Why I Do Improv (And Why Every Business Owner Should Too)

The Unusual Suspects Improv TroupeIf there were a magic pill that would make you stretch outside your comfort zone in a way that benefited every area of your business and life, would you do it? Even if you had to get up on stage in front of an audience without a script to perform short sketches with other people you barely knew?

I did.

And, boy am I glad!

You see about 7-8 years ago I took a presentation skills class and one of the instructors was an improv guy. He was extolling the virtues of improve and I thought… “Hmmm that could be cool!” Since there were no classes nearby I let the idea slide into wishful thinking…until… two years ago. A colleague of mine started offering adult improv classes and I jumped in hook, line, and sinker. I never dreamed it would have had as huge of an impact on me and my business as it has.

Besides being more fun than you could possibly imagine having with very cool people and laughing until your sides split, there are some very tangible reasons why improv is the perfect fit for the self-employed business owner.

Here’s why I continue to do it (and you should give it a try)…

Improv teaches you to:

Think on Your Feet

You have to be on your toes when you play these improv games. You never know what scene you could be in, what role you will be playing, or what might happen. You can’t plan, script, or rehearse your way into success. You can practice skills that support your performance (like listening, experimenting, being present, thinking on your feet, etc.) but that is the extent of it. The rest is up to you – in the moment.

Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Who is totally comfortable with standing in front of a crowd knowing just about anything can happen? No one. Even the most seasoned performers will tell you they feel excited and a bit nervous before a show. Knowing that you might succeed or fail spectacularly is just part of the game. You may shine like a hero or look like a jackass. Either way is OK. You learn how to show up fully and make friends with the unknown.

 Trust Yourself

Fundamentally you have to trust yourself. Learning to trust your instincts, ideas, and input is non-negotiable to the process.   The only way it works is if you take an idea, commit fully, and go for it. Even if it bombs. As my improv leader Aviva says, sometimes the best thing you can do is die (as in let the idea/character die). [Read more…]

It’s NOT a Luxury [Video: Creating Business Flow]

Recently I took a day before a business conference in Austin, TX just to paddle. Enjoy the whole expansive day doing something I love in a new city. In the past I never would have given myself permission to do this.

Voices in my head would have said:

  • Too luxurious
  • I need to be working
  • I need to make more money so I don’t have time for fun
  • If I’m not meeting my goals, I am not worthy for this fun time…and on and on.

Well – I don’t fall prey to that voice like I used to…. so today’s “selfie” edition of Business Flow will give you more tips on how to indulge so your business can experience more flow.

How about you? Do you give yourself space for fun, rest, joy along the way?  Or do you struggle with it?  Share in the comments!

Don’t Be Afraid to Hit the Rocks

Paula G Sea Cave KayakingAs I was nervously sitting in a sea kayak on the Pacific Ocean eyeing up a sea cave that I would soon to be paddling into, all I could see were the rocks.  The big rock walls, the many rocks in the middle of the path between here and there, and images in my mind’s eye flashing before me saying, “stay away from the rocks!”

After all, in my many years of traveling and being drawn to coastlines, I’ve seen my fair share of safety related signs that say things like:

  • “Stay back! The ocean is unpredictable.”
  • “Beware of rogue waves”
  • “Keep off the rocks”

So I was perplexed about the wisdom of my desire to paddle directly into confined spaces within large rocks as the waves sloshed and crashed around me.

Even though I am an avid kayaker, this was a first for me – ocean kayaking that involved paddling through breaking waves and into sea caves.  I trusted my fine guide (folks at Central Coast Kayak were really great) and I yearn for adventure (at least when I’m sitting at home!) so what was the problem?

Fear.

Oh that.

After a few nerve wracking trips in and out of some caves I found I wasn’t really loosening up a great deal.  I was still hyper focused on trying to make my lines so I could enter and exit the cave unscathed.  Until something my guide said allowed my stress and anxiety to melt away.  He said, “Don’t be afraid to hit the rocks!”

I thought to myself … “Oh, it’s ok to hit the rocks? Who knew?”

Obviously we’re not talking about paddling headstrong straight into the rocks, but rather if you bump them along the way it is totally ok.  More than likely you’ll simply be helped along your way and your course will be swiftly righted.

I can’t tell you how freeing that was!  It didn’t change my desire to hit my lines or make clean turns.   What it did do was free me up from the overly tense and high pressure state I had my mind and body in that was stressing me out and making each skill test take my breath away (and not in the good way!).

The amplified sounds of crashing waves were intimidating enough inside the caves (serious acoustics in there). At least I no longer needed to panic about hitting the rocks. This little bit of permission I was given made a world of difference in how I felt and ultimately in my ability to enjoy the journey and do it safely.

It reminded me of all the different ways within our own businesses that we get all strung out over something when we could just give ourselves permission to ease up a bit.  Permission to be ok with hitting the rocks once in a while and knowing that the boat will right itself if need be.  It will all be ok.

So I ask you to take a set in your own virtual kayak beside me and ask yourself in what ways are you:

  • Pushing too hard and you need to ease up?
  • Being too unstructured and could stand to firm things up or accelerate them a bit?
  • Creating a lot of stress and mental anguish that need not be there (suffering is not a prerequisite for success)?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

Need a trusted guide to help you navigate the waters of growing your business?  I would love to speak with you.  Let’s schedule a complimentary discovery session to explore where you are, where you want to go, and how I can help!

