Why You Should Do Something That Scares You




By Julie Kerr

October 3, 2016 – You open the doors, and walk down the stairs to the basement. Stepping through the hall littered with pictures of the greats — Jon Belushi, Martin Short, Steve Martin — and you ask yourself what on earth are you doing here? There are a few chairs scattered throughout the dimly lit, dungy room and people begin filtering in one by one. You take a seat and your entire body starts to sweat as you become overwhelmed by anxiousness.

The teacher storms in with an enviable presence and immediately assembles the class in a circle (reminiscent of your pre-school days). You stand there practically paralyzed by nervousness as a non-existent “red ball” gets thrown your way. You make eye contact with the stranger across the room and you suddenly have no choice but to dive in and improvise.

For many, taking an improv class could seem like the most terrifying thing in the worldat least it did for mebut overcoming that fear and taking the class at Second City in Toronto was one of the most rewarding decisions I could have ever made.

My initial motivation to enrol was to get that confidence boost a lot of us young professionals need to get up in front of a crowd and learn how to command a room. Well, at least that’s what I would tell people. (We all know I was secretly hoping that by taking this one course I would instantly become the next Tina Fey.)

Personally, I would have been quite happy to just hone my presentation skills, but I got a lot more than I bargained for through the Second City Training Program. Despite me not becoming the next big SNL star, I did learn five incredibly valuable lessons through improv that I have to admit, caught me by surprise…

1. How to fail (oh, and be okay with it!)

If you are anything like me, failure was (is) my biggest fear. In improv, it is inevitable that you are going to fail. Trust me, it’s inescapable. One of my biggest “failures” was attempting to do any kind of accent as my entire class can confirm (as it turns out, my Russian is not too convincing). But that is exactly the type of humbling experience you need in order to be reminded that failure is inevitable for all of us and that it’s not that big of a deal. The worst thing that came out of my accent flop was laughter and it just strengthened the idea that in life failures are going to happen, and that’s okay. Learn from them and move on.

2. How to not be in control (and learning to love it!)

I have always felt most comfortable when I was in control of a situation, but, in improv, you need to learn how to follow. You could have an idea for a great character, but the cue that your partner throws at you leads you in a completely different direction. It’s such a beautiful (and yes, kind of corny) metaphor for life. You never know what life is going to throw at you but that’s okay! Improv helped to emphasize that I can’t always control everything, and sometimes the greatest moments come from following someone else’s lead.

3. How to listen (like… actually listen vs. nodding and smiling)

Do you notice how today it seems as though everyone is just listening to you in order to wait for his or her cue to jump in? Or, let’s be real, sometimes they just don’t listen at all as their mind fills with everything they need to pick up from the grocery store that night. I admit I was guilty of this (and still am occasionally, as I’m sure my boyfriend will attest). But, improv forces you to be in the moment and causes you to actually listen so that you can react appropriately to the cue your partner throws at you. This lesson continues to help train me to be more present in my daily lifea rare skill not many of us have in today’s digital day and age.

4. How to make decisions (and stick with them)

In improv you don’t have time to dwell. You have to pick a direction, character, or situation and just run with it. There is no turning back. I’m sure we can all resonate with the epic struggle that is the “what should we have for dinner?” conversation. You know the one where you go back and forth with your significant other until finally it’s too late to get anything so you end up just making eggs. Or, scrolling through Netflix aimlessly until you are so frustrated you don’t even feel like watching anything. Well, think about how much time you are wasting by not making a choice. Improv helps you practice the art of decision-making and highlights the fact that even if you make the “wrong” choice, the world won’t end. Just decide and give ’er.

5. How to have fun (like pee your pants, laugh until you cry kind of fun)

No joke, I did laugh until I cried in almost every class (which, I guess for me isn’t that hard to doI am a crier! But the point still stands). In this crazy grind of a life we all live, it is so important to find time to be goofy. The best part about improv is that you are allowed to let loose and look like an idiot, without any judgment. You can make fart noises, pretend like you know how to do a Russian accent, or just scream at the top of your lungs for no reason. Improv is a safe harbour where you just get out of your own head and be. Despite how nervous I was during some of the exercises the smile on my face and the pain in my abs at the end of class made it all worth it.

Who knew that the once perceived uninspired basement could end up inspiring me in so many ways? It was in this class where I found my true voice and I feel so grateful for the experience.

But, let’s face it, improv may not be for everyone, and that’s okay too. I do however, implore you to get out there and try something that makes you nervous or something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Who knows, maybe it could change your life in a way you never thought possible.

In my case, it gave me the courage to make a change in my career and take the leap into the family business. A decision that I did not take lightly, and one that I am proud to say was my own outside of the inherent pressures that can be placed on anyone in a position similar to mine. I feel confident that I will be able to add great value to this company and to the service it provides its readers and advertisers.

I will not only apply the learnings noted above to my work, but will bring along the lessons learned through my experience in the fast-paced advertising industry and my time as a political studies major. Most importantly, I will use my pride in the Kerrwil brand as motivation to continue helping it flourish and grow in this ever-changing landscape. I look forward to the challenge and will work tirelessly to achieve the high set of standards that both my grandfather and father have demonstrated over the years.

And, I must say, although nervous in the same way anyone starting a new job would be, I’m quite excited for the adventure.

Talk soon, I’m sure. 

Julie Kerr is Associate Editor / Research Associate, Electrical Market.


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