The power of fun and humor

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

An Irish man sits at a bar; then a Chinese man sits beside him. The Chinese man takes a drink, and the Irish man asks, “Do you know Kung fu?” The Chinese man says, “Why because I’m Chinese? That’s just racist!” The Irish man says, “No, I ask because you’re drinking my beer.”

Some people might find this joke funny; others might find it offensive. My kids will always tell me it’s corny! You will never get the applause of your family members, or at least they will never show it to you. You know the phrase: “Only in his household is a joke never found funny...!”

I just gave a couple of presentations in Dubai recently, and it is my second time to be invited back, not only as an author but also as a speaker. During one of the sessions, I found myself in the company of an American Asian and a European, and we shared our thoughts on leadership and the like. I was so surprised that my “daddy jokes” (which my family members find incredibly corny) were such a big hit with the speakers and the audience. That experience made me reflect on two things:

1. Most people are too formal and too careful when it comes to humor. Perhaps they are nervous about their presentation or afraid to be taken lightly.

2. The use of humor breaks the ice. Throughout the session, we became BFFs (best friends forever), expressing the desire to get together again at some conferences, perhaps in New York, Amsterdam, or even in Dubai the next time.

Early in my career, I devoted much of my working life as a speaker, trainer and writer to nailing down the case that fun, curiosity, and play aren’t frivolous. With years of practice and application, these elements have undoubtedly contributed to a more enjoyable existence and enhanced success, resilience during tough times, avoidance of burnout, improved connections with others, and accelerated learning. Besides making life more enjoyable – not a tiny benefit – they also help us be more successful, weather difficult periods, avoid burnout, connect with others, and learn faster. Research shows that pursuing fun is a serious matter, even for the most pragmatic entrepreneurs.

According to research from the Association for Psychological Science, incorporating play into the workplace reduces fatigue, boredom, stress and burnout among individual workers. Additionally, play is positively linked to job satisfaction, a sense of competence and enhanced creativity. If you don’t believe me, ask the opinion of someone under the strict supervision of a stern and humorless boss or manager.

Humor, curiosity and fun foster trust and bonding within teams. Studies in psychology suggest that humor acts as a workout for our social skills, boosting emotional intelligence (EQ). A Norwegian study found that individuals with a good sense of humor tend to live an average of eight years longer. Renowned physicist Richard Feynman attested to the role of play in overcoming burnout and generating important ideas in his own life. Similarly, Albert Einstein advocated for the importance of fun in accelerating learning, a sentiment supported by contemporary behavioral science.

How can you practically integrate more fun into your life? Here are some ideas I hope you find useful:

1. Embrace playfulness: Approach life with a playful mindset. Look for opportunities to inject humor into everyday tasks and interactions. Find joy in the simple things and maintain a sense of curiosity and wonder.

2. Do not be too serious with yourself: Learn to laugh at yourself and your mistakes. Instead of being overly critical, adopt a more lighthearted attitude toward setbacks and challenges. Use self-deprecating humor to diffuse tension and foster resilience.

3. Use humor appropriately: Be mindful of the context and audience when using humor in professional settings. Avoid jokes that may be offensive or inappropriate. Instead, use humor to build rapport, ease tension and strengthen relationships with colleagues.

4. Learn from others: Observe how naturally funny and lighthearted people navigate social interactions. Pay attention to their use of humor and try to incorporate similar techniques into your communication style.

5. Practice gratitude: Cultivate gratitude for the small joys and blessings in life. Focus on the positive aspects of your work and personal life, and celebrate achievements and milestones with humor and enthusiasm.

6. Stay flexible: Be open to spontaneity and unpredictability. Embrace the unexpected and be willing to go with the flow. Let loose and have fun, even in structured or routine situations.

Finally, adopt a mindset of saying yes to intriguing opportunities. This playful approach to life cultivates daily happiness, resilience, kindness, intelligence, and success. With such a wide array of benefits, prioritizing fun is a delightful decision.

(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or other podcast streaming platforms.

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