Martin Luther King Jr. gave hundreds of speeches before the March on Washington. The signature refrain from that day’s speech had been employed by the preacher over and over again before he faced down that crowd of hot, weary thousands, and he hadn’t even planned to use it on that day. He improvised.
There’s a difference between improvising and making it up as you go. Improvisation is born of experience and countless un-gratifying practice hours that nobody sees. It takes flight from a perch of failed past attempts and a dozen incremental improvements. Improvisation looks unbounded and unrestrained, but the professional who can improvise has made the study of boundaries and conventions her life’s work. She knows the rules well enough–to use phrase I got from a Godly Play trainer–to break them effectively.
So the question today, as you marvel again at the power of the speech and the man, is not, “How can I do something as brilliant as that someday,” but, “What can I do today that will prepare me for that day?”
Because, in these times, your day is coming. We need you to be ready for it.