Unleashing Greater Creativity & Leadership through Improv with Guest Expert Mary Lemmer

Ep: 251

Are you facing challenges that have put your anxiety levels on high alert? Do you feel like you’re in a creative rut? Do you want to become a better leader, but you’re not sure where to begin?

These may be different issues that stem from a variety of places, but there is ONE solution that can tackle them all simultaneously. 

And the process is actually fun!

Today on The Bridge to Fulfillment®, Blake welcomes Mary Lemmer, a creative impact-driven entrepreneur, consultant, humorist, and global speaker helping leaders and companies innovate, navigate change, and thrive in an unpredictable world. Improv comedy has helped Mary go from frazzled and anxious to calm, confident, and more joyful. She has now been teaching others to incorporate improv-inspired principles and practices into their work and lives for over 10 years.

In this episode, you’ll gain a better understanding of what improv is and how its principles can help you in life and business. You’ll learn simple and actionable techniques that will train your brain to think more positively and help incorporate more humanity into your workplace. You’ll also explore ways to use improv to identify your own limiting beliefs so that you can understand yourself and your needs on a deeper level.

If you’re ready to embrace the power of improv to improve your leadership skills and boost your joy and creativity, then you’ll love this episode!

What You’ll Learn:

  • The links between improv and entrepreneurship (5:46)
  • One technique that will help you deal with uncertainty in a more positive light (14:42)
  • What people get wrong about the concept of improv (21:33)
  • A team-building exercise that can help build camaraderie and improve retention (27:21)
  • Using improv as a tool for challenging your beliefs (41:07)

Favorite Quotes:

  1. “When we look at businesses and teams, often it’s the first place where the creativity is gone because the environments are so structured for competition and performance and measurements. We don’t realize that to innovate and to drive new ideas, there must be some level of safety, there must be some level of creativity, there must be some level of fun.” – Blake
  2. “There’s not a lot of places where people get to actually practice the act of management, communicating, leading. And improv provides this very unique, effective, and fun way to do that.” – Mary Lemmer
  3. “Feeling sad, feeling angry, feeling afraid… what if you embrace that as a gift? What if you saw those as positive things that are trying to tell you something about yourself, about what you care about, about what your values are? Emotions are a gift no matter what they are, they lead us to that next thing.” – Mary Lemmer
  4. “We’re at a place where there’s so much opportunity to humanize the work environment, to see people for who they really are, and understand that you bring all of you with you to work. And when we try to stuff all of that down and just show up as this person who’s perfect, who’s just focused on work, who has no other life going on, we lie to ourselves. We negate the opportunity to build relationships. And we hurt our ability as teams to really work together and create better results.” – Blake

Additional Resources: 

Connect with Mary:
Instagram @maryimproves and @chooseimprove
LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/melemmer/

Join the Calendar Rescue Challenge and take back your calendar by going to www.CalendarRescue.com

Learn more about The Bridge to Fulfillment® program and how to join by going to www.thebridgetofulfillment.com

For other programs and opportunities to work with Blake, go to www.BlakeSchofield.com


Mary Lemmer 0:04
I think improv has a PR problem in that, it can be seen as very intimidating because it’s like, Oh, I gotta be a performer, I have to be in front of people, I have to be funny. When the reality is, no, you just have to be yourself. You just get to actually show up the way that you want to authentically and get to experience being accepted for that. Now that can be uncomfortable for people. Because people aren’t always used to showing up, how they really feel, what they really want to say. And having that be embraced. Right? We’re kind of like waiting for the, oh, this isn’t good enough, or this isn’t funny enough. And one of the things that any good improv theater, traditional improv theater would teach you is like, don’t try to be funny, because being real will be funny when you just show up as yourself. That’s enough.

Blake Schofield 0:59
Hi, I’m Blake Schofield, founder and CEO of The Bridge to Fulfillment®. Mom to three, USA Today Top 10 Professional Coach, and former corporate executive who got tired of sacrificing my life for a comfortable paycheck. My mission is to expand perspectives to achieve greater impact at home and work without sacrifice. This is The Bridge to Fulfillment®.

Blake Schofield 1:35
I’m so excited for today’s guest expert, Mary Lemmer. You know, Mary got her start as an entrepreneur as a teenager, and struggled when work and life didn’t go as expected, which was often. She ended up signing up for an improv comedy class, and her life was never the same. She went from frazzled, experiencing anxiety to the point of having panic attacks, to confident, calm under pressure and able to joyfully adapt to changing circumstances. And over the past 10+ years, she’s been practicing improv and teaching others to incorporate improv-inspired principles and practices into their work and live so they too can improve. She’s the founder of Improve, and designs and delivers engaging keynotes, offsites trainings, and conference sessions.

Blake Schofield 2:22
I can just tell you, this interview is probably not at all what you expect, and might actually be the creative spark that helps you see how you can take what seems to be really unusual or completely unrelated concepts like improv, and bring them into your work, your life, your relationships, to have a whole lot less stress, more creativity, more fun, and create more engaging, more impactful, more innovative solutions and relationships. I encourage you to listen in. And I’d love to hear your thoughts, Mary brings some great perspectives that I think is, as you listen in, will start to challenge your perspective and maybe just give you a few small things to try to help make life and work more fun, more impactful, and with greater connection and impact together.

Blake Schofield 3:18
Hello, Mary, welcome to The Bridge to Fulfillment® Podcast. I’m so excited for today’s conversation.

