We get to know a lot of very cool people with very big dreams as we interact with our clients. Creative small business owners bring a wide range of experiences, training, and passion to their work and we love hearing how these folks ended up where they are. One of our favorite stories comes from the owner of a downtown Nashville comedy tour bus called the Music City Rollin Jamboree.
Jessie McNamara is an improvisor, comic, and comedy writer who spent nearly a dozen years sharpening her craft in and around Los Angeles, including training at comedy theatre and school, The Groundlings, career launchpad for Jon Lovitz, Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, and others. McNamara trained and performed at the school during her tenure in LA, knowing that her real mission was to return to the South and tell the stories of her people from Nashville. McNamara and her business partner, Jenny, wrote a 90 minute comedy and sing along show they perform with a live musician on a custom fitted school bus, taking Nashville tourists on a journey through country music and Nashville history. It’s rowdy and hilarious, leaving even the most mild mannered midwesterners chuckling at gay granny jokes as their “tour guides” throw on dollar store wigs and sing along to Dolly Parton.
McNamara told us once about a game improvisors play called, “New Choice.” It goes like this: Three players. Two players are given a situation to act out, and the third player is the caller. The two actors improvise a scene according to the situation they’ve been assigned until the caller shouts out “New Choice!”, at which point the player who just spoke has to backtrack whatever was last said and say something completely different- make a new choice. The actors change the direction of the scene entirely whenever they hear those words, creating possibilities that didn’t exist before. There’s no right answer, and the only wrong answers are ones that would stop the action of the scene. The partner follows the new direction of the scene, until “new choice” gets shouted again, and the story changes once more.
Players have to listen to their partner, play along with whatever ridiculous turns they take together, and keep saying yes to whatever decisions are made for as long as the game lasts. The only way to lose is to stop playing.
I’m thinking about all the ways we get tunnel vision when we’re creating, building our businesses, and making long term plans. I’m thinking about how often I find myself feeling trapped in a box that no one is aware of but myself, stuck inside my own expectations and imaginary limitations. Thanks to Jessie, I’ve started calling to myself, “New Choice!” when I can’t quite find my way to the next right move. New Choice gives me permission- even a mandate- to try something completely different. As long as the new choice keeps the action moving, it’s valid. It’s a practice in letting go of expectations, in being playful, in allowing myself to listen and respond to what’s right in front of me instead of navigating towards an unseen and unknown outcome.
If you find yourself feeling stuck, like a nail set stubbornly in a wall, tell yourself to make a new choice. Let go of what you think is “right” or “correct” and be willing to play, to surprise yourself, to say yes until you manage to wiggle free. You might find yourself in a whole new scene, with a new set of circumstances and a new trajectory, and you might end up someplace completely different than you expected. You’ll break out of the box you’ve built around yourself, the one made up of limitations that aren’t real, the ones only you can see, and finally see all the possibilities on the other side.
Whether in business, relationships, love… I’m coming to see the best of life is on the other side of those walls. It’s the space you stumble into when you’re willing to play, to say yes, to open to what’s possible instead of clinging to what you think the outcome should be. If you feel stuck today, I’ve got just two words for you: