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One Word Suggestion: Election
Welcome to One Word Suggestion.
Most people think improv is just for comedy or jazz music. But, really, it’s a tool for life. For each article in this series I use a single word, suggested by you, as a leaping off point to explore how having an improvisational mindset will help you perform at a higher level, both personally and professionally, whether you have a career on or off the stage.
When George Bush Junior was elected President of the United States, I was in Bali, happy to be far away as political power was passing from father to son.
On the day after the election, I was in a cab headed to meet a friend for breakfast. And as one often does, found myself discussing politics with my driver.
I shared that I was surprised by the election results to which the cabbie responded, “the whole world understands. Most countries have leaders who do not represent the needs, wants or wishes of their nation’s people.”
He went on, “but if America elects him to a second term, you will lose the respect of the world.”
Fool me twice hey?
My Balinese driver was right. In recent years, America has, by many accounts become less of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
In fact, the “people” doing best in America these days aren’t people at all. They’re corporations with the same legal rights as people. And as such they have lobbied and bought their way into politics and elections, putting profits before people and planet.
Factor in social media meddling and the odd bit of kompromat and the election discourse can quickly devolve into a meaningless mess. Love him or hate him, Trump is proof of this.
When I wrote this Trump had just become the first US president to be impeached twice, COVID 19 was and still is on a killing spree, and the planet is in peril. Now more than ever we need elected officials who can bring people together. Who can work together. And who can make meaningful and fast change.
Most governments, I hope we’d agree, should strive to make the world a better, easier, and happier place for their people. To create communities where everyone can thrive, contribute meaningfully, and reach their fullest potential. And at the very least, feel safe.
But the mechanisms required to keep any form of government in place, in power, and operating in the interests of the people, or at least pretending to, are complex and often confusing.
And if you look around the globe, you may observe that most elected officials don’t appear to be doing a very good job.
Representation of the people by the people, for the people, is a withering ideal. And in many parts of the planet, the concept has yet to even sprout.
The need for personal power and control is so strong, it all too frequently usurps common sense, and prevents politicians from putting aside their differences and working together for the common good.
One solution might be to teach the skills of communication and collaboration early. Make learning to say “Yes, and” as important as learning the Pledge of Allegiance. Make learning to listen a requirement for high-school graduation. And ingrain the idea that “We” is always more powerful than “Me.”
These are some of the basic takeaways of improvisation training. Am I claiming that an improv workshop could help save the world? Yes, I am.
The idea of improvisational leadership doesn’t mean everyone makes stuff up, or worse, lying. It means behaving authentically, truthfully and confidently. And working together to tackle our greatest challenges from pandemics to a planet in peril.
The impending demise of democracy demands it.
Imagine if, like an ensemble of trained improvisers, our political leaders could actively listen to each other.
Imagine if they could accept and build on our suggestions.
Imagine if they could incorporate and align the agendas of other elected officials with their own.
Imagine if they could embrace failure as an opportunity for growth and development, rather than blame and cover-ups.
Imagine if our elected representatives could agree to always make each other look good, support each other’s actions, choices and decisions, and work collaboratively for the benefit of all, not just themselves. Or their donors.
The men and women we elect form part of a large ensemble (link) whose job is to perform for the people. And politicians, like all performers, need skills and training to do their job well.
The same goes for the people playing politics inside your business.
That person who puts everyone else’s work down to big up themselves. Or the person who constantly interrupts. Or the group of gossipers who are definitely talking smack about you.
Little cancers like these, like Trump’s big lie, can eat away at psychological safety and destroy your business from within. And one of the best ways to get everyone communicating, collaborating, and moving forward as an ensemble toward a brighter future is improv training.
And that’s something I think we can all vote for regardless of political party.
If you want to suggest a word for next week, or add your perspective, drop me a note in the comments or in a review. I’m making one of these every week, for a year, so definitely subscribe, like, share, and all that jazz.
Or better yet, listen to the podcast.
And in the meantime, if you’re interested in improv for personal growth, professional achievement, or just for fun, my suggestion is to get yourself into an improv class or book a corporate training workshop for your team.
You can learn all about PowerProv’s programs at powerprov.com.au
Eran Thomson is the Founder of Zuper Superannuation, Laugh-Masters Academy, PowerProv, Comedy & Co, and the Australian Improv Festival.
About One Word Suggestion
The One Word Suggestion series is your personal toolbox full of ways to help you use the power of improvisation to craft a more mindful and meaningful existence. Available as articles, a podcast, and soon, a book filled with powerful exercises for teams. Brought to you by PowerProv.
The One Word Suggestion Podcast with Eran Thomson
In each 3-minute episode, I use a single word, suggested by listeners, as a leaping off point to explore how developing an improvisational mindset will help you perform at a higher level personally and professionally.
Whether you aspire to be better on stage or on the job, this quick hit of improv inspiration is sure to bring you some insights, perspective, and joy.
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