Improv

How to do it all (?)

I'm coming to grips with the fact that you can't do it all. Yes, I've identified those things that are essential to me and bring me the most joy and reward and make the most time for them, but there are still so many other things I want to do! How does one do it all? This isn't something I have an answer for, but I think, for me, laying out everything either already on my plate, or that I want to add to my plate, will help me just feel more grounded. Here is my list:

  • Work/Career growth
  • Study for the GMAT
  • Apply to business school/get my MBA
  • Start a podcast
  • Go on more dates
  • Work on self exploration with a therapist (just started!)
  • Go to chiropractor regularly and do rehab/prehab exercises
  • Take a Project Management class
  • Learn to dance hip hop
  • Workout
  • Do triathlons
  • Do obstacle/adventure races
  • Travel
  • Practice for Improv group 1
  • Shows for Improv group 1
  • Practice for Improv group 2
  • Shows for Improv group 2
  • Networking
  • Go to more business/professional development events outside of work
  • Keep great friendships
  • Maintain my social life (where it doesn't overlap with other items on this list--like simply going out or concerts, etc.)
  • See more live music
  • Sleep MORE
  • Write more for myself
  • Writing articles for other websites
  • Finding and training new personal training clients
  • Practice mindfulness/meditation; possibly in a class setting
  • Go to gymnastics
  • Go to Crossfit
  • Play more basketball
  • Start playing hockey
  • Play in my rec sports leagues
  • Host some mastermind group dinners/friends dinners
  • Go play ultimate frisbee
  • Read more books

I'm sure there are more I can add.

How does one balance it all? Alongside maintaining full focus on getting ahead at work and keeping and growing meaningful relationships with friends and family?

Just throwing it out there--Let me know if you're a life organizer and can help me ; )

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How to Use Improv to Network Like a Pro

I wrote an article for Improve It! Chicago recently! It's called How to Use Improv to Network Like a Pro. Go check it out here and read below! improv blog pic

There is a very small subset of people who get excited when they look at a meeting agenda and see the dreaded “Network and Cocktails” time slot. Before beginning improv, excited was the last word that came to mind when I thought about networking. My initial response was usually, “I hope I can find a group of people I know to go with” or “I hope something good is happening on Twitter so I can spend the next hour playing on my phone.” Neither of these options helps to make any new connections.

There is a better way to make it through a networking event, and a way that can actually lead to making some new friends or identifying business opportunities. What if networking events could actually be fun? Well, they can be if you embrace some of these general improv techniques that will help you get rid of the anxiety, make new friends, and most importantly, have FUN at your next event!

Enter the Networking Scene:

This is the hardest part, especially when you don’t know anyone at the event, or there is someone in particular you really want to meet. You need to make the first move. Start by engaging someone new with a statement or feeling that can take any direction. Improv is about joining a scene in a way that adds value; no one is going to cue you up for your entrance.

  • Point of View: By having a point of view, you add value to the conversation. Enter a conversation by making a statement that will allow you explore a subject. For example, I could enter a conversation and state
    • Me: “Wow, this guacamole is actually really good! It almost tastes fresh!
    • New friend: “I thought so too.”
    • Me: “I think the best guacamole I ever had was at a little taco place in San Diego called Oscars. Have you ever been to San Diego?”
    • New Friend: “I have! Actually I grew up in Orange County."
    • Me: “How cool! What was your favorite part about California?

Choose a Character to Play:

To be clear, you need to be yourself in order for the networking to be effective. But if you’re simply too uncomfortable to walk up to a group of people, or even a single individual, choose a character! Chose different (real) assets that you want to highlight about yourself to be your focus.

  • Body Language: When we take on a new character we also channel their unique and identifiable body language. For example, if I’m in a scene where I’m playing a sad old man, I’ll bow my head, shuffle my feet, and look at the ground. Note, this would NOT be a character I’d recommend embodying when trying to meet new people. Choose a character that is strong, friendly, and approachable! Think of yourself as a celebrity – someone that other people want to talk to and approach. Remember to smile, uncross your arms, and turn your body to face each new person. Remember, never turn your back to your audience!
  • Take on a Persona: Let’s say you’re an investment banker. Imagine instead, that you’re the “best investment banker in the Loop”. This might be true, but you need to bring that confidence and carry yourself like you ARE the “best investment banker in the Loop”. This confidence will create all types of new introductions!

Add Value with the Call Back:

Now that you’ve entered into a conversation, here is a great tip to take it even further. In improv, a “call back” is when a character refers to something funny that happened in a previous scene. In networking, a “call back” is anything that helps make a mutually beneficial connection for two people. It’s a great way to add value!

