Concert(ed) Action

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Leader’s rarely crowd surf. The sensation of being lifted and torpedoed across sweaty, dehydrated concert fans while awaiting the inevitable, precipitous fall is not attractive to the average manager. Even particularly egoistical leaders who believe they operate above everyone else’s shoulders do not demonstrate this confidence at a concert. Last weekend, at Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival, I saw a leader crowd surf.

In a sweltering Chicago heat that seemed to mock the Midwest’s previous pleas for winter respite, an army of hipsters packed in Union Park. If not for the ubiquity of iPhones and Axe body spray at the festival, it would almost resemble a swampy jungle. The crowds adopted an animalistic agility as they fought over scarce, boiling water and oozed in an amoebic blob toward the stages.

During a taunting set by DJ Shadow where the performer denied the crowd his namesake shade, I watched a kerfuffle brewing. It seemed that one rainbow muumuu clad girl had violated the personal bubble of a particularly enthused fan wearing a gorilla fedora. As the gorilla prepared to lunge at the muumuu, a third witness quickly interceded. This witness, a middle aged woman exuding a comforting maternal spirit, asked what was wrong. The muumuu explained that she couldn’t see the stage and was trying to step around the sweat-saturated gorilla. The gorilla meanwhile complained of dehydration and frustration with the aggressive crowd. As DJ Shadow poured out danceable grooves to the thirsty crowd, I watched this maternal bystander transform into a proactive leader.

First, she assembled a coalition of bystanders to help diffuse the situation. She told another concerned concertgoer to go fetch water from the first aid tent. She then asked neighboring audience members if they could clear some room for the woozy gorilla. Without a trace of hubris, she instructed the muumuu to stand in front of her where there was a visual avenue to the stage. Finally, she sustained her rehabilitative agenda by repeatedly confirming that all parties were content as the concert progressed.

As the sun finally surrendered near the end of Shadow’s set, the muumuu and gorilla turned toward the maternal leader. I heard them ask her if she wanted a better view of the DJ’s renowned stage show. Bashfully, the woman explained that it was always her dream to crowd surf at a concert. Without missing a beat, her coalition of supporters banded together and heaved her off of the ground. Just as she had mobilized her agenda with committed political effort, the crowd mobilized this new leader across the bobbing, perspiring heads toward the glowing stage. It was quite the crowd surf.

Splitting Hairs: A Study in Failed Leadership

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I sat, bewildered, sweat dripping from my brow, wondering why I had been called here. Since I began my work with this not-to-be named Real Estate company I had been the paragon of salesmanship.  I climbed to the top of the sales ladder after one week on the floor. I hit my quota of 150 plus outbound calls per day (there was no way my manager could know that at least half of these were instant hang-ups, right?)I had even purchased a brand new business wardrobe, complete with tie-clips and suspenders, an almost Herculean feat for someone who wears sweatpants to restaurants. I was, for all intents and purposes, an A student.

Why, then, was I called into a special meeting to review my performance? Was I getting promoted already? It had only been a month. I was good, but was I that good? I thought back to my training. A Vice President of the company, Les, had personally trained me and a few others on the ways of selling over the phone. He was a fossil of the coke-infused 80’s era; a copy of a copy of Gordon Gecko.  He was short and muscular, with loud and proud silver hair, slicked back with what appeared to be cement. Les was filled to the brim with stories and catch phrases, but light on substance and leadership.   His name was Les. That can’t be a real name. My most vivid memory of our training together was him recounting his time in the Special Forces as an analogy for closing sales.

“I was in a bar in Bangkok. This son of a bitch was starting with me so I beat his face to a bloody pulp then went back to the bar. Out of nowhere I feel a whack on the side of my skull. It was the son of a bitch. I hadn’t closed the sale. He was still breathing” Now go sell Real Estate!

Terrifying relics from Bright Lights Big City notwithstanding, I had done my time in training and proved to be a promising member of the team. So I couldn’t imagine…

Pet, our twenty-seven year old Vice President of Sales, busted into the room like the Kool Aid Man, full of bluster, frat-boy machismo, and spikey hair. Pete’s idea of motivation was to blast Top 40 Hip-Hop drivel throughout the sales floor and take away our chairs.

