Skip to main content

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Relationship 2nd Acts and Self-ReInvention

by Jude Treder-Wolff
     Relationships are the architecture of our personal and professional lives, something especially important to keep in mind during times of rapid, roller-coaster-ride-type economic upheaval. Like right now and into the uncertain future. The gloomy Jobs Reports over the past year indicating economic stormy weather, the (literal) uptick in stormy weather happening all over the planet, the fact that technology is evolving at something like “10 million times the natural speed of evolution” according to economist Brian Arthur, pose unrelenting pressures and some overwhelming problems. But even – or maybe especially – during times of heightened tension and unpredictability - anything can happen with the right tools and mind set. And if the infrastructure of our lives is built of supportive, sheltering networks and robust relationships that are more supply than demand we may be able to improvise our way into a new self, new roles and an expanded creative identity.
     Improvisation is a key concept here, because it is all about taking and building on offers. Sometimes the offer comes in the form of a loss or anticipated circumstances that compel us to make a transformative change. Marian Rich -co-founder of the Castillo Theatre/Youth Onstage and a long-time builder of the All Stars Project, Inc on 42nd St. in NYC - who just this month launched herself into a new stage of post-corporate life, witnessed the enormous impact of individuals' choices in the work arena on the whole of their lives in her 15 years Executive Search Consultant. “When people take a new position and uproot their families they are changing their lives. That's a responsibility I took very seriously.”
     An improvisation teacher and performer, Marian is in full-throttle engagement with improv principles now. As she reinvents herself for the 2nd act of her evolving life she finds the process turning on the strength of her social infrastructure. “So much of what I did over a long career in executive search is build relationships,” she states. “When I decided I was ready to make a change I reached out to a colleague of mine, a consultant in the world of innovation, who encouraged me to focus on my extensive background in improvisation and theater going forward. He had some really interesting thoughts on companies that might look at someone with my skills and experience and coached me on what I'd need to do - create a new resume and narrative profile - to get in front of the company he had in mind. I eventually had an amazing interview at one of the leading innovation consultancies in New York.” That interview has not yet resulted in a job offer, although the process of building her relationship with the company is in play - but in a different kind of offer. In improvisation, the "offer" is simply what we are given: a suggestion, a rule, a partner's unexpected choice.
      Offers are to the improviser what a color palette is to a painter. The subjects of a cover story ("Pulling Off The Ultimate Career MakeOver") in the July 11 Fortune magazine found themselves with “offers” they never saw coming, e.g. their business model on the fast track to obsolescence (Blockbuster Video, if anyone can remember that far back), or an industry shake-up that eliminated entire companies. "If this self-reinvention process was an improv game," says Marian, "I would call it ‘If You Could Be Anybody Who Would You Be’ and here are the rules: we get a suggestion of a profession from the audience - two people start a scene inspired by the suggestion, focusing on relationship. At any point the actors can say "freeze" and ask for a new suggestion for a new profession.”
      Learning to accept and work with offers through improvisation is an ideal training ground for navigation of unanticipated twists of fate and events beyond our control, and in this learning relationships are the tools as well as, in many ways, the product of our choices. Because onstage or in life, we sustan an improvisation by relating openly and continuously to everyone involved - (scene) partners, audience, or work group.
    All the raw potential of pioneering our place in the order of things can be, however, as scary as it is exciting. When Marian’s fear developed into a paralyzing panic, her infrastructure was in place to help hold things together. “In those moments asking for help is so critical,” she says. “I have a friend who told me that he wakes up with massive anxiety every morning and he has learned to embrace that as part of his life, to ask for help, and to keep going.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation Games & Exercises For Developing Emotional Intelligence

Since September Lifestage has been offering a monthly training workshop exploring the use of improvisation to develop Emotional Intelligence. These workshops have been geared toward the work done by clinicians, educators and trainers who guide the process of personal change or professional development, but as it turns out we have enjoyed some interesting diversity among the participants -  managers, business owners with both employees and customers, community activists, and performers. 
    Below is a collection of the exercises we have used in the workshops, accompanied by some studies that supports their use. 


Why Improvisation?
Improvisation is a powerful way to become aware of mental habits and patterns. Reflecting on our inner experiences after engaging in an improvisation exercise provides an opportunity to decide whether our mental habits are effective and useful or self-limiting and obsolete. The tensions of the creative process and this kind of interpersonal interaction are a fa…

WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK - For Therapeutic, Educational or Training Groups

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP, Director of Training at Lifestage, Inc and Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP, Trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow on twitter @JuTrWolff


   “To begin assembly one must have the right attitude,” goes a Japanese instruction for assembling a particular object, as quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance. The "right attitude" is one that best serves the action we are preparing to engage in, just as an athlete warms up his/her muscles before using them in the stress of a work-out or game. Psychological and emotional "muscles" that are properly warmed up will perform more effectively and make it less likely that we will experience strain or allow fear to produce a shut-out when things get rolling.
    The right warm-up makes everything learned in a training situation or classroom more accessible and immediately useful to the trainee/student. New skills and knowledge - in education, personal growth or a professional train…

IMPROV RULES: Social-Emotional Development From The Classroom To The Consulting Room Using AI

"I think improv helps people become better humans. It makes people listen better. Improv rules are life rules. And so, if a lot more people are taking improv, a lot more people are being thoughtful in their daily life about how they interact with each other....We could say that saying 'yes' is the foundational thing, but really its listening and hearing what the other person is saying. Then building off of that rather than waiting for someone to stop talking so you can say your thing. That's the hardest thing to learn as an improviser-its to listen. And I think that's one of the hardest things to do as a person." 
Learning To Listen, With The Help of Improv, on Atlantic.com
Improvisation can be a seemingly magical experience from the perspective of both improviser and observer. People with little or no actual knowledge about one another, in an empty space, create a world, a relationship, a story with neither script nor director nor defined outcome. It can appea…