Avoiding Ctrl-C, or Pulling a “Louie”

Emmanuel student groups, slingin mocktails!

I have reached a stride in my position where I’m starting to get comfortable presenting programs within the guidelines I’ve worked to make students familiar with. While these events are far from perfect, I’m learning to accept their imperfection and aim for improvement as I go. After all, this is my first spring!

This week is National Collegiate Health and Wellness Week, and the first time that is has been celebrated on a large scale on my campus. One element of this position that I was particularly excited about was the ability to do wellness programming, and I’m finally getting to realize that goal on a significant scale. So far, the events that I’ve done (a morning yogurt bar and this evening’s mocktail challenge) have been well received, and the attendance has significantly exceeded my expectations. That said, I want to be careful here.

My fellow assistant director has a great outlook on programming from year to year, and uses a term that I love- he doesn’t “copy-paste programs”. That is to say, just because something goes well doesn’t mean it should be reincarnated in its exact form the following year. I love this philosophy because it challenges students to look beyond what their predecessors did, and (at times more importantly) it challenges professionals to look and behave beyond what’s comfortable or easy.As a lover of stand-up comedy, this brings to mind a great example of this strategy at work on stage.

Louis C.K., one of my favorite comedians for some time now, is famous for not “copy-pasting” his act. Unlike some comedians that tour on the recognition of their “greatest hits”, C.K. starts from scratch each year, regardless of whether he is doing a large-scale tour. In creating new material, he pushes himself beyond what’s comfortable. And even though he continues to reinvent himself each year, he admits that it’s a terrifying process.

Is it terrifying for us? Sure. Do we avoid innovation, change, and creation of new projects under the guise of tradition or prior satisfaction? Absolutely, we do. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s as clear cut of a decision as it appears to be.

This method of “workshop, perform, and scrap” has not always been C.K.’s method. He had to work to a level of reasonable (though not meteoric) success for this strategy to work. Similarly, some programs do need to be done a few times before we decide to scrap them or keep them. But once we have the wiggle room and the flexibility to make change, why shouldn’t we? The change shouldn’t be without calculation or poorly advertised, but it shouldn’t be avoided at all costs either. To borrow another phrase I heard recently that I love, “hold your ideas lightly.” Work within a framework, a plan, a well-received model. But don’t suffocate your idea or prevent it from breathing. For my part, I am pleased with what I’ve been able to create. I’m comfortable, I’m content. But I’m not done working to make it bigger or better either.

Think about some of the oldest, most established traditions in your office. When was the last time they stepped up to the mike, ripped up their setlists, and just…went for it? When was the last time you did? And what’s keeping you from it?

One thought on “Avoiding Ctrl-C, or Pulling a “Louie”

  1. Pingback: Life Lessons from a Standup Superfan | The Dedicated Amateur

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