We all take ourselves a little too seriously, particularly during the week when our noses are to the grindstone in whatever professional endeavors on which we choose to embark.
Earlier this week, I was invited to a gathering of “intellectual leaders” and was placed into a setting that takes itself pretty seriously. Prestigious. Important. Exclusive. I signed up. I arrived. I deflated.
I was sick