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

Overcoming fear and anxiety as a business ownerOver time I’ve noticed a trend.  When I start working with clients I create a very safe space in which they can be honest, grow and move forward.  This leads them to share very personal and vulnerable things with me. I am honored and privileged to have their trust.  What surprises me is how surprised they are when they get to know me a bit better. Inevitably every client will say at least once, “I didn’t know that about you. I would never have known that if you didn’t tell me. It makes me feel so much better to know you’ve struggled with challenges too!”

As I’ve been exploring my own unique voice and way of doing things in my business with my mentors and mastermind buddies I get the same reactions.  “Does your audience know this about you?  Seeing more of your vulnerable side would certainly attract me more to you.”  And so, with the loving challenges of my support team, I want to share with you 5 things you probably didn’t know about me and how I’ve navigated them in a way that lets me thrive.

This post isn’t about taking a narcissist TMI plunge all too popular in blogs and social media these days. My intention is for you to:

  • Get to know me a bit better
  • See a connection in our shared struggles (even if yours don’t look the same as mine)
  • Be encouraged that no matter what you may have experienced or be experiencing now that you can succeed, run your business, and live your life by your own design.

So… with all the courage I mustered to write this post, here we go!

Panic and Anxiety

I spent years suffering from a panic and anxiety disorder.  I lived with a constant state of anxiousness and added social anxiety just to make things interesting.  For a time, the panic attacks would get bad enough to warrant a trip to the hospital (but I would never go). While the tendency toward panic and anxiety never fully goes away I have shifted that dynamic to keep it from interfering in any significant way in my life.  I didn’t do it instantly and I didn’t do it alone, but I know it can be done.  I also know what it feels like to live with everything from a low-grade to high intensity amount of anxiety as you try to go about your professional duties and personal life.  These feelings can often be exacerbated by the entrepreneurial journey, but the need not stop you.

While we’re on the topic of un-fun emotions. Let’s talk…

Fear

My relationship with fear has had its arcs.  I have been afraid of everything from heights to the up-and-down horse on the carousel (yes for years I would only ride the ones that were bolted down).  These fears were in direct conflict with my insatiable desire for loving life experiences.  My coping strategies have included everything from outright avoidance to white-knuckling it.  When asked, “How could you do those things (travel, adventure, whatever…), aren’t you scared?” I always answer. Yes. Of course I’ve been scared, but my desire to have an experience outweighs my fear and so I keep on showing up.  As long as it is something I really want to do, I will try it (to date I have zero desire to jump out of a plane, but should that change, yes, I would try it.).  I also give myself plenty of emotional recovery time if needed.  As I teach to others, I seek to let fear walk beside me as my teacher instead of having it keep me stuck. [Read more…]

Painting as a Doorway Inside Your Business

First you have to understand. I hate art projects.  While I love looking at and admiring art, when someone says we are going to be doing art, my blood runs cold.

I panic and look for an escape route. Maybe I could run screaming from the room! Maybe I could go get a root canal!

This terror comes from a long stream of shame-filled art experiences in school and other venues.  Not to mention while I slowly own the fact that I am creative, I am realistic and know that drawing something in a literal sense, is not a gift I possess.

This is why the mere mention of an art jam during the opening of my first Wealthy Thought Leader Gold Retreat made my stress level rise as I searched for a way to run for the hills.

I am so glad I did not trigger the escape hatch and I’m going to tell you why.

Visceral Learning is the Process

First of all, you cannot open the door to a tender space unless it is safe.  All the credit for making the art jam a safe place where epiphanies could emerge goes to Daniella Rubinovitz for her incredible process and presence and Andrea J Lee and her amazing team for the vision and environment to make it happen.

When the process started I found myself in a familiar place feeling stressed and tentative about doing something that has nothing but bad and shameful memories attached to it.  Also familiar was my full-on commitment to show up fully and surrender knowing that I am safe in the hands of someone I trust deeply.

That’s a pretty emotionally vulnerable place to be.

With specific direction from Daniella on what to paint and the restrictions of using only two colors and white at any given time, I was off and running.

At first I felt self-conscious but that quickly melted away as I was able to sink into the emotion of what was put forth in the directions and magic started to occur.  Since this is definitely not my natural way of operating (refer back to the root canal references if you missed that part!), I did have to think my way into experimentation.  Exploring my way around using all parts of my hands – front, back, fingernails, long side strokes.  Asking myself, “Did I try my non dominant hand? Oh, I didn’t let’s try that and see what happens.” And so forth. Once I got going I was able to not only feel into the process but feel into what it has truly been like in my business the last 6 years.  The light moments, the dark moments, the struggles, the pain points, the celebrations, and more.

I was reminded once again of the power of learning experientially in ways that push me way outside of my comfort zone.  I’ve had some many examples of this from working with Debbie Ford to climbing trees, to the wisdom of horses just to name a few. Yet each time I experience a new way to access parts of me that typically stay hidden, I am renewed.  I break through with a giant leap forward. [Read more…]

How to Prioritize When Everything is a Priority

Get the 7-Day Solution