For the past four months, I have been spending my Tuesday evenings making a total fool of myself in comedy Improv classes. I enrolled at Just the Funny in Miami to add some 'funny' to my life and take a break from working so much. See, I launched a new business last year -- an online course and community for health & wellness professionals - and I was spending 12+ hours a day at the computer for many, many months.
When I enrolled in the Improv classes, I expected to laugh a lot, make some friends, maybe even build more on-stage confidence, but I didn't expect to have 'a-ha' insights about my business.
Here's what Improv comedy classes taught me about being an entrepreneur:
1. You can't do anything wrong
There are no mistakes in Improv comedy. Every word, phrase or gesture is an opportunity to create something fun and unexpected. Since there is no script, there is no plot or dialogue to follow. You make it up as you go along. The same is true for being an entrepreneur. I can do whatever I want in my business. There is no script, no one-way plan that I have to follow. Sometimes my business or marketing strategies generate a lot of excitement, and sometimes they fall flat - just like on the Improv stage. But just because I don't get engagement on a particular thing, doesn't mean that I did something "wrong," it just means that I need to do something differently until people start smiling again. Which leads me to my next insight...
2. Fail fast, then Keep Going
When you find yourself in a situation that isn't amusing, which happens a lot in both Improv and business, you need to find your way out fast and keep going. There is nothing more paralyzing to improvising then dwelling in some mental drama about what just happened. If I get stuck in over-thinking, regretting or being embarrassed, I fall apart. Improv classes taught me that there is no shame in telling a joke that doesn't get a laugh - or launching a product that doesn't sell - as long as you learn from it. What separates a good improviser from a not-so-good one is her resiliency and her ability to keep going no matter what happens. The faster you fail, and find a new approach, the quicker you can figure out what makes people happy.
3. Commit to it
My Improv teacher hollers from the back of the room, "Commit to it!" It hits me like an electric shock. I stand up taller, speak my words stronger, pay attention closer - and the audience is mesmerized. How true this is for my business, too! If I make a choice and put in half-assed effort, my audience is bored; they don't care; they aren't engaged. If I bring my full-energy and enthusiasm to something, they can feel it; it's contagious; they want more. We don't have the option in Improv or in business to be lazy. If we don't commit fully because we are scared or distracted with other things, our performance will stink. We need to show up consistently and commit fully if we want our audience to do the same.
4. Trust Your Partner
On the Improv stage, you only have 2 things that you can rely on - your imagination and your partner. We spend a lot of class time doing weird exercises like feeling each other's faces and telling each other embarrassing moments so that we can build unconditional trust. This taught me how to lean into my partner instead of trying to be out there on my own. Ironically, this is exactly what I need to do in my business. One of the biggest lessons that I've learned as an entrepreneur is how much I need other people to be successful. I can't do it all by myself. In both Improv and business, the answers to your questions and your next steps are not written in some playbook somewhere, they are in your partner's eyes.
If you are working in wellness and you need a community to laugh and learn from, join the Women in Wellness Club. We know how to get things done, and have FUN in the process.