Say Yes!

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Dear J,

It was energizing and inspiring to spend two-and-a-half hours with you yesterday at Hartford Coffee!  I want to share a bit more with you about one of the books I mentioned.

In my 8:00 am Humanities  101 class this past Wednesday, two students did presentations:  Leigha sharing on being in Army ROTC and Bermet talking about her homeland, Kyrgyzstan.

We were just beginning Patricia Ryan Madson’s Improv Wisdom.  This is the second semester I’ve assigned the book at the university (I had once used the book as the basis for one of my own classes for friends which ended up having five recent graduates of the Wash U Brown School of Social Work.)

After class, a thought occurred to me, so I posted the following  announcement  at Canvas, which allows for easy online communication among the class —

“Extra Credit —
In a complete sentence, share how a particular Improv Maxim was evident in today’s class. 
Half a point for each maxim/sentence.
Maximum number of different maxims — 8 [4 points total]
Due by 2 pm.”

The thirteen maxims:

#1: Say yes
#2: Don’t prepare
#3: Just show up
#4: Start anywhere
#5: Be average
#6: Pay attention
#7: Face the facts
#8: Stay on course
#9: Wake up to the gifts
#10: Make mistakes, please
#11: Act now
#12: Take care of each other
#13: Enjoy the ride

Here is what Emma Siegfried posted at 10:21 a.m.—

The first maxim “say yes” was evident in today’s class because when asked to share their stories, Leigha and Bermet said yes, and we all got to benefit by gaining knowledge from their experiences. The third maxim “just show up” was evident because everyone that showed up to class today got to experience “sharing Wednesdays” which is becoming something similar to a ritual. The sixth maxim “pay attention” was evident during Leigha and Bermet’s presentations because we had time to sit and devote our thoughts and attention solely to what they were sharing. The thirteenth maxim “enjoy the ride” was shown when we began discussing martial arts. Instead of strictly following the agenda, we enjoyed the ride of where our discussions led. We begin each class in a way similar to the fourth maxim “start anywhere” where we discussed what we wanted to do over the weekend as a way to start talking with each other. I entered class today with the mindset of the second maxim “don’t prepare.” I knew we were going to listen to presentations today so I was ready to focus on being surprised in the moment about the presentations rather than preparing about what to think or say. The ninth maxim “wake up to the gifts” was evident because we can attend the class with a mindset of wanting to appreciate all we learn and gain from the stories of other people in the class. The eleventh maxim “act now” was evident because even if Leigha or Bermet were anxious about sharing, they still did despite any hesitations they may have had, and they did a great job. 

I have no doubt that if I had specified  13 maxims were fair game for reflection, Emma would have addressed them all.

I’m sure you will recognize  how deeply you practice many of these maxims in your work as a team leader.  When I mentioned “Be average,” that led you to tell me one of your superb reformulations: “The Perfect is the enemy of Done.”

Thank you for making it possible for me to enjoy the ride in your company on a Sunday afternoon!

Looking forward to your Share the Wealth in October!


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