“The warrior’s approach is to say “yes” to life: “yea” to it all.” – Joseph Campbell
It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I can definitively say what my purpose is for my life here on earth. The search for this purpose has taken me on a very long journey. For anyone who knows me, or has witnessed a part of my search for this purpose over the last almost 40 years, it has probably been an even more perplexing question. In the last ten years alone, I have attempted to be a businessman, an author, a screenwriter, a filmmaker, an actor, a musician, a psychiatric technician, a waiter, a husband, and, of course, a philosopher. And that’s when I was focused!
Before that time, I’d been a taxi driver, a stunt man, a substitute teacher, a counselor, a fisherman, a hair wrapper, and a few dozen other jobs. Nevertheless, I have come to understand that the purpose of my life is to say, “Yes, and…”
When I was living in Los Angeles a few years ago, I took a class at the Improv Olympic, the school that launched such performers as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler (both performers on SNL, current fixtures of NBC comedies, and actors on the silver screen) and Jon Favreau (actor and director of Iron Man). The most important lesson I learned about the art of improvisational comedy was the concept of “Yes, and…”
If you are on the stage performing improv, “Yes, and…” is literally the difference between life and death. If one of your acting partners makes a suggestion, in order to keep the scene in play, the only choice you have is to say, “Yes, and…” Once you say, “No,” the scene is dead. Improv is a study in truth, no matter how twisted that truth might be.
If your partner says she has a gun, you better not piss her off. If your partner says that it’s a lovely day at the beach, you better soak in the sun and grab your Frisbee. If your partner says he is a cow, you better grab your imaginary bucket and start milking. Once you say “No” to your partner’s idea, even if it’s because you think you can think up something even more creative, you annul his imagination and kill the scene.
Life is improv. Even though we may think we have a plan, and it may be the most creative, imaginative, and well thought out plan that we can imagine, we’ve all still got to make things up as we go. And everyone we meet on this stage of life has their own plan, their own creativity, their own imagination, and we’re all just making things up as we go. In order to make the most of this performance here, we need to learn to say, “Yes, and…”
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls this “Thinking Win/Win.” It is the realization that with every partner that you are trying to create a scene with, whether it is a sale, a relationship, or a business negotiation, both performers need to come out at the end feeling validated, appreciated, and accepting of the terms. “Yes,” you get what you want, “and…” I get what I want.
That’s life. As a warrior, a performer, and a creative participant. Are you ready to play?
Photo courtesy of Pixdaus
Steve McAllister is an actor, musician, accomplished author, filmmaker, and the man behind Your Daily Groove at Modern Hippie Mag. His most recent novel, The McAllister Code is available now as a Limited Edition Advanced Copy paperback. Find Steve on Twitter, @InkenSoul. Read his reviews and articles here.