“No one sits until we book 5 FSBOs”–For Sale By Owner, the meat and potatoes of our business. Our main charge was to harass people who had listed their own homes on the internet into listing with us.  The Call Center employees set up the appointment for the Listing Agent, who would close the deal.  Being the former, my sole purpose was to set appointments. This was most easily done by lying to the FSBO and leading he or she to believe that we were prospective buyers rather than agents.   How standing up helped to speed this process is, as of yet, still hidden in the Foxtons manual. I believe the chapter is seated between “Why you need to wear a suit to a job at which you will literally never see a client in person” and “The benefits of cold calling customers on Sunday morning”.

Where was I? Pete, right. Pete bounded into the room like a six year old.

Pete said, “Jay, Jay, Jay, my MAN. How are you doing? You are the MAN. THE MAN.”

Jay heard: “Jay, Jay, Jay, please, call a doctor, I’ve had 17 red bulls and it’s 11 a.m.”

Pete continued, “Jay you are doing so awesome man. You have a real future at this company”

Jay heard, “You are going to be stuck in this awful job for the rest of your life”

Pete went on, without interruption, “Jay, your sales numbers are through the roof. You are great on the phone, and you show a real spark. You’re just the kind of employee I like to have working for me. But, there is one thing…”

Oh no. What could the one thing be? Are my clients not properly “hearing my suit over the phone?” (direct quote).

“Jay…I don’t know how to say this…but it’s your goatee. There are a few stray hairs and it needs to look more clean. I have some razors for you.”  My mouth agape, I took the razors, went to the bathroom, and did it. Because it was my job. Because my boss told me to. Because my leaders, like Wesley Snipes in White Men Can’t Jump, were more concerned with looking good than they were with winning.

Three months later, I left the company due to “personal reasons” that included receiving a Workers’ Compensation settlement that allowed me to be unemployed for a year. Six months later, the company closed its American doors, leaving me to wonder to no one in particular: If Pete and Les had been less preoccupied with hair gel and gentrified hip-hop music, and more concerned with running an honest business by cultivating their employee’s skill sets, would I still be wearing a suit for no reason today?

Coalitions in Flight

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Few people hate uncertainty more than airline passengers. Tossed into a hectic airport jungle, passengers scurry through security checkpoints, frenetically swarm airline gates, and compulsively check flight statuses. Inevitably something goes wrong. A flight is delayed due to caterpillar infestation; a suitcase is rerouted to Andorra; a flight attendant delivers a whiskey sour to a precocious toddler.

Kate Hanni, one disgruntled passenger, created the Coalition for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights in January 2007 in an effort to reduce the uncertainty in this pressure cooker environment. Hanni discovered that mobilizing an agenda to improve airline treatment of passengers required the broad, collaborative work of like likeminded travelers. Without their support, her complaints would fall on deaf airline executive ears and she would lose the opportunity to document injustices throughout the flight system.

With over 25,000 members, she was able to stage a diversified campaign featuring a “strand-in” outside the Capitol and a coordinated offensive against horizontal and vertical levels of the airline industry. While the coalition’s centerpiece Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights remains stalled in Congress, Hanni’s efforts of diversification have reduced uncertainty for passengers by inducing airlines to make remedial changes. This progress would be impossible in the erratic world of legislative lobbying without Hanni’s broad coalition of passengers. With any luck airline delays will surpass Congressional delays and Hanni and her passengers will be boarding flights with more confidence and certainty.

Hanni illustrates here the ability for grassroots coalitions to effect change on a macro level. We often view coalitions as an empty business buzzword that holds little significance outside of the context of a fictional, made-for-TV boardroom. We forget that mobilizing coalitions, a fundamental micro-skill of leadership, has broad efficacy in addressing everyday problems in our lives. While we may view something as inane as a delayed flight or a supermarket’s decision to stop carrying organic carrots as an unavoidable, nuisance, Hanni reminds us that collective action toward a shared end can produce real results. So put down your complaint cards, mobilizing a group of like-minded individuals, and form a coalition.

5 Leadership Lessons From David Ogilvy–The Father of Advertising

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David Ogilvy got his start in a high-end French kitchen making frog legs. Working in a highly regimented atmosphere, Ogilvy learned the importance of perfection.

After his stint with Souffles, Ogilvy sold stoves door-to-door in Scotland. He learned that talking down to people never sold anything.

