Welcome to One Word Suggestion.
Most people think improv is just for comedy or jazz. But, really, it’s a tool for life. In each three minute episode of this series I use a single word, suggested by you, as a leaping off point to explore how having an improvisational mindset will help you perform at a higher level, both personally and professionally, whether you have a career on or off the stage.
This week’s word, parachute, was suggested by Peter.
What’s the thing that scares you most?
For a good friend of mine, it was heights. So we did the obvious thing: we went skydiving.
I was nervous. My friend even more so.
But we committed. We got on the plane. Jumped out into the unknown. Pulled a ripcord. And watched our parachute billow up as we floated down. Screaming and laughing the whole way with relief, joy and exhilaration.
As soon as we were safely back on terra-firma we immediately signed up to go again.
That’s how quickly something that at first terrifies you can become a thing you love.
For me, my biggest fear was deep water, so in university, I learned to surf, scuba dive and sail. Activities I still enjoy to this day. And for this and many other reasons, I’m a big fan of facing your fears.
There is a saying in improvisation, attributed to the legendary improv teacher Del Close:
Follow the fear.
According to a Huff Post article by Mike Bonifer, Del didn’t only say this to neophyte improvisers afraid of performing without a script. Del taught the best there was. Bill Murray, John Belushi, Tina Fey, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers — his former students are the improv comedy hall of fame.
What he said is that you can use your fear as a kind of divining rod. Do what makes you uneasy, he taught. Do the thing that scares you most. There, Close told his students, you will discover new worlds.
For a very large percentage of the population, their number one fear isn’t deep water or heights, it’s public speaking. Being centre stage. But despite living in a world where everyone wants to be famous for nothing (thanks Paris Hilton) our classes and workshops are full of people who think they could never stand up in front of a group and say anything that makes sense.
But just like jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane, once they realize they can. They sign up for more.
Because its exhilarating, fun, and confidence-boosting. And because the experience, is proof of their personal growth.
And that’s why I often refer to improv as “mental skydiving.”
If your fears are deep water or heights, I encourage you to jump right in, or out, as the case may be.
But if your fears are presenting, selling, or speaking confidently in front of a crowd, then get yourself or your team into an improv class or workshop.
And follow the fear. Out of it, you will grow.
Plus, won’t need to wear a helmet or silly goggles, and I promise you will be 100% safe.
Safer, in fact, than any activity that requires you to wear a parachute.
So that’s my take on parachute.
Thanks for the great suggestion, Peter.
If you wanna do a deeper dive into fear, check out episode 8.
If you want to suggest a word for next week, or add your perspective, drop me a note in the comments or in a review. I’m making one of these every week, for a year, so definitely subscribe, like, share, and all that jazz.
Or better yet, listen to the podcast.
And in the meantime, if you’re interested in improv for personal growth, professional achievement, or just for fun, my suggestion is to get yourself into an improv class or book a corporate training workshop for your team.
You can learn all about LMA’s programs at www.lma.training