Mary Lemmer 3:24
Hi, I’m so excited too, thank you so much for having me.

Blake Schofield 3:28
Absolutely. I think that the work that you do is such a unique approach to helping people learn some of the proven principles that I have found to create stronger relationships, more joy, better impacts, better business, all of the things. And I’m excited for you to be able to share a little bit about your journey, and how this journey has created that freedom for you, that I think so many people can have, that they’re really seeking, but maybe they don’t know the right way to do it. And like I said, I love your approach in it. So I’m excited for you to share.

Mary Lemmer 4:03
Yeah, I can dive in and share a bit about me if that’s helpful for people listening, like how I arrived with where I am and that piece of like what brought me freedom. Because I started my career as an entrepreneur, I was a teenager and started a business. I like to say because I didn’t know any better. And like perhaps many can relate to, I really struggled when things didn’t go as planned. And the business was a gelato business. So like, the case would break and gelato would melt, and you know, things would break or when it goes the right way like someone wouldn’t show up and they were supposed to. And I was such a planner and I was so wanting things to be a certain way and like if something didn’t happen that way, it would just be really frustrating for me and I’d experienced anxiety, and stress, and overwhelm.

Mary Lemmer 4:53
And I found it got to a point where it was like the balloon popped, right? I could only do that for so long and I hit a wall, experienced several panic attacks and knew I had to make a change. And I, on a whim, decided to sign up for an improv comedy class in my community. And I remember that first class walking in, and for the first time in like my adult life, and at this point, I was in my early 20s, I remember feeling truly relaxed. I didn’t have to worry about saying the right thing, or doing the right thing, like everything was accepted and embraced. Everything was a gift. And so I was able to kind of not worry so much, right, I knew that whatever happened was going to be okay. And I found over time, practicing improv started to help me as an entrepreneur and as a human, to just deal with whatever came and trust myself and build that trust within myself that whatever happened, I’d figure out what to do. And there’s a bunch of different improv principles and practices and techniques that I would practice over time would just kind of help me be better with myself, better with others communicate clearer.

Mary Lemmer 6:11
And as an entrepreneur, there are a lot of practical improvements to of just how to tell a story, how to pitch, how to be a better leader, how to communicate with stakeholders, and partners, and customers, and team members. So here I am over 10 years later. And the work I do is bringing improv-inspired techniques that are now supported by research and evidence, and over a decade of doing this work to leaders and teams, to help them improve too. And what I think is like the most fun way towards professional and personal improvement, because it’s comedy at the end of the day, but it’s like eating candy that’s packed with vitamins. It like tastes good. And it’s good for you. I like to think.

Blake Schofield 6:48
I love it so much. As somebody who also like I would have described myself as a type A perfectionist, really, I used to be so uncomfortable with being in situations where I thought I would be judged or could fail. And I think there’s so many people that could relate and say that’s them. And today, I operate almost entirely the opposite approach. What I really love about your learnings, and you know, I never took improv, but the principles that you’re talking about, what I have come to find is the proven principles are true across right generations, cultures, etc. And the improv principles that you talk about are the same principles I’ve learned just in a different way. But the fun of probably walking into improv and knowing like, you’re supposed to make mistakes, people aren’t going to laugh at you, there are no rules. When you do things that are silly, it’s celebrated.

Blake Schofield 7:42
There’s something beautiful about that, because it removes all the expectations and allows you to be in the moment. And allows you to learn how to be more authentically you and be celebrated for your perspective or what you bring. And I think when we look at businesses and teams, often it’s the first place where the creativity is gone. Because the environments are so structured for competition, and performance, and measurements, that we don’t realize, to innovate, to drive new ideas. There must be some level of safety, there must be some level of creativity, there must be some level of fun, there must be some level of people being able to brainstorm. And so I’m interested to hear your perspective about how did you make the connection that like, hey, this works. And I should be helping teams and leaders do it? Because to me, that was the beauty of like, yes, you could teach this and you could do this anywhere. But there’s such an opportunity inside businesses and inside teams.

Mary Lemmer 8:46
Yeah, well, there’s definitely that freedom that comes from letting go of needing a gold star and being okay, like freedom from like releasing that fear of judgment or that self critic. And I think the power of bringing this into companies does come with leaders, right? Because they’re shaping, they’re the ones working directly with a team. And they have the opportunity to show up in a way that does influence the culture of a company. And the connection really came from me through not only my own personal experience running a company and working with teams, but also I was working as an investor. So I saw the other side, I saw tons of teams and early stage companies, one come to us trying to raise money and it blew my mind how often they’d be delivering their pitch or their presentation. And we’d ask a question on slide for like, Well, what do you think about this? Or how are you thinking about this? And they’d be like, Oh, well, that’s on slide 16. I’ll get there and then they’d go back right into the rehearse pitch.

Mary Lemmer 9:46
And I’m like, what a missed opportunity, right? Your audience is trying to connect with you. And if you’re too rigid in the path you want to take, you’re missing this gift of an opportunity to connect with your audience, in this case, an investor that could write you a check. And the best pitches and the entrepreneurs that raised money were the ones that it was a conversation and it was a dialogue. And there was this connection, this back and forth. And I think that then started to translate into the workplace of like with teams, right? Once these companies grew, and they raised their money, and they’re building teams, and they’re growing fast, and they’re changing, like change is constant, right? Whether you’re a company that’s been around for hundreds of years, or you’re a startup that’s 10 months old, you’re constantly having to change and evolve as the macro environment changes. And as things within your own company change and customer needs change.

