Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Power of Humor, or, Goodbye Mr. Carlin

I laugh at myself every day. I usually try to laugh at other people just as often.

And as I've ventured into so much unfamiliar territory over the last year—new business relationships, new responsibilities, new mistakes, new opportunities, new situations—humor has been essential to keeping me sane through it all.

Some situations, like the time I spent almost $6,000 on a customer acquisition campaign that was poorly conceived and yielded nothing, have been so painful and tough to swallow that it was hard to know whether I should laugh or cry. But given the choice, I almost always prefer laughing.

And when it comes to healing my self-doubt and rebuilding trust in my own decision-making, humor is a magical balm. Taking myself less seriously is a necessary step to forgiving myself when I screw up.

Humor is also a fantastic antidote to fear. Consider the moment in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Professor Lupin shows the students how to disable the Boggart, a dark creature that appears to each victim as her greatest fear. The spell that defeats the Boggart turns it into something comical. By putting roller skates on a giant, blood-thirsty spider, you can laugh at it. The thing of which you were most afraid loses its power; you regain control.

Starting up a business is a journey rife with moments of stark terror. I use humor often to shore up my courage so I may conquer my fear.

The news yesterday of George Carlin's death made me pause to consider how much I value humor in my life. Knowing he isn't here anymore to skewer hypocrisy, play with language, mock our sacred cows and dismantle the power of obscenity makes me sad. But that he left us to much to laugh about is a rich legacy indeed.

Mr. Carlin, you will be missed.

Following are some of George Carlin's jokes to help you keep laughing along your entrepreneurial journey:

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

Some people see things that are and ask, Why?
Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?
Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that shit.

Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.

Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.

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