Last Updated on August 9, 2017 by karwisch

By now, most of us have heard the quote by renowned businessman Jim Rohn who said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.”

In 2014 I left SunTrust Bank to venture out on my own as a freelancer. Within a week of leaving I had met with each of my five people, described my goals and listened to their advice on how to proceed.

As I look back on what will soon be three years of self-employment, I can attribute a great deal of my success to the five people of whom I am the average.

As we continue, it is important to note that there are many people that could fit into a list of “favorite people” or “really good friends” but this list is the people I surround myself with and associate with the most outside my immediate family.

#1 – Allison Dukes Gilmore

Allison Gilmore

Allison gets top billing for being the person who provided me with my first work engagements right out of the gate. She is also a close friend and improviser. Without her support, I am fairly confident that I would not have made it as a freelancer. Allison gave me my first communication coaching clients as well as the opportunity to lead workshops for businesses and universities across the Southeast. She has an amazing caring heart and gives everyone she meets the same respect and listening ear regardless of their title or role.

I rely on Allison to challenge me to branch out and keep myself just outside my comfort zone. Always hustling and always loving, I could not succeed without Allison.

BIO: Professionally, Allison is a sought-after instructor, trainer, and keynote speaker in the field of spontaneous and intuitive leadership. She’s taught a variety of people, in a variety of industries, the use of improvisation to become better communicators, team members, and leaders. Building upon her 20+ years experience in improvisational comedy with the performing groups, Laughing Matters and The Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy, Allison bridges the tools of improvisation with business management skills to teach people the principles of leadership through intuitive and spontaneous thinking.

Allison currently holds the leadership role of Director of the Doctoral Program in Business at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. She received her degree in theater from the College of Charleston and has trained extensively with improvisational trainers around the country.


#2 – Jason Scott Montoya

Jason Scott Montoya

Jason and I met via Twitter and became close friends almost immediately after our first conversation. Jason taught me about framing freelance work so that I could survive the inevitable ups and downs that self-employment can create.

I rely on Jason to point me in the right direction on marketing, freelancing, and intentionality. He is also the reason I am blogging the month of August 2017.


BIO: Now a full-time freelancer, Jason originally moved to Atlanta in 2005 with his wife, Cait. He attempted to make an animated feature film, launched a political news website, graduated in 2008 from the Art Institute Of Atlanta, and owned a marketing agency for seven years.

He’s also one of the three originators of IDEMA, a framework for capturing and sustaining ideas, and the author of a parable titled The Island Story.

In his journey, he has personally experienced and seen others experience the life of surviving in isolation. In his times of need, others helped and inspired him when he needed it. As a result, his personal aim is to inspire others to a place of thriving and togetherness.

What does Thriving Together mean for Jason? It means living in healthy community with others. One where his relationship with God, family, work, community, and country are lived out as a positive example. An example others would aspire to.

Jason is a follower of the WAY the TRUTH and The LIFE, and he lives in Atlanta with his wife and four children, Madison, David, Judah, and Elihu.


#3 – Sebastian Ruf

Sebastian is a good friend and fellow improviser that is currently working with me on a lot of different projects including Improv in Action (Podcast), Your Secret’s Safe with Gus (Podcast), The Atlanta Improv Dojo (Training Hall), and Mindfulness and Mastery – An Approach to Improvisation (Book).

I rely on Sebastian to look at things purely analytically and balance out my intuition and emotion.


BIO: Sebastian Ruf is an improvisor and official smart person in training (PhD student) based in Atlanta, GA. Sebastian has been improvising since January 2013 and teaching since 2015, both in the US and in Saudi Arabia. Sebastian focuses on bringing silence and physicality to the stage while in pursuit of bringing true play to his scenework. He performs as part of Two Scoops, Please! a house team at Highwire Comedy Company and with Jim Karwisch as Crooked People.


#4 – Sherra Bell

Sherra and I met many years ago through improv and have been great friends ever since. Sherra has a great mind, loving heart and gives great advice.

I rely on Sherra to help me brainstorm and ideate as well as to prod my writing and help me think through problems.


BIO: 20-year veteran recruiter, experienced in sourcing, recruiting and consultative selling. Innovative, inquisitive and adventurous, my diverse experiences as an entrepreneur, journalist/designer, team and community builder, improviser, Toastmaster, gypsy traveler and more uniquely influence how I recruit, sell, coach and consult.

