Are you a human being? Or a human doing?

I don’t remember who said it. I don’t even remember where I was when I heard it. But I know this. I was in a bad place. I was looking for solace, or maybe a way to understand why I felt so sad, so stressed out.

Some of my clients playing . . .

Some of my clients playing . . .

“Ben,” my angel said, “it sounds like you’re a human doing, not a human being.”

And thus began a slow unpacking and examination of how I exist in the world, and why. It’s taken a few therapists and years in the recovery movement but if I could distill it, my ”human-doingness” comes from this: I never felt I was good enough and so had to work extra hard to get the emotional support others seemed to receive effortlessly. And like all of the scars we bear from our origin stories, this one is a paradox, with both positive and negative attributes. On the upside, I became an over-achiever, a leader and maker of events, art, and classes. On the downside, I felt like if I didn’t, I would be a neglected shade plant in the corner, ignored and starving for sustenance.

About to play with my improv ensemble . . .

About to play with my improv ensemble . . .

A “human doing” is a person who lives under the sword of Damocles, constantly responding to the “or else”: I have to do this, or else that will occur. It’s a life lived under continual threat. And since it’s a condition developed in childhood, usually in response to what the child perceives as a survival strategy, as we age we lose awareness of it and it simply becomes our experience of living, as unconscious as the air we breath and every bit as consequential. It leads to codependent relationship problems (“I have to do ______ or else she won’t _______”), tyrannical leadership styles (“Do _______ or else I will make sure _______ happens”), and a generally transactional behavior pattern (“Let’s do this, so that that will happen.”)

Besides the pernicious and exhausting stress of living with the constant “or else”, something more subtle but more problematic happens. When I am a human doing, I am never where I am. I exist in a perpetually self-created anxious future. The thing I am doing I do not for its own value or experience, but in order to manage an event that doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened yet. And because it doesn’t exist, it is a future event I create in my own anxious imagination. A human doing finds it difficult to enjoy an experience for its own sake, without attempting to know what the consequence will be in the future - a knowledge which is fundamentally unknowable.

I would love to report that I have been entirely cured of my human doingness, and that I now live in a swami-like state of pure presence. Ha. What I can report is that I am deeply aware of my own tendencies in this direction, and I know some warning signs. I can fall in to an anxiety spiral about the future and I know what that feels like. When I feel that way I do some breathing exercises, I go to a recovery meeting or talk to a friend about how I’m feeling. I take some medicine that helps too. And I look for opportunities . . . to play.

Playing with people with disabilities . . .

Playing with people with disabilities . . .

Yes, play. What do I mean by play? For me, play is an activity done with others that has no explicit purpose other than the activity itself, and which engenders a shared joyful emotional state. There is a ton of research on play and since I am not a data person or a researcher I will let you go and find it. But I have read a few books and listened to a few podcasts and my takeaway is this: playing is an essential activity in the development of healthy humans, it begins in the year after we are born and continues throughout our childhood. And then for many of us . . . it stops. There are many reasons our playing stops, and it varies from person to person. But one of the most common is that we become “professionals” and enter workplaces driven by projections and outcomes. In other words, workplaces that succeed with a workforce of human doings, who exist to make sure that if they do this, that will happen.

In this light, being a playful person might be seen as an act of rebellion against the demands of professional expectations. But here’s what I know from years of applying improvisation to workplace dilemmas through a program I created called Creative Corporate Training - cultivating a playful mindset in the workplace:

  • leads to innovative thinking

  • deeper problem-solving

  • more productive co-working

  • more efficient teams

  • happier and healthier workers

  • retention of those happier an healthier workers

About to play with some pharma workers . . .

About to play with some pharma workers . . .

Introducing the playful mindset is a gateway to any number of explorations: mindfulness, self-care, conflict management, emotional intelligence, better customer service, and the list goes on. Improvisation is the ideal delivery system for the playful mindset, because in improv all you have is the present moment and the other person. Improv teaches us that we are enough - we have all the wisdom, creativity and courage needed to build joyful connections to others as we work towards common goals.

