How Improv Taught Me to Chill Out About Failure

When I started an improv class 2 years ago, I was terrified. It wasn’t my first foray with improvisational comedy, either. In college, I auditioned for my university’s improv team and didn’t make the cut… all three times I auditioned.

I’ve always loved improv, but every time I tried to perform it myself, I failed miserably.

So, when my friend Jake told me that I should sign up for Improv 101 at the Sacramento Comedy Spot because it would make me a better writer, I got physically nauseous.

For me, improv meant failure, and I’d gotten really good at avoiding any activity that could lead to it.

**Flashback to when I was on the high school volleyball team and my frosh coach told me she wish she’d made cuts to the team so she could cut me from it. Yeah, I avoided sports after that.**

For some reason, though, I decided to follow my fear and signed up for the improv class that would change my life.

That’s hyperbolic, but I really think improv changed my life. Sure, it gave me a creative outlet and cool new friends, but it also taught me to chill out about failure.

As a beginner improviser, I’ve failed a lot. Maybe you’ve seen it! It’s not fun, but it’s changed the way I think about failure.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Once you’ve failed a million times, one more failure doesn’t seem so bad and you learn to follow the fear.

Maybe at this point in your NoExNo journey, you feel like you have failed. So what? As Nerd King Chris Hardwick said, “No human ever became more interesting by not failing.”

The only failure you can commit during NoExNo is failing to learn from your mistakes.

How can you adjust your goal to be successful? If you didn’t meet your goal this time, what can you change about your habits to succeed next time?

It’s okay to fail. Sometimes it’s even fun.


Allison BakerAllison Baker is a content marketer, novice improviser, and expert bourbon connoisseur. She is the founder of No Excuses November and is a very skilled procrastinator.

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What I’ve Learned About Accomplishing Goals by Taking My Clothes Off for Money [Katja Gee]

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Although my NoExNo goal is writing-related every year, my day job is very different from the written word.  I actually work as an art nude model.  This means that I pose for sculptures, paintings, and photographs for everything from gallery exhibits to coffee table books.  I’ve even posed for a life-sized bronze fountain, as well as underwater.

There are a few things that I’ve learned from making a living naked that seem to apply to just about everything else I want to accomplish.  I’m hoping they’ll help me get through my NoExNo writing goal this year as well.

“Fun is doing difficult things well.”

 This is probably one of my favorite quotes of all time.  It’s from a local artist and teacher whose classes I pose for.  She says it every time someone is struggling with a drawing and wants to quit.  Fun is doing difficult things well, she’ll say, and art is hard.  But it’s worth it.

I feel like it’s the same thing with NoExNo: just like making art, setting and following through on a goal is hard.  But it’s also fun.

Just show up.

 Like making art, modeling is hard (and fun).  Although it may sound glamorous to lounge around naked all day, it actually takes a lot of skill and a pretty high pain tolerance.  When I’m posing for a painting or sculpture, I have to stay in the same pose for up to three hours at a time.  When I’m posing for photographers on location, I’m often scratched and bruised from climbing rocks and trees.  And it’s always cold: I’ve had hypothermia twice from modeling outdoors in the winter.

But do you know where most new models fail?  It’s not posing for long periods of time, or even withstanding the elements.  It’s just showing up.

After having worked with several new models, I’ve noticed that more of them flake on their first gig than actually pose.  I can understand why; modeling can be intimidating.  I had terrible stage fright the first time I stepped onto a modeling stand in front of twenty artists and took off my robe.  But the experience was absolutely worth it. I would have never known how much I enjoyed modeling, despite the pain and hard work, if I had never shown up and tried it.

Goals are the same way.  I’ve never failed a goal because I wasn’t skilled enough or tough enough.  I fail because I don’t show up and try to do it.  If you show up for your goal, you’re going to be ahead of the pack.

No apologies.

I love my job.  But let’s admit it: it’s a little weird.  People look at me strangely when they ask what I do for a living.  Some of them are even offended by my art.

I used to apologize to these people, but I quickly noticed that if I apologized to someone who was upset by my art, they would take it as an admission of guilt.  It was only further proof to them that what I was doing was wrong.

I eventually learned that some people would love my art, while others would be scandalized by it.  And no matter what I said on the subject, I wouldn’t change their minds on whether it was right or wrong.  So instead, I learned to not apologize, and to love my work for all its weird, cool glory.

In the same way, don’t apologize for your dreams and goals—not even to yourself.  Some people are going to understand what you want to accomplish, but not all of them.  And that’s okay; you don’t have to justify yourself.  Just get out there, show up, and have some fun!


Katja_Implied Nude-2e_LRKatja Gee is a professional art nude and underwater model, pianist, tomboy, whiskey lover, and blogger. You can see naked pictures of her on Facebook, Instagram at @katja_gee, or Tumblr at @katjagee.

