Episode 05: Coffee with Claire featuring Wendi McGowan-Ellis

Making Each Other Look Brilliant: Leaving your ego at the door

In improv, there is no room for ego. It’s definitely a team effort. And if a team member is struggling, it is my job to figure out what they need, and offer it to them, before they ask. Isn’t that an ideal way to co-exist?

In improv, ego has to be left out on the front door. We can’t afford to have egomaniacs on stage; they ruin the flow for everyone. So as we are training our improv performers, we have to make sure they understand if they want all of the attention on themselves, stand-up might be a better route for them.

Of course, in improv, it’s not “real”, meaning yes we are creating something, but we don’t have to live with it. In “real” life, we have this thing called “pride” that sometimes doesn’t want to ask for help but we desperately need it. Or we don’t know where to go and find it, while keeping our pride intact.

My challenge for you this week is to find someone or some organization that needs your help, and volunteer to help them before they ask. There are literally thousands of places in every county that would welcome whatever you can provide…from reading a book to a child, to making sandwiches for the homeless, to helping out your elderly neighbor. These little gifts of time can make a huge difference in someone else’s life.

Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin: Work on finding the good in you

There’s so much pressure on all of us to look a certain way. We see examples of it every day in magazines, movies, and even on TV. It’s funny how we have lost sight of how part of being an individual is not just having a different personality, but also looking different too. Why is someone else’s definition of what you should look like holding so much power over you? We are all created to be different for a reason. The world would be incredibly boring if we were all exactly the same.

Look at paintings from the Renaissance era. People who were kinda chunky were considered beautiful and elite – because they didn’t have to get sunburned every day and work their tails off out in the fields every day for food.

This stems from some pre-conceived judgment thing that I don’t buy into and I hope you don’t either. Judgement holds you back from following your dreams – especially if your harshest critic is yourself. I implore you to be your best friend. We all have that little voice inside our heads don’t we? That’s a good thing, until it turns on us. We tell ourselves things we would NEVER tell our best friends. So stop it. Right now. Take care of you by giving yourself positive feedback. And recognize when you are slipping back into any negativity. Stop beating yourself up. Lift yourself up instead!

My challenge for you this week is to REALLY be aware of your self-talk and be very aware of what you are saying. Work on finding the good in you. Catch yourself doing something right. Be aware how that makes you FEEL. And if you do slip up don’t beat yourself up for slipping. Just give yourself thanks for noting, put that thought in a big a balloon, and send the negativity out to float away…..visualizing it vanishing into the ethers.

We Live in Improv: Living life on the spot

When I tell people I do improv, they are amazed. And I am amazed that they are amazed. Because here’s a secret, folks, —we all live in improv! No one hands us a script in the morning and says “this is what you are going to exactly say, do , stand, etc. all day long.” After some of the days I have had, if they were written by a scriptwriter, they would have been SO fired!

Seriously, think about it. We are all in this together, basically making it up as we go, based on “suggestions” that we receive from others: from our bosses to our families to our coaches. We live in the moments and work through them together.
Improv itself is a high-risk, creative activity; we get suggestions from the audience, we make up the scene or game on the spot, and then the bonus is that through our creativity we make you laugh. Maybe it’s the idea of being on stage in front of people, or maybe it’s a fear of looking like a fool in front of a bunch of people that make people react to what I do in the way they do, but we’re really all the same inside.

Improv to me is spontaneity – something many times we take for granted. It’s the freedom to explore something or create something that’s never been created before – even if it’s just in our minds. My challenge to you this week is this: do something spontaneous this week – go to a museum, catch a movie at the last minute, call a friend you haven’t’ spoken with in a long time.

Spirit Fed: The power of “should”

In the “Spirit Fed Entrepreneur” several authors speak about how they were able to make the transformation from working in their heads to working through their hearts. This is a pretty big shift to make, as we all have those little voices either in our heads, or voices from friends and family members telling us what we “should” do. And that word “should” is a huge trigger – when someone tells you “you should” be doing something” they are making you wrong. And that is judgement, folks. No one but YOU gets to judge you (if you are a law abiding citizen).

