“There is no failure in result; there is only failure in process.”
Sam Wasson’s Improv Nation: How We Made A Great American Art provides more than an improv history lesson. He deftly lays out a philosophy of life. For all their talents and human frailties, these men and women lived life in the present moment. In fact, from an improv point of view, there is no other way to live life. We must experience it, listen to it, step out of the comfort zone, enhance our partners, and embrace the story we create.
The following quotes were among the many that spoke to me. I have included a few personal reflections. I encourage you to do the same.
- Director Mike Nichols about his improv partner, Elaine May “Elaine gave me myself.” (p. 87)
- Who in your life helps to draw out yourself?
- Who in your life allows you to be you?
- Who in your life forces you to confront yourself?
- In what ways do you allow others to embrace their own selves?
- Paul Sills: “You can’t reject outside authority until you realize you have a self.” (128)
- Again, how do we go about embracing our own selves and all they have to offer?
- Do we allow others to dictate who we are and will be?
- A common improv coaching imperative: “You have to get there together.” (98)
- Think of your collaborative attempts. Are you getting there together or are you just engaging in collective monologues?
- I recently heard a supervisor talk about how the team needed to collaborate. Unfortunately, a lot of what I heard included the pronoun “I.”
- Gilda Radner: “…Be a child again for a little while, be naïve, have empty spaces that can be filled in. What’s so sad about so many grown-ups is they lose those spaces.” (178)
- How can we nurture those empty spaces?
- How can you help others nurture their empty spaces?
- Bernie Sahlins: “Once you start worrying about your career you don’t want to take risks. Once you avoid risks you’re hemmed in.” (249)
- If we don’t risk, can we grow? How can we find the empty spaces and be childlike?
- Sigourney Weaver: “There’s this Second City theory that says if you help people around you to be good, you’ll also bring out the best in yourself.” (278)
- When on stage a true improv artist will not deny his/her partner. Partners grow because of one another.
- One of the master coaches of improv, Del Close: “There is no failure in result; there is only failure in process.” (318)
- How often do we stop and dive deeper into the process—beyond the result?
How can we apply improv to life for good?
Video recommendation for the week:
Tina Fey offers basic improv advice that moves to the heart of true collaboration. A two-minute lesson with broad implications for life beyond the stage.
Make it an inspiring year and H.T.R.B. as needed.
For information about and to order my book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here. A number of colleges and one state-wide agency have adopted it for training and coaching purposes. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same.
Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).
(c) 2018. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.