Deciding to practice what we preach
and embrace a growth mindset, Paul and I signed up for a stand-up comedy writing
class. If you've seen Paul perform, you know he's a pretty funny guy already
and you might be wondering how this challenges him in a growthful way. Well, I'll let you in on a little secret - most of his comedy up until now has resulted
from an improvisational moment. Either the one that's happening right then or
one that happened in the past which then became a regular part of his routine.
Scripting jokes and preparing sets pushes him into uncharted territory, but
an area that has beckoned him for awhile.
On the other hand, writing and
preparing (or over-preparing in most cases) come naturally for me. My challenge
lies in finding and drawing out funny moments in my writing. And even more
daunting will be the actual stage delivery of that material. The last one
definitely draws out that nervous butterfly-in-the-belly feeling. In those
moments, I try to remember Tara Mohr's description of the two Hebrew words for
fear in her book Playing Big. Most of
us think of fear in terms of pachad which
is the over-reactive, irrational feeling that stems from things that could
happen. Think worst case scenarios running through your mind. The other word yirah describes the feeling that floods
us as we step out of our comfort zone into a larger space than we are used to
inhabiting. Those are the butterflies that carry us to growth. Needless to say,
yirah captures perfectly the feeling I experienced as the instructor started
talking about the end of class student showcase within the first 15 minutes of
class. The voice in my head asked "Is that showcase optional?"
Because just like
with juggling, experiences like this class provide us with a great opportunity
to reflect on our own learning so each week I thought I would share any new
self-awareness I've gained (or at least been reminded of) & other
- Importance of trust: The first class had a typical awkward start:
people arrived and had to fill out paperwork with little interaction fostered
and then we sat quietly waiting for others to arrive. The class got started
late and because of organizational policy the instructor had to read through
class guidelines. Really un-funny stuff! Finally, he had us up to do improv
games, but forgot to have us introduce ourselves first. I felt so uncomfortable
in that moment because improv builds on trust and I only knew Paul's name. An
easy mistake to make and I say this not to criticize the instructor. But to
point out the importance of setting a tone, culture, and level of trust from
the moment people walk into a room (or even in communications before) whether
it be for a conference, staff meeting, or new class.
- Over-analysis paralysis: Improv also depends on people being in
the moment and building on the energy of the group. A big challenge for this
over-thinker! The warm-up games we played drove that home for me once again. In
one of them, we were instructed to think of a common saying. And my brain went
something like this: what does he mean by a common saying? I have no idea what
he wants. The example he gave doesn't make sense. How is that a common saying?
Oh no, they started. I've got nothing and it's two people away. What they're
saying doesn't really help. Seriously, what am I going to say?" Rapid
fire panic went on in my head. Did it really matter? No. Does anyone remember
what I said? No. But once again, my concern about doing it "right"
overpowered my enjoyment of the moment. Something I perpetually have to work on
to keep in check.
- Always a Teacher! The majority of the class time
consisted of students taking turns on the microphone to get comfortable holding and
speaking into it. The instructor asked questions so no pressure to prepare
material. In the process, we caught glimpses of our classmates stories and
hints of where their comedic personality may lie. At one point during that
process, I felt excitement for my classmates and the opportunity I have to
watch them develop over the next 6 weeks. I could see possible starting points
for on-stage character and mannerisms. But then again, they might get pulled in
a totally different direction that we couldn't yet see. That excitement I felt
reminded me how much I love teaching and witnessing growth even when I'm not in
the role of teacher.
Time to work on our first homework
assignment. I'll be back next week with an update.