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by Darren Held

I read an interesting quote today. On FB, duh… where did people read quotes before FB? Anyway, my friend and troupemate Nate Alexander wrote, “Those that believe ‘something is better than nothing’ do themselves a great disservice.”

At first I was confused. What? It’s been, like, 4 million degrees here lately and my brain is cooked. But still, I’ve always felt that doing something is better than nothing. I mean, if the choice is 1) sit on the couch all day, or 2) sit on the couch most of the day and then walk the dog for 15 minutes, it seems like 2 is the better choice. I know your dog thinks it’s the better choice.

But Nate clarified his position, and then it made sense even to my broiled brain.

Depending upon the starting point, doing something that is JUST a bit more than nothing can be a huge victory. But not for long. In order to keep having victories, you have to keep pushing past your previous limits. So the mantra “something is better than nothing” – meaning that the most minimal effort is acceptable – can lead you to become complacent. And complacence is death. Perhaps not literally (I have an issue with being too literal lately), but in every way that matters: death of creativity, death of ambition, death of passion.

I know, I know – what the heck does this have to do with improv? I’ma tell you, so just chill a second. At first, it takes courage just to show up to improv class. You did something by finding the courage to sign up and drive to the class and walk through the door, and it was a helluva lot better than nothing. It’s so amazing to teach that first day of class and hear the students’ reasons for coming and the obstacles they hope to overcome through improv. We clap and holler “Yay!” like crazy to sincerely celebrate the victory of showing up – of doing something.

But soon, just showing up isn’t really enough. Sure, you can get through class that way. You will definitely have fun and you’ll prolly learn some stuff. But if you don’t have to dredge up the courage to try something more difficult every week, you’re cheating yourself out of the best that improv has to offer. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the only way to keep growing, in any area of your life. And if you’re not growing, you’re dying. There’s no gray area there, peeps.

So applaud the “something” that gets you off the couch. But recognize that, in order for it to truly be better than nothing, that first something has to be the springboard to countless, unending other somethings that challenge you in new and different ways.

After all, growing is better than dying. Just sayin’.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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