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The Speed of Fun


As a teacher, my goal is to create students who fail with aplomb. Unfortunately, I can’t tell my day-one students “don’t be afraid of messing up.” It almost never works. They hear the instruction, but they don’t know how to actualize it. Similarly, if I tell them to embrace failure, they will understand my instruction, but struggle with the follow through. Instead, I tell my students to play at the Speed of Fun.


The Speed of Fun is somewhere in between so slow it’s boring and so fast that we have no idea what’s going on. The Speed of Fun is the speed that challenges us. It’s the speed where breakthroughs happen.


Playing at the Speed of Fun doesn’t mean playing fast. It’s playing at a speed that is challenging for you and your collaborators given the task at hand. Chess is a slow game. Tennis is a fast game. Both games are played at the Speed of Fun, and those speeds are drastically different. Improv, like life, encapsulates the breadth of human experience, and therefore will feature moments that are slow and moments are fast.


I tell my students to play at the Speed of Fun because it begins to reframe their relationship to failure. In fact, I try not to mention failure until after I’ve introduced this concept. If my students are struggling with the Speed of Fun, it’s usually because they are playing at the Speed of Safety or the Speed of Chaos. The Speed of Safety is always too slow. It’s cautious. It’s fear driven. It emerges from a lack of trust. The Speed of Chaos is always too fast. It’s haphazard. It’s adrenaline fueled. It emerges from a lack of focus.


Perhaps every instruction I give as a teacher is in an effort to adjust the speed at which the students are playing. In a manner of speaking, the entirety of improv could be viewed in terms of tempo. Are we moving too fast or too slow given the circumstance?


Beyond the stage, life can be played at the Speed of Fun. The thing to remember is that it is always relative to the present moment. Sometimes I go to the gym and work out for thirty minutes. Sometimes I go to the gym and I work out for two hours. I’m never disappointed with myself for the amount of time I spend or don’t spend at the gym. If I feel like my time at the gym was in accordance with my abilities for the day, then I was successful.


Our threshold for success and our specific challenges will change, constantly waxing and waning. The challenges that we face are unique to each of us, to each day, and to each circumstance. So long as we give ourselves permission to check-in, assess our present ability, and act in accordance with our assessment, we will have breakthroughs.


We will grow.


Journal: At the beginning of each day make a list of intentions. At the end of each day make a list of happenings.

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Bird City Improv is a professional and artistic development company. We teach individuals how to apply the principles of improv comedy to everyday interactions to facilitate communication, collaboration and innovation among peers.

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