Friday, February 29, 2008

Noticing the gifts. . .

Recently I was invited by Google to give an author’s talk on Improv Wisdom. Walking into their Mt. View, California campus is like stepping into the future. The place is abuzz with things happening. Space is organized such that no employee is farther than a stone’s throw from a convenience station where free lattes, fresh squeezed juice and tasty snacks help these maven’s of creativity keep their blood sugar up. Doing purposive work and enjoying life appear to be hand in hand in their workplace. Here I am with Meng, the famous "Google guy."

Someone asked me if I had a favorite improv tip from the book, and what came to mind was the ninth maxim: “Wake Up to the Gifts.” As we improvise we discover that virtually everything around us is an offer, and upon examination the vast majority of these are truly “gifts.” The work of others is constantly supporting my efforts. I simply cannot function without the countless products and services provided by others. How easy it is to overlook this truth and take things for granted, or focus on what's wrong with the picture. I find that making lists of what I’ve received from others is an enlightening enterprise.

As introduction to my talk I chose to thank Google for the many “gifts” I had received using their products. So, I made of list of “what Google had done for me this week,” and shared it with the crowd. It was a pretty long list. I’m afraid that this took quite a long time, and I may have lost some of my audience before I got to the part about “how to improvise.” If you run into someone who says “thank you” a lot, you may well be around someone with Improv Wisdom. A skillful improviser doesn’t overlook the gifts.