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How Improv and Business (and Everything) are Related

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How Improv and Business (and Everything) are Related

ASSOCIATED PRESS

British comedian Eric Idle performs during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Kristy Wigglesworth)

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Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons bringing it out in people, but I feel like I’ve seen a big change in everyone’s attitudes around me. It isn’t like night or day; it’s more like they’ve become more intense versions of themselves. If they were discouraged about their plans, they’re more desperate now. If they were slightly enthused, they are full-blown optimistic now.

That is, to use a first-grader’s vocabulary, good.

What isn’t is that I feel like many entrepreneurs I run into or know or work with are becoming cockier. Like becoming a stand-up comedian or any sort of performer, you need to have a few things off about you to give you the audacity to think you can strike your own path, not work a traditional job-job and shift the world to your will to support yourself with your own ideas. Nobody came into this world hoping to punch a clock -- whatever that means -- but what I’ve noticed is there’s a lot of people who have a nose-in-the-air attitude about it without anything to really back it up.

Call it paying dues or keeping an open mind, but in improv, it’s called “yes, and”-ing. This isn’t a plug for my other gigs, but I started teaching at Second City recently and it’s reintroduced my mind to the fundamentals of improv. Second City has a business outreach department called BizCo, which applies its sketch-writing techniques to communicating internal issues at businesses.

It’s easy to mock, but I think people forget that some of the most basic playground rules apply when dealing with each other and flexing your almighty hustle muscles. When I speak about “yes, and”-ing, it means I say something to you. You could say no, but that would end everything immediately because we are having a conflict and you are disagreeing. If you say “yes, and…” and add to what I’ve said, we both get something out of it.

I’m not naming names, nor do I even have anyone specific in mind. But I think entrepreneurs should keep in mind what others can do for them and why it behooves them to listen and add to the conversation -- not just wait for their chance to talk about themselves.

It’s a season of change. So. For a change of pace, why not see what others have to offer and, all cheesiness aside, help make the world a much better place together?

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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