Mary Lemmer 10:37
So the amount of rigidity that was holding these people back, was something that improvisation is so great at addressing, right, because improv is about letting go of that rigidity, and letting go of that control. And yet still being able to create something amazing with others. And, and so I think that like, as I saw that, and saw that not only was I using it, but other people could stand to use it. And then I started to introduce it into my work and bring some of these techniques. And basically, over time, it was just seeing how effective it was, and noticing how people were improving their listening skills, improving their feelings of connection with their teammates, being able to communicate better, and being able to adapt more. I mean, in six weeks, the ability to adapt, rises, like 50%, practicing this, like it’s so because it’s not just thinking, Oh, I could be better listener, here’s how I can be more adaptable, it’s practicing it, right. So it’s building that muscle memory.

Mary Lemmer 11:36
And I think we need more of that within companies, because a lot of the training to be a manager or leader or a corporate soldier is Business School, reading books, reading case studies, and then you’re like, thrown into this environment. And it’s like, okay, just go. Whereas could you imagine if a basketball player just spent years reading about basketball, and how to shoot free throws, and how to dribble, and then all of a sudden they’re thrown into a season or a championship game? Like no, like, you wouldn’t throw someone who’s read about playing guitar for, you know, years and years and throw them on a stage, you’d want someone who’s been actually practicing it. So I think that’s why this is so important. And leaders and teams, as I realized there’s not a lot of places where people get to actually practice the act of management, communicating, leading. And improv provides this very unique, effective and fun way to do that.

Blake Schofield 12:26
I love the premise, because you know, a lot of the work that I do is, and I’ve spent decades learning is, what are the belief systems and fear and conditioning, and all of the things that stop us from being able to write operate at our highest level, have joy and fulfillment and passion in the work, be our authentic selves. And so when you talk about this, from the standpoint of being comfortable with change, that’s one of the things people struggle with the most, right. And as a society, we really don’t like it. One of my favorite books I was talking about is Virginia Satir. Most people prefer the certainty of misery, is preferable to the misery of uncertainty. And so often organizations are trying to help people become comfortable with change. But you have individuals who are very scared of change, and are seeking stability, environments that are creating fear or competition. And so it can be hard to sort of break through with that. But I love what I love about what you’re doing is you set the expectations of like, Nope, you’re supposed to be in the moment, it’s okay, if you screw up. And as they are learning those techniques, some of those fears get replaced just naturally with the experience of like, oh, I screwed up and people thought it was funny,

Blake Schofield 13:41
And then we got to connect in more of a way. And so it almost feels like a backdoor through some of that and some really fun ways. So I’m interested to hear like, how do you bring this in? Or if somebody is a leader listening today? Like, how might they do an exercise or just to start to test some of these things with their life, their family, their team at work?

Mary Lemmer 14:03
Yeah, well, one, there’s so many different little fun techniques, but one that I’ll share, because I think it is so common to your point to fear change and see like the negative aspects of it. And already the majority of our thoughts are negative, and we have to work really hard to reframe, to think more positive thoughts and change can be scary, but it’s, it’s scary because it’s unfamiliar to your point. It’s like that uncertainty. And so can we make a new choice, as we’d say, in improv and choose to view it in like a positive light of like, oh, this could actually be really exciting, right? And it doesn’t have to be like doom and gloom. And so, one, like quick technique that the viewers at home, the listeners at home, could try is think of something that you know, maybe is a struggle or like a fear right and in start your sentence with unfortunately. So I might say, unfortunately, I didn’t get all the work done that I wanted to today, I didn’t write that blog post.

Mary Lemmer 15:02
And then the next sentence you start needs to start with fortunately. Fortunately, I did get that extra time to take my dog to the beach. And then go back to unfortunately. Unfortunately, I stepped on something sharp at the beach. And now my foot is cut. Fortunately, I have a lot of band aids. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the band aids, right. And you keep doing this, and you have to end on a fortunately, right. So I might end with fortunately, my neighbor had a band aid that I was able to borrow, right. And so we can do this, again, that kind of led to a silly nonwork example. But it may start with that, and you can let it go wherever it goes. But the point of doing this is to practice seeing, like, there’s always two sides of a coin, right, and it gets our brain in this. I know the listeners can’t see me doing this. But it’s kind of like this notion of like kind of exercising our brain to go back and forth to say, Okay, this thing kind of stunk about my day. But this was actually a good thing that came from that, right.

Mary Lemmer 16:04
So maybe it’s like, oh, unfortunately, you know, the client I was working with decided to take a different direction. Fortunately, now I have all this time for other clients that maybe are more aligned with what I’m looking for. Unfortunately, I don’t know where they are. Fortunately, I am getting to learn and meet new people as I pursue looking for whatever that next client is. So it’s that taking those negative cognitions kind of finding a positive one, to replace it with and going back and forth. So that the more we do this, the better we can get in those real time moments of really quickly, when we notice a negative cognition, be able to jump to that fortunately piece.

