Create With Crap (and Other Empowering Approaches to Success) -- Featuring Cathy Salit

Author's Note: The two characters in this dialogue, A & B, are fictional -- but all the details they communicate are true.

A: Remember Cathy Salit?

B: The girl who went to school with us and dropped out in 7th grade?

A: Yes.

B: Then started her own school -- with some friends and their families?

A: Yes.

B: And they couldn't afford to buy a sign -- so they named the school after the old dry cleaning store they rented because that sign was already there. The Elizabeth Cleaners Street School. That Cathy Salit?


A: Yes. Good memory after 45 years.

B: Wasn't it Cathy's mother who convinced her to drop out and start that school?

A: Yes.

B: I always wondered how a mother could throw away her daughter's future like that.

A: Actually, her mother threw it to her -- and Cathy caught it.

B: What do you mean?

A: Cathy Salit is now an author.

B: You're kidding.

A: No. I wrote down the name of her new book: Performance Breakthrough: A Radical Approach to Success at Work.

B: How did you get the news?

A: I heard her on a show called Wavemaker Conversations: A Podcast for the Insanely Curious. She was fascinating!

B: I still can't figure out how to find a podcast.

A: That's another story.

B: So what can a high school dropout teach the rest of us about success?

A: Actually - she's a junior high dropout.

B: OK - what can a junior high dropout teach us about how to succeed?

A: Well, after the whole school episode -- Cathy got into theater - improv, acting, singing. Oh, and psychology - something called performative psychology.

B: Go on.

A: She started her own company -- with some of her theater and psychology buddies. They took what they knew about how to put on a play -- and brought their approach to businesses outside the theater world.

B: What kind of company would hire our junior high dropout?

A: A major teaching hospital hired her team to work with their oncology nurses.

B: Incredible. What, exactly, does she do for these companies?

A: She and her "merry band" enter with the eye of a theater director -- they examine a company's human dynamics -- how the colleagues work together -- what they fight over and why -- anything that gets in the way of a good production -- like it's a play. And then she helps them figure out how to "get from the play that they're currently in to the play they want to be in."

B: You know - sometimes I'm not so thrilled with the play I'm in.

A: Same here.

B: So how do you get from the play you're in to the one you want to be in?

A: Cathy uses lots of fun exercises that she describes in that podcast-- improv games -- that you can even play at home to improve your family dynamics.

B: Improvisation terrifies me.

A: Cathy says play with the fear. She says: "Let's improvise, even though your knees are knocking."

B: I love that!

A: Then you'll love this advice from her:

Create with crap ... because you can improvise with crap. In fact, I think so much of what we ... produce in our world is crap ... we might as well start creating with it.

B: Oh, do I have loads to create with.

A: Same here.

B: I have an idea. Cathy's an old friend from the neighborhood, right?

A: Right.

B: I know it's been 45 years -- but why don't we invite her over for dinner and -- you know -- get some tips.

A: I don't think we can afford Cathy Salit.

B: Hmm. Then how do I find that podcast?