

               Seriously.

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. Process and product are one in the same.

You may not have your own ensemble (or the same massive need for 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. 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 are 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. Then I do the same for them. In that way we all get to the end together and we all look brilliant doing it.

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

BONUS STEP!!!
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.

10 Ways Majoring In Theatre Saved My Life – A Friendly Rebuttal.

My college pal Kendra wrote a hilarious and way-too-true blog post – 10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Ruined My Life. Read it here first, and enjoy my point-by-point rebuttal below.

Then go back and read all the posts on Kendragarden.com – she’s a whiz!

1. I was fortunate to have an amazing teacher and mentor in Larry Hovis. The primary key to success he imparted was being “On time, prepared, and sober.” It seems simple, right? But so much of my success in life occurred because I showed up ready to rock when other people didn’t. I’m not always sober, so I show up early and spend a little extra time preparing.  Rest In Peace, Larry. We miss you.

2. In the business world I am as quirky as they come. As a theatre student at Southwest Texas State University, I couldn’t even medal in the Weirdo Olympics. But after all that time with my freak flag unfurled – I can’t pull it down. I learned who I am, flaws and all, and fuck anyone that can’t hang.

3. I got it all out of my system. I hate karaoke, dancing, and anything that draws attention to me. That stuff is for stage time. When I’m not on stage DON’T look at meeeeeeeeeee… (Curls into a ball and slides under the table (that draws *more* attention to me? Oh god…I *am* dramatic!)).

4. I have real (as in tangible) life skills. If you think majoring in theatre involved blow-off classes and lots of booze, pot and sex – you are 100% correct. But it occasionally involved difficult classes, like Lighting Design and Theatre History, taught by brilliant (if somewhat stoic) professors who found actors to be the least useful creatures on the planet. I was in no way funny or charming to them. I learned to do the hard work and not fall back on my amiable personality and rugged good looks sense of humor. I learned to work well with others in high-pressure situations. I learned to get up in the morning no matter how late I was up the night before. I did have to learn all of the “real” life stuff after college, but fuck other peoples’ definition of real life anyway.

5. I can’t enjoy passive entertainment without casting a particularly critical eye toward the acting. I’m irritating at movies, plays, and in front of the TV. But in real life, I know when I’m being bull-shitted. This comes in especially handy as a father.

6. A couple of times a week, I have a variation on the same nightmare.  Either it’s opening night and I forgot to memorize my lines or I’m all of a sudden on stage in a corset but I don’t know what play we’re doing and no one will tell me.  Then I remember…I can improvise my balls off! Let’s make this dream about my wife in nerd glasses on a skateboard…rrrrrrrrrrawr!

7. I memorized lines. At parties. While drinking. So now, everything that enters my brain sticks.  Songs, movies, the way you weren’t 100% sincere when you congratulated me. All of it. This one is somewhat dubious when you watch a lot of The Wiggles. Beyond that, though, I remember it all. Useful? Occasionally. Impressive? It beats talking about the weather.

8. I am incapable of taking a normal picture. In Kendra’s list this is meant to be negative somehow. I don’t see the problem. I am incapable of taking a normal picture!!! Wheeeeee…!!!

9. I can totally play it cool around minor celebrities.

10. When people ask what I majored in at college, I “act” and say, “business.”

Wishing aloud.

Two Quote Tuesday!

  

“The key skill of the innovator is error recovery not failure avoidance.”

- RANDY NELSON, Pixar

“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”

- BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, America

Chicago craft beer brewers getting it done!

“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.

Two Quote Tuesday

 

“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.”

- PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

“I think we are living in selfish times. I’m the first one to say that I’m the most selfish. We live in the so-called ‘first world,’ and we may be first in a lot of things like technology, but we are behind in empathy.”

- JAVIER BARDEM

 

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Five For Friday: A Photo Essay.

 

Two Quote Tuesday!

 

“If there is dissatisfaction with the status quo, good. If there is ferment, so much the better. If there is restlessness, I am pleased. Then let there be ideas, and hard thought, and hard work.” 

- HUBERT H. HUMPHREY

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”

- PABLO PICASSO

Talent is Overrated…

Average performers believe their errors were caused by factors outside their control: My opponent got lucky; the task was too hard; I just don’t have the natural ability for this. Top performers, by contrast, believe they are responsible for their errors.

How Do Excellent Performers Differ from the Average?  - via Farnam Street

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