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Management Lesson: Turning Pain Into Laughter

“Pain plus time equals humor.”

That’s a “formula” that the late Garry Marshall, creator and producer of memorable sitcoms like “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley” and “Mork and Mindy,” said he learned from observing comedian Lenny Bruce.

Humor emerging from Pain is man’s way of coping with something that hurt you. Some people would turn that pain into rage; others turn it into a catalyst for self-improvement. Comedians turn that pain into gold.

One man who found hope and solace in humor was Abraham Lincoln. As successful as he became his life was marked with tragedy including the death of his mother and the loss of his son Todd. His wife Julia too suffered from bouts of depression, something that afflicted him, too. As President Lincoln presided over the bloodiest war in American history.

Humor was his safety valve. He liked nothing more than to entertain guests with stories about or from his days as a circuit-riding lawyer in Illinois. He loved to spin the yarns as well as hear new stories.

Sometimes those around him would grow weary of his stories, to wit Lincoln once quipped, “Gentlemen, why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.” Part of the “medicine” Lincoln dispensed were stories told about himself and at his own expense.

“I was once accosted,” said Lincoln, “by a stranger, who said, ‘Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which rightfully belongs to you.’ ‘How is that?’ I asked, considerably astonished. The stranger took a jackknife from his pocket.

‘This knife,’ said he, ‘was placed in my hands some years ago with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a man uglier than myself. I have carried it from that time to this. Allow me now to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the property.’”

Humor is one way to deal with the challenges facing you. So here are some ideas you can employ to laugh at the world around you… and in the process feel better about what you do and the people you work with.

As you build your humorous story follow these three steps.

Choose your pain. Think about a situation in which you made a mistake. Employing the Lenny Bruce rule, allow some time to have passed. Think about what went wrong and why.

Make yourself a target. Focus on what you did. What were you thinking? Why were you thinking it? And most important don’t forget to mention what you did that was so mistaken.

Go for the laugh. Exaggerate the aspects of your yourself (looks, habits, behaviors) that can be sources of humor when played to extreme. For example, are you someone who ignores details or do you like to dive into the weeds? Pick your type and play it up.

Following these steps may not get you a guest shot on a late night comedy show, or even an invitation to a local comedy club. After all, there is a show business joke that says, “Life is easy. Comedy is hard.”

No matter. Taking a moment to reflect on the past and turning it into a source of laughter can be therapeutic. You may help you and your team feel better about the work you do.

Note: The quote from Garry Marshall comes from an interviewconducted by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air conducted in 1991 and replayed after Marshall’s death in July 2016.

This post first appeared on N2Growth Blog | Where CEOs Come To Grow & Where Le, please read the originial post: here

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Management Lesson: Turning Pain Into Laughter


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