So take a moment today to just be. Sit quietly somewhere nice and take a few deep breaths. Notice what rises up in your experience - no judgment! If you find yourself obsessively speculating about the next thing, and the next, and the next . . . maybe it’s time to play.

June 2019 Letter from Ben: summer updates!

Executive Director Benjamin Lloyd

Executive Director Benjamin Lloyd

It’s our first summer without our summer camp, and while we miss our kids don’t think for a minute that we are taking a break! Check out some of the cool stuff we’re working on this summer!


We had our best, and best-attended Improvasushi show last Saturday June 3rd. We even had to add chairs to our audience seating in the Tokio Ballroom! Don't miss our next show Saturday July 13th!

We are proud and excited to announce that we applied and were accepted to two improv festivals!

The Bright Invention Ensemble.

The Bright Invention Ensemble.

In development are two cool partnerships, both involving Dinner with Friends - our shared meal followed by a show:

  • For Project HOME, we envision Dinner with Friends for a blended audience at a Project Home site.

  • For co-working spaces 1776 and WeWork, we imagine the show as a fundraiser for a local nonprofit with discounted tickets for co-working members.

Stand by as Dinner with Friends takes shape!

Creative Corporate Training

Ensemble members Carlo Campbell and Kaitlin Chin performing at a recent CCT workshop.

Ensemble members Carlo Campbell and Kaitlin Chin performing at a recent CCT workshop.

Speaking of WeWork, we are bringing our CCT demo to the WeWork space in Northern Liberties, Tuesday June 18th, 10:30 AM - Noon. This is part of a growing partnership with Throw Like A Woman Consulting. Learn more about this demo by clicking here!

We continue our work with West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, and Cooperstein Hospitality. Coming next fall, workshops for The Lebow School of Business at Drexel and Community Associations Institute of New Jersey.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in our improv-inspired, scenario-based workshops, please refer us! We are happy to bring our demo to your site! Here is the CCT website.


Two Carousel Connections students studying improv with us last summer.

Two Carousel Connections students studying improv with us last summer.

We have three classes in the works this summer!

  • We kicked off our Summer Improv Jam last Thursday at Cheltenham Center for the Arts. We have 10 wonderful adult students learning from me and ensemble member Shea Sonsky!

  • On June 26th I will begin teaching an improv class for adults with disabilties at Carousel Connections. This is a continuation of work begun last summer.

  • Also on the 26th, ensemble member Kiersten Adams and I will co-teach at The Village: Hope in Action of Children and Families. This is a new initiative and we are excited to learn more about this extraordinary community!

Shakespeare in the Summer

Our annual co-production with Pulley & Buttonhole Theatre Company is off and running. This year, we tackle our first non-comedy, Macbeth! Working on this production are ensemble members Shea Sonsky, Eric Walker, Benjamin Lloyd and Josh Kirwin.

Don’t miss this fun outdoor production at Abington Art Center, August 5, 6, 7 and 8th at 7 pm! Pay what you can! Show webpage coming soon . . .

Production still of last summer’s  Twelfth Night  featuring ensemble member Kaitlin Chin.

Production still of last summer’s Twelfth Night featuring ensemble member Kaitlin Chin.

Creative Corporate Training demo Monday May 20th 12 noon!


Monday May 20th, 12 noon

Free demonstration

Benjamin Lloyd facilitates with three Bright Invention performance assistants for a recent CCT workshop

Benjamin Lloyd facilitates with three Bright Invention performance assistants for a recent CCT workshop

Bright Invention's Creative Corporate Training program employs an innovative, scenario-based approach to team-building, customer service and workplace culture enhancement. We use structured improvisations we design specifically for each client, which embody issues or themes the client wants their team to examine. 

Unlike other improv-based training programs, we do not make you role play! We do the acting - you do the problem solving.

Monday May 20th 

Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia
Conference Center, Engagement Room, 
200 S. Broad St, Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19102

  • Note new time: Social time 11:30 am - 12 noon

  • Demo 12 noon - 12:45 PM

  • Free - refreshments served

  • Bring friends!

Please RSVP

Check out our slide show:

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