Let’s say you are speaking with someone whose specialty is digital marketing and they are in need of someone in graphic design to help with their website. Turns out, you were chatting with someone earlier at the event who is a graphic designer! This is a perfect opportunity for you to make an introduction. In the end, both will be grateful to you for making the “call back”, and perhaps they’ll return the favor!

Evoke Emotion:

If you aren’t able to add value with an immediate “call back,” another improv technique that will help fuel the conversation is to make statements that elicit an emotional reaction. Asking good questions can work in the same way if what you ask the other person allows them to respond passionately and with full emotion. For example, if the person you’re speaking with mentions they have kids, dig into that a bit! Chances are they will be delighted to talk about their kids!

Listen to Understand:

The most common question asked at networking events is “what do you do?” But how many times have you asked that question without actually listening to hear what the other person has said? Most of the time, you’re too busy planning on how you’re going to describe your answer when they ask you the same question.

In improv, there is a skill called listening to understand, rather than our innate habit of listening to respond. The next time someone tells you what he or she does, ask follow-up questions that show you are interested and give the other person an opportunity to share. For example:

  • Listen to Understand: “Wow, a microbiologist, how interesting! What part of your job is the most fun?”
  • Evoke Emotion: “Tell me about the moment you decided microbiology was a field you wanted to pursue.”
  • Listen to Understand & Evoke Emotion: “What is the most exciting project you are working on right now?”

Exit Stage Left

As you can see, networking can be made easier by embracing a few tried and true improv tactics. If you enter each conversation with purpose, add value by making connections, and truly listen to understand, you will be able to work a room like the best of ‘em! We guarantee that if you employ these techniques over time, you’ll gain confidence and see your network, and your business grow!

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chuckfeerick

Chuck Feerick is a graduate of the Second City Improv Program. He performs around Chicago with his Improv group, Roger Bob, as well as in other shows. Professionally, Chuck is a healthcare consultant as well as a certified personal trainer. You can find out more about him at his website or contact him on Twitter!

"Yes, and..." My Journey Into Imrprov - And Why You Should Do It

Moving to Chicago in the middle of a bitter winter makes the process of making new friends very difficult. Everyone is bundled head-to-toe until about March, and it seems no one really does any outdoor activities, such as softball or flag football. So with finding a cycling group or joining a rec sports league out of the question, I decided to start taking Improv classes at Second City. Second City is where a lot of names you may know started their careers, such as Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, or Stephen Colbert. It is a cool feeling knowing that I was taking classes at the same place so many of these successful actors and comedians had. Second City offers a plethora of classes, but Improv (improvisational comedy) was the one I knew would give me the best chance to really connect with my classmates and make new friends. Plus, I didn’t really have any interest in taking a sketch writing class or a voice-over class, as cool as that would be someday.

So over the past 10 months, I’ve taken levels A-E at Second City. Each level added a new element to the craft, for example in Level A it’s all about learning to “yes, and…” and support your classmates. In Level C, we worked a lot on character development, and in Level E you really work on bringing it all together and learning your style. What hooked me were my first couple classes; for the first time in what felt like forever, I was able to be out of my own head, mindful, and fully present to the environment I was in. When you’re forced to remember a bunch of new names, throw multiple objects in a specified pattern, and remember everyone’s favorite hobby all at the same time, there leaves no room to think about the minutia that take up so much of our brain space.

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A few of us got together in Level C and opened for a late night show at one of Second City’s stages. Once I got the chance to perform and make an audience laugh, I was hooked.

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I had an amazing group that I went through the program with. While we lost a few and gained a few along the way, a core of us went all the way through Levels A – E and I’m now in a group that is going to start performing around the city!

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During Level D, I also auditioned for and got a part in a coached ensemble team. For 4 weeks, a group of 8 or 9 of us had a running performing on the Second City stage. We had a coach who gave us guidance and feedback and we were able to perform a mix of scenes based off a random idea we pulled from the audience.

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The essence of Improv is simple, but so much of it can be applied to everyday life. The main rule of Improv is always say, “Yes, and…” You never disagree or shoot someone’s idea down, instead, you accept their idea and build upon it.

For example, if someone enters a scene as yells “Ow, I broke my leg!”, instead of responding with “no you didn’t”, I would say instead, “Yes, and your crutches match your shirt perfectly!” Every scene requires energy and commitment and you are always looking to heighten in some fashion—How could I make this scene more fun? And remember, “If you’re not having fun, you’re an asshole.”