8 Things to Motivate You This NoExNo (and beyond!) [Missy Sparks]

1. Fresh Air

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2. Hot men or hot moms (whichever floats your boat)

3. Calendars (Google, duh!)

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4. Breakup songs (“Sorry” by Justin Beiber)

5. Change (in scenery or a haircut)

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6. Extremes (help you bounce back)

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7. Lists, lots of lists

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8. Tomorrow, I’ll be accomplished

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IMG_4765Missy Sparks is a 20-something, living the green life in the city of trees. Professionally, Ms. Sparks is a [proud] water policy geek. Leisurely, she enjoys creative DIY projects for her house or her blog, The Avian Angle. And personally, Missy enjoys spending quality time with her pug pup, Jake, and her dashingly tall partner, Will. You can find Missy out and about running half marathons, wine tasting or sipping bourbon, and volunteering in her community with the Active 20-30 Club of Greater Sacramento.

Inanimate Objects that Have Made Fewer Excuses than Me [Alison Kranz]

Last year I concluded my list of zero fucks-ness with the quip “no one’s stopping you but you.” While this is true, it can be difficult to attain.

So, for some inspiration, I’ve gathered a collection of inanimate objects that have defied stereotypes and false boundaries to go on and accomplish something no one expected they could.

This mailbox learned how to dance.

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This fire hydrant grew a beard.

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This fence post sharpened itself into a pencil.

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This lake grew a spine.

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This hose bloomed into a bouquet of flowers.

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This tree turned itself upside down.

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If they can do it, so can you. Here’s to a productive and successful NoExNo!


Photo cred: Haley Titus

Photo cred: Haley Titus

Alison Kranz is an editor, writer, observer, runner, and abundantly photogenic model. She likes wordplay, flânerie, typing, squares, surrealism, and consistent correspondence. You can follow her on Instagram at @alisondearest or her + some lovely ladies at @bourbonbabes

Let’s Get Social: Hashtags, Cover Photos, and Bragging Rights

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If you’re reading this now, you know that social media is a huge part of the NoExNo community. The whole reason No Excuses November even exists is because of a single Facebook post.

To honor social media’s initial role in spreading the word about NoExNo, here are some ways to maximize NoExNo with social media:

Use the No Excuses November hashtag

When you share your goal setbacks and successes on social media, make sure to use the hashtag #noexno16 so fellow participants can cheer you on and track your progress.

If you’ve participated in NoExNo before, you know the best part is getting to see what fellow NoExNos are up to.

Whether Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook is the social media platform you prefer, you can utilize the NoExNo hashtag to let your friends know what you’re setting out to accomplish in November.

Participate in the Facebook group

It was actually a fluke that we started the No Excuses November Facebook group, but it quickly became the best way for NoExNos to connect with each other. The Facebook group is the place NoExNo participants can post their progress, cry about setbacks, and brag about successes. Every year, the Facebook group takes on a different role and I can’t wait to see how you guys cheer each other on in 2016!

Change your Facebook cover photo

Speaking of Facebook, another cool way to show your commitment to your goal this month is to rep No Excuses November on your social profile.

This is just an example (from last year), but it wasn’t especially hard to make:

Allison's goal

I used Canva to make this cover photo using a free high-quality image from Pexels. You can use any photo you want (maybe your own!) and edit the design with tons of free options. For someone who isn’t especially design savvy, I found this pretty easy to use.

Share your goal with the world

I know, I know. Sharing your goals publicly can be scary. But you know what? When you share your goals with your friends, there’s a certain amount of social accountability and support that comes with it.*

If you declare on Facebook that you’re taking a Krav Maga class as your No Excuses November goal, your friends will be excited to cheer you on in your new endeavor.

The flipside is that they’ll also know if you never follow up with or complete your goal.

The threat of social embarrassment is a powerful thing, you guys. You’re more likely to follow through with your goal when you share it with other people.

After all, isn’t that why you signed up for No Excuses November?

*There’s nothing wrong with choosing to keep your goals private. I’m only recommending it because it’s really helpful for me to share my goals because it motivates me to stay on track.


Allison BakerAllison Baker is a content marketer, novice improviser, and expert bourbon connoisseur. She is the founder of No Excuses November and is a very skilled procrastinator.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat – CON PASIÓN! [Eily Lopez]

Eily Lopez - No Excuses November

Here we are, another November. I’ve been both looking forward to NoExNo, and dreading it, for over a month. Looking forward to Allison and friends’ colorful emails and Facebook cheerleaders. Not looking forward to choosing a goal.

I’m not sure why I was stressed about it. I picked the same exact goal as I have the last three years – to become more confident at speaking Spanish (generic and un-measurable).

My ultimate goal is to have a conversation in Spanish with my husband’s grandparents over the holidays (more specific). My plan of attack is to practice Spanish with my husband 1 hour a day (realistic and measurable).

I did pretty well at following my practice schedule the last three years – practicing at least 4 days a week! I definitely see improvement after just 1 week. I am way better now than I was right out of school and after 5 years of Spanish classes. However, confidence and experience is something I still lack.

Even after deciding on my same ol’ goal, I feel pretty lame for not picking something new. I think my plan is solid, I’m fairly dedicated, and I always improve. So what’s the dealio-yo with my emo goal depression? I decided that it wasn’t my goal that needed to change, but my attitude.

“Same-o, lame-o,” said Ms. FullofExcuses

I shouldn’t be beating myself up about my goal being lame. You know why? That’s just an excuse! And this is NO Excuses November!

