Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up.
I just finished this FANTASTIC book and holy, moly. Was that comma necessary? Yes it certainly was. It makes it much more emphasized and dramatic. This book is great for anyone who wants to learn about Improvisation. Patricia Ryan Madson does an excellent job at showing you how Improvisation can be used in everyday life to make it more exciting, thus live a better life.
This book is super easy to understand. Trust me, if I can understand it, you should have no problem. I’m not a good reader. Beyond me not being the sharpest tool in the shed, the book is laid out into 13 Maxims of Improvisation that give you everything you need to know to start Improvising in your life.
I love Improv, and I can say that I endorse these Maxims. Let’s go over them! I’ll give you the Maxim, and how I interpret it.
- Say Yes. Start to live a life of acceptance, and when an opportunity arises, say yes! Look for the positive in situations, and build on conversations. If you’re sitting on the fence about an idea, go with it. If the answer is “maybe” change that to a yes.
- Don’t Prepare. This is all about dropping the habit of thinking ahead, and learning to appreciate the present moment. Skepticism must be destroyed if you want to be happy. Under preparation is better than over preparation and psyching yourself out. Try going out to on a date with someone and not preparing what to where, what you’re going to try to talk about, or anything planned. Ride and drive with the moment.
- Just Show Up. This is a great Maxim, basically stating that all you have to do is literally show up to the place where the magic happens. That’s the most important thing, and motivation is irrelevant. It doesn’t take motivation to go to a certain place. Get yourself into an environment that will nurture your wants and desires.
- Start Anywhere. Building a foundation is a waste of valuable time you could use to get experience. A great little tip that Madson explains is when public speaking, answer questions without a script. Don’t just make a speech, ask yourself questions and then answer them. Any starting point is valid is another thing explored in this chapter. It’s much more important that you start, before you have the qualification. But, without a doubt, where this concept helps most is with speaking. Don’t be afraid of talking, as Madson says, just edit and develop your ideas as you speak.
- Be Average. Find the magnificent in the mundane. Reality is often more entertaining than goofy, keep this in mind in scenes. Celebrate the ordinary! It’s about getting excited and fully enjoying any situation or environment you’re in. Detach from thinking a new house, car, item is going to make you more happy, find your happiness in your current situation.
- Pay Attention. Start to focus more on other people rather than yourself. This is something that I repeatedly preach, do it! Also, avoid multitasking, as it gets much less done. If you focus 100% on one thing at a time you’ll make so much more progress. Another useful tip is to memorize names and faces, it’s a very good way to build friends and make connections. The last tip that I thought was super important, is to keep waking up. Treasure the moment, understand that you will never get this moment back. Ever!
- Face the Facts. Oh boy this Maxim is one for the books. Don’t fight with reality, accept the things you cannot change and deal with problems that aren’t going to go away immediately. Accept other people as they are; this was a hard one for me. I’m naturally a very critical person, but I must focus on changing my mindset about the other person rather than trying to change who they are. The next great idea is to Embrace the Wobble. Understand instability builds power and find the fun in dealing with challenging tasks. Lastly, understand insecurity is universal. If you realize that fact, you will get ahead. Start being more confident and understand people aren’t worried about you as much as they’re worried about themselves.
- Stay on Course. Find and define your purpose in life, and be sure to question this frequently. Believe that in every single thing we do, there is meaning. Even the ridiculously small things, like our giggles at jokes, or burping. Madson also sets a wonderful standard of a fundamental concept we could all use: “If you miss the target, adjust your aim”. It really is that simple. No worrying, complaining, holding grudges, just focus on adjusting your aim.
- Wake Up to the Gifts. Wake up the optimism in yourself. Notice that the glass is half full, treasure the details of life. An amazing thought that Patricia brings to life is that our smallest actions have the potential to help others. Be observant of discrete examples of help and support, they are hidden almost everywhere. Appreciate even the smallest things that have propelled you forward with your life.
- Make Mistakes, Please. Patricia Madson starts off this Maxim with a great opener; “Mistakes have a bad rap”. Think about it. This one made me think “you know what? They really do!” Mistakes are bad to people that haven’t let go of a specific outcome. Stop gripping on to this “perfect life” you’ve imagined. Be happy, lighten up, and embrace mistakes. The last super great thing to remember from this chapter, is that admitting a mistake shows character and dignity. That is important.
- Act Now. “The essence of improvisation is action – doing it in real time” This cannot be stressed enough. While I was reading this book, this is the Maxim I had forgotten about most. You can prepare as much as you want, that doesn’t stop you from flubbing. Another great idea explored in this Maxim, is the idea that Improviser’s begin before there is a plan. If you can master that art, you will be unstoppable my friend. Never forget that you don’t need to feel like doing something to do it. Always do the hard thing first, that is the quickest way to build up your brain, focus, and knowledge. The main take-away from this chapter for me, came from this quote: “If you can’t get out of it, get into it.” Woah, a life just changed right there, I know at least one did! It’s crazy how close wisdom and simplicity are related.
- Take Care of Each Other. This is the bread to Improv. You can have butter, but what’s the point of having it without a piece of bread? Well, maybe it’s the toaster… I’ll have to think on it. Anyways, this Maxim explains the importance of making others look good. Once again, I preach the living ba’jesus out of this idea so I hope if you read my content regularly, this is starting to stick. “Always put positive thoughts into words and action.” In a nutshell, this is really about expressing yourself and being conscious about going out of your way to make sure someone knows that their effort didn’t go unnoticed. Try delivering more than you promise, and see how that feels; take note of that feeling. Another useful tip from this chapter, is that Kindness is essential during crisis or chaos. It’s going to serve you and your peers so well, everyone will be thanking you afterwards. Or, at least they’ll think “wow that went smoother than expected! I wonder why…”
- Enjoy the Ride. “Learning is enhanced when we lighten up.” Honestly, I’ve never really thought about this before, but this is so true. If I get really serious, without a light bone in my body, I absolutely destroy what I have going for me. But, if I approach a situation, problem, life in general, etc with a light, but serious attitude I seem to start gaining momentum. I wish there was a word for that, the “light hearted seriousness” Maybe I’ll create a ridiculous word for it, who knows! This next concept is a complete game changer: “If something is not to your liking, change your liking.” Would you look at that, the world doesn’t revolve around me, well darn. This is a powerful concept to realize. Understand it’s easier to change your thinking than it is to change someone or a situation. There’s a lot more to this chapter, but those were my personal take-aways that were huge.
That right there was the 13 Maxims! I hope you enjoyed that. I want to clarify that while I did expand on ideas, paraphrase, quote, and much more these are not my ideas and I shouldn’t be credited. All credit should go to the inspiring Patricia Ryan Madson for creating this wonderful book to ponder upon and act upon. I appreciate her writing this book so much.
I found that Improv Wisdom lit a fire under my ass to get me back into Improv and making it a priority in my life again.
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Overall Rating, I give this book a 9/10. If I was a Beginner, an easy 10/10.
Let me know what you thought about this review in the comments down below, and be sure to go pick up a copy from Amazon!
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