Yes, and…

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. 

Carl Jung (Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst)

I recently participated in a four-week improv class in Berkeley at the recommendation of a friend after I asked about ways to improve my general speaking presence. To be honest, I always viewed improv as corny and until recently, didn't really have an appreciation for what it takes to actually perform it well. I came to find that much like any craft, it absolutely takes practice and is far from easy.

Our first class mostly focused on the concept of “yes, and….”.

To bring this concept alive, the participants formed a circle. There were about 15 of us so the circle was pretty large. The exercise started with one person starting the beginning of a story, with no restrictions on how silly or ridiculous it seemed. Then, the person next to the first person continued the story line with “yes, and....” and then continued the story in whatever way they desired. This pattern continued until everyone in the circle had a chance to contribute. 

The premise of this exercise wasn’t necessarily to be funny or create a cohesive story. In fact, it’s more entertaining if the story line doesn't make sense. The point of the exercise was to do what you could with whatever you were given—not what you wish you had or what someone else was given but what you have.

It’s a really powerful metaphor for life if you think about it. 

Unfortunately, I had to travel for work so I only attended two of the four classes but even in that short three-hour crash course, I learned a few things about myself including a reminder to try to roll with life’s punches. 

In the exercise, the instructors could have simply directed us to continue the story where the last person left off but there is intention with saying “yes...and....” 

I may be overthinking this but I think acknowledging the passing of the baton out loud sends a message of strength and awareness; that you’re not just a passive consumer but an active taker that’s going to do something interesting with what you’ve been given. 


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