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Lessons from Improv classes

November 27, 2012

If you ask me today, “what is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” I’d say, “Taking improv classes!” Although I am proud to report that I survived my 30th improv class tonight, the class performance is coming up on August 26, and I just registered for the next term, i.e. another 8 weeks of “fun”…

The process hasn’t been easy. The first 4 months I was struggling to even be able to follow the exercises. I suck at games, I had zero interest and knowledge in pop culture, which lead to countless “dear in headlights” moments. My default life skills, hard working and analyzing with my left brain, were totally working against me. Many nights I went home feeling drained, frustrated and defeated. Cannot help to wonder: why am I paying $300 every other month to torture myself?

The second 4 months things start to turn around. I still suck at games and still am caught by headlights, while occasionally I do have my “spotlight” moments. More importantly, I realize the “lessons” and how to apply them to my life:

  1. “Yes and…”: accept the reality created by my theme partners, add to it and move it forward.
  2. There are no mistakes in improv. Everything is a gift.
  3. Focus on “who”: characters matter, relationships matter, emotions matter, what we are doing with our hands does not matter!
  4. Here and now: the most important people are my theme partners right in front of me. Present is way more interesting than past or future.
  5. Improv attacks always land: what’s my authentic reaction when I am hurt?  Acknowledge it!
  6. Allow my body to lead: don’t “think” or try to do it “right”- get out of my head and just be!
  7. Create a “system”: what’s “my way” of improv?

It dawned on me how similar these lessons are to coaching principles. Perhaps that’s the reason I am still in the game. Bonus: I get to be on the stage of a real theater!

So much for a statistician to be in show business, isn’t it…

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