By chance, at my local library, I found an audiobook of BossyPants by Tina Fey. While I am sure reading this autobiography is quite hilarious, the audio version is read by the often sarcastic Fey to the listener’s delight. We get to travel with her, from her awkwardness with boys to her unmitigated love for her macho father to the fire on her honeymoon’s cruise ship to her dominance as a comedic star. Tina Fey’s humbleness and almost apologetic tone for her success is quite refreshing.
But what makes BossyPants so special is that many life lessons are wrapped gently by a humorous landscape. The business lessons that touched my life the most was what she learned at Second City in Chicago. Second City is a comedy troop that has furnished us with some of the brightest comedic stars such as John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radnor, Steve Carell, Jane Lynch, and the list goes on. As Tina Fey tells us, she travelled in what was known as the “blue group” and did improvisational comedy routines to audiences around the country. From her time at Second City, she learned many lessons which would make her the bossy pants we love today. Here are three business gems:
1) Tina tells us that you must always say “yes”. During an improvisational routine when your comedy partner starts with, “I am a slightly deaf pirate who needs you to be my talking parrot”—you can’t say, “No, you are not.” You must say “yes” and go with this moment. As a result, Tina is always thinking “yes” and this habit of positivity has helped her to rise to the top of her profession.
How many times have you said “No” this month? No, I don’t have time to do that now—No, I don’t have that in our budget—No, that is not the direction I want to go.
Break the naysaying habit, and build a mentality of “yes” for your success.
2) Tina tells us that we must always say, “And”. During the improvisational routine, you must also say, “And, I am the best talking parrot on this island”. You must add to the scene with your own pizzazz. From those experiences, Tina has learned not only to be a great partner, but also to build upon the great ideas of others. She continually adds her taste to whatever scene in life she is playing.
At work and in your life, be a builder of ideas and things. “And” your success will grow.
3) Tina tells us that many times the Pirate sketch will sink badly. But the next day you are still afloat and working on something new. Tina Fey brought this same attitude of possible failures to Saturday Night live, which helped her to overcome the fear of failing and allowed her talent to shine under the national limelight.
There are clues to uncover from the footsteps of greatness. The life of Tina Fey gives many valuable lessons to build upon and forge your own successful path, as a pirate or businessperson, or whatever role you choose to play.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a professor of human performance at Austin Peay State University. He is author of the Washington Post bestselling business book “Full Throttle” and speaks to businesses about improving attitude and performance. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more at www.drgreggsteinberg.com