In 1938 Ogilvy moved to the United States and eventually started his own advertising firm because he was too scared to apply to the preexisting ones in NYC. Ogilvy’s firm was a success and he became known as the “father of advertising.” He also wrote the popular book, Confessions of an Advertising Man.

He said he’d like to be remembered as a copywriter with big ideas.

Leaders can learn a lot from Ogilvy because he was a master of selling ideas with experience and honesty.

His lessons aren’t just for people in the advertising world; they’re for anyone who has ever wanted to get people on their side.

Here are five of Ogilvy’s golden rules for generating good ideas, leading teams, and convincing people.

1. Always Look on the Light Side of Life

Ogilvy said, “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” I’m pretty sure Ogilvy didn’t achieve his success by walking around with a goofy grin on his face while he tried out new material on anyone who’d listen. But his willingness to tell jokes and laugh led to his most successful and most creative ad campaigns. Take his well known copy for Rolls-Royce: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

Leaders who want to think creatively and communicate effectively shouldn’t be afraid to have a sense of humor.

2. Leave the Thesaurus at Home

A lot of people think that big responsibilities and big titles necessitate big words. They couldn’t be more wrong. Ogilvy said, “I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”

When you’re trying to pitch an idea or form a coalition you don’t need to dress up your language. You risk alienating certain groups and sounding artificial.

3. Be the Real Deal

“I have a theory,” Ogilvy said, “that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive.”

Not only do the best ads come from experience, but also the best stories and the best speeches. Experience and honesty is the golden thread the runs though effective communication. If you can avoid being generic you can win over an audience by letting them see who you are.

Ogilvy demonstrated this successfully with his Dove soap campaign. His copy read: “Only Dove is one-quarter moisturizing cream.” The campaign helped Dove become the top selling US soap. The simple honesty is what sold and it didn’t require any half-truths or hard-to-keep promises.

4. The Three Golden Steps to Success

There’s no easy way to get to the top. But Ogilvy believes there’s an easy way to stay there. Ogilvy said the steps to success are as follows: “First, make yourself a reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to go get on with it.”

We can’t all become creative geniuses, but with enough hard work we can all establish ourselves in our fields. The trick to staying in your field is by surrounding yourself with smart people and by giving them the power to lead for and with you.

5. It’s Not How You Say It

Selling agendas, justifying actions, and getting buy-in are what leaders do daily. So do advertisers. Ogilvy said, “What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.” The same goes for leadership. Content matters over flare and presentation skills. Execution matters more than lip service and captivating speeches. People always respond to truth—they’re not always won over by flashy presentations.

6 Productivity Tips From William Faulkner

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William F. Faulkner (1897-1962) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 and wrote 13 novels and a large collection of short stories.  Aside from a few European trips and some brief stints in Hollywood, Faulkner accomplished all of these things on a farm in Oxford, Mississippi.

Faulkner refused to live in big cities with lively literary circles and preferred his pre-Civil War farmhouse in the middle of an artistic no-man’s land. Yet, Faulkner not only remained productive but he also continued to write  groundbreaking fiction.

Faulkner did say, “A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station…”. But he worked hard nonetheless.

In order for Faulkner to stay ahead of the curve and keep pen to paper he relied on the following productivity tips:

1. Stop Looking at the Clock: In his novel Sound and the Fury, Faulkner writes, “Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” Staring at the clock doesn’t get your work done and it certainly doesn’t make time go by any faster. Worse, clock gazing kills creativity and imagination. If you stop looking at the clock and at your work you’ll do it faster and with more energy.

2. Be Stoic About Work: If you think about it, work is the only thing we can sustain for a long period of time. Faulkner said, “It’s a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can’t eat for eight hours; he can’t drink for eight hours; he can’t make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work. ” In this light work seems less like an obstacle and more like a gift, a challenge to be accepted. If work is all we can do for 8 hours straight–why don’t we do a damned good job?

3. Practice, Practice, Practice. Faulker believed that reading everything, from cheap magazines to highbrow novels, helped his craft. He said, “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!” This goes with any field. The more you know about your trade, the easier and faster and better you can work.

4. Don’t Stoop To Anyone’s Level: Hemingway once said of Faulkner, “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” Hemingway had a point. Faulkner’s prose is dense, complicated, and takes work to get through–but it’s also rewarding, rich, and large in scope. In reply, Faulkner said: “[Hemingway] has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

It’s a battle between literary styles, but it’s also one that informs Faulkner’s work habits. Faulkner never tried to find the lowest common denominator and the purest emotion. He wanted to keep things murky in order to keep the reader in suspense. He tried to challenge and test people and that made him work hard to search for new literary styles, interesting words, and literary references. You don’t have to work to make everyone happy, sometimes it’s better to work for yourself.

5. We’re Failures, So Fail Beautifully: If you think for a moment that you can achieve any amount of perfection in your work…you’re either delusional or an intern fresh out of college. Faulkner agrees: “All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible.” We have to admit our inability, but we have to make sure we try our hardest get close to perfection.

6. Save Time, Kill Your Darlings: Faulkner famously said, “Kill your darlings.” This violent command was actually a sound piece of advice for writers. Faulkner believed that sentences beloved by their authors were most likely long winded, extraneous, and were only kept alive out of blind love rather than real need. This philosophy drives all of Faulkner’s work and pressed him to write not only what he thinks is good, but what is good by itself. Anyone who wants to work harder and better should bear in mind that jobs aren’t done because they meet a base standard–they are only done after you have done a lot of ruthless killing.

Most of Faulkner’s work habits and beliefs are cynical. He thinks that you can’t help but work, the beloved work you do should be killed, and the work that you turn in is no where near perfection. But behind his negativity, Faulkner believes that people can achieve great things. After all, he also said, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore. “

Strike Up the Band

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Jazz superstar Wynton Marsalis’ is a virtuoso musician, educator, philanthropist, composer, author, producer, and jazz evangelist. His drive and talent have yielded nine Grammies, 30 honorary degrees, a Pulizer Prize, a Nation Medal of the Arts, and many other honors.

It’s tempting to think of these individual accolades as individual feats. But that’s not so.

It’s more appropriate to think about these kinds of accomplishments as the result of visionary leadership we normally ascribe to great politicians and Fortune 500 CEO’s.

Mr. Marsalis leads a troupe of creatives with a participatory, egalitarian, style. He is the unquestioned leader of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, but if you have ever seen them perfom he does little to stand out from the group — until you hear him play.

He’s not a mercurial, egomaniacal bandleader in the mold of Miles Davis or Charles Mingus. Marsalis empowers others to assert leadership on the bandstand. Note, this is quite distinct from the perjoritive ‘leading from the rear,’ which describes ‘leaders’ who follow the herd, and claim to be leading people where they want to go.

Clearly a secure leader, Marsalis encourages those he leads to take a star turn. The upside is that every member of the band, who is virtuosic in their own right, has the creative room to give their best effort to achieve individual and group success. This simply doesn’t happen in the vast majority of organizations.

This is different from other bands, jazz or otherwise that may tolerate outliers. As Mr. Marsalis has been know to say, those who do not measure up, on and off the bandstand, get “sent home” because tolerating outliers and poor performers is bad for group morale.

For the unititiated, leading creatives can seem a nightmare scenario akin to herding kittens. For Marsalis it is harmony, musical and otherwise, that has kept the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra the world’s premier jazz ensemble.

He obviously has the bona fides to command the respect and loyalty of the orchestra. He has created a safe space where everyone has room to be emotionally invested in the creative process. Also, he is confident enough to accept that his are not the only good ideas, but that good ideas are where you find them.

Photo Credit: Windelbo

How to Have a 3 Hour Work Day! Lessons from Eugene Schwartz

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(Above Picture: A Sample of Eugene Schwartz’s Work)

Eugene Schwartz, one of advertising’s greatest copywriters, only worked three hours a day for five days week.

Yet he called himself “the world’s hardest-working copywriter.”

How to Work for Three Hours a Day

Schwartz accomplished this feat by breaking up his day into small chunks. He’d set a timer for 33.33 minutes and force himself to write, read, and think without any coffee breaks, thumb-twiddling, or vacant staring. When his timer buzzed, he’d stop what he was doing, take a 10 minute break, and repeat the process until he finished his three-hour-day.

The routine paid dividends for Schwartz and he managed to write successful direct mail copy while authoring 10 books.

