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Find the Silver Lining

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Comments from Brooke Cartus

The last few weeks have been filled with: “we’re in this together!” and, “we got this” messages. Plus, countless emails, virtual introductions, and an alarming number of text messages from my favorite fro-yo shop.

Still, my improv training keeps me coming back to one phrase: “find the silver lining.”

The etymology of the term “silver lining” comes from Milton, who first used it in a poem in 1634. It later became, “every cloud has a silver lining.”

Now taking it to improv: Improvisers use the concept of finding the silver lining in every scene. We never know what is going to happen, what chaos is around the bend… sound familiar?

To build a story, improvisers say “Yes” to the reality in front of us and look for the silver lining to bring positive ideas that let a scene progress.


It’s part of our DNA as a company. The ImprovEdge Ensemble will always bring the positive and look for the silver lining to help our clients move forward.

And, it’s not easy. Even our language prevents us from being open to saying yes: our vocabulary typically shows a preponderance of words for negative emotions (50%) over positive (30%) and neutral (20%) emotions. We have to remind ourselves to remove the negative language.

The How

We’re giving you the same challenge we’ve given our Ensemble:

  1. Writing it down: what has the silver lining for the last eight weeks been for you?
  2. Share it. Because being positive is contagious – in a good way.

The Why

Silver Linings is a practice we teach in our leadership programming as one of the small behaviors that build relationships and trust. The little everyday pieces that move teams and companies forward - positively.

Think about driving a car – the real-view mirror is a useful tool, yet your focus is on what’s in front of you. Bringing that improviser’s view to your daily practice and your team helps them think about moving forward, even when there are uncertainties.

As leaders, this is what we want to model for our teams. Because when we look for the positive, we’re looking for possibilities. We’re telling stories. We’re solving problems.

Like improvisers, we are moving the scene forward.

My Silver Lining

I travel for work a lot… I mean, I lot. I was on a plane every week visiting clients and bringing the power of improvisation coupled with neuroscience and psychology to get them up and out of their old habits. The work and connection fueled me.

All of a sudden, all of my sessions are now delivered virtually.

I still have a blast and the participants are engaged, yet I feel remarkably more drained after a live video session. I started to think about why: while I am giving all my energy on video to the participants, I now cannot feel their energy in the room with me. It is a huge adjustment.

I had to really think about how I recover from a virtual session very differently than a live session. Typically, after a live session, I watch an episode of my favorite show, catch up on work emails, or call my Mom.

Now, after a virtual session, I must step away from the electronics.  I take a small nap or walk my bulldog and make sure I leave my phone at home. By taking small break from electronics, I can come back fresh for the next session.

The silver lining, besides having a very happy bulldog, is that I discovered a way to reset and refresh without screens. I’m looking forward to hitting the road again someday where I’ll incorporate the skills I’ve learned at this time to take care of myself.

Don’t worry, I’ll still call my Mom to catch up.

Brooke Cartus is the Director of Business Development for ImprovEdge. She lives on the east side of Columbus with her partner and their animals, including Penny, the bulldog, who loves daffodils.