Yay! I failed again!

How improv reminded me not to take myself too seriously, and fuelled my creativity in the process.

September 25, 2023

My fear of failure was making me stuck

I recently took an improv class as part of a team building day at Harvey. It was five years since I last did improv, and so much has changed. Last time I was at a crossroads in my career and wasn’t sure what to do next. The class helped me realise how my fear of failure was making me stuck - and taught me how to embrace the big scary failing monster! (I wrote about it here)

Yay! I failed!

“This experience taught me to embrace and celebrate 'failure' like it was a positive thing (especially coming from a ‘perfectionist’ background). Whether we realise it or not, education/ society/ culture has taught us to suppress spontaneity, I learnt how to bring it out.”
- Excerpt from Yay! I failed! 

Where I am now 

Five years on, Harvey has grown from an idea in my head to a team of five - enough people to justify a team building day! 

The Harvey team - all smiles!

We work with amazing clients and help them change the world every day. I’m also a mum of two now. My life is  moving in a direction I’m excited about. 

It’s just….

Hello fear of failure, my old friend 

Sometimes I feel the old fear of failure creeping in. I worry about not doing it right and not doing enough, both at work and at home. Self-criticism starts taking over, which leads to a lot of wasted energy and missed opportunities. I forget how important it is to bring in lightness and playfulness. And that it’s okay to look a bit silly sometimes and even get it wrong.

Embracing lightness and playfulness

Making it up as I go 

I needed a refresher on how to not take it all too seriously. So I was very happy to see my friends at Impro Melbourne again; a company of professional improvisers and innovators who believe passionately in the benefits of making things up. 

The lovely Katharine met us at at our co-working office, Hub in Melbourne, armed with a bunch of games and activities for me and the team.  

Play daily  

A cheeky game of hangman

It’s so easy to slip back into old patterns and ways of thinking, especially when you’re a tired parent who’s back at work and doing all the things. When I’m under pressure, I tend to slip into survival mode. The concept of play goes out the window, but it’s important to make it a daily practice.  

Yes, but…

One of the improv games we played was ‘Yes, but…’, which is basically the subtle art of shooting down ideas. Here’s an example of how it might play out:

First person: It’s a nice day to go to the beach!

Second person: Yes, but it’s meant to rain later.

First person: We could take our raincoats!

Second person: Yes, but I lost my raincoat. 

You get the vibe. 

‘Yes, but’ is something I’m guilty of doing at work and in life. Especially if an idea is going to take me out of my comfort zone. My brain says, no! That could be dangerous! Pretend you like the idea by saying ‘yes’ but then add a ‘but’ that makes doing it impossible! It’s a way of keeping myself safe. It’s also a way of keeping myself small. 

Yes, and….

We followed up ‘Yes, but’ with the classic ‘Yes, and,’ which felt so refreshing and energising in comparison. It went like this: 

First person: I feel like making pasta for lunch.

Second person: Yes! And I’d love to help you. 

First person: Yes! And we could have coffee afterwards. 

Second person: Yes! And then we can go for a walk.

It was a timely reminder of the positive energy that builds from saying ‘yes and’. It gives you permission to try new things and maybe land somewhere you weren’t expecting. Yes turns life into a playground of possibilities.


Guess the scene the team is acting out in the improv workshop

One of the best things I learned during our session was the word ‘Again!’ When anyone got stuck or felt uncomfortable we just threw our hands in the air and said ‘again!’ It lowered the stakes of the game. If one idea didn’t work, we were free to just try again with the next idea. 

I loved it. Once again, I was reminded of how playfulness fuels creative thinking, and how important it is to let go and be a kid again. 

- Beck 

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