FOCUS: Humor

Disciplines: Mental Models, Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking

Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.
—Mark Twain


Driving on a long road trip last week, I grew sleepy. An interesting CD I was listening to blurred into the background. When chewing gum and drinking coffee didn’t help, I stopped and found a book on tape by David Sedaris called Holiday on Ice. The very first essay described his stint as a department store Christmas elf. I laughed so heartily that I was suddenly wide awake! And then, of course, laughing at David Sedaris as an elf reminded me of the time my daughter Lisa got a job at Wendy’s. The first day she blew up balloons for hours. Then they gave her the Wendy costume and sent her into the bathroom to change. She went into the bathroom and climbed out the window. That was her first and last day of work at Wendy’s. Picturing that teenager climbing out the window instead of wearing a Wendy’s costume had me laughing again. Humor can be so therapeutic!

When my parents were in their 90’s I talked with them on the phone every night. Sometimes there wasn’t much to talk about, so I shared jokes with them. Even when their memories were failing, they responded immediately to many jokes, and the laughter had a calming, healing effect. Usually what tickled was a slight twist, something they didn’t see coming. Here’s one they liked:

What do you get when you cross an abalone with a crocodile?
When you do it right, you get an abadile. When you do it wrong you get a crocobalone.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” Humor is really a way of seeing, of putting things into perspective. It makes us more resilient. Henry Ward Beecher got it right when he said, “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.” People who are easy with humor see comedy even in seemingly impossible situations. And the great news is that when we laugh, it registers in our body’s chemistry, reversing unhealthy stress reactions. The bad news is that many of us forget to use humor, to laugh often.

The average child laughs about 400 times per day, the average adult 15 times. How did we lose those 385 laughs? How can we cultivate humor? Laugh more?

Coaching Tips

  1. Several times a day, look for what might be humorous. See the ironic in the difficult.

  2. Imagine you’re looking down on a situation from 10,000 feet. Given a little distance, what can you see to laugh at?

  3. Read some jokes. Garrison Keillor’s many joke books are just silly enough. You might also subscribe to some daily joke online. (There are lots of them, some cleaner than others, so I leave you to your own devices.)

  4. Find or start a local laughter club. Check out for ideas.


  • Please join me for a 45-minute telegathering to explore the topic of humor more deeply. Call Wednesday, October 20 at noon Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific) 1-218-862-1300 PIN 276583. No need to register…just call at that time!
  • I’ve mentioned the Systems Thinking in Action Conference to you many times. This year is very special – it is the 20th conference, an anniversary to celebrate and a time to bring systems thinkers from around the world and from different disciplines together. The conference will be in Boston from Nov. 8-10, and its theme is Systems Thinking in Action: Fueling New Cycles of Success. ( I want to invite you into this extraordinary conversation. Peter Senge, Robert Fritz, Daniel Kim and people like you and me from every sector will be there. The conversations we will have there will be like gold! Pegasus has given me permission to offer Fresh Views participants the early bird low price. Please consider joining my team! Shoot me an e-mail at to say yes and make arrangements.

Reach me: 1-888-907-HOPE (4673)or e-mail I am a personal and executive coach and would be happy to offer you a complimentary coaching session by phone.

Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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