Rule #5 Continued: Improvise

Rule #5: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. I am explaining these in reverse order because I learned their meanings in reverse order. I learned first to overcome using force of will and by choosing a good attitude, to keep on keeping on. I learned this when I learned the phrase from my 11th Grade year in school. I learned to adapt and be flexible several years later as I began going on and leading missions trips and helping with events. Most of my collage career was a big lesson in flexibility and adapting. Collage is also where I learned most of my social skills. My first two years in collage were dedicated to understanding social cues and learning to have a conversation. It was two years of continues adaptation. 

Our last item is how to improvise. Improvising is very similar to adapting in many ways and I rarely make the distinction between the two. But I feel their is a nuance that is worth pointing out. Adapting is about diverging from an existing plan. But improvising is performed when no plan existed in the first place. When I think of the word improvising my first though is of Michael Scott pulling out an imaginary gun every time it's his turn in an improve scene [The Office]. I learned somewhat recently that improve, such as in a class, is all about saying YES. I don't plan much of my life. I just go about my day like most others. Occasionally I have a plan for a full day or an appointment scheduled but overall my day starts as a blank slate. Improvising is about saying yes to the task that hit that blank slate. Without a plan it is easy to be lazy and ignore responsibilities. But following Rule #5 means when a task hits the plate you say YES, perform the task and grab the next one.

Another helpful point in improvising is in social settings. I am generally a pessimist. Not because I hate the world or believe everything will go wrong. Instead I believe that anything "can" go wrong and I want to be prepared for it [Rule #9: Be prepared.]. When I am encountered with a new project the firs thing I do is think of several scenarios of how the project could proceed. I identify all the problems that could prevent the project form succeeding, then start the project with those issues already solved. Every good team needs a pessimist. Someone who knows how to point out all the potential pitfalls and find solutions to them. While this is valuable on a team it tends to make me a bit of a downer in social situation. It's hard to turn off the part of me that want to point out all the problems in a plan. Again I'm not pointing out the problems to discourage success, I'm pointing out the problems to encourage and promote success. But I've discovered that people don't appreciate me pointing out the problems in approaching their dreams. They want it to be perfect and will just resent me for shattering their perfect plan. I think these people needed to have their plans shattered. Dreamers accomplish nothing. But since 80% of the world doesn't know how to deal with constructive criticism I have had to learn to apply improvising to social interactions. When I hear a plan or a dream or a simple idea I improvise and say yes. A great way to apply this to conversation is "Yes, And" instead of "No, But".

I could listen to someone tell me they want to build a tunnel through the center of the earth to China. My first instinct would be something like, You'll never get through the mantle, If you just go under the crust the pressure under the ocean would be too great, it's not financial practical since you can just fly a plane or a boat, how would you supply your rest stops since no care would have enough gas to drive it, etc. In my mind I'm giving someone helpful feedback on a horrible idea. Setting them up for success and more practical dreams. How about instead we build the Bering Strait bridge. It's a monstrous task but it's had millions in research already and you could partner with this much more practical task. But no matter how impractical the dream I'll win more friends with improvising. Instead of pointing out the ridiculousness of the dream I say "Yes, and" you could charge a toll for entry to make lots of money off of it. You would have a monopoly on the gas sold in the tunnel, you could build a monorail through it for people who don't want to drive, etc. I don't believe for a moment the dream is possible but I did just make a friend. Improvising has now not just solved the problem of how to deal with an unplanned day it has solved the problem of how to make a friend.

Prayer is all about improvising. Perhaps that sound a bit heretical but God knows we don't know how to pray. He provided tools like tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, words of wisdom, words of knowledge [1 Cor 12:8-10]. And when we really don't know what to do we just groan letting the Holy Spirit work through it [Romans 8:26]. Prayer rarely starts with a plan. It just a continues practice of saying "Yes, Lord and I agree".