Follow the Fear




Follow the Fear is attributed to the legendary improv teacher/mad scientist, Del Close.  Do what scares you most.  If it’s uncomfortable…do it more.  Lean into it and you will discover new worlds.  With improv, as with life, it’s the fear that stops you from moving forward, not the thing itself.

Another favorite quote of mine is most people live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them which is attributed to Henry David Thoreau.  It’s a sad commentary about society but I’ve always divined inspiration from it.  Don’t be afraid of (calculated) risk!

I also love this quote from another madman, Charles Bukowski.  Find what you love and let it kill you.”  I interpret this to simply mean, give it your all. Follow your passion.  Do not be deterred.

I have found these inspirational quotes entering into my thoughts for much of the last year as I’ve contemplated making a change.

Embracing Risk – Round 1

After starting my adult life on the straight and narrow with a strategy and planning business degree followed by a modestly successful consulting career, I took one of the biggest risks in my life, when at the age of 30, I quit my corporate job and pursued a life on the stage.  It was foolish and fun.  I learned to live with less (meaning poor) which was a much needed humbling experience. I had fallen into the Chicago improv comedy community which has now been a part of my life for the better part of 20 years.  “Find what you love and let it kill you.”

Though I rarely perform these days, I will always consider myself an improviser.   It has become part of my DNA and I’ve taken great pleasure in introducing the philosophies of improvisation and its applications to the business community, family, friends and all who would listen.  For those not in the know, the improv community is filled with a tremendously diverse group of interesting people, from all ages and walks of life, who value things like listening, collaboration, creativity, being supportive, non-judgmental and others-focused.  This community embraces the concept of “following the fear” on a regular basis which propels them to do great work on stage, television and film, but maybe more importantly, makes them interesting, insightful and thoughtful people.  You should take an improv class.  It will help make you a better person.

Embracing Risk – Round 2

When it became apparent that SNL wasn’t calling (on my corded land-lined phone), I made what seemed like a difficult decision at the time, to push performing to the background and join up with famed improv institution, The Second City, but in a management capacity.  I was offered the opportunity to help lead the growth and development of a corporate education business that would become my life for the next 7 years.  I found joy providing work for my gifted friends and colleagues and it has been great fun introducing the corporate world to the benefits of improv as a communication skill and using comedy as a tool to socialize learning.  It was a transformational time at The Second City as I was able to both lead and learn and exert influence on the business and we experienced tremendous growth and success.

One of the interesting things about a “dream job” is that one of the words is “job.”  Even working in the wonderful world of comedy, there is a business to be run that comes with all the same stresses and personalities and conflicts of any job.  And while I am grateful for the friends and colleagues and co-workers who I was able to associate with, learn from, and sometimes mentor and lead, I started feeling more of the stress than the joy.  It was comfortable but limiting.  Question – Do you leave something you love if its no longer feeding you?  I don’t think there is a universal answer, but I do know that you can’t be afraid to make a move out of fear of failure.  The great improviser, Stephen Colbert famously said, “you’ve got to learn to love the bomb” meaning that you have to embrace failure and the discomfort in that.  It removes the barrier to try new things and the result, even if its not what you expect (because it won’t be), leads to the next thing.  “Follow the Fear.”

A New (Ad)Venture

I left my “destination job” at the end of the year to take another risk and build a business of my own.  I’m excited and nervous all over again.  I look forward to taking everything I’ve learned (on the shoulders of giants) and building something new out of nothing, with it’s own unique voice.   In the improv community we say “bring a brick, not a cathedral.”  I don’t need to know every step I’m going to take, just the one in front of me.  What I do have is an understanding of what’s important to me, which I’d like to outline here.

Introducing Learnings & Entertainments

I’m quite excited to introduce to the world, Learnings & Entertainments (bad grammar, good communication ☺) focusing on comedy, communication and corporate education.  We will help companies improve corporate communication through the use of improvisation and purposeful humor.  We will leverage a network of musicians, writers, and performers from the improv comedy community to create multi-media advertising campaigns around important internal training programs…Inverstising!  We will collaborate and co-create lots of fun, meaningful content (digital and live) to help socialize learning.  We will bring improv philosophy to the world whenever we can.  We will have fun.

L&E Vision – This is what drives us.

  • We will care about the work and will fight to make it great.
  • We will care about the ensemble.  This will be an artist-friendly business that empowers the creative team to do great work and rewards them for it. They are the engine that drives success.
  • We will listen.  All colleagues, clients and partners should feel heard and respected.
  • We will collaborate, pooling together expertise from multiple disciplines to co-create.
  • We will focus on creating content that is both fun and meaningful.
  • We will create an environment where the best ideas advance, regardless of their source.
  • We will emphasize quality over quantity. Growth for growths sake can be counter productive.
  • We will be honest and trustworthy and genuine.  We will do what we say.
  • We will introduce improv philosophy to the world.  It has value.  It can teach you things.
  • We will have fun.

L&E Services will include:

I thank you for reading these rather self-indulgent musings and making it to the end.   I’m excited to build this creative enterprise and look forward to speaking with many of you to join me on this next adventure.

“Follow the Fear”  /  “Find What You Love And Let it Kill You”

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