How Improv Helps Me in Life & Business

Improv is all about being in the flow, staying present, and relying on your teammates. Image credit to hyena reality at
Improv is all about being in the flow, staying present, and relying on your teammates. Image credit to hyena reality at

I started attending an  Improv 101 class at Grafenberg Playschool last month. Before this class, I had an inkling of what improv was (I mainly knew about “Yes, and…”) but did not know what exactly I was getting myself into.

Thanks to the connection between Ignite Denver and Grafenberg Playschool, I now have the chance to experience improv. We are almost finished with the class at this point and preparing for our class show (along with some other improv groups part of Grafenberg) on September 28. Over the course of the past several weeks, I have learned a lot about how improvisation techniques can help me out in my day-to-day life:

  1. Improv has taught me to go with the flow. My class is a group of seven people (including myself), but oftentimes we have to do two-person scenes. I can’t predict what my teammates will do next, so when they throw their lines at me, I have to just go with the flow and think on my feet. This helps me in my life because, well, I am very much the type of person who likes to plan things out. When my plans get derailed, I get frustrated and upset. Improv has reminded me to just go with what happens–things are meant to go that way anyway!
  2. Improv teaches me to focus on the present. If I don’t pay attention to what my teammates have said (or what object work they’re doing), then I’m left feeling lost. I have to stay attentive to what others say or act out during each exercise and setup, or else I’ll just embarrass myself. With all the distractions in day-to-day life these days, I find it VERY hard to stay focused on one task at a time. I am glad that at my improv class, I have to really just pay attention to what’s at hand and not be staring at my phone while listening to Tom (my instructor).
  3. Improv teaches me to not take things so seriously. We have done some interesting exercises and have also said some things in our class that are just way over the top! However, I have found that each class helps me loosen up and not get so high-strung over the nitty-gritty. We all laugh at ourselves at least once in the class, and that’s just a good reminder for me and for all of us: LAUGH! Everything will be okay, regardless of what happens.
  4. Improv helps me get out of my box. In terms of creativity, improv amps things up a notch. To me, improv is like NaNoWriMo: thinking on the seat of your pants and hoping that whatever storyline my teammates and I are developing along the way will actually make sense (or at least be entertaining to the audience). So far, we have come up with very out-of-the-box storylines! I almost want to take a few of the scenes and write them into my next novel…
  5. Improv teaches me to rely on others. I don’t know enough about improv at this point, but I feel that improv is only improv when there is more than one person involved (with a few exceptions). So I rely on my teammates, regardless of whether we are doing two-person acts or doing multi-player scenes. I must trust my teammates that we are all going to do fine in each act, and vice versa. This is an important reminder for me especially in my business and in my volunteer committments that delegation is important in order for me to not overload myself, but also to remind me that we all have different strengths.

I am excited for our show on the 28th, and I hope that you will come support us at the Awesome Improv Show! RSVP for the event on Facebook. Donations accepted and we will have free beer!

Update on October 5, 2015: We had a beautifully funny show last Monday (September 28th), despite the fact that our team dwindled down to only four of us. Team Tomato Soup still had an amazing premiere at Grafenberg! Admittedly, we were nervous beforehand, but Tom got us warmed up and ready to improvise before the show. Last week was also my first time attending an improv show, and I must say, it was VERY entertaining. Although I’ve learned in class that improv is not *always* about comedy, I still laughed the whole night watching the other teams perform.

Alas, my time with improv is short-lived though, as I have several other committments that take up my time. I am sad to end classes with my awesome teammates (we all work so well together in improv!), but I know that there’s a time and place for everything. Grateful to have had this opportunity to try out improv! I’ll probably step back into the scene sometime again (and nobody said that Team Tomato Soup can’t perform together outside of classes either…)

Running Again & It Feels Great!

Me with my medal from a 5K I ran/walked in 2011.
Me with my medal from a 5K I ran/walked in 2011.

Ryan and I started the Couch to 5K program at the start of July and we are now rounding out Week 9 (the final week) of the program. As I had mentioned before, I had completed the Couch to 5K in 2010, and I remembered how exhilarating it felt to finish the program. At that point in time, I was already in pretty good shape, so the program was just the extra cherry on top.

However, I didn’t maintain my running after that, and although I had signed up for a couple of 5K races in early 2011, I didn’t do too well with my running (at one race, I pulled a muscle in my back and had to walk the entire race with a weird gait).

As I have probably mentioned over these past several years, I have slowly gotten out of shape until last year, when I stepped on the scale again, I saw how much I had gained back in four years. Ack! So since last year, I have been working out again and slowly losing the weight again (and hopefully for the last time!). But the journey has been a lot of stop-and-go this past year: Ryan and I worked with a few personal trainers last year and they helped us get back into shape! But then we had to discontinue with them because of expenses and the holidays.

Then we tried going running on our own and that didn’t pan out too well either; we just found ourselves walking more than actually running. I was getting frustrated with our stop-and-go exercise routine come June of this year, so after our trip to NYC, I suggested we hop back onto the bandwagon with the Couch to 5K program.

