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Trying Everything with Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper is all about authenticity, and she thinks you should be, too. And, for her, it all starts with being willing to share yourself with others. “You can have more memorable interactions with people if you open yourself up.”

And she’s practicing what she preaches. She’s a writer, comedian, author. Her recent book, How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings has been inspiring and cracking people up since it came out last year. She’s been featured on MSNBC, Buzzfeed, PopSugar, and Yahoo! – and that’s only the top of the list.

Sarah took time out to chat with The Mission Daily about how she discovered her love for comedy, why learning about yourself is important, and why she thinks comedy connects us all.

She thinks comedy is the common ground we all need, right now.

“Well, I think it builds kind of a bridge between people who might not normally connect. I mean, if you can relate to somebody in terms of what makes you laugh, I think that that moment of laughter … I have a friend who says that like when you’re laughing you are suspending judgment for a second. When we’re not judging each other or judging where that person has come from or wondering if we’re better than them, or whatever it is, you can just kind of be present, in the moment and maybe build a better connection. So, I think that’s why I’ve always loved humor, I think that it always just breaks the tension in any situation.

Her day job helped her learn about herself. She didn’t let her a nine-to-five stop her from learning lessons that helped her achieve her goals. “You always think that the reason why you’re not doing it as your full-time job and you know, if you could just leave your job, then you would, you’ll have everything that you need to pursue that dream. And I think I learned that a lot of the things that hurt me at work, also hurt me when I tried to be a comedian and a writer. Kind of the same things about being able to open myself up and talk about myself in an honest way and kind of put myself out there. I also really appreciate now, looking back, the company having a mission. You know, Google had this mission to share all the world’s information and make it universally accessible and I always thought, well this is just cheesy, and do we really need a mission and does anybody really care? But then, now that I’ve been working on my own, for about for years, for a while it was like, oh great, I’m building an audience, I have thousands of people on my mailing list and it’s really great, and then you get to a certain point and you’re like, why am I doing this? What’s the point of this? What does it mean? And then I realized, well, I need a mission, I need something that’s bigger than me that’s going to make me get out of bed, that’s going to make me say, no this is the reason why I really have to do this. So I think, looking back, it was a lot of learning about myself.

She took the time to learn about herself. I worked with a life coach for like three months, and she helped me understand what was important to me and how I wanted to spend my day. I think a lot of it was just self-reflection, I think that there wasn’t like a specific ah-ha moment, I think I’ve always just been sort of a person that watches myself. I think a lot of that comes out in my work, because a lot of it is observing myself and other people, and so I think the life coach sort of just helped me talk through a lot of those things.”

She found her love of comedy through trying everything. “I always wanted to be an actress when I was little, and I tried acting and I wasn’t very good at it. I was very stiff on camera and one thing about actors is, the best ones are just really interesting to watch and part of the reason they’re interesting is because you don’t really know what they’re going to do and they’re kind of surprising. And I could never be surprising, because I was more just like robotic because I was like, okay I’m going to say this line in the exact perfect way. And so, I just, I was just trying everything, I was trying singing lessons and improv and sketch and dance and I was just doing everything. And the one thing that I hadn’t tried was stand-up comedy, and I really thought that it was something that might help my acting, because I felt like if I could be myself on stage in front of people, that maybe it would help me be more alive as an actress. And I just got on stage and I just really enjoyed it, I mean, I was very drunk, I had six or seven beers so like, that helped.”

She knows authenticity is key. “I consider myself like a recovering people pleaser, and so I think I just always put the focus on everyone else, and I thought that was the best thing to do. I was known as the consensus builder in meetings where I would just kind of take everyone else’s opinions and sort of re-state them and kind of figure out how we can compromise to come up a solution and things like that. I think it was just easy, it was easier for me to not open myself up to having my opinion or my thought or my perspective rejected. I don’t know if there was a specific moment. We taught this class, me and an engineer teamed up at Google to teach this class, about having difficult conversations, because people like me really hate confrontation and so it’s really hard to be honest and have a difficult conversation. So, we created this class where, through improv you kind of figure out a way to approach a person with empathy and thinking about their perspective, but also keeping in mind what you think. And through that class, I mean, I realized a lot of these difficult conversations, the best outcomes come from starting them with letting your guard down in some way. And so then I started to see it as, oh wait, I’m not being selfish by taking the time to say something about myself, I’m actually doing something good for the relationship, I’m creating a connection.”

Check out the whole podcast here.

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