As someone who loves the art of comedy(especially stand up) and is heavily into personal development, I could not help myself picking this book up.
Improv Wisdom is a book by Author/Improv comedian Patricia Ryan Madson. She tries to relate improv comedy to our lives. The book is interesting,to say the least. She draws comparisons with her experiences(personal and professional) and doesn’t stretch the book too long. It’s not one of those self help books which could be a blog post of 200 words. This is wisdom.
One great thing that she did is, she has a section at the end of every chapter that gives you actionable points. If you’re not into stories, you could just read them and they’re enough to get you going.
Talking about what it taught me.
I’ve highlighted some of the valuable pieces of teachings that I got from the book. This is more like a summary I wrote for myself.
Just Show Up!
If there’s only one takeaway from the book, it’s THIS. As someone who used to make music, I couldn’t agree more with this point. The hardest part of making any sort of music is actually starting to make music. It’s difficult getting out of the bed, booting your computer, loading your DAW and start making music.
Showing up is the fundamental characteristic of people who achieve and do great things in life. In the book, she lists rituals that can be done in order to show up. Rituals have always been the “spark” to something related to personal development.
Create your rituals.
We plan a lot and end up doing nothing. By we, I mean me.I spend a lot of time planning over things that I’ll do. My journal is full of to-do lists and plans that I’ve made. But somehow, they never get done. Also, we read a lot of self-help books and never implement them in our lives. So, don’t bother preparing!
As I mentioned in the first point “Showing up”, the hardest thing to do is to start. You don’t know what to do, where to start, what should be the first step, how to wash all these clothes that I’ve worn for 2 months.That last one might just be me. But the beauty of not knowing where to start is: you can start anywhere. For example, in an improv show , if you don’t know where to start, you ask the audience first. You don’t write a script for an improv show. You don’t plan it out. You just think of something and do it. So, start anywhere.
This point felt like a personal attack to me. All my life, I’ve had only one fear: the fear of being average. And here she goes, telling people to be average. I misunderstood ! (I always do.)
By asking us to be average,she’s asking us not to strike off an idea which we think is average. One man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. So, if you have an idea that you think is average, just don’t throw it away. Most of the times,the best ideas are the simplest ones.
Another personal attack. (This actually was)
“Life is attention, what we notice becomes our world.”
She gives a lot of suggestions in this chapter but the most important one is: pay attention to others. We are selfish animals(by we, I mean me). We don’t remember people’s names let alone the things that they tell us. What we need to do is, shift our attention from us to others.
Face the facts
Arugamama is the Japanese concept of accepting life for what it is which happens to be the base of this chapter.
What an improv comedian does is, takes input from the audience and builds upon it.He cannot complain that the given input isn’t good. He has to work with what he has. Improv comedy is all about improvisation. They expand on what they get the laughs on and drop what doesn’t work. You should do the same too.
Complaining is such a waste of time. Wishing things were different; another great way to waste your time. So, stop doing that. Face the facts.Your job might suck, but what have you done about it? Your girlfriend might be complaining all the time, but what have you done about it? If you spend your time complaining about these facts,you’re just going to waste more time.
Embrace the wobble
I hate cliches like “life has ups and downs”. The author does too. So, this chapter isn’t cliched at all. The whole idea of the chapter is… Umm….. Life has ups and downs, embrace the wobble.
Insecurity and chaos both are normal. That’s how life is. You try something, that doesn’t work and then you work on it for some time and it works out. Again,at a point of time, you’ll hit the wall and then you learn and get through that. That’s the wobble, if you can embrace the struggle, you’ll do great in life.
Make mistakes please
Mistakes are what make us human. You make mistakes, you learn and you don’t repeat. She asks you to become a confident mistake maker. That’s how you learn. There are no olympic judges watching our lives and even if they were, it doesn’t matter. That’s how you learn.
Substitute “What do I feel like doing?” with “What is my purpose now?”. Ask that question often.
If you follow any personal development guru /influencer like Tony Robbins, Grant Cardone, Gary Vee , they all agree with this point. Taking action is the best service that you can do to yourself. Grant cardone says for 10x success, you need 10x actions. If you don’t take actions, trust me nothing’s going to change. If you want that summer body, reading about it for 24×7 won’t do jack. You have to hit the gym. You have to! If you want to earn money, you can’t manifest it. You have to invest or work or anything that creates wealth.
Quotes from Improv Wisdom
“Life is attention and what were pay attention to determines to a great extent how we experience the world”
“Wishing things were different simply wastes time”
“Work with what is actually in front of you,setting aside the temptation to dwell in what is not”
“Embrace the wobble”
“There are gifts everywhere if you learn to see them”
“Take action rather than musing over whose job it may be”
“For all my dreams, I am what I do.”