This time, it’s working SO much better. There have been tough times in the Couch to 5K journey, e.g., I still can’t figure out a proper breathing technique for myself, but we have kept up with the schedule and our phone app’s “coach” has been helpful in keeping our pace and timing well.

I made a list of goals this week about what all I want to accomplish over these last few months of 2015: one of those goals is to run two 5K races! We are gearing up to register for the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K next month; hopefully we’ll find another 5K for November or December!

Memories of Baking Cheesecakes

A cheesecake at high altitude; just baked this today. Fingers crossed!
A cheesecake at high altitude; just baked this today. Fingers crossed!

Today was the first time in over ten years that I baked a cheesecake. I remember when I first learned this recipe, my oldest sister helped me with the whole process: mixing the cream cheese and sugar together, beating the eggs, combining ingredients for the sour cream topping, etc. I was a teenager and I wanted to learn how to bake, so this was what my sister taught me for my first baking lesson.

I have kept this recipe with me over the years but never really thought to try baking the recipe again until Ryan and I met: Ryan’s favorite dessert is cheesecake! Last year I attempted this cheesecake recipe with three mini spring pans and that failed miserably; didn’t really help that the oven at my old apartment was quite finicky, so we ended up tossing those failed mini cheesecakes. :(

But today, I decided to tackle the recipe again and actually added in the lemon zest (I never added lemon zest as a teenager). Here’s hoping the cheesecake tastes as heavenly as I remembered it!

Happy Birthday to My Ryan!

It’s not yet midnight yet here in Denver, but I might as well celebrate early; hey, it’s almost midnight on the East Coast!

Happy Birthday to My Ryan!

Right before going to see Les Miserables on Broadway in NYC this past June!
Right before going to see Les Miserables on Broadway in NYC this past June!

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful man in my life. Thank you for always being there for me and being the silly, loving guy you are.

Being silly at Yelps' Casino Royale this past February.
Being silly at Yelps’ Casino Royale this past February.

We are going to have so much fun for your birthday!

I love you always!

Photo from February 2014, when we took a trip to Glenwood Springs!
Photo from February 2014, when we took a trip to Glenwood Springs!

Making Self-Care a Priority.

Exhausting myself and spending too much time on work = No good!
Exhausting myself and spending too much time on work = No good!

Since the start of July, I had been pretty nonstop: two presentations, many consultations, and multiple networking opportunities later…PLUS starting Couch to 5K a second time (the first time I did Couch to 5K was in 2010)….I suddenly found myself last week in a burnt out state.

I had come home from a coaching session last Tuesday and sat down in my living room, a bit numb from the day: as the rest of the evening progressed and I was trying to catch up on work, I found the smallest things bothering and frustrating me.

Finally, at the end of the night, all I could do was lay my head down on my pillow and let the tears fall.

I was beat, but I wasn’t yet ready to admit to myself that I needed a break.

So I pulled myself through Wednesday and Thursday, thinking I could get to the weekend without falling apart. But on Thursday, I found myself unable to do much work…instead, I just sat and stared at my phone blankly, not feeling the motivation to get stuff done.

Ryan suggested I go watch a movie at the theater and just take the rest of the day off. Take the rest of the day off?! I was a little scared about that idea, although I was also VERY interested in it. Still, I plowed through an hour or so of work before I hit the proverbial wall.

Taking time off by going to the movies is fine! No need to feel guilty.
Taking time off by going to the movies is fine! No need to feel guilty.

And that was when I decided to head out to the movie theater after all.

Over the course of the next several days, I spent time away from my computer, watching more movies and spending time with Ryan and our friends. I also spoke with my business coach, Kelly Lynn Adams, and she talked to me about how, especially as entrepreneurs, we need to allow ourselves free time.

I admit, ever since I started working for myself, I don’t allow much time “off” for myself. When I lived in my old apartment, I would spend several days at a time working, not really leaving my apartment until my friend Max came knocking and forced me to go on a short ride around town with him. Even these days, I find myself feeling guilty for taking some time to read or crochet! That’s crazy, isn’t it?

We as humans are not meant to power through days without rest: without some time to relax and have fun, we wear ourselves down and our health suffers because of that. 

I should take a cue from my cats: it's absolutely OKAY to take breaks, even nap breaks!
I should take a cue from my cats: it’s absolutely OKAY to take breaks, even nap breaks!

This week, I have started to intentionally block out an hour each day (Monday to Friday) for self-care: this hour is reserved for NO SCREENS, so I am “unplugged” during this time. I spend it crocheting, writing letters, or leisure reading. I find that having this time to myself–where I get to do something FUN and stay away from my electronics–that it really does rejuvenate me. On top of that, I am aiming to take two days each week where I do nothing work-related; ideally, this would be on weekends, but I do have some upcoming work-related activities happening on Saturdays next month, so I will need to figure out another day of the week to take off on those weeks.

Do you carve out time each day for yourself? Tell me what you do in your free time in the comments below.