After years of being told to “work on my weaknesses,” at home, in school, and at work, I stumbled across this startling piece of advice:
Instead of focusing all your energy on things you don’t like or aren’t good at, focus on your strengths and get better at those.
Think about it. If you constantly focus on weaknesses, you’re effectively spending your time preoccupied with a negative. What if, instead, you spent your time getting great at things you enjoy?
Last year I got an email from my childhood best friend. When I read this, I laughed out loud:
“I remember we were going to be famous writers and those crazy plays we put on in grade three for the wonderful and patient Miss Van der Woude, and one in particular in which I was wearing Francis Walch’s glasses and you diverted from the script and went rogue chasing someone around the set for 10 minutes until Miss VW said ‘Enough is enough!’ and calmed everybody down with a good old maths equation.”
Four decades years later, all of those things (writing, comedy, improvisation) have taken centre stage in my life.
“But I already know I love improv,” you say. “How do I get better at that?”
Be creative as only you can.
If you’ve ever watched Chopped, you know that even world class chefs don’t excel at everything. Faced with the same ingredients, one chef will make flavours sing. Another will demonstrate a flair for presentation, while another might surprise with their out-of-the-box thinking.
The same goes for improv.
Cameron has natural acting ability. He’s also very comfortable with silent scenes. I, on the other hand, can count on that hand the number of silent scenes I’ve done. But I’m really good at initiating, editing, and giving context.
Find the things that make you excited, and become a master at those.
If you watch any long-running team perform, you can see the different personalities at play. Certain members do certain things more often, and that’s OK. Maybe one has training in clown, while another has a background in singing. They both bring something fun to the party.
The New York Times ran a piece last week on TJ and Dave. Even those guys have their own particular style, things they each do exceedingly well. TJ doesn’t try to be Dave, and Dave doesn’t try to be TJ.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take classes, workshops, or try to improve your skills. But if you’re constantly beating yourself up for not being brilliant at every part of improv, it’s time to give your inner critic a big cup of shutthehellup.
What makes improv so magical is the collaboration and diversity of skills and talent. When you allow yours to shine, the universe will applaud.
(For more on this, see How To Succeed At Anything By Being Yourself.)