What improv can teach you about failure and success


Have you ever had to deliver quarterly sales numbers to the CEO of your company? Ever managed to secure that impossible interview at a company you’ve always wanted to work for? These are high-pressure, career-defining moments that can often leave us feeling as though we’ve failed ourselves when we should be at peak performance.

Why? Because so often we are all crippled by the fear of being perceived as unprepared, unintelligent or unworthy. If only we could afford ourselves the experience to escape the doubt in our heads and reframe the daunting moment as an exciting opportunity. . .

We can, it just requires discipline and practice in how to respond to high-pressure challenges with confidence.

A novel approach to finding our voice is a method celebrated by many: attending improv classes! It actually makes a lot of sense. Improv classes can teach you how to interact, react and find your inner confidence.

Basic Improv Principles you can apply to your career

In this video David Moriss, an improv artist and acting coach delivers a TED talk titled “The Way of Improv” which explores how dabbling in improvisation can improve your life. Here he discusses some basic principles of improv and life success: let yourself fail, listen, say yes, play the game, relax and have fun.

What Improv will teach You

  1. How to react to body language and real-time interactions
    A struggle of our modern time is the lost practice of human-to-human real-time collaboration and communication. In today’s world, we are used to responding to communications in our own time behind a keyboard or a phone rather than immediately reacting to the body language of a person engaging with us. Improv forces you out of that comfort zone, and forces you to feed off a person’s energy and build a person-to-person interaction.
  2. How to deal with unexpected events and respond in the moment
    Improv teaches students to build awareness and respond appropriately to surprises. It teaches you a lot about paralysis by analysis and how the best or smartest reactions are ones which can be thought out and planned. Most answers come from being in the moment.
  3. How to act faster and listen slower
    Improv requires you to listen to a sentence in its entirety mindful that you can’t always anticipate what someone will say. The act of listening is a discipline in itself and can truly allow you to be more present in your career.
  4. How to accept failure
    In improv class, you’re encouraged to explore new ideas and take risks knowing that you’re not being judged. It challenges you to work on improvisation, a valuable skill to have in your professional life.

Building on presence and confidence

And just for good measure while we are on the topic, here’s a great video from author of the book “Presence”, Amy Cuddy on power posing:


Has an improv class made an impact on your ability to show up in your career? We’d love to hear about it!

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