I’ve been reading a lot of biographies/memoirs lately.
I don’t know about you, but I get in the mood for a particular style of book and that’s all I read for a month or more. Because I read slowly, this means I only get through two to three books. Still working through Penny Marshall’s book, My Mother Was Nuts. It’s pretty interesting, though for some reason I’m not enjoying it as much as I had hoped. Loved Heads in Beds, A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky. Wickedly funny and full of great tips and scary secrets about the hotel industry. Bottom line: Don’t annoy the front desk agent–the person who checks you in. Karma is swift and yucky.
But today I want to share some pointers from Bossypants by the witty, smart-ass Tina Fey. I know, everyone else probably read this book a while back. It got great reviews, but for some reason, I just wasn’t interested at the time. I still felt some reservations when I picked it up at the library. For some reason, I thought it was mostly about motherhood. Not sure why. Because I no longer have a little one, any toddler tips would be wasted at this point. Bossypants is about life, sort of, about friendship, sort of, about women and work, sort of. It’s a good book that’s hard to describe.
My favorite section (out of many wonderful chapters) is just two pages long. “The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat*” describes what it’s like to be part of an improvisation company and to be a sketch actor. (*The asterisk references a footnote clarifying that improv will not reduce belly fat.) Fey asserts that these experiences changed her life and gave her skills that she uses in the real world. After reading this section, I can see why.
Here are the highlights. If you haven’t read her book, read these pages in their entirety. Worth it!
- Agree. “Always agree and SAY YES,” Fey writes. “This means you are required to agree with
whatever your partner has created.” We all know that in real life this isn’t always practical, but what would happen if just for one day even, you said “yes” to every reasonable request? This doesn’t have to be with your significant other or best friend or even a person. Just think about the many situations you might encounter in a day. How many of those interesting opportunities can you say “yes” to? It could change your life! How often do you say “yes” to yourself, when that inner voice asks “Should I exercise today?” “Take it easy?” “Start a meditation practice?” “Volunteer?” or “Learn something new?” What difference would a full-hearted “Yes” make?
- Say “Yes” but then say “Yes, and…” Fey advises: “You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own.” This means you’re not just a “yes person.” You are an adventurous person with the confidence to bring something of yourself to the situation, project or relationship.
- Make statements. “”Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles,” writes Fey. (Picture a light bulb going off over my head) This was a big one for me. Guilty! Sometimes it’s appropriate to be the devil’s advocate, to think about what bad things could happen, but after a point, most problems (or just life situations) require solutions, positive thinking and a can-do attitude. “Here we are, let’s make the most of this,” vs “Why did this happen?”
- No mistakes; only opportunities. “In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents,” Fey writes. Another light-bulb moment here. This is particularly applicable to crochet. I’ve had some challenges lately when I’ve tried something really different (improvising) and ended up with disappointing results (my very long and involved project for the art auction [a crocheted wrap inspired by the theme of climate change] did not get a single bid. OK. In a funk for a day or two (well, maybe it’s been a week), but still, the hook and yarn beckon, and I’ve got some new projects underway. While this particular piece may not yet qualify as a “happy accident,” I have had a few projects that were happy, wonderful accidents.
So there you have it: Four steps to changing your life! If the day-to-day activities called life aren’t equal to the most innovative improvisational theater, I don’t know what is. After all, we never really know what will happen next, and being ready with a “Yes, and…” could put you on the path to greatness or at least a crazy adventure. No harm in trying, right?
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