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Keeping My Inner Introvert at Bay- Life Lessons from Second City Improv Part 1

Posted by on August 19, 2008

secondcity.jpgFor the last few months I have been happily unemployed and working on a couple side projects before diving back into the murky world of 9-5. I have also been trying to learn as much about e-commerce and online marketing as possible as I see my future somewhere within the WWW.

My ultimate goal is to work on multiple online and offline ventures so that within the next 5 years or so I can work for myself full-time. I’m a long ways away but you have to start somewhere…so there’s the setup. Phew! With that being said, my last few months have been spent largely online during the day reading reports, watching educational videos, learning about different software, getting to know some helpful experts and trying to figure out what the hell a widget is or does.

Needless to say my “people time” has been severely handicapped and lately I have been starting to feel like a prisoner under house-arrest (without the sexy anklet ). So to revive my inner child and social animal I decided there was no better place than Second City and enrolled myself in their Improv Level C class, Monday nights for two months.

My first taste of Improv was last summer and it was great, but the aspect I didn’t consider then was improv’s vast benefit in the corporate world. There are a couple people in my current class simply to improve their inter-office communication and presentation skills. One girl in particular has said she’s seen her interactions with her co-workers and superiors improve dramatically since she has been taking improvisation classes. This same girl is a self proclaimed introvert “extraordinaire” and is looking to come out of her shell a little.

Social interactions don’t come along easily for everyone. For me, I think I straddle the fence between extrovert and introvert. I love large gatherings and social functions, but sometimes find myself experiencing strong urges to crawl back into my cave in utter silence.

Each class as I enter the room I feel as if I need to reprogram myself from the real world as there are too many preconceived notions of how to act in “real life”that are absent from improv. For those that know me well, you are aware that most conventional rules of social interactions are merely suggestions for my day to day life, so if I find improv liberating I can only imagine how much a true introvert would benefit from these classes.

Within my limited exposure to Second City I find each 150min lesson to be an underlying exposé on what’s wrong with society. Today as the instructor explained our next game/exercise he reminded us of the deprogramming necessary to truly enjoy ourselves (note: the games are not win/lose but enjoy and participate).

Should you take stock of your day-to-day life you’ll find in most case that we live a life of censorship; socially, or even parentally formed parameters that govern the way we act, speak, choose, and essentially live. But in today’s improv class I learned the importance of trusting my own judgments and though they may not be “right” or “wrong” I was learning to trust my instincts and explore their possibilities.

At one point I found myself saying in one scene, “And when the males lactate to a significant level it means the ear wax is ready for harvesting”. That is almost exactly what was said in my long drawn out answer to, “What is photosynthesis?” with someone else’s hands playing my own. And though absolutely ridiculous, I went where the scene took me and it surprisingly worked out extremely well.

I think we tend to censor our actions and choices in the real world for fear of what someone else’s opinion of us might be. You may have wanted to become a teacher but never pursued that dream because you know your parents always dreamed of you becoming a doctor. You might want to get up and start dancing at a concert but you’re not sure how your date will react to you. Its a constant struggle at times to balance who we are on the inside and who we are when the cameras are rolling.

Improv essentially does its best to strip away any sort of self-conscious airs and encourages people to accept one another for whatever choices they should make onstage. If you tell me my hand is a pineapple, well Ahola, its a pineapple. If you tell me the natives are coming and we’ll need scotch tape to protect us, well then so be it, xmas gift wrapping be damned. Its all about being comfortable and taking yourself into waters you may not normally wade into for fear of judgment.

Not since we were kids were we “allowed” to act silly(and even then it was frowned upon most times). There seems to be an age where everyone decides that they need to grow up; whatever the hell that means. We seem to develop routines, debt, large amounts of responsibility only to accumulate endless amounts of valueless valuables and all the while losing every bit of the sillyness that used to be our lifeblood.

Why do you think some of the best times we have in life are typically when we are gathered around family and close friends? Its usually because its with these people only that we are comfortable enough to be ourselves (or the closest we’ll get while the cameras roll) to regain some sillyness.

So this Monday’s life lesson from improv was: Don’t let others judge your actions before you’ve actually acted. Try to be comfortable and confident enough to be yourself, at least its original…and silly is ALWAYS cool.

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