There is a technique I use in my Art of Slow Comedy improv classes that I want to share with you. Whenever I notice my students struggling, trying too hard to figure things out, and trying to improvise the “right way” and not making any mistakes, I will say: “Ok, for the next 10 minutes, I want you to do the worst improv ever. Show me some really bad improv.”
Sometimes they will get confused, but mostly they will get excited because I have given them permission to suck. It’s freeing. Once they start improvising and sucking on purpose, you see the color go back into their face, their bodies have life again, and creatively they have come back from the dead.
The one thing you should know about me is I am a selfish teacher. I teach what I need to learn myself. Most of the time, however, I don’t learn my own lesson until weeks after I’ve taught it to them.
Lately, I have been struggling to work out. When I do it on a regular basis I feel great, which is why I struggle to do it, because it makes me feel good. After being away from the YMCA for a couple of weeks, I finally returned to working out. I put on my shorts and Cubs T-shirt and went to the weight room, and suddenly I did not want to work out. This happens a lot. I was tired had no energy, but more than that, I am perfectionist, which has gotten me nowhere in my life, and when it comes to exercising, if I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it all. Which meant that at this point, in terms of exercising, I was doomed.
So, I sat on the leg curl machine where you brings the weights up with you ankles, and thought “Fuck this, I am going back to locker room am going to sit in the sauna.” Then it hit me, some spiritual awakening, like the Greek god Adonis was speaking to me: “Why don’t you just do the worst work out ever, just like you tell your students do the worst improve?”
In a matter of seconds I had energy again. I was actually a little excited to do the worst work out. If I wanted to stop and do six reps instead of the “perfect” 3 sets of 12 reps that I normally do, I would. I kept surprising myself that I was doing much more than I thought I would as I kept reminding myself to keep doing the worst work out ever. The 20 minutes flew by and felt like I had accomplished something much greater by not having to do it perfectly.
Those fucking students of mine taught me something in spite of myself. So I wanted to share this to see if you’d be willing to apply this to some area in your life and report back to me about how it went. And when you do, I’d like you to give me the worst report ever.