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3 Shows

Three Shows

Every day you are engaged in performances, and your “shows” are the conversations, interactions, learning processes, and goals you experience. Here’s one of the most important lessons I have learned:

Every time you do a show, you actually do three shows. There’s the one you plan, the one you deliver, and the one you should have done (and think about later).

This understanding has been extremely valuable as I have built my career as a performer, certainly. But the application of this concept continues to serve me as an entrepreneur, a business owner, a parent, a spouse, and an evolving person.

You see, your “performances” may not take place on stages in front of audiences, but they certainly demand your best efforts. And this lesson applies to every interaction, meeting, conversation and goal you will have in your lifetime.

The First Show – The One You Plan

Without a plan, you have no basis for action. So, you must get specific about the outcomes you desire and way you will attempt to achieve them. Your planning may be extensive or limited. If you are undertaking a major goal or important presentation, you might formulate a written strategy. Or, you might just spend a few moments in thought prior to a conversation with a client, family member, or colleague. Because life is fast paced and unpredictable, we are often thrust into impromptu “performances” at a moment’s notice. Even then, it’s imperative that you take a moment to decide what you are trying to accomplish. “Winging it” without planning will result in ambiguous actions and arbitrary outcomes.

Perhaps you’ve watched the hit TV show “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” As someone who has studied and practiced improv, I can tell you that those performers, even though they are “making it up on the spot,” are in a constant planning process. They remain “one step ahead” of the audience because they are mentally processing new information, deciding on a strategy, and committing to bold action. Their performance is influenced by creative planning, countless hours of rehearsals, and skills refined through years of preparation.

The Second Show – The One You Do

When you step “on stage” and begin interacting with others, you have entered into a new phase. Your planning is in the past. It’s over. You must let it go. In fact, it can be said that once you plan a performance, you have successfully determined what is not going to happen. That’s because planning takes place in an artificial environment. As you execute your intentions, you interact with others, process new ideas you haven’t anticipated, and face unexpected setbacks and opportunities along the way. Your planning remains an underlying support system, one that bolsters your confidence and steers your actions. But, you cannot be married to your plan.

Allow something new, something unexpected to happen. That is the magic of performance. Even Broadway stars who rehearse a scripted show for months before opening night, take the stage knowing that the “LIVE performance” will be different than what they prepared. It better be, otherwise the show will fall flat, as the routine delivery of memorized words and movements. And the performers cannot know what that “new experience” will be until the show begins and the audience injects their energy, responses, and guidance.

An astute actor, or an engaged person, such as you, will embrace the uncertainty and gratefully welcome the “second show,” the one that happens live, in the presence of others. You will bring excitement, curiosity, and focused efforts to the creation of this world premiere performance.

The Third Show – The One You Should Have Done

This is the performance you think about in the car on the way home. It’s the “morning after” realiziation of what you should have said to your kids, your spouse, or your friend the day before. With 20/20 hindsight we understand and witness the show that should have been, could have been, or almost was, if we had only done or said one thing differently.

You might look at this as a negative experience, but I would tell you that this performance, too, is a vital and unavoidable part of the process. You see, only by reviewing our efforts and questioning what happened can we learn. Only by reliving the “third performance” can we hone our efforts, adjust our actions, and gain insights that will make the next show more successful. The input from this thought process will influence our planning. And so the cycle continues.

Some of the items captured will be positive “AH HA moments” when you said something just right. You may recognize an especially great way you handled a certain situation. Without taking the time to note this, you risk losing that moment and the possibility of repeating it, or improving upon it at a future time. Other lessons will be more unpleasant, as you review the less praiseworthy aspects of your performance. But you must see even this as a positive experience, an opportunity to recognize and plan a better approach for next time.

Into Action – Use this strategy for the next conversation you have today.

1. Plan – Decide in advance what you want to achieve. How will you go about it? What is the ideal outcome? How can you can create a positive connection with your “audience members?”

2. Perform – Planning is in the past now. Remain completely present in the experience and witness the creation of something special, new, and original. Shape and steer your efforts with the input of your performance partners, and make it an ensemble performance.

3. Process – Afterward, review what happened. What moments were were especially wonderful? Stress these in your follow up conversations. What didn’t work as expected? Why? How can you adjust your efforts in the future?

Wishing you show stopping performances that leave a positive impact on every audience!

Keep looking up,


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