Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to Think Like a Fool #52: Look for Laughs

OBSERVE: Look for Laughs
“The biggest laughs are based on the biggest disappointments and the biggest fears.”
—Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"Man alone suffers so excruciatingly in the world that he was compelled to invent laughter."
—Friedrich Nietzsche

"Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis."
—Jack Handey

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."
—Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Today, I installed a bike computer (a fancy name for a speedometer) on my bicycle. As with any task that involves following obscure instructions, I used many swear words (as taught to me by my father when he would assemble anything). And then I made a seemingly irreversible action, attaching the sensor in the wrong direction with plastic zip ties. Instead of giving up, I started to laugh. That was just enough to keep me going. I tried different ways to loosen the zip tie, but it was not designed to be loosened, and I kept laughing, because I knew I would not find a solution if I wallowed in despair. I finally tried inserting a thin sewing needle into the zip tie—and it worked! I can''t explain why I found this situation funny, but I would have given up if I hadn't.

Fools deal in humor. They smuggle it in by looking for laughs. The world is the set-up and they provide the punchline. It's all a big joke to them. Even if you don't see them laughing out loud, you can bet that they are laughing inside, where it counts.

Looking for the funny in anything and everything will, if nothing else, make you feel better, but it can also stimulate creative thinking. Psychologist Alice M. Isen did a study where 20% of participants were able to solve an assigned problem after watching a serious math film, but 75% were able to solve it after watching a comedy film.

Here's a series of steps you can try:

  1. Pick something and decide, that's funny.
  2. Act like you are stifling a laugh, trying not to crack up, with appropriate mouth and facial expressions. Hold your breath.
  3. Snicker. Chuckle. Laugh.
  4. Now, retroactively figure out what was funny about it...
  5. Or how that could be funny or funnier.
  6. Laugh again.

Cultivate your personal sense of humor. Observe what you makes you laugh, and the things that you do that make others laugh. Take time to remember things that have made you laugh in the past.

Think: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha?

Next: How to Think Like a Fool #53: Change Your Perspective

Previous "How to Think Like a Fool" Posts

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