Todays tip is a break from the usual tip. Rather than the usual business book I just finished a little book called Bossypants by Tina Fey. Regardless how you feel about her, the book is laugh out loud funny and is brimming with real world advice from one of the worlds most successful and prolific comic writers. Here are just a few nuggets.
Tina Fey did not have that big break you most relate to successful people. She immersed herself in her passion at a very early age directing shows at the Summer Showtime while still in high school. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in drama, she moved to Chicago in 1992 to study improv. Moving to Chicago would lead her to being in the right place at the right time. An important fact many never realize. You can’t become a professional surfer if you live in Oklahoma. Her first job at the YMCA was the morning shift from 5:30 to 2:30 she shared with another woman. When there was an opportunity to advance she wasn’t afraid to pull out the stops and claim it. While she is adamant that girl on girl sabotage is the worst form of behavior, her college education finally gave her the advantage to get ahead and she used it. The job advance helped her to pay for improv classes and a year later she got a job with Second City Touring Company.
Touring with Second City was a great job she loved but the cast had to do original sketch comedy written by the resident Second City Troup. One leg of the tour they decided to ditch the scripted scenes and do all their own original work. While they had fun, word soon got back to Second City and they were in big trouble, except they didn’t really care. She wasn’t afraid to break the rules, and she could because she is super talented, ambitious and a hard worker. Breaking the rules while waiting for opportunities to come to you never works out to well.
Her rules of Improvisations that will change your life are worth mentioning. The first rule is Agree. Which works better in improve than life. No you are not going to agree with everyone and everything, but you can respect what they have created and at least begin open minded. Next say yes instead of an automatic no. Start with a yes and see what happens. Not just yes but yes and, agree and add something of your own. Don’t be afraid to contribute, you have to power to add value. Next, Make statements. I can totally relate to this one. As a young stylist coming up I learned early on to say Wow I love it, it looks fantastic on you. Instead of a sheepish Do you like it? Don’t raise questions offer solutions. Lastly there are no mistakes only opportunities. Happy accidents that give you the opportunity to discover the next great thing.
Tina Fey had to break through the stereotyping that women are not as funny as men, or that no one would watch a scene with just two women. She and Amy Poehler blew up that myth big-time. By this time she was at Saturday Night Live in a writers room waiting for the read through and a lot of noisy comedy bits were going on. Amy had just done something vulgar as a joke with Seth Myers when Jimmy Fallon, who was a big shot at the time, turned to her in a faux squeal and said “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it!” She stopped what she was doing for a moment and looked him square in the face and said “I don’t f-ing care if you like it.” And went right back to her bit. Tina remembers a cosmic shift happened right then and there. Amy made it quite clear she was not there to be the cute dumb blonde, she was going to do what she wanted to do and didn’t care if you didn’t like it. So Tina’s advice? Ask yourself the following question:” Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move forward doing your best work. If the answer is yes she recommends the Sesame Street piece called “Over! Under! Through!” Seriously she does. If who you have to get through is a jerk, find someone above or around them who is not a “jerk”. Find neutral ground and don’t waste your time trying to change opinions, they will change when you’re the boss. Great wisdom from a talented lady.
originally published 9/5/2011