I’m sure, gentlemen, that with this month’s Profile issue’s theme of self-improvement and me being the entertainment editor you probably assumed that I was going to write an article about improving yourself by expanding your horizons and attending more plays, watching more documentaries, or getting hip to the newest music.

As ESPN’s Lee Corso says, “Not so fast, my friends!”

Doing any of that list above does improve your life in some way, no doubt. But they are a bit on the passive side, no?

What most don’t realize is that participating in the arts in some fashion provides skills—whether improving ones that you’ve already tried or gaining ones you never knew you could do—that go far beyond just the arts. I can attest from personal experience that the skills I acquired through the craft and many years of experiences as an actor have helped me tremendously in other walks of life. From teaching public speaking at a local college to giving presentations at a public relations conference, I have benefited from the skills I learning while performing on stage.

Before you gentlemen freak out (if you haven’t already), I’m not suggesting that you become an actor, director, or writer. However, there are some things you can do to improve or gain a new skill set that don’t require standing up in front of tons of people.

Here are a few suggestions:

Join an Improve Troupe
Not all improvisation troupes require their members to perform in front of audiences. But all of them usually provide some type of workshops or classes in the art of improvisation. Yes, there are some hidden rules to improvisation and, yes, there is an art to navigating them. These folks have some great classes.

Improvisation can help with critical problem-solving skills, creative out-of-the-box thinking (ever heard your boss use this one?), and handling unforeseen obstacles with grace and humor. In improvisation you don’t know what the next situation will be, but you will improve or learn to think on your feet.

Take a Playwriting Class
Lots of theaters and even some smaller community and technical colleges offer workshops or courses on playwriting. You don’t have to register into a degree program or fill out financial aid forms to attend them either. But you will bone up on your grammar and written communication skills, as you’ll need to write a plot in a manner that can be clearly understood by an audience.

I’m pretty sure those are two skills that can be applied in whatever career you have currently or will have in the future.

As an added bonus, you’ll learn how to write dialogue, which will improve your listening skills. You can’t write good dialogue if you don’t listen to how people talk to each other in different situations. And if you want to take the next step, these folks are great in helping your work get produced.

Learn to Read Music
Admittedly, this one requires a more long-term commitment. But in learning to read music you hone or acquire a very unique set of skills. Hidden in the fun of learning to read music, you’ll find that you start to have better math and timing skills. That’s what learning the difference between a quarter note, a half note, and whole note will do for you!

If you take it to the next level and learn to sight read, you’ll be able to use said math and timing skills even quicker. And if you take it to the highest level and learn to play an instrument – any instrument – well, chicks will dig you.

Just ask the editor of this magazine!

Until next time, gentlemen…