So, if someone tells you that ‘you should” be doing something, and it’s something that doesn’t’ resonate inside your body. Don’t do it. Even if it’s not a popular decision. Good leaders make unpopular decisions all the time, because they know it is the right thing to do.

This week, my challenge to you is to listen for the word “should.” If it is spoken to you, in what context? If you are speaking it, in what context?

Give and Take: Not being a stage hog

In improv, we have guidelines or rules that we follow, even though we are making things up on the spot. They are kind-of like your companies’ Mission Statement and Values Statements., If everyone buys into them and follows them, at least you have a common foundation on which to build. Improv is the same way. We may not know what the suggestion is going to be from the audience, but we know everyone we are performing with on stage agrees to certain “terms and conditions” to play.

One of those improv values is Give and Take. We have to make sure we are taking care of everyone on stage, to make sure everyone gets a chance to yes, and (like we talked about last week) and add to the scene. If it’s just one person talking the whole time, it lets me know a.) they are new and nervous or b.) a stage hog. And no one likes to play with a stage hog.

In “real-life” conversations, it’s the same way, isn’t it? We all like to have some give and take in our conversations – especially in a sales situation. If the salesperson is talking the whole time, when are they going to learn about what the customer really needs? If I see a salesperson get int his mode I know that the are a.) very new and nervous or b.) a stage hog. And no one likes to BUY from a stage hog either! It’s better to slow the conversation down, and listen waaaay more than you talk, and when you do talk, remind people of what you heard them say. They will think you were reading their minds, because they don’t even remember that they just said what you repeated…because they don’t understand the “give and take” factor. This is also true in personal conversations – give the other person a chance to talk too – you might just learn something new!

This week, I challenge you to practice the “Give and Take” method of conversation. See if being aware of this new way of looking at conversations helps you understand the situation better. Even if you aren’t actively involved in the conversation, just watch two people in action. What do you notice? Is one person better at give and take than the other? Are they mutually agreeable in this area? Or is one person a “stage hog”?

New Beginnings: Yes, and…

Starting something new can be exhilarating or scary, depending upon how you look at the situation. As many of you know, my background is in education and improv, and I weave those two things I love along with helping people into everything I do. Also, as you know, this is my first television show. So, I faced this choice of saying yes or no to the opportunity that presented itself to me in hosting this show about 3 months ago. I had basically three choices: to say yes, and….; to say No, But….; or to do nothing. In improv, we have what are called higher and lower percentage choices. In higher percentage choices, we choose to say yes, and since we don’t know what might come next, we prepare ourselves by adding “and” to the Yes answer to make it “Yes, And….”. These two words are extremely powerful. In lower percentage choices, we might say “No, But….which is basically saying No, but I have a “better” idea….which redirects the “power” of the conversation back to me and gives me the perceived power in the situation. What would have happened if after I was offered the opportunity to host this show instead of saying Yes, And….what do I need to do to get started?” I would have said “No, But let’s talk about this perfume I want to sell, or whatever it might have been…what do you think they would have said to me? Not just No, but No and never call her back! Big fat red marker through her name! And of course, there is always the choice of not doing anything, which is the lowest percentage choice of them all, but still a choice.

Higher percentage choices create activity. And our soul=s crave activity to grow. Many times we use the word no because we don’t want to change. Change is uncomfortable, and unpredictable.
Each week I am going to challenge you to something to help you move forward. Your choices are to say Yes, and to the challenges; No, But to the challenges, or not to do anything. All of you are invited to track your progress and give us updates on our Coffee with Claire blog, called “Cool Beans.” You can find it on my CoffeewithClaire.tv website. We want to know how you are doing with your challenges – what breakthroughs have you made, and what opportunities do we as a community do we see that can help you out? Coffee with Claire is more than a TV show you watch once a week; it is a support system through which we all lift each other up. This is our forum. This is our time!