Resolutions: checking in and checking out (reprisal)

Here’s how this went last year.

And now, checking in on those resolutions made for 2012:

Do awesome photo projects

Started the Brooklyn Bathroom Blog and have been going on fun photo outings. Also bartered grantwriting help with a photography lesson. Definitely giving space for photography exploration, though I’d like to enjoy what I do in physical form instead of just digital, too. 

Maintain strong connections with important friends and family

Very much so! I was proud of doing a better job than ever making space for people I wanted to spend more time with and spending that time in what I felt were meaningful ways. CARRY FORWARD the goal to continue this!

Continue to explore professional and personal growth opportunities

Did a lot of informational interviewing (aka chatting with people who do cool things about what they do), so that was exciting. Big victory too was developing and teaching four courses at the Brooklyn Brainery that have been successful as professional classes and also for me personally. I went to a few workshops and conferences to build professional skill sets, and jumped on various consulting opportunities that came my way. Oh, and I think getting a blogger profile with Huffington Post is a positive thing!

Function better in unplanned, last-minute scenarios or blips in plans

Yes. I like that this was a goal, and I think I overall executed. I got a bit less crazy when people were late, and went with the flow more in general. Accountability buddy Sam was a key part of this, and I hope to keep that partnership in place in the coming year. 

Make this blog or another writing venture something more public, as long as I keep enjoy doing it

See two bullets up. Also, I think more people read this blog than I think, because people randomly mention a post that stood out to them in conversations. Also, on the point of “as long as I keep enjoy doing it,” I am 1) aware that this was not an example of good editing and 2) still very much enjoying writing, and have realized that I love it because I can write in the exact style I’d like and about the exact content that strikes me. For now at least, this is the primary type of writing that excites me. I will CARRY FORWARD a more polished version of this goal!

Wear makeup a little bit more, but never spend more than 120 seconds on it.

Fail. And fine with it. Though I have taken more time to put together ‘a look’, which accomplishes a similar thing.

Take more improv classes, and continue to formulate what I want to do with it as it relates to longterm goals

I took Level 3 at Magnet and was also on a team this Fall. I continued to guest on PreRecorded.com as it worked with my schedule. I think the aspects of improv that are most appealing to me are groupwork, listening skills, creativity, and sincere fun. I’d love to integrate improv that truly embodies each of those elements into my life this year. Also, I took a storytelling class this year, which was profoundly impactful both because of the people I met and the power of the craft. I want to grow stronger roots in that this year. 

Become a member of a nonprofit board

Sadly, no. Silver lining #1: wouldn’t have had the fair amount of energy to give to it this year. I’m currently on my last planned year of co-chairing Young Friends of Tufts Advancement, which will hopefully free up some time for board membership. Silver lining #2: I spent a lot of time thinking about what my ideal role on a board would be, and what sort of organization that would work best at. CARRY FORWARD!

Cook more in cost effective, healthy, and fun ways

Embarrassed to say no. I think I didn’t accomplish it because I had no real driver and truly didn’t make the time for it. Chalk it up to city living?

Work on building a sustainable skillshare of some sort among friends

Didn’t end up doing, but mostly because of the wonderful community I found at the Brainery.

Get Anderson Cooper to come for dinner

Let’s just leave this one alone.

2012 was a good year. There were other successes on non-explicitly stated goals, Obama got re-elected, home feels even more like home, and I am overall quite simply excited to be doing everything I’m doing with the people I’m surrounded by. 
Onward to the new year! Here are some 2013 goals:
  • Maintain strong connections with important friends and family
  • Explore and activate professional and personal growth opportunities
  • Continue writing, publicly and privately, with enjoyment and while pushing limits of what I think I can do
  • Be more vulnerable
  • Seek out improv and storytelling opportunities that capitalize on personal creativity and fun, or that allow for meaningful group work
  • Send more snail mail to friends
  • Become a member of a nonprofit board
  • Travel at least once for me (and not just for four incredible weddings)
  • Read books in time that is otherwise wasted online
  • Exercise regularly while pushing myself a little bit harder
  • Learn to fix a bike if something simple goes wrong

Cheers! Happy New Year!

Improv, Meet Pathology. Pathology, Improv.

imageI’ve dabbled in improv comedy classes and fun for several years now, and I have often characterized it as professional development (on top of being super enjoyable, of course!). It reminds you of the importance of listening, supporting your team, giving gifts, thinking on your feet, and being “in the moment”.

Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx has integrated improv training into professional development. Izzy Gesell, one of the instructors, explains:

I think this is part of a growing awareness of the need for science and medical students to communicate to non-science people. It’s to communicate when things don’t go exactly as planned.

Improving skills and workplace culture are always good, so kudos to Montefiore! I hope more organizations across industries will be open-minded to this sort of professional development. [shameless plug: I will help you!]

“Yes and” works a lot better than no.

I posted this to my Facebook wall last week and received many concurrent responses:

It really bothers me when people who don’t understand an idea or issue jump to “no” instead of asking the right questions to make informed decisions. Shutting down thoughtful ideas and not trying to understand the root of an issue is entirely counterproductive.

I’ve been seeing this happen more and more. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, people everywhere do it. We say no because it’s easier; we don’t have to change our thought process or challenge our understanding of anything. But, saying no stifles creativity, inhibits trust, breeds negativity, and closes doors.

