Spotlight Member of the Month: Lisa Safran
Lisa Safran is president of Improv Consultants, a San Rafael firm that helps executives and teams develop communication, leadership and collaborative skills. The company’s programs apply the principles of improvisation to support engaging and experiential learning. “I help clients identify their strengths and pain points,” says Lisa, “then create custom trainings based on them.”
Where did you go on your most recent trip?
The Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route in Spain and Portugal, was on my list. When my mom died last year, I saw it as a way to process my grief. I walked 12 to 15 miles a day, totaling 160 miles. I found out that walking on the cobblestones is very painful but I tried to stay positive. I’d think, “My right earlobe feels great today.” My intention was to be curious and see who I might connect with. Sometimes I walked alone, and I also met amazing people from all over the world.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My mom was my best friend and biggest inspiration. She was a leader in her community, realtor of the year and a therapist as well. She was very present when she connected with people, so much so, that all my life I thought I was her favorite child. When she was sick I realized she made all of us feel like we were her favorites. She made me think about how I can be more present, caring and compassionate with people in my life.
Have you had one or many careers?
I used to be an actress, standup comic and musician. The standup scene wasn’t particularly healthy – I don’t drink or smoke now. I decided to get more education and become an elementary school teacher. Some aspects of teaching were fun but it wasn’t really that stimulating.
What prompted you to make a change?
I was in Thailand, rock climbing on the beach when 2004 the tsunami hit. I went through therapy for survivor’s guilt and found that to heal I needed to live authentically, do what I was meant to do.
So I made a list: I wanted to live overseas again, do something with my music and have a business that combined creativity and theatrics. So I taught in Thailand for two years. I composed, performed and recorded with a band here in the Bay Area. And I formed my company, Improv Consultants, to provide professional development and coaching for businesspeople. It’s been exciting. A lot of my growth happens when I have one foot hanging off a cliff and I’m willing to let go.
What makes you laugh?
Observational humor. I did some of that in my standup days, and some family drama humor, too. I liked Rita Rudner and Paula Poundstone. I enjoy being able to laugh at real situations, the dark humor.
What’s the last book you read?
More Sales, Less Time, by Jill Konrath. The idea I used recently was for time management, to turn off all alerts on my phone and devices. It makes a big difference. On the fiction side, I loved The Girl on the Train. I also loved The Go-Giver. The premise is how we can go into our world being of service instead of taking. You look at relationships as collaborative or as opportunities to give. It feels fantastic.
Your favorite music?
I love jazz. Today I was listening to Paris Combo, a band with a jazzy 1940s sound. I love classical music. I’m pretty eclectic. My band is the Bitter Mystics and we produced our own album last year. We’ve performed for a few years, doing cafés and farmers’ markets. I also recently produced a kids’ album with the Squiggle Jams that’s up on CD Baby.
What’s your favorite dessert?
I don’t eat refined flour or sugar so my current favorite dessert is a tiramisu made by Urban Remedy from all raw ingredients. They also have a protein bar that tastes like shortbread with chocolate on it, and I love their mint chocolate chip smoothie.
Which accomplishments took stamina?
I've completed several marathons, all to raise money to help fight cancer. And I wrote two books, Reading and Writing Come Alive and Executive Presence – Improv Style.
Do you have a hidden talent?
Music is a hidden talent now, because I don’t have time to do it! If someone gave me two random notes I could create a piece on the piano on the spot. I’m very creative, and if someone comes to me with a problem, I’m good at unpacking it and finding a creative solution. And I can make zucchini hummus.