But Schwartz’s legacy has been hijacked by the people in his own field. If you Google Schwartz you get a slew of sites trying to sell his interviews, ideas, and writing strategies and they all employ the same sensationalist, ‘act-now’, language Schwartz helped pioneer. We don’t get to know Schwartz, we’re just told to spend $297 to learn how you to can become a “master copywriter.”

Still, it’s worth exploring Schwartz’s work ethic to see how we can learn from it. He was, after all, the best in his field.

Copywriting is a mix of writing, analysis, and design and Schwartz believed the only way to master all of these elements was to be prepared. He put it simply, “the person who is more prepared…makes the most money.”

Schwartz’s Work Strategy

Schwartz would get five weeks to write copy for a product. Here’s how he did it:

1. He’d take two weeks and get to know the product better than it’s creator. Schwartz routinely got manuscripts that were over 1,000 pages long explaining the product or service he was charged with selling. Schwartz would read through the manuscripts and underline any and all statements that made significant claims. He read every word and skipped the table of contents. He wanted to read every sentence without knowing what might come next. He said, “I’d get the guts, the heart, the meat, and the gist of [any] manuscript.”

2. He would type all of the important claims into one document and organize them for two weeks. Usually, this document would be around 60 pages. He’d take great care to separate what statements moved him the most.

3. Finally, Schwartz would begin writing copy–leaving the title and subtitles for last. He’d also begin his search for the right illustrations for the ad.

4. During the last few days Schwartz would edit and re-edit all of his copy to make sure it was perfect. He said, “I want to be more accurate and more knowledgeable than anyone I come up against.” Schwartz reasoned that if he took the extra time, he’d always do better than his younger, brighter, counterparts.

Conclusion

When you glance at Schwartz’s old direct mail ads, you don’t think they took five weeks of labor. They look crammed, busy, and ripped out of a cheap comic-book. But on closer inspection, you can tell each word is there for a reason and there aren’t any extraneous phrases sticking around to fill space. It’s all good, lean, prose that informs.

It’s hard to see the beauty of Schwartz’s work when we have websites with vibrant colors, video, and pictures–but if you look close enough you can see it. Schwartz’s ads were proven to consistently get people to buy and it was because he worked hard to understand what he was talking about, instead of splashing together catch-phrases and intriguing pictures.

And he did this all without working “impossible hours.”

Make Decisions Like a PI

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A Leadership Discussion With Skipp Porteous: President & Founder of Sherlock Investigations

Skipp Porteous is the founder and president of Sherlock Investigations–a New York City-based private investigating business that has been around since 1995. He’s also the author of the book Into the Blast: The True Story of D.B. Cooper that explores the events behind the infamous in-flight hijacking of Northwest Flight 305.

Porteous got his start at the Los Angeles’ Department of Water & Power’s Special Collections Unit. He was a ‘skip-tracer’ and his job was to find people who skipped out on their bills. After his tenure in LA he became an undercover investigator with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department in upstate New York. While he was there he specialized in narcotics investigations.

Since then Porteous has been involved with specialized investigative research and reporting as well as running his business.

I thought it would be interesting to talk to Porteous about leadership, management, and decision making because he not only operates a successful business, but he has to a lead a team through confidential and sometimes dangerous situations. Porteous generously set some time aside for some questions and answered them over email.

Leaders in any context can draw from Porteous’ experience and his methods of dealing with clients, younger team members, and uncertainty.

1. According to your website, you coordinate and direct four private investigators as well as work with outside consultants. Can you explain the process?

Our agenda is answering the questions (problems) that people ask. The clients tell us if we’ve answered their questions/problems correctly. We open case files of every client, ask specifically what they want, and find it for them.

2. In your field there exists a high degree of uncertainty and with that real danger. How do you deal with the prospect of day-in and day-out uncertainty?

We maintain low operating costs. We’ve been in business since 1995. That’s when we went on the Internet, too. People know we’re here. Also, I do bug sweeps for about 12 other private investigators. Bug sweeps are a technical skill, not an investigative one. So, I do about 2 or 3 bug sweeps a week.

3. The decision-making process of a private investigator must be quick. Sometimes, there’s no time to rub your chin and ponder alternatives. Although your private investigators are already trained and licensed, do you try to help them make best-case decisions by giving them defined instructions (ex: if X, do Y) or do you allow them to make ‘gut decisions’?

