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5 tools for managing my business I’ve learned through theatre

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Ever since I was tiny, theatre and performance arts have been a big part of my life. My mum liked (and still likes) going to the cinema, the theatre, the ballet, to watch musicals… Any excuse to spend a Saturday afternoon sitting in the stalls of a Madrilenian theatre.

For me, theatre has always been a wonderful form of entertainment, helping me disconnect from my weekly routine. But that’s not the only reason why I like theatre. I like the way it can criticise society because it encourages personal reflection. That reflection gives me an insight into other realities, helping me become more empathetic.

Six or seven years ago, I started to wonder what it would be like to experience theatre from the stage. I remember mentioning it to my mum, and she encouraged me to look for a theatre school. It wasn’t a good time and I didn’t dare take the leap. But sometimes life places things right in your lap, and you just have to say yes. In 2019, a friend that was part of an amateur dramatics group for a long time started an improvisation group with some other friends and invited me to join them. It was a positive, enriching and illuminating experience.

Two years and a pandemic later, I’m so glad I accepted that invitation. I’ve grown as a person and acquired tools that have made me look at my day to day life as an independent professional through new eyes. So much so that after eight years working as a freelancer, I reinvented my career and started Iberian Words in 2020.

Improv as a way of life

This has been a big help whenever things haven’t gone as planned.

In a play, actors have a script which they learn and then perform for an audience. However, sometimes their memory plays tricks on them and they forget the script, so they have to improvise. And that’s okay. The play goes on, and the spectators don’t know that they’re improvising.

The same thing happens with small comms and linguistic services businesses like mine. Like with any small business, we have to set goals. Otherwise, it’d be total chaos. However, it’s important to know how to improvise when things don’t go the way we want them to or happen unexpectedly, so that it all turns out as well as possible and the show goes on. 

Managing stress and anxiety

The coping mechanisms I’ve learned through improv have really helped me improve the way I manage stress and anxiety. Before theatre, anything that wasn’t in my plan or didn’t fit in with my goals got me really stressed because I felt like I’d lost control of the situation. However, I’ve now realised that in business, just as in theatre, we can’t control everything. And that’s fine! The important thing is just to get to the end of the show, even if you have to improvise a few lines 😉. 

Creativity

Creativity is normally seen as a form of artistic expression. We’re categorised as being more or less creative depending on how good we are at painting, drawing, music or dance from a young age. In fact, I’d always thought I wasn’t creative at all as, for example, painting and drawing aren’t my thing.

But creativity is so much more than that. It’s how we come up with solutions to problems. To solve problems and make the most of opportunities you have to think creatively and dream up useful, original ideas. If our creativity is dormant, we’ll find it much harder to come up with solutions in unforeseen situations, respond to job offers or submit proposals to the clients we want to collaborate with.

When we’re adults, fear and perfectionism block our creativity. We’re scared of other people judging us, of looking like imposters, not being original… Theatre is the best way to face your fears. When you’re on stage there’s no one judging you, and you can enjoy the imperfections as they let you experiment and try new things. It’s okay if it’s not perfect!

Teamwork

In a play, every single person plays a vital role. And not just the actors. The directors, light technicians, costume designers, etc. Without all those people, the show that the audience sees wouldn’t be the same. In fact, the results almost definitely wouldn’t be as good.

The same is true of our businesses. When we’re the only visible face of our business, we sometimes forget that we’re just one cog in the machine, and every single cog is important. What would happen if we didn’t send a text to the reviewer on time? And if the reviewer didn’t return the changes on time to be able to send it to the marketing department of the company that’s about to launch a new multi million euro campaign? And if the campaign failed because of it?

Discipline

Working alone and being your own boss, project manager, accountant and marketing department isn’t easy. As I mentioned a while ago in a LinkedIn article, I now like working from home and wouldn’t change it for the world. But it hasn’t always been that way.

Managing a business (yes, self-employed professionals have businesses) requires huge amounts of discipline and commitment. And the same is true of a play, as each person has to be disciplined and committed to learning the script, showing up to rehearsals, improving their diction, taking the director’s comments on board, etc. Without discipline, the play won’t get anywhere.

Theatre has reminded me that we can sometimes find what we’re looking for where we least expect it. Thanks to Generación Artes for teaching me that theatre is just what I need to be able to pull up the curtain every day and put on a great show for my clients.

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