Here are a list of the benefits and lessons I’ve taken from Improv:

  • To learn to listen; hearing what my are my scene-mates are saying in order to understand and respond appropriately
  • To say “yes”—“Yes, and I will do this __________"
    • Never “yes, but” or “no"
  • To live in the moment
  • Don’t talk about getting ready to jump out of a plane, instead, have already jumped and then start the scene
  • Play with people who have your back
  • Make big choices
    • Make them often
    • Make them early
  • Take risks:
    • If you’re scared, look in your partners eyes and know they will support you
      • "I got your back"
    • Work with others and allow them to be in the spotlight with you
  • There’s nothing more unattractive than a selfish “actor"
    • The compelling actor is one who is going after what they want. But there are roadblocks or other actors trying to prevent the actor from getting what they want
    • They act on their wants and goals
  • Rather than being devil’s advocate, say instead “Yes, that’s an interesting idea and I have another!"
    • Don’t crush the energy that is moving the group forward
    • “Yes, and”, but without being a “Yes-man"
  • Mistakes are gifts—own them, don’t correct them but keep going, keep the flow and acknowledge it without apology
  • Heighten, Explore, Transform
  • Approach the scene with an attitude of “today’s the day!"
    • Be confident! Like a pilot walking through an airport
  • Can enter a scene as if the scene is already occurring
  • Don’t have a planned end
  • "Yes, and”—accept and build upon
  • Listen to understand, not to respond

Improv summed to one statement: “Yes, and…”, love, and have fun!

These lessons have helped me so much, not only do I think differently about approaching problems at work and with others, but also in every way that I interact with people on a day-to-day basis. I’m more inquisitive and try to find how I can connect with them so that we quickly form a better relationship. Actually listening to what people have to say shows them that you’re actually paying attention and care about them and not just biding time to say what you are thinking. And being able to think quickly and be witty is great… especially when talking to girls...

Now that I’ve finished the program, I’m exploring some options of what to do next. As I mentioned, I’m in a group with a coach who will be performing around the city. I’ve taken a few other classes (like Yes, Yes Y’all: An Improv Rap Workshop) and just finished class on Auditioning For The Screen. I finally got some headshots done (needed them my business life as well, so win-win) and am planning to take an acting class and start auditioning for more shows and creating some of my own stuff.

I’m lucky in that my approach is to try it all and see what sticks and find out what I love doing.

If you’ve never done Improv but it’s something you’ve thought about trying, or just want to have fun and meet some new people, I can’t recommend it enough!

And with that: Yes, and you are all amazing!

What happens between November and March…

I’ve done and accomplished many things since I last wrote a blog update. I guess I’ll blame Chicago’s winter for my lack of writing… Although it hasn’t stopped me from riding my bike to work every day and walking everywhere (both of which I love!) So I’m going to go through a quick highlight of coolest, most fun, and most impactful things that have occurred up until now.

In November, my parents came to visit for the first time here in Chicago, which was a blast. They were able to stay with me at my apartment and then tour the city and do everything they wanted whilst I was at work, and then I was able to meet then for dinner and do some other fun things. They then drove the 3 of us to Pittsburgh where we spent Thanksgiving with the family at my cousin’s new house. She and her husband moved there from Tulsa, so we collectively got to do some exploring.

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In December, I took the most epic trip I’ve ever been on. My cousin Stephen and I took a 10-day trip to Costa Rica. We started in San Jose, the capital, and rented a car and drove to Arenal, the country’s biggest volcano. It also happens to be a rain forest… and it rained for the entire day we were there. Thus, instead of waiting around to see if it would stop, we hopped in the car a day earlier than planned and headed to the beach!

Sloth again

Sloth!!

Mt. Arenal

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Sloth!

Tamarindo picture

After 4 hours on the treacherous Costa Rican roads, we arrived in beautiful Tamarindo, a beach town on the Western Coast. Leaving a day early was a great decision and we toured the city and body-surfed in the Pacific all day. From there, we moved to a nearby hotel for a couple more days, then drove south to Samara (spending the majority of our time in Nosara, a surf-town in between Samara and Tamarindo) before spending a fun night in San Jose before flying home.

Resort pictures

I can’t remember which activities we did in which city, but here are the activities we got to do and some pictures!

  • Mountain biking
  • Left cell phone in mountain biking guides truck…
  • Surfing
  • Went to a Costa Rican “Discotecha”
  • ATV riding
  • Hiking and driving through a crazy forest on barely-existent roads
  • Body-surfed some epic waves at different beaches
  • Saw a sloth
  • Saw howler monkeys
  • Got our car stuck in a river… and consequently made friends with locals who help us lift it out…
  • Ate Brahman (grass-fed Costa Rican cattle)
  • Got stung by jellyfish (in the worst possible places)
  • Went zip-lining
  • Worked out at a tiny, sweltering gym in Samara
  • Walked around San Jose central marker

Tamarindo

Samara hotel

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Off-roading

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Crossing Costa Rican "river road"

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IN the river...

Coming back to Chicago in the middle of winter from Costa Rica is a pretty hard transition.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but I started taking Improv classes at Second City back in April. This has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I plan to write a lot more about it in the future. In short, I just graduated from their Improv program last week after completing Level A through E! Friends and I have done some shows around the city and I was also part of a Coached Ensemble recently, doing a 4 week run of shows on the Second City stage.

