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Here is an excerpt from Lee’s latest book, Leadership Matters. It contains 31 daily insights to inspire extraordinary results.

day 13: Humor

Natural disasters, disease, war, interpersonal conflict, demanding customers, rising costs. No laughing matters for sure … well, maybe. I contend that facing adversity 100 percent seriously won’t help you reverse the situation any faster, so you might as well laugh a little along the way. An upturned mouth is a must in down times. Plus, laughter is free!

In that spirit, here are a few of my favorite one-liners from comedian Steven Wright:

  • “If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.”
  • “If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments.”
  • “My mechanic told me, ‘I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.’”
  • “It’s not an optical illusion. It just looks like one.”

Now, doesn’t that feel better?

Most events in our lives do not carry an overwhelming sense of sadness or delight. Most fall into the gray zone of ordinary life, and they present us with a choice: to laugh or not to laugh. Hmm, laughter as a choice?

Laughter is certainly the shortest distance between two people. It unites us, especially when we laugh together. Laughter can heal our relationships … and even heal us. Humor is an emotional medicine that can lower stress and diffuse anger. Our mood is elevated by striving to find humor in difficult and frustrating situations. Laughing at ourselves and the situation helps reveal that small things are not the earth-shaking events they sometimes seem to be. Looking at a problem from a different perspective can make it seem less formidable and provides opportunities for greater objectivity and insight.


Below are four simple strategies to help tickle your funny bone more frequently.


  1. Appreciate Life’s Extremes.
    If your situation seems ridiculously frustrating, recognize the potential humor in just how ridiculously frustrating and annoying it is. In your imagination, take the situation to an extreme that becomes even more ridiculous until you find yourself amused. You know, picture a Steve Martin or Adam Sandler movie.
  2. Focus on Humor.
    Do you know someone who always seems to have drama going on in his/her life? Like they are living in a soap opera? It’s really a matter of what they choose to focus on. We can just as easily focus on the humorous things we see and experience each day, and all of a sudden, our life is a comedy!
  3. Find a Funny Friend.
    Find a friend with whom you can laugh. You can each share your frustrations, and laugh about them in the process. Even when your friend isn’t there, you can lighten your mood in a dark situation by thinking about the retelling that will come later.
  4. Watch Funny Shows and Movies.
    No doubt, there are plenty of not-so-funny shows and movies. However, classic shows like The Office and Seinfeld take universal situations that we find frustrating and push them a little further, pointing out just how goofy it all is. Realizing that some universally annoying situations are actually funny can help you endure them with a smile.

OK, since I heard your laughter earlier, here is an encore performance from Steven Wright. This time with his classic quizzical questions ….

“OK, so what’s the speed of dark?”

“How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?”

“What happens if you get scared half to death twice?”

We all want to enjoy our work, and humor has a funny way of creating good times.

Action Questions:

1. What is a particularly frustrating or challenging situation my team is currently dealing with?

2. Which of the four humor strategies can I use to lighten the mood around that situation?


“It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.”
– Oscar Wilde


Copyright © 2012 by Lee J. Colan and The L Group, Inc.