Blake Schofield 16:44
I love it and our brains, right, are constantly building new neural pathways. So you’re just teaching your brain how to see it differently. That’s a really cool exercise. I always tell, you know, I always tell people, life is always teaching you lessons, and it’s always working for you. And there’s some synchronicity in what you’re saying, which is like when something challenging comes, if you have the belief system, which I do, and I’ve seen it over and over again, life is always actually working for you, then you’re looking for what is the lesson? What’s the gold, what’s the good in whatever is happening to me in this moment. Because it’s for me, not against me, it’s not never bad, it’s always working to my advantage. So that is how I often do that. Because it to your point takes the negative to the positive, it puts you in a place where you can actually create change. But it’ll also allows you like what you teach to be present in the moment. It’s like, what might this be? What am I being shown? How might I use this to benefit myself, other people, etc. So that’s amazing. You guys try this for?

Blake Schofield 17:50
Because at the end of the day, and you know, probably I don’t want to go on too much of a tangent, but our brains are hardwired to find mistakes and see the negative. I would also say so much of that is conditioning, trauma experiences. And I would be remiss in saying and not saying this, because people just believe they have to overcome or deal with it. That’s actually not true, you can actually remove the vast majority of those things so that your brain is not constantly going in this loop, and that you generally do see positive, and you’re gonna have far more positive perspectives than negative. And I think as a society, we’re constantly trying to like willpower our way through this stuff. And I don’t feel like I would be doing justice if I didn’t come back and say, If you believe you have to willpower your way through it, and that’s just the way it is. That actually is not true.

Mary Lemmer 18:43
Yeah. And I would add that it’s these emotions and experiences that are often viewed as quote unquote, negative, like, that’s also a choice, feeling sad, feeling angry, feeling afraid. What if you embrace that as a gift? What if you saw those as positive things that are trying to tell you something about yourself about what you care about, what your values are? And I think that’s another important reframe of this, like this linear thinking of it’s good or bad. It’s, you know, sad or happy. It’s like, they’re all actually not. They sit next to each other. They’re not opposite, right? It’s like we need, when we embrace that, and we practice it when as soon as we improvise, it’s like, emotions are a gift no matter what they are, they lead us to that next thing. So I think absolutely, to what you’re saying like you don’t have to push your way through it. But once you acknowledge it and you accept it like I’m angry, then you can make a choice as to what you do with that anger and how you respond to it but just trying to like push it aside or willpower your way through it. Like you don’t have to do that, just befriend it in a sense.

Blake Schofield 19:55
Yeah. So good. And this is there’s so much, like I said, synergy between your values, what you have seen and learned, and what I teach every day. As a society, I think we often teach our kids that, like, there’s good feelings and bad feelings. And it’s okay to express the good feelings. It’s not okay to express the bad feelings. And I could go on a diatribe about well, about literally the massive personal and health costs of not addressing your emotions. But what I would say is this idea of being able to understand that emotions are all working for you, and there’s teaching you something, and there’s no, there doesn’t have to be anything scary about fear or sadness or anxiety, it can be just as light as asking what is this mean?

Blake Schofield 20:46
And I think often we get caught in these mental loops of like, because we’ve associated so many bad things with feeling anger, or feeling sadness, that we think if we actually feel it, we’ll get trapped in that feeling. And we won’t be able to get out of it. Because we haven’t learned not to cling to it. We haven’t learned just to have a lightness about how we accept it. And so I’m interested for you, Mary, I would imagine as you come in and do these, you have some people are like, Yeah, let’s do it. And you have other people that like maybe kicking and screaming, don’t want to do it. And the people kicking and screaming are probably the ones that are most uncomfortable with those uncomfortable feelings. What do you suggest? Or how do you help those people walk into something that can feel scary? Improv? I imagine could feel very scary to people who don’t feel comfortable doing things on the fly?

Mary Lemmer 21:32
Yeah, well, it is. It’s fascinating, because it’s probably the number one thing that comes up when people are considering it. They’re like, oh, there’s a lot of introverts on our team. I don’t think they’ll like this. And I kind of laugh because I definitely steer towards probably being more introverted, though I, I won’t go on my my little diatribe on introversion versus extraversion. But it’s actually, I think improv has a PR problem in that, it can be seen as very intimidating, because it’s like, Oh, I gotta be a performer, I have to be in front of people, I have to be funny, when the reality is, no, you just have to be yourself. You just get to actually show up the way that you want to authentically and get to experience being accepted for that. Now that can be uncomfortable for people, because people aren’t always used to showing up, how they really feel, what they really want to say. And having that be embraced. Right? We’re kind of like waiting for the, oh, this isn’t good enough. Or this isn’t funny enough. And one of the things that any good improv theater, traditional Improv Theater would teach you is like, don’t try to be funny, because being real will be funny, right? There’s tools we use in the comedy world to make real things funny, but when you just show up as yourself, that’s enough.

Mary Lemmer 22:49
And I think that’s, it’s funny to me when people are like, Oh, I’m scared of improv. And I’m like, You’re scared of improv. Improv is like the safest place on the planet. Because there’s no judgement. Everything is accepted. Life is scary, like be scared of the real world where there’s judgment and anger and hatred. But improv is like, oh my gosh, that was great. This was amazing. Like, we’re celebrating these things. So I think that’s I always, I like to share that to kind of help steer this PR problem and other direction of like, improv is actually the most accepting place ever. And I do think that folks that don’t always feel comfortable to express the full range of themselves, really end up enjoying improv because it is this place where they get to express all these different parts of ourselves. Like we all have this, we all have multiple, we contain multitudes, right? But then we play these roles in our lives, like we show up at work a certain way, we show up with our family a certain way, show up with our friends a certain way. And we kind of get typecasted, right? We’re like all actors walking around without professional acting experience.