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I also took a hip-hop improv class, called Yes Yes Y’all, late last year which was a blast! YouTube videos to come...

I’m now taking an Auditioning For The Screen workshop and plan to take an acting class beginning in April.  I don’t have an end goal, but I’m excited to see where this all goes.

Lastly, I’m stoked to announce that I’ll be racing for the Wattie Ink Elite Triathlon Team again this year! This team is comprised of such an amazing group of people and I’m so proud to be a part of it. Check out my sponsors page as well for more on some of the amazing sponsors our team has. I’m also excited to announce a few new partners in a couple weeks as well!

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I’ve been doing an indoor triathlon series put on by my local gym. I’ll write about the whole series after the championships in April, but it has been a lot of fun doing smaller distance-for-time style races to even a full indoor Olympic distance race this past weekend! Last week I got to again with one of my AWESOME teammates, Cate!

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That’s it. I’ve got some cool stuffed planned over the next month that I am really excited to bring to fruition and highlight here! Here’s a hint—if you are doing something that’s cool (anything!) and want to talk about it, let me know!

Be easy--

Resistance--And how to beat it

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying” --Steven Pressfield

I want to do a lot of things. A lot of different things that seem to have no connection with one another, but there seems to be something that keeps getting in the way.  I’d love to write more… but I “don’t have time.” I want to start taking improv classes… but it might “get in the way of my workouts”. I’d like to start taking gymnastics classes and combining it with my current training to get my walking handstands perfected… but it’s “too far away and too expensive.”

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What’s really getting in the way? Resistance

Enter Coffee with Kate

A few weeks ago I met up with another trainer and incredibly awesome friend of mine, Kate Galliet of Fit For Real Life. Kate isn’t only an awesome trainer who owns her own gym where she trains endurance and everyday athletes, but she is wickedly smart and has awesome insight and a positive and practical outlook on life. And she bought me an awesome cup of coffee.

She and I talked about a lot of things but namely about plans we had and things we were working on. There was a big difference I noticed though—Kate was doing these things while I was till thinking about them. Sure, I’ve started a new job which I’m loving and is keeping me crazy busy, but I can make time to explore new ventures. Kate told me exactly what that problem was: Resistance. She recommended that I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

The book was fantastic. In it, Pressfield defines everything that Resistance is: Invisible, Internal, Insidious, Implacable, and Impersonal. Resistance is what keeps us from reaching our full potential and accomplishing the things that we are in fact capable of achieving. To overcome Resistance, you’ve got to choose whatever it is you are striving to achieve and become a professional at it. It must become like a job—something you do because you are excellent at it and something you can separate yourself from.

How to beat resistance:

Just start: Just write. Just run. Just do handstands against a wall. Want to read more? Start with magazines or websites, but just start and create a habit of it. Your results don’t matter, but you are doing it and with practice comes getting better.

The next step is to create a routine. I’ve finally started mediating every day. I’ve put this off for ever and ever, even though it’s been something I’ve wanted to do. Now, every night, I finish getting ready for the next day, then I read for a few minutes, then I turn off all the lights, sit quietly, and go through a programmed meditation practice from an app on my phone. Then I watch a few minutes of Breaking Bad, if time allows, and go to bed. By keeping this pattern, when I get ready to meditate, I know that is all I’m setting out to do.

The same can work if you want to write more—Create a routine. For me, it would be to go to a nearby Starbucks (have to be out of my house), catch up on Twitter so I won’t have it on my mind, end all text conversations and put my phone on silent, and then finally, my mind is free of obligations and I can begin to write.

The next step is committing. You’ve got a routine, you’ve made the pledge to just start, but now you can’t give up. Just keep doing it. Over and over and over.

So far, I’ve been able to use the lessons I learned from Kate and this book to start meditating, do more personal journaling, and commit to a lifting program I’ve been on for the last month. My next steps are to apply these to finding a cause to volunteer at and to begin improv classes or a sport league—Chicago just needs to get warm enough so I can ride my bike to these commitments.

What about accountability? Can I do recruit someone else to do this with me? I would say yes and no. Sure, it nice to have someone to keep you accountable, but you’ve still got to do the work.  You have to be a professional. J.K. Rowling didn’t say to another author, “I’ll write a book if you write one too”. No, she was broke and took on the commitment to become a professional and commit herself to writing. You just need to look at what you’re doing and ask “is this something that is short term with a defined outcome, or is this something I want to become a part of me and continue long-term.

Now you tell me, what things does Resistance get in the way of in your life that prevent you from achieving something you want?

Good luck and when you encounter that Resistance, call it out and make note of it! Once you start looking you’ll start seeing it a lot more… and finding more ways to overcome it!