While I remain the most seasoned creative recruiter in Atlanta with a design degree, I am always evolving. I attend and speak at a variety of events and conferences to keep my contacts fresh, my skills sharp and my pulse on the ever changing market across design, UX, mobile, technology, product management, staffing, startups and other related communities. Because recruiting is essentially just a sales process and most of my prior roles have had some sort of business development requirement, I often use by my sourcing and search skills in my coaching and consulting practice to help others prospect for jobs, projects and other opportunities.

I welcome any chance to connect genuinely for mutually beneficial relationships. However, I am NOT an open networker on LinkedIn because I know firsthand that building legitimate and valuable connections takes time. Always willing to fairly compensate others for their help, expect me to ignore requests for free referrals and random connection requests without a reason for the request included in the invitation. That applies especially to other recruiters trolling for talent unless you introduce yourself with how you are willing to share fees.


#5 – Sacha Dzuba

Although Sacha is no longer with us, his voice still resides deeply in my subconscious mind. Sacha represents the vagabond, geek and media-phile portion of my personality. We always egged each other on, made each other laugh and challenged each other’s patience. You are and will always be missed, my friend.

BIO: Sacha was born in Manchester, England, attended the University of North Georgia, and was based in the Greater Atlanta area. He was a talented actor, musician, writer, and artist. Among Sacha’s notable film appearances were Slice 3, Jack-o-Lantern (which he also scored), Hitori, Bad Grandpa, Vacation (2015), The Nice Guys, and the upcoming steampunk re-imagining of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden by Dogwood Studios. He recorded frequently with the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and performed as a multi-instrumentalist musician with numerous bands (including The Ghosts Project, The Julia Dream, Hyperdrive, Hellblinki, This Way to the Egress, and The Extraordinary Contraptions). He participated in the improv troupe Free Kittens and his own duo, Metal Maniax. He also wrote for INsite magazine along with other publications.



Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Last Updated on August 4, 2017 by karwisch

Culture is a balanced blend of human psychology, attitudes, actions, and beliefs that combined create either pleasure or pain, serious momentum or miserable stagnation. –Shawn Parr

I work in a culture of Yes-and. It is how I approach my life and my relationships. Yes-and is how I make my decisions and how I (when I am at my best) interact with my child.

In an improv scene, Yes-and guides us to accept what our scene partner is saying or doing and then adding to it. Yes=accept. And=add. Yes, you are a robot, and I am an inventor.

So what exactly does it mean to have a culture of Yes-and? For starters, “Yes” is not about Agreement, it is about Acceptance. Acceptance of things as they are, without any spin or shade, without the stories we tell ourselves to cope with hurt or fear, and without agenda. Next, ‘Yes” is about non-judgement. We accept people for who they are and we accept situations for what they are. “Yes” creates connection and flow.

When we say yes to things, we are not saying “I agree with you” we are saying “I am listening to you, I care, and you can trust me.” The “yes” in Yes-and is the start to anything great. I accept you. I am here and present with you. You are safe and you can share with me without fear. “Yes” creates safety and trust.

The “and” in Yes-and is the action. Because I accept you, and I am open to what is happening: I am able to clarify, add, illuminate, direct, plan and strategize with you by making small shifts in the idea or adding to the idea’s overall power and scope. With enough of a relationship built, we can help others find the gaps in their own ideas without pointing at the flaw and saying “bad idea.” Unfortunately, if we lack the acceptance and the trust of “yes”, the influence of “and” becomes very difficult to achieve. “And” allows for influence. 

I work directly with a wonderful yes-ander by the name of Allison Gilmore. Because both of us are consistently working with acceptance, non-judgement, and influence, we get a lot done, the right way, usually the first time, and in little time. If we at any time step into an area where our fear or miscommunication causes us to react negatively, we are able to find our way back to dialogue quickly by focusing back on the “yes” again.

Yes-and is not perfect. It is also not a cure-all. It is an approach to relationships, to ideas, to goals, and to their outcomes. The nice thing is that it does not need to be perfect. It is a self-healing and self-correcting process. When we create an environment where trust is possible and safety is assured we can find our way back to each other easily and with grace.

The great Yes-and lettering at the top of the page was created by