Mary Lemmer 23:52
And so improv is like, Oh, I get to show up, like my goofy, silly self, or I could show up really serious, or I get to express some anger, like, we get to let out all the things that we often keep inside of us in our real life. So it starts to feel really freeing in that way. And so I guess I would encourage people, if you’re feeling uncomfortable about it, that’s okay. That’s typical. And like, it’s okay to acknowledge that. And then I would ask you like, why, and is there, is the reason why it’s uncomfortable, just because it’s different, and it might actually open like, growth doesn’t come from comfort zones, right? And so I think it’s one of the safe places to actually experiment, show up as who you are, and get some lovely encouragement and acceptance for the person you are. So that it becomes easier to be the person you are in your real life.

Blake Schofield 24:42
I love that so much. And one of the things I always talk to my clients about, when there is fear about maybe asking for what it is that you want or sharing your feelings about things, is that if you look at the leaders that you’ve liked working with the most and guarantee they’re the ones that are most authentic, they’re the ones who connected emotionally, they’re the ones that give grace, they’re the ones you feel like you can tell about whatever problem that you’re having going on in your life. And I think there’s a beautiful link to that with what you’re saying with improv, which is, as it helps us see the real person. And then that always builds a stronger sense of connection and bond and generally respects and I look at what happened in with the pandemic. And we went from this environment at work where everyone showed up as the work person. And then all of a sudden, we’re looking at people in their, you know, kitchens, or in their bedrooms or in their offices that they have them with cats and dogs and kids. And what that did was force people to see, Oh, everyone else has a real life. Oh, they are juggling other things, too. And I think that we’re at a place where there’s so much opportunity to humanize the work environment.

Blake Schofield 25:54
To see people for who they really are, and understand that you bring all of you with you to work. And when we try to stuff all of that down and just show up as this person who’s perfect to justice focused on work, who has no other life going on, we lie to ourselves, we negate the opportunity to build relationships, we hurt our ability as teams to really work together and create better results. And so there’s something beautiful about like, in improv, we’re all acting silly, or we’re all doing whatever, but I get to see this part of your personality, that’s who you really are, which then enables me later to go, Oh, my gosh, you’re so funny, or I like that thing too. Or is that then creates more of the sense of teamwork, where if I am having a really bad day, I can tell my boss and I feel like my boss won’t judge me. But my boss will, right, support me and what I need. And that humanizing of the work experience I have consistently seen over and over and over again, drives far better results, drives far more growth from a career standpoint, than I think people often believe. Because we’ve often been taught, you have to be this person to get promoted and move up. But that’s actually really not true. The more authentic you can be, the more you can show up as who you are, the better of a leader you are, the more your team accomplishes, the better the company does.

Mary Lemmer 27:14
Yeah, yeah. And I think when we do, kind of hide those parts of ourselves, we don’t express them, we miss those opportunities to connect, right. So one exercise I really love doing with teams is called “I’m somebody who”, and say, you’ve got, you know, a team, you could do this online or in person. And someone starts by saying, I’m somebody who, and they share something about themselves, and then everyone else who shares that raises their hand, or if you’re in person, you can stand in a circle and all step into the circle. And you start to see how many things we have in common beyond, you know, that we all work at the same company, right? So I like to start when I facilitate this, I’ll say “I’m somebody who doesn’t have an appendix,” you know, I had an emergency appendectomy. And, you know, and like, that’s not something you would normally learn about people at the workplace. Because why would that, how would that come up? Right?

Mary Lemmer 28:02
And I think, especially for virtual teams that don’t really have that, you know, watercooler conversation in the same way that we did in the pre pandemic world, it’s when do we get these times to really learn about each other? And so this exercise takes very few minutes to like, learn, okay, everyone shares one thing about themselves, and we see who else shares have in common, right? I’m somebody who feels stressed, you know, on a Monday morning, right? Okay, maybe a lot of people do that. I’m somebody who needs three cups of coffee a day, right? I’m so he loves biking, or somebody loves playing with my kids, like, be humanized folks, right. And we see where the common threads are, which then becomes like, then all of a sudden, two people have a meeting or a one on one like, oh, man, and they start talking about the com, they both like comic books, and they’re like, Oh, I learned that about this person. Now I can ask them about this casually before we talk about strategy, or our marketing plan, or whatever, and our work meeting.

Mary Lemmer 28:53
So I think through all these, like little simple things that people can do to humanize themselves and with their teams, that to your point, it’s so much more effective, especially in the like, medium and long run, right? You may not see these, like effects initially, but over time, like people get burnt out. They don’t feel like, they feel kind of claustrophobic in their jobs because they’re feeling constrained or they’re like, trust starts to get evaded. And it’s, like, easier for people to just say, you know, I, it’s not a great vibe, I’m just gonna leave when if these little things done are done along the way, you start to build that, like, I don’t, you know, build that camaraderie and collaboration where there is that trust and that candidness where you can, you know, work on things together and grow together. Instead of, you know, six months in you’re like, Okay, well, I don’t feel like seeing here. I don’t feel heard. These people don’t know me. I’m just gonna leave.

