I took the bus today. Well, home. I got a ride to my AM meeting on Franklin St, walked to my MFA class, and at 4pm ZW caught the CW back to DSI Headquarters. It was great. I didn’t need to take the bus. I could have driven myself, paid for parking and drove home, but I chose to get a ride and take the bus.
Now up until recently my life was dependent on rides, bus schedules and rental cars; I did not have my own car from July 2000 – April 2010. Four years of that was in Chicago, but the last 6 were a personal choice so that I could focus and bootstrap DSI Comedy Theater. I moved back to North Carolina in April 2004 and decided (after completely mastering Chicago public transit**) I didn’t need a car, that I could forego the car payment and insurance, which would allow me to manage my expenses and be strategic about my time.
It was hard for friends and clients to wrap their heads around ME, the owner of a local business, not owning a car. But it paid off. The theater was able to weather a couple very difficult years because I worked to keep business and personal overhead as low as possible. And when I did make the decision to get a car my time without one (and my HIPPIE town) influenced my choice. I got a prius. The Ninja. And I love it.
I’m curious what personal sacrifices you’ve made to get ahead in business. Where can you make changes in your daily schedule to give just 10 extra hours per week to develop your passion? How can you manage your expenses to bootstrap and afford to see your dream take off? Startups take the bus. What do you do?
** I only fell asleep on the 22 (Clark Bus) ONCE, Just once. I’ll probably tell that story soon.
After 5 hours of sleep and 2 strong cups of coffee (#ZW #Hustle) I quietly ask myself ‘How many puzzle pieces were there when I started?’ And ‘What did the picture on the box look like in the first place?’ I manage a For-profit Arts Organization that depends on 6 separate revenue streams and an incredibly talented local company of performers, teachers and volunteers who depend heavily on me to keep it all together.
But how do we effectively manage a company of Artists? How do we keep it all together?
For me, I look to the LEAVES!
A hard worker doesn’t wait for an empty tree to pick up the rake and an effective leader can’t assume that each leaf will be exactly the same, so what could be a conformed stack will more likely become a functional pile of celebrated differences (organized chaos) that will continue to grow leaf by leaf.
I know this may seem a little too metaphor heavy for a month of solid daily posts, but it’s hard to kick off. My business isn’t exactly what I pictured — Not that there was a “Comedy Theater In A Box” with a timeline and clear picture on the front — and My own job has changed immensely over the last 5 years (even moreso over the last 6 months). DSI has had 1000 students and hundreds of performers shape the theater since we opened our doors and, with new improv, sketch and standup classes starting every month and with new teams constantly forming, the ‘picture’ of the theater just continues to get more complex.
So, I do my best to embrace and manage the complexity, and when I get overwhelmed or stressed I remember the reason I started my business in the first place. To play. I look long and hard at what I have built in front of me, I strip away the personnel drama, the money and business concerns for a brief moment and I just see a massive pile of LEAVES! I take a few steps back, run, jump and enjoy the chaos.
Last week the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA asked me to organize an interactive comedy show to close out their annual day-long Leadership Rally for students from all over the state of North Carolina. Of course I said YES! (AND! then promptly booked DSI Comedy TourCo to back me up on stage).
It was a true All-Star show because our objective was simple: Offer an interactive improv comedy set that engaged as many students and student ideas as possible, to make them the stars of the night. I wanted to show what a true LEADER could do with the spotlight by turning the focus on our volunteers. We supported the student volunteers unconditionally and set THEM up to succeed in every game. Why? Because when THEY experienced success, we did too. And when people see you as a Manager or Leader that truly cares about the success of your TEAM first, they jump at the chance to work with you.
Imagine managing a team of people who are not only excited about the work itself, but excited to do whatever that work might be FOR YOU as a Leader. The fundamentals of improvisation can help to breed that type of passion and team loyalty, which creates a pretty sweet by-product, personal satisfaction (and comedy). Do you want the world to be a better place? Do you want to help the next generation?
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Look for an improv class near you and sign your kids up for it.
DSI classes (and summer camps) help students: Improve verbal ability; Enhance active listening skills; Build body awareness and Boost self-confidence. Improvisation can have a positive impact on students both on- and off-stage. By learning performance games in a safe environment, DSI students are encouraged to take risks and they develop the ability to both tell stories collaboratively and work in the moment.
Oh, it works for adults too. (details online)