In improv, one of the key principles is to say yes and then contribute something else*. You don’t have to necessarily agree with the information or question posited to you, but it’s essential to recognize it as valid. You can ask questions to flesh it out more or mold the idea into version 2.0. Again, improv translates to ‘real life’; this is a technique we could all try to integrate more into our daily communications to be better both at work and in our personal lives.

If you take on the challenge of accepting and exploring the unknown, do share how it goes!

*For a really great explanation of yes and, check out this excerpt from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants.

Rick Andrews talks improv with a focus on Fear and Trust

I was really glad that binu shared this, because Rick really brings up some great points. Even if you’re not into improv, this is a valuable perspective on any scenario in which you are working with a group.

montrealimprov:

Rick Andrews is a teacher and performer at The Magnet Theater in New York City. He teaches and performs around the country with The Magnet Theater TourCo, with ensemble Brick, and his duo, The Cascade.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about two words we hear a lot when improvising: “Fear” and “Trust”.  

Fear

One of the biggest hurdles in becoming a good improviser is our fear.  Fear and threat are pretty good motivators for all kinds of things.  Simple, physical tasks respond super well to fear.  If I wanted you to move a bunch of boxes across the room, I could easily get you to move them faster if I made you afraid by, say, threatening you with a whip.

Creativity, however, doesn’t respond well to fear.  If I gave you a pen and paper and told you to “write a beautiful poem,” threatening you with a whip if it wasn’t beautiful enough probably wouldn’t lead you to write a better poem.  It’ll actually probably lead you to write a worse one.  There’s a whole bunch of pretty solid research to back this up.

This is because when we’re being creative, we need to be able to take risks, to make choices that reflect our personal voice, desire, and discovery; we need to be all-around mentally unencumbered by anything other than the creative process.  Improv is a creative process, and as a spontaneous one, and one that we tend to do in front of other people in scary situations, it’s pretty susceptible to fear.

This fear makes us worse improvisers.  It leads us to say and do things we don’t want to say because we think they’ll get a laugh, or the audience wants to hear them, or they’re the “right” things to say and do.  We threaten ourselves with laughter, or rather, lack of laughter.  As improvisers, we often hold an imaginary whip over our heads when improvising.  Sometimes scenes feel like a sprint to get the first laugh, as if were the scene to go on for 30 seconds with no one laughing, the audience would simply stand up in unison, give you the finger, and leave.

Trust

To become a great improviser, I think it’s essential that we conquer this fear in some way.  The way we do this is by having trust; we put trust in our scene partners, our team, the audience, and ourselves.  We trust that they will help us, make us look good, look out for us, etc; we trust that they will help us avoid the things we are afraid of.  The comfort afforded by the trust allows us to be our most creative selves.

When we first begin improvising, we trust specific, singular individuals on a kind of “prove-it-to-me” basis.  If we get up there and do a scene with Michael, and Michael seems nice enough and Yes And-ed me and didn’t throw me under the bus, then pretty soon, I’ll trust Michael.

Then, if the classroom or team environment affords it, improvisers might extend that trust to a whole group of people, e.g. “I feel pretty comfy, more or less, with everyone in the class/team.  No matter who I do a scene with, they’ll have my back.”  This allows us to step out into a scene without fear, because we know that whoever joins us, we trust them.  This isn’t always the case, but it’s wonderful when it happens.

Next, after improvisers do and watch enough shows, they begin trusting based on observation, e.g. “I saw Jermaine do that scene, he seemed pretty supportive/good/funny; I trust him.”  At this point you might be stepping out with people you’ve never personally played with but still can find the freedom to be creative.

A little more, and improvisers start to trust the process of improvisation itself.  When you see quality players come together and jam, they’re more or less putting faith in the process of improvisation, of Yes And, listening, heightening, etc.  “I’ve never played with Tito or seen Tito but oh well, let’s go do the improv thing and I bet a scene will happen.”

This is closely followed by trust in yourself as a capable improviser.  This is great because it means you can confidently improvise with anyone at all, novice or expert, without feeling afraid or stifled.  At Magnet in New York we have these great shows called “Mixers” where anyone can sign up and do a scene.  New folks who’ve never done improv before are often paired with experienced house team members.  From the experienced player’s point of view, they have no idea who this person is or if they’re any good.  In fact, they probably have evidence that the person isn’t very good, since most everybody isn’t very good the first time they do improv.  And yet, these scenes are almost always fun and funny.  It’s not even like the experienced player is “carrying” the scene.  They simply trust themselves, trust that if they keep YesAnding and listening, that a scene will happen, and that they’ll be able to find some fun.  

All this trust is so that we can overcome this fear; we trust that these bad things won’t happen.  However, for the most part, the worst thing that is going to happen to you because of a bad improv scene is that a bunch of people won’t think that you are very funny.  And at the end of the day, that’s not so bad.  No one dies, no one gets hurt or sick, everyone who cares about you still loves you, etc.  Even for those who make or hope to make their livelihoods off of improv or comedy, one bad scene or show won’t ruin that.  Whenever I’m feeling strangely nervous before a show, I try to remind myself of that.  It’s not perfect, but it helps.

At the end of the day, there’s probably some combination of a few, many, or all of these things going on when we “trust” in improv.  And the more you’re able to face down that fear, trust yourself and others, the better an improviser you’re going to be.

Reblogged to include the entire post.  Definitely worth reading today.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Magnet community where this is the general sentiment!

Rick Andrews talks improv with a focus on Fear and Trust