Sunday, March 9, 2008

JWN: Get a Sense of Humor

Get a Sense of Humor

By: Joseph W. Norman

Photo Note: Former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer and I sharing a laugh after I gave him a VIP sticker one week before he resigned from office. (Media Credit: Ben Gajewski)

Life is tough. Every day we face different trials and tribulations which cause us considerable stress. We also interact with co-workers or friends struggling with similar mental anguish from professional or personal pursuits. Conversations often have heightened tension and can end up hurtful to at least one of the parties involved. But, this can all be alleviated with a simple change in your point of view.

That’s right. Get a sense of humor.

Laughter is the best medicine for what ails us. It single handedly eases tension and brightens days. Who is the person in the office or around the neighborhood that you simply desire to be around? The one who can laugh at life’s inequities and help you remember that everything is going to be alright.

Abraham Lincoln said it best, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.” I think we can all take comfort knowing that if former President Lincoln can get through countless lost elections and a Civil War with laughter, we can make it through Monday morning.

So, how do you get a sense of humor?

“Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never make it out alive.” – Ryan Reynolds, as Van Wilder in the hit comedy Van Wilder

That’s great advice from one of my favorite movies. Humor is about perspective. Anything can be seen as mind-numbing and utterly frustrating or it can be recognized as a step up the ladder to inevitable success.

Life is like a Magic Eye painting or a Rorschach Inkblot test. What is the picture you see?

Personally, I always struggled with the Magic Eye paintings until I learned that you need to look past the picture. This is a perfect metaphor for life. Many people get caught up in the day to day and forget to see the big picture.

Laughter brings out that big picture because it gives you some distance from the situation. That keeps you from getting trapped by those tasks or life challenges that are hitting you from all angles. And, when it rains it pours, so being able to laugh about it is essential.

My mother always said, “It’ll make you laugh or it’ll make you cry.” We always chose laughter in the Norman household because let’s get real, tears just make too much of a mess. Both exercises are cathartic, but I tell you what, I prefer the mood that follows a good laugh.

The truth is people are funny and the things they do are even more hilarious. It is a blessing to be able to see that. You’re funny. I’m funny. (Some say funny looking, but I tend to disagree).

ACTION PLAN: Make a decision today to start to look at the world with a new light. Learn how to see the subtle ironies in life, because they are hysterical. And don’t be afraid to laugh loud and proud.

I look and sound like an absolute idiot when I laugh. I laugh at my own jokes and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When things are funny I just like to let it rip. You need to enjoy life because it’s the only one you’ve got.

Get funny friends. (I’ve got some great ones). Rent a comedy. Read some jokes. Check out some clips on YouTube. Arm yourself with some artillery that you can use to brighten up someone’s day. I’m a big fan of Dane Cook skits, Chuck Norris quotes, and 80s music lyrics; ton of priceless material there.

The key to getting a sense of humor is giving it a try. Who is the only person you can laugh at and not offend? YOU. So, laugh at yourself and invite others to join in. You’ll be the life of the party (even if you’re laughing about your recent string of bad luck).

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. So, keep laughing and I guarantee life will begin moving in the right direction. That’s what I always bank on.

Still smiling, ~JWN

Joseph W. Norman, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Notable and Newsworthy can be reached at or 607.743.8569. He offers speaking engagements and personal coaching and is always up for a "business lunch." To receive the weekly eZine, The VIP Profiles, email or visit