Life lessons from improv
Can approaching a decision like you were doing improv – standing before an audience with nothing prepared and just winging it – help you in your career? Can it help you if you are thinking about a change in your life?
Stanford’s Drama Department has a class called Stanford Improvisors, developed in 1991 by drama senior lecturer emerita Patricia Ryan Madson. In an article in Stanford magazine (May 2020), several alums of the program say it gave them a code for life. Here are some of the life lessons learned, which certainly apply when contemplating a reboot:
- Develop the skill of deeply observing and responding to fellow improvisers. This enables you to “empathize with someone else and notice what they are doing.” – Jacob Klein
- “In order to do improv, you have to create a sense of safety and connection to allow for that vulnerability, to allow for that failure. Going through that as a learner was incredibly powerful.” –Ryan Laponis
- Improv teaches you to “really tap into that sense of ‘I can learn from other people.’” – Claire Slattery
- “Approaching one another generously; paying close attention; assuming brilliance on the part of our partners; showing up with a willingness and an openness and a playfulness and a boldness; being willing to be courageous; also being willing to cede the floor.” – Lisa Rowland
You can wind your clock up again
“You don’t need to run down like an unwound clock. And if your clock is unwound, you can wind it up again. You can stay alive in every sense of the word until you fail physically. I know some pretty successful people who feel that that just isn’t possible for them, that life has trapped them. But they don’t really know that. Life takes unexpected turns.”
— John Gardner
Asked if his movie, “Defending Your Life,” was all about living without fear, Brooks replied: “Now, I don’t think the object is to have no fear; it’s to exist with fear. That seems healthy. To have no thought of fear isn’t brave; it’s a little crazy. Because when you finally do think of it, your equilibrium is thrown. The best combination is to say, ‘This is scary and here I go.'”
– Albert Brooks
Age is just a number
“Age to me means nothing. I can’t get old; I’m working. I was old when I was twenty-one and out of work. As long as you’re working, you stay young. When I’m in front of an audience, all that love and vitality sweeps over me and I forget my age.” — George Burns
George Burns lived to be 100 and was still performing in his 90s.