Resolution: My goal is only lame if I don’t do it.

“Is it true, that if you don’t use it, you lose it?” Yes, Little Timmy, yes it is.

“You know I don’t speak Spanish, Baxter!”

Whether ‘practice makes perfect’ or ‘practice makes better’ doesn’t matter – I haven’t done much practicing since last November! My goal is for improvement and confidence, and if I can only manage to commit myself one month out of the year, so be it! It’s one month closer to my goal.

Resolution: Practice is progress.

“Winning!”

Sure, I could pick something else… but I know that this goal is doable. I know that I can accomplish this. I can set myself up for success and be a winner like Beyonce rather than Charlie Sheen.

Resolution: Just because it’s not new, doesn’t mean it’s a bad goal.

New Year, New You, New Reason

Is this goal still relevant? Is it still worthwhile? Yes!

While my goal hasn’t changed, I have. I have a new reason for getting my culata in gear. I’m not just doing this for me or for my husband’s family. (Tick tock! Tick tock!) It’s about that time where we throw caution to the wind and have children, on purpose, despite what everyone says about them. (Rebels!)

Just like every other mom, I want our chiquitos to be the smartest bilingual babies in their class, and I want to know what those pequeños demonios are saying to my in-laws.

Resolution: I have more conviction than last year to keep improving and keep working on my goal.

SO – if you’re like me, don’t let your decision (or indecision) to repeat a goal get you down – it’s just an excuse!  It’s only lame if you don’t accomplish it.

Spend some time thinking about why you did it in the first place, and find relevance for your goal now. Recommit yourself to success.


Eily LopezEily Lopez is a 29-year-old business analyst at a community college in San Diego, CA. She graduated from Cal Poly in 2009 with a degree in Business Administration. Her biggest accomplishments this year include checking ‘Europe trip’ and ‘Avalon Ball’ off her ‘Before Kids Bucket List’. She enjoys binge watching shows on Netflix, listening to audio books and podcasts, making plans to stay in on Friday nights, traveling with her Latin Lover husband, and enjoying San Diego’s local wines and craft beer with friends. She hates paying for parking, reality television, and the misuse of ‘your’. Eily is looking forward to wearing last year’s boots at some point this fall or winter, when the weather finally cools down in San Diego (sometime around January).

Guest Pep Talk [Martha Caldwell]: Keep Calm and Love YouTube

keep-calm-and-love-youtube-6This No Excuses November has been a different sort of experience for me.  The last two years I easily picked a goal and knew exactly what I wanted. This year, I feel a bit lost.  Maybe it’s because I frantically changed my goal at the last minute.  My original plan was to give up YouTube.  I should now confess that I have a full blown YouTube addiction.  I discovered YouTube in its true “people get paid to create ‘content’ on a regular basis through channels” form a little over a year ago.  (I use the work “content”  in quotations because of the extreme variability of the definition of that word.)  Since that time, YouTube has become my primary brainless form of entertainment.  I watch YouTube more than normal TV programming.  I am subscribed to a lot of channels/creators and these 3 to 20 minute videos have brought me endless joy.

However, this happiness brought with it a bit of embarrassment. I am very aware the primary YouTube viewer is a teenage girl.  Most of the videos I watch are very dumb and as a result of this addiction, I have almost ceased to read.  I used to be a voracious reader and that was no longer the case. I missed books and I didn’t know if I could achieve balance without getting rid of YouTube completely.  On top of that, this new form of entertainment had me experiencing a lot of self-imposed anxiety about needing to be productive, well-read and cultured. I am unfortunately the type of person that has a really hard time relaxing.  I make lists and set goals and this YouTube thing did not fit into this mold. It felt juvenile. What was I doing wasting all this time?! My Type A self was ashamed.  YouTube is silly and it was time for me to grow up I told myself.  The original goal was born.

When I started sharing my plan with people, I noticed they were not as jazzed as I was.  The most vocal opposition came from my sister. My sister acts as a major sounding board for me and I look to her for validation and also honest, true feedback (even though that never always feels as great as validation). “If these videos make you happy and help you relax, I don’t see what’s wrong with that.  You don’t need to be productive all the time.”  I heard what she had to say but politely disagreed. Imagine all the time I would have without YouTube!  Imagine all the books I would read!

As I progressed closer to the Nov 1st goal, I really got to thinking about what it was I was trying to achieve.  If I wanted to read more, why wasn’t THAT my goal?   Ultimately, I sent a frantic text to Allison declaring “I just can’t do it!” and changed my goal to reading 3 books during November.  This past week, I’ve wondered a lot about whether or not this was the right decision.  Was my sister right?  Alison’s “Giving Zero Fucks” pep talk helped me solidify my answer. At a time in my life when I am trying to alleviate my anxiety, why did I think it was necessary to eliminate something that helped me do that? Instead, I could add an activity like reading that would help me get there faster.  I can find balance with both.  I need not be embarrassed of my YouTube addiction. Who CARES if it entertains me? Who am I trying to impress?  What I’ve learned the most this NoExNo is to evaluate what I want and why and to make self-care the measurement.