Blake Schofield 29:50
And what you’re saying I have consistently seen to be true. Just goes back to when I say life’s always teaching your lessons and you’ll keep getting the lesson until you learn it. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen in my career that keep moving companies hoping the next job is going to fix the problem, but constantly find the same challenge. And I think for me, in my journey, what I began to realize was that I needed to be able to understand what I needed, why I was feeling the way that I did, and to be able to advocate for myself in that way. And I needed to work for leaders inside an organization that valued personal development, leadership, real conversations. And so until I got to that depth of knowledge and understanding, I couldn’t fix the problem. Because if you don’t understand the environment, that you need to fully function at your highest and best self, you don’t understand how you work best. So you’re in a job, or doing functions that are actually very emotionally, and physically, and mentally challenging, because you’re being forced to work against how you work. And then you don’t have the level of advocacy that you need, you just will keep repeating those problems over and over and over again, and think it’s the company or the industry or the boss or whatever.

Blake Schofield 31:01
And so once I began to really understand that the key really came down to understanding yourself, understanding what you need, and having the skills to be able to ask for that being in an environment. And with the right people that are in alignment. It was a complete game changer. And it’s really what I’ve been doing inside The Bridge to Fulfillment® for the last seven years is to help people understand this, that there’s a personal skill development, and there’s an alignment piece as well. And being able to your point to understand those things, makes it far easier to know where to go in your career, how to navigate it, there’s a joy in the work that you’re doing. Because often I think we assume that the things we’re experiencing in our jobs or other people, and sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s a misalignment, like I value this, but this company values something entirely different. And that happened to me, like I do personal development, I value seeing an individual and their skills and helping them find the right path. And I ended up inside an organization that basically said, We don’t want to develop people, you just need to tell them what to do. Like that was never going to work. But if you don’t understand enough about who you are, and you don’t feel like you can have those conversations, you’ll never see it, right? So I love I love what you’re saying, because I have found that to be true.

Mary Lemmer 32:17
Yeah. And I there’s something really, I hear you saying like there’s that personal fulfillment, like what do I need? What are my values, right? And then there’s the alignment with the company or the organization or the career and whatnot, right, these two separate things. And recognizing and I think in this day and age, it’s hard because we can see so much of people’s lives and their work with the internet and social media, that what works for someone else, like may not actually be what would work for us and like being okay with that. Right? And so I think there might be more barriers in some way but and also more opportunity to explore what it is we want, because we can see so many examples of different ways of working and ways of expressing what fulfills us.

Mary Lemmer 33:01
And at the same time, there can be that overwhelm of like, what really matters to me, versus what are the voices that we’ve soaked in over the years and years of, you know, parents or friends or teachers or coaches, like thinking, you know, saying what they thought would be good for us. So like, how to really dive into that. And I’m wondering if maybe in real time we could, you know, because improv exercises are so adaptable. I’m like, wondering if we could co-create an improv inspired activity that could help people better understand what drives them. And like, what brings them personal fulfillment, like what do you, what would you say? I’m not the question asker here, but like, I feel like this is a conversation where it’s like, what would you say to someone that’s trying to figure out that first piece, because I think it’s hard to align if you don’t know who you are

Blake Schofield 33:51
Yeah, it’s nearly impossible to align. If you are, you do the first thing. And this is the thing that I think people don’t see, I spent a decade by the way trying to do this myself. Like I worked in five different organizations, I moved cross country, I kept going through cycles of being fulfilled and unfulfilled. And the thing I didn’t realize, because I was always looking for that clarity, like, Should I leave this job? What should I do next? Boss, when will I finally be happy? Was to understand you have to gain control of your time, energy, and state of mind first. Most people are operating in fight or flight. And if you’re operating in fight or flight, where I’m just going through the motions, I’m constantly busy, I’d feel unsafe in my environment, or I don’t feel right, I don’t feel like I can fully be myself, you can’t actually access the part of the brain that will answer those questions for you. So the very first thing is really to get out of that. And there are a lot of belief systems that exist around not being able to be in control, being seen as not a team player, all of these things that happen when you try to do that. So that is the first step anyone needs to do. And again, it’s counterintuitive, but I will tell you within three to four weeks, my clients feel like drastically different people and have reclaimed about 20 percent of their time back.

Mary Lemmer 35:01
Yeah. Wow.

Blake Schofield 35:02
And then when you time back, you began to see, Wait, I had more power to create change inside this company and in my life than I thought that I did. What’s going on? And then we can begin to start to say, what is going on? Right? And what I always look at is, it’s a question of what really lights you up? What are the things you’ve been most proud of in your career? How did you accomplish those things? And what are the things that you really feel frustrated or stuck or unhappy about? Because they’re always teaching you something.

Mary Lemmer 35:34
Mm hmm. Those are great questions. And I think like, on top of that, I know how, how many distractions exist, right? How many competing demands like it’s hard to just sit down and like, have those conversations with ourselves or pull out a journal because like, oh, the laundry, and oh dinner, and oh, my kids and all this, and so on, and even within work projects, right, to just gain that focus and that presence. So there is something that I think we could pair with this, right? If you want to answer Blake’s questions, and like, really regain that time to even just think about how you’ve regained even more time is an exercise called Pointing where it’s as simple as sit around your room, pointed something and label it. So I’m looking at a pillow, I say pillow and I point to it, I’m looking at my chair, I say chair, and I point to it, so chair, table, guitar, plant art, etc. And do it for like a minute. And I guarantee you will not be thinking about other things while you do that exercise, because you’re pretty in the moment you’re labeling things, right.

