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by Darren Held

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: improv is magical. It’s like some fantastical secret decoder ring that gives the wearer the power to do whatever it is they need to do. Yes, I’ma tell you why. C’mon, peeps, you know how I roll.

See, a while back I posted something on FB about being shy, and I got a bunch of snarky comments arguing the point. Technically, my friends were correct – I’m really not that shy anymore. But I was VERY shy before I started doing improv. And I can still be overcome with shyness from time to time, and in certain types of situations… but now I can put on a pretty good show of being reasonably comfortable, even when I’m not. And, more than that, I can recognize that I’m being shy and opt not to be; AND I have the tool to accomplish that. Which I’ll share with you in a sec if you’ll just hold on! Sheesh.

Another thing that I haven’t really shared with people (yes, there are a few things I haven’t blabbed on the interwebs – yet) is that I used to be more or less invisible. I could meet people a dozen times, and they would have no recollection of it. No one ever remembered my name (and it wasn’t as fancy in the past as it is now). I would joke that I could be a spy because I was utterly forgettable. Except I don’t know a lot of languages and my martial arts skills are negligible. Sigh.

Anyway, improv changed those things, and not because we give lessons on being outgoing and/or memorable. It’s because we give lessons on being in the moment. And, if you ask me, being in the moment is the secret decoder ring for life. If you are truly present at each moment of your life, you get to live it fully without fear or self-judgment or just anything. I’m shy when I worry that people will judge me or dislike me or laugh at me (yes, I see the irony in the last one; that’s fodder for another blog). But when I’m truly just PRESENT, I’m listening to people and responding to what they say, and my mind isn’t spinning out into all those stupid what if’s – and then I’m not shy.

As far as the invisible thing, there are psychological reasons a person might choose not to be noticed and I don’t dispute them. But I would take it a step further and argue that you can take yourself so far out of the present moment that people honestly don’t really notice you – even when they have multiple conversations with you. It’s like you literally aren’t there with them in that moment. By learning to be present, you can be with people and then, of course, they remember you.

There are countless other things that improv has improved for me and people I know, and I know it could help you with stuff, too. I mean, you know, if you had stuff you needed help with. Which I’m sure you don’t. You’re friggin’ awesome.

Still, who doesn’t want a secret decoder ring?

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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