Almost no decision must be rushed. A plan must be followed. The clients who call at the last minute for a surveillance, or who want rush decisions are avoided. Sometimes we don’t take them as clients.

We work with intelligent people. As such, we allow them to make gut decisions.

4. Can you name a previous boss or role model that has shaped how you lead people and juggle different personalities? If so, can you explain how briefly.

Our heroes are Napoleon Hill, Abraham Lincoln, and Nelson Mandela. They’ve all worked successfully with people because they know themselves.

5. Have you ever made a mistake as a leader? If so, how did you learn from it and adapt?

Of course. I’ve learned to be very honest with myself and not make the same mistake twice.

6. How do you train the younger talent on your team? Do you work closely with rookies or do you let them learn for themselves?

We work very closely with them and teach them everything. Only when they’re ready in our opinion do we let them go on their own. Still, we keep an eye on them.

7. For people who want to know more about your business what book, movie, or website do you recommend they look in to?

I highly recommend The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigation by Steven Kerry Brown. Steve is a retired Special Agent with the FBI. He now has a private investigative agency in Florida.

How to Tell a Joke Like Mark Twain in 4 Steps

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Imagine you are at a small party and the topic of Olympic swimmers comes up. All of a sudden your heart flutters, your palms get wet, and your breath races. You have the perfect Olympic swimmer joke and you are confident that its delivery will make you look like a comic hero.

You clear your throat, everyone’s eyes fall on you, and without your usual restraint you start telling the joke. You wave your arms and raise your eyebrows as the group cautiously listens.

Finally, you let them have the punch line and you laugh nervously–but everyone is silent. The room grows hot, your face flushes, and someone says, “Anyways, like I was saying…”

Jokes have the power to make people laugh, but they also have the ability to make you look …slightly off.

That’s why business leaders have to be especially careful.

But, Mark Twain is here to help.

In his essay How to Tell a Story Mark Twain lays out four basic qualities that make jokes and stories funny.

They are as follows:

1. “String incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities.”

Twain believed that American humor was built on dry delivery. By adopting a distant, aloof, tone a person can get laughs as they “string incongruities and absurdities” together. The key element, for Twain, is the maintenance of the joke teller’s innocence.

2. “Slur… the point.”

Twain believed that detours in jokes are funny. It’s better to add details, tangents, and parenthetical observations to a joke rather than recite its summary. It builds tension and it disguises the joke’s final destination.

3.  “[Drop]… a studied remark apparently without knowing it, as if one were thinking aloud.”

Twain felt that a joke teller should remark to himself “dreamily” and “in a soliloquizing way” in order to get more laughs. Wistful, off-the-cuff, public dialogue with oneself adds humor because it maintains the joke-teller’s innocence while sounding natural an unscripted. Today’s popular stand-up comedians do this all the time. After making a statement, they’ll address themselves in a softer, more confused, tone which adds humor and makes their characters seem honest and human.

4. “The pause.”

Twain writes, “The pause is an exceedingly important feature in any kind of story…It is a dainty thing, and delicate, and also uncertain and treacherous; for it must be exactly the right length–no more and no less–or it fails of its purpose and makes trouble. If the pause is too short the impressive point is passed, and [and if too long] the audience have had time to divine that a surprise is intended–and then you can’t surprise them, of course.”

For Twain the pause is the most important element of a good joke, but it’s also the hardest to master. It takes practice and the ability to study the reactions of the people around you. Twain is most weary of the short pause since it disguises the whole point of a joke. That said, when you’re unsure of how long too pause—it’s probably safer to indulge in a longer one.

Mark Twain believed that the hardest story to tell was the humorous one. He writes, “The humorous story is strictly a work of art–a high and delicate art.”

I’d add that telling a humorous story is also a scary and dangerous art. But after learning Twain’s four ingredients to successful humor the task of telling a joke feels less daunting.

Three Creative & Productive Partnerships

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There are those that say: “I work well with others when they leave me alone.”

The following presentation isn’t for them.

Partnerships can drain, dilute, and deplete creativity and innovation. Ernest efforts to ‘work’ side-by-side, turn into long hours of hanging out, making jokes, and producing little.

Yet some partnerships can energize, enliven, and excite visions and agendas. Just look at the following three examples:

Three Creative & Productive Partnerships on Prezi