Mary Lemmer 36:33
And the second piece of that is now do the same thing except point to something and then say what it’s not. So I’m pointing at my table and I said rock. I’m pointing at a chair and I say spoon. And this is going to feel like you’re trying to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time. It’s really tricky. And what it does is one, you have to be super present about it, it can reveal a lot of like, sometimes it will reveal a lot. And if you do it, you’re welcome to reach out and let me know what your experience of it is. But it then primes our mind to think about things in a new way. So you’re like you see something as a chair, but if you have to label it as a spoon or something different, you’re kind of training your mind to look at something in a new way. So if you do these two things, then go sit down and answer Blake’s questions, your brain is like primed to be present and start to think differently about anything right, you can now apply this this kind of superpower to hmm, like what really does light me up, you know, and perhaps get out of the same way of thinking about your day and yourself and your skills. And those kind of the mental wheel that we’ve discussed, right, those patterns, you can kind of be in a space where you’re ready to break the pattern a little bit. So that would be my one two punch, adding some improv to The Bridge to Fulfillment® magic.

Blake Schofield 37:53
I love it. You know when really it’s just a mindfulness technique, principle, mindfulness technique to be present in the moment. And you know, for me, you know, if you can’t tell, like a huge focus of what I do is at a, at a depths probably five levels deeper than what most people do. And add a breadth of like holistic nature, the way I see things far broader than most people. Because what I see as most people are putting band aids, they’re doing a lot of tactics and tools that are at a surface level, like we talked about, we’ve taken how many tests? How many people have taken the Myers Briggs? And then what? And then what do you do with that? The problem is these things are surface level, they’re just little hints. The key, though, is to understand your own uniqueness, because that’s where the gift is, and all of it in the same way you’re talking about with improv. It’s like the uniqueness of your timing, or your view of life, or your approach. That’s what makes comedians who they are, that’s what makes actresses and actors who they are, it’s the quirks and the nuances in the way that you do things that create success for you. We have all of that.

Blake Schofield 39:06
So what I call your secret sauce transferable skills are like your unique fingerprint for success. We all have it. And when you can really get to an understanding of who that is at the deepest level, and be able to like communicate and align your life in that way. The ease and the joy and the freedom from that is just massive. We have so much conditioning and so many belief systems and so many fears that block us from being able to see it. It’s like you just can’t see the label from inside the bottle. Exercises is great. But what I will challenge you is often we think, Well, I just answered these questions, and then I have the answer. No, it’s all much deeper than that. And it’s also being able to have an expert or somebody who is impartial start challenging. Like in what way, why? What about this matters? To be able to get to a level where you get beyond whatever the shoulds or coulds or haves or this is only possible, and you get the true heart of like what it really is?

Mary Lemmer 40:13
Well said, Yep. It’s like, it’s the, you can read a book about something, but until you put it into practice, what like, it’s just gonna be knowledge, right? How do you turn knowledge into action? And all the self knowledge, there’s, all the personality assessments, all the things that are the nuggets, like the little things, as you mentioned? And then what? Right? And I think that’s what I love about, you know, what it is you do, and the work that we do, where it’s like helping people take it to those next steps. And there’s, and I think that’s like, there’s different ways to do that. Right. And, and it’s, there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, as I like to say, like, there’s no kind of wrong way to approach it. But do approach it, right, do do something, and do keep doing it while you have that momentum to practice these things alone, right? In a coaching container, or in a group environment. I think that’s, that’s something I do nerd out about with improv. Because I think there’s a lot of there’s therapy, there’s coaching, there’s meditating, there’s like these different things, you can do one on one, or with someone else, or by yourself.

Mary Lemmer 41:20
And then what happens when you go into the world, and you have an interpersonal dialogue? And you’re like, oh, like, you know, like, snaps? So like, where do you practice it there of bringing whatever those individual practices that one on one, what it works, what you work on in those one on one environments? And then how do you bring that to that group setting, and it’s kind of build it scaffolds on itself? And it all adds up? And it’s work, right, but it’s the foundation of our lives really, right, of just setting that foundation for how do we view the world? How do we view ourselves? How do we view our work? Because those beliefs influence everything, that beliefs are those foundations? And this is like the work to get it? Like what are what are my beliefs? And how do I express them? And do I need to change them? You know, are they not serving me anymore? Right? I imagine that you get into that quite a bit and what you do, yeah?

Blake Schofield 42:08
Oh, yes, quite, quite generally, they aren’t. Because the belief systems we have were formed generally, by the time are seven years old. Yeah, they were to protect us. And then we get to a place as an adult, where they are actually creating a lot of stress or anxiety, or friction for us. But most people don’t even know you can change your beliefs. And you can actually change them fairly quickly. And in a lot of ease actually. And I would say, the person I left corporate seven years ago, and through my personal journey, I have probably removed and replaced 90% of what I used to believe to be true, because I have actually now been able to prove that what I believed was not true. And was really standing in the way of me leading a more fulfilling, less stressful, more peaceful, more enjoyable, more impactful life.

Blake Schofield 43:06
And I think it’s why I talked so much about this over and over again, because most people just think there’s therapy, which takes years and often, and I don’t mean this, I believe in therapy can be really good in many ways, but often can further ingrain the belief systems and the victimization of the stories instead of actually teaching us, what was life teaching you? How do you use that for your advantage and move forward and let it all go? And so I think so many people feel again, that this is just who I am, or this is just the way life is, but it’s not. And it can very rapidly change in beautiful ways. To your point when you have a methodology and a process and you start applying it. And change your life in massive ways.

