6 Improv Life Lessons from Mick Napier’s Improvise

Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out by Mick Napier focuses on learning how to become a better improviser and using the benefits of improv rules in our lives. The Improvise book shares the idea of ‘improv life’, which is applying the improv rules to every day life. The improv life encourages living in the moment, being attentive, listening and supporting your partners in any setting.  More specifically, here is what I learned from Improvise:

1. It’s Not Enough to Just Do Your Job

Or as Napier says it, “Proper execution of The Rules does not necessarily yield a good improv scene.” (page 9)  We live in a world where just doing your job, or just following the rules, is no longer enough to guarantee success.  I was coached early on in my career that while delivering all of my projects was mandatory, I also had to make sure I was gaining exposure and building a reputation.

2. Just Do Something (ie Improv Rules)

Whether it’s because of fear, laziness, procrastination, or the weather, people will find a thousand excuses to not do something.  But in order to be successful, you have to actually do something.  It does no good for you, or the world, if you have the greatest idea since sliced bread but do nothing about it.  Simply put, “That you do something is far more important than what you do.” (page 15)

3. Take Care of Yourself First

One of the keys to successful improv is supporting your fellow players.  However, “If you want to support your partner in an improv scene, give them the gift of your choice.” (page 30)  While this may seem counter-intuitive, by taking care of yourself in improv, at work, and at home, you will be in the best position to help others.  As Jay-Z said, “And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them / So I got rich and gave back, to me that’s the win-win.”

4. Context is Everything in Improv Life

As humans, whenever confronted with a decision, we must understand the context of the situation.  For example, depending on the circumstance, a split second delay can either be trivial–such as a 5-second delay at the copy machine–or the difference between success and failure–such as a .01 second delay when starting the 100M dash in the Olympics.  “Context is everything in everything.” (page 37)

5. The Secret to Success is No Secret

If you look at people who are successful, whether it’s someone like Tiger Woods or Warren Buffett, they almost always have at least one thing in common: hard work.  You don’t become the world’s number one golfer in the world or the world’s richest person just by having a natural ability–you work at it every single day.  And though the context is different, the desire, determination, and work ethic lead to similar results.  “Improvisation, always different, always the same.” (page 72)

6. Nobody Has Time for Your Fear

“We want to see your power, not your fear. Nobody has time for your fear.” (page 92) Although Napier is referring to being confident when auditioning, the statement holds true for the rest of life.  Life is too short to be imprisoned by fears–fear of rejection, failure, embarrassment–these fears only hold back your true potential.  Nobody has time for your fear, not even you.

What does Improv Teach You?  How does Improv Change your Life?

The improv life teaches us to be in the present, listen and react to the moment and support your teammates to make them look like geniuses.  Every bit of humor needs a setup, and the best improvisers use improv rules to setup their teammates’ humor.  Improv can change your life for the better in many ways.  If you want to learn more, here’s our article on 10 Life Tips from Improv Class.


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