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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

Lessons from Stand Up



We like to pull from all different experiences to highlight good business practices. For example, we have talked about what people can learn from improv. Improv is a great place to develop creativity, collaboration and adaptability. We recently witnessed how another form of comedy can sharpen leadership skills. 


A good friend of ours from South Africa, Costa Carastavrakis  has thrown himself into stand up. Costa is a consultant who helps companies navigate the world of diversity, equity and inclusion, to help create work cultures where companies and the people in them flourish. He is definitely speaking the G2 Solutions language.


He travels extensively throughout the world and wherever he goes he books a full length stand up show or goes to an open mic night. Open mic nights are not for the faint of heart. You sign up on a list, when your name is called you go on stage for about 5 minutes and hope for the best. 


For Costa, there are times where it has been a wonderfully supportive experience where the audience soaks up his stories about family, coming out and navigating cross-cultural experiences. There are also the harrowing ones where the blank stares and muted giggles  make time seem to stand still and not in a good way. He keeps persevering because he epitomizes the phrase, “You don’t lose, you learn”. From every experience whether exhilarating or demoralizing, he honestly evaluates his performances and embraces the takeaways. 


People often ask Costa, ‘How can you be so brave and continue to put yourself out there?’ He responds that every part of the experience hones his inspirational story telling. This in turn enables him to continue his mission of positively impacting the business world.


He was recently in Austin and we got to attend one of his full length shows. We experienced the kind where people laughed at all of the jokes and actively participated, creating an amazing community in the room. 


He then went on to Los Angeles to embrace the experience of being in one of the comedy capitals of the world. (Did we mention how brave he was?). He went to some of the most iconic clubs and the competition was fierce to get a spot. He rode an amazing roller coaster of adventures. Getting asked back to perform at some clubs and managing the disappointment of some difficult sets that just didn’t land.


As we have followed him on his journey we realized that he is a wonderful case study of key traits of a motivational leader:


Taking appropriate risks: Costa is not afraid of risk. He knows that in order to grow, he must appropriately push himself. He doesn't just blindly jump into the abyss, he does his research, networks with other comics and then takes a calculated leap of faith. 


Valuing feedback: He seeks it out. In some of the clubs where he has not performed well, he has taken the opportunity to get feedback from the club owners and fellow comics. While not always easy to hear, being open to feedback allows him to continually innovate.


Maintaining a balanced perspective: When people comment on his bravery for doing this, he reflectively responded, “It is just comedy”. Of course, he wants to do well, but the world will not end if he bombs one night. He keeps focused on the ultimate lesson of this process and that every night teaches him something about himself and sharpens his talents. He also stays in a place of gratitude. He is very aware that this opportunity is building unforgettable memories as he checks off a major bucket list item.  


Thinking about others: Costa looks to give back as he goes through his journey. For his full length shows, he adds a charitable donation element. As he closes his set, he talks about how lucky he is to have his life and the importance of philanthropy at any level. He shares information about a current charity he is involved with, provides an opportunity to give to the charity and gently challenges his audience to meet a donation goal for the night.


Appreciating your people: His act has a lot of reflection on Greek family life (if his name or the title of his show was not a dead giveaway, here is the heads up he is a Greek South African). As he jabs fun at his parents, sister, aunties and grandmother there is an undeniable appreciation for how they have been instrumental in his success. It is abundantly clear how much he cares for them and that their support is a key element in his success.  


All of the facets that Costa brings to the stage are essential traits in effective leadership.

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