Mary Lemmer 43:52
Yeah, 100% 100% I just, it’s so well said. I don’t even like can’t even add to it. It was just like, Yeah, that’s, really things. And I think it’s so cool to be a living in a time where we get to hear these stories. We get to learn from others’ transformations, are there like journeys of I was doing this thing and then realize it wasn’t working for me. And I laughed. And now this, you know, and I think it’s so great when people share the hard parts of that too. Like it’s not always like I’ve definitely, I’ve lived in many cities, I’ve done various things in my career. And the transitions are like the hardest, right? That’s that the time between but it’s when you get to kind of that point where it’s like, oh, there’s like, now I get like the hard there’s always like something easeful after the challenge, right? It’s like the hero’s journey and storytelling and so I think it’s so cool that we live in a time where we can hear about this stuff, right, and not feel so alone in that journey for ourselves to feel inspired, to have like community in that, and then also have access to the tools that can help us along the way.

Blake Schofield 45:08
100% It’s a big part of my heart for this podcast, because we can’t know what’s possible until we see the examples.

Mary Lemmer 45:16
Yeah, yeah.

Blake Schofield 45:17
I was so alone in this journey for so long, I spent over 10 years trying to figure out how to solve this problem for myself. And when I left corporate and began my business, it was like, Whoa, there’s so many more people struggling with this exact thing. And they feel alone, and they don’t feel like they can share it, or when they do share, they’re told, “Well, you should just be happy, you should just be happy with what you have.” And we’re at a place in society, when you look at technology, how much of our society needs to transform globalization, everything, where we actually have enough improvements, enough wealth, enough technology, to be able to really be able to grow as a society, as individuals in ways our grandparents, our parents, or our great grandparents never could, right? They were just surviving.

Mary Lemmer 46:06

Blake Schofield 46:07
Anywhere you can make money playing, I mean, making YouTube videos or reviewing toys like, there are so many ways of which we now have the ability to live more happy and fulfilling lives. And yet, there are so many places, especially from our work standpoint, that are still operating like they were operating 50 years ago. And those of us that have learned these lessons that life can be so much better that you can transform and become who you want to be, that through that, there can be greater health, happiness, impact, financial gain. I just feel so strongly about sharing those messages. Because there’s nothing like being empowered to recognize that you get to create your own life. You are your own limiter, or your own best friend. And through hearing the different ways of which people do this, and what they used to struggle with and how they’ve accomplished it. I think we’re showing all of the roads that enable people to see like that desire for more in your life, it’s there as a gift for you.

Blake Schofield 47:14
You’re listening to this podcast for a reason, and not to ignore it. Because I ignored it for far too long, until I really began to understand like, Oh, this is why and it was because I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to create that change. I didn’t have people that were examples in front of me, showing me. And it was just like I said, through my own journey that I discovered it and and started finding other people like yourself who found and discovered it for themselves too. Because ultimately, to me, life is about growth. And it’s about becoming more of who you really are. So that at the end of your day, whenever that comes, you don’t live with regrets, and you feel like you played all in. And I think so few people get there. But that possibility and opportunity exists for all of us.

Mary Lemmer 48:00
Yeah. If you’re listening to this on a Monday, then it’s like there’s some Monday motivation for you. Right? Right there, bottle that up and put it on a throw pillow on a refrigerator magnet.

Blake Schofield 48:12
Oh, Mary, thank you so much. I’ve loved having your energy on this podcast. Like I said, I just your approach to this is so different than so many people’s, there’s a speed in what you do, a joy and like creative, fun spin on it. And I just wish you all of the best as you continue to share this with people. As we wrap up. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that it should have? Or anything you just really feel like is on your heart to share that you haven’t yet?

Mary Lemmer 48:41
Oh, my gosh, that’s such a amazing, big question. You’ve asked so many great questions we’ve talked about so much. And at the risk of not turning this into an Oscar length movie. I will say that one thing that I, yeah, if you want to ask how ask, am I trying to phrase this as a question you would ask me? What are ways that people could learn more about and maybe try more of this for themselves? And I can answer that question for you if you’d like to ask it.

Blake Schofield 49:12
Absolutely. I was gonna dovetail that on next.

Mary Lemmer 49:15
Yeah, perfect. Yeah. So what you can find me online and like more resources, we have all sorts of free and not free ways to improve at chooseimprove.com. I write a weekly sub stack, where every week I share an improvisation, reflection, or activity that you can use in your own life. There’s all sorts of things for with emotions and conflict and just what do you do in your day to kind of bring more adaptability and joy and creativity? And then I’ve got a book that will be coming out called “How to Handle Anything”, and it’s all about how do you use the principles of improvisation to handle anything that comes up in life. So check it out, or find me at chooseimprove.com, Mary Lemmer Online, and I’d love to share that with folks that want to keep learning and growing and practicing. So that when something crazy unexpected happens and there’s change happening, can embrace it like an improviser.

Blake Schofield 50:13
Oh, that’s amazing. Thank you so much. For those of you guys listening. Gosh, there was so much we talked about today. I’m gonna challenge you not just to consume, but to take what are the one to two things from today’s podcasts that you want to do? Is it one of Mary’s exercises? Is it something that I shared? How can you take this and take action because that’s truly how we create change in our life. It’s not just through consuming and learning. It’s through actually applying and using it and gaining that level of comfort. And I love that, that’s what Mary’s teaching every day all day. It’s the same thing I’m teaching. So if you’re listening, I want you to take this and I want you to use it for your benefit. So until next time, have a wonderful week.