Last night our Improv teacher caught us all off-guard with a small bit of instruction. This was our 9th class session. As we were warming up with various quick-thinking games and exercises he said, “You are all getting very good, too good. Remember to not be afraid of mistakes. Oddly enough, an audience loves the mistakes more than anything. Mistakes are good here as long as they’re genuine.”
So, in what world are mistakes actually cherished I wondered?
I’m trying to think of some of the people in my life that I just don’t look forward to seeing or spending much time with … and something they all have in common is perfection, or the appearance of it anyway.
I’m a firm believer in an abundant philosophy of life. By that I mean that I make a concerted effort to not begrudge another person’s success or good fortune, but to believe that these things are available to us all. The supply of love, friendships, financial and career success, happiness and health are not scarce. They are abundant. So, your achieving any of these things doesn’t hinder my possibility of attaining them at all.
Nothing bugs me more than to hear someone say, “Oh I hate her/him” when he hears of another person’s success in an endeavor. So, when I say that I don’t enjoy socializing with “perfect” people, it doesn’t come from a place of jealousy or one-upmanship. What I mean is that our flaws, and our complete ownership of our flaws, contributes substantially to the colorful kaleidoscope of who we are.
I took a jab at this silly idea of achieving perfection in a blog post back in January. And this recent experience only confirms my suspicions that our mistakes and flaws should be embraced because they make us look better.
It’s not our having flaws that makes a person attractive but it’s our embracing of our flaws that draws people to us.
You know those people who throw a fit when getting their picture taken or won’t allow you to display a photo of them? I can’t stand those people. They usually believe that they aren’t photogenic or have too may flaws. Non-photogenic people like myself actually have the advantage in my opinion. When people see me in person after seeing a photograph of me, they almost invariably comment at how much better I look in person. If you display only your best photos in your home, when guests look at them and then at the real you standing there, they’ll think that the you in the photo looks better. Embrace your past overweight, pimply, dorky self and people will actually look at the real you and compliment you on how far you’ve come.
In my Improv class we’re learning to own our choices, correct or not. And I’ve seen how when we embrace even our mistakes it comes across far more interesting and fun. In one of the Improv games we play, one player must decipher a random set of activities, objects and ideas that have been pantomimed or communicated via gibberish by their fellow improvisers. When the time comes to solve the puzzle, it’s much more entertaining when the guesser provides his answers with a confident flair. But when the answers are hesitantly offered with a questioning inflection, it just isn’t as fun to watch. The confident WRONG answer gets the most laughs and provides the biggest thrill to the audience.
I think of some of my favorite comedians such as Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Gilda Radner, John Belushi and some of their most memorable scenes were ones in which a mistake was made…someone cracked up, a line was missed or a prop was mishandled. They didn’t stop. They didn’t lament the error, but they owned it, embraced it and even used it to their advantage.
That’s how you deal with mistakes. You never seek them out. You don’t need to. They’ll find you, but you own them, embrace them and use them to your advantage. It’ll make you more endearing and more confident.
To avoid mistakes, do nothing, say nothing be nothing.