Defying Expectations

Untitled by Jojo Korsh (CC BY-NC-SA)

Untitled by Jojo Korsh (CC BY-NC-

Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting. —Haruki Murakami
It is what you don’t expect . . . that most needs looking for. —Neal Stephenson
Creativity is an act of defiance. —Twyla Tharp
Defiance seemed the only dignified response . . .
—Timothy B. Tyson

A few educators met in the teachers’ lounge one afternoon, discussing a young boy they called special.

Of course, labels like special are shorthand—but for what?

As if she’d read my mind, a young teacher asked, “Special how?”

The older teachers shifted in their seats. One leaned toward her confidentially. “You know.”

“No, I don’t,” the young woman insisted plainly. “He doesn’t look so special to me.”

One man rolled his eyes. Others looked uncomfortable.

She continued, “What, can he breathe fire or something?”

A pause. Soft laughter. Everyone relaxed a little.

*   *   *

Live theatre is exciting. But in improv, even the actors can’t anticipate how a show will unfold. They perform without scripts, think fast on their feet to keep each scene moving, and are well-lit whether they sink or swim.

One night the advanced improv class at a local children’s theatre entertained a small crowd with swift, creative responses to unexpected prompts. They made clever, interesting choices; the actors were on a roll.

Until someone hit a snag. A simple school scene turned awkward when an actor relied on a cliché that others strengthened.

But instead of glossing over these missteps, one agile young actor advanced the scene by completely changing the story. With a single question—What, can he breathe fire or something?—she transformed unwitting prejudice into a powerful, positive message.

Like all successful comedy, she defied expectations.

We all get stuck in ruts, giving practiced answers to half-heard questions and leaping to conclusions without looking. Try ditching your own assumptions for a while and see what happens.

Look carefully before interpreting what you see. Listen closely before deciding what you hear. Stop to think before you speak. Defying expectations—especially your own—can bring delightful surprises.




  1. A benefit of the pre-digital age may have been the additional time which was commonly permitted for thought and consideration of information before a reply or action was expected. This was a gift available even at an early age. Today it seems 140 characters and 4Gigahertz processor assures only speed and little else. Knowing that you are free to slow the pace will arm you to gain control over your thoughts and actions.

    Very nice to see the Children’s Theater nurturing quick wits and joy in play.

    • Advances in technology have certainly increased the pace of communication, which is a hard habit to break. Theatre classes make time for more thoughtful, creative exploration. Ironically, because improv requires constant creative spontaneity, it’s a particularly valuable reminder of the power of choice.

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