I have found that most advice is worthy of thorough examination. Often advice pertaining to one discipline — with just a bit of translation — has meaning in other disciplines. This translation process allows for more perspective and greater insight.
Case in point: The more I study improvisation, the more parallels I see to other areas of my life. And while I originally wrote about this practice in 2015, I’ve gone on to discover even more similarities in the subsequent years. So what follows is more improv advice in translation.
Improv advice: Play the scene you’re in, not the scene you want to be in. Business advice: Sometimes your agenda is just that — your agenda. And sometimes you have to let it go.
Improv advice: The gears in your brain start turning when you’re looking for the perfect line. And because there is no perfect line, the gears just grind harder and harder. Business advice: Perfect is the enemy of good.
Improv advice: Don’t take any shortcuts on energy or polish. You may have done the show a thousand times, but some people are seeing it for the first time. Business advice: It’s showtime … every time.
Improv advice: The audience is looking for a connection to you. Be weird, be zany, be uniquely you. Yet still have humanity for them to latch on to. Business advice: Being human is essential. Being uniquely human is a force multiplier.
Improv advice: Think of every choice on stage as a conduit of connectivity — speaking, not speaking, walking, picking up something, looking at someone. Business advice: Every form of communication is a conduit of connectivity. Everything that you do or say (or don’t do and don’t say) sends a message.
Improv advice: Words come from your head. Connectivity comes from your heart. Business advice: You need both your head and your heart to be an effective leader.
Improv advice: Never let failure go to your heart. Business advice: Never let success go to your head.
Improv advice: You don’t have to spend every waking minute with your cast, but you should know what interests them artistically and who they are as people. Business advice: You likely won’t spend every waking minute with your peers, but you should know what motivates them professionally and who they are as people.
Improv advice: Always thank the tech booth. Business advice: Always thank your people. Do it more often than you think is necessary and do it with gusto.
Improv advice: If you have a choice between reacting at a four and reacting at a 10, react at a 10. Business advice: When it counts, show up and give it everything you’ve got.
Improv advice: You don’t need to give your character 10 things right away. Give your character one important, memorable thing instead. Business advice: Not everything can be a priority. Pick one audacious goal and really nail it.
Improv advice: Be in love instead of in like. Be furious instead of angry. Be married instead of just roommates. Have a belief instead of an opinion. Business advice: Have a passion for what you’re doing.
Improv advice: There is room for your comedy. Business advice: There is room for your voice.
Improv advice: Find the overlap between “audience favorites” and “untested forms.” Spend time in that overlap. Business advice: Find the overlap between “tried and true” and “embracing the crazy.” Spend time in that overlap.
Improv advice: The learning is in the mistakes. Business advice: The learning is in the mistakes.
Here’s the funny thing I’ve noticed: The more parallels I see to other areas of my life, the more I want to study improv. And I can’t wait to see what the next five years teach me.
Ancora Imparo … (Still, I am learning)
Stacey Mason is the founder of The Improv Lab, a professional development business in Bentonville. More information is available by calling 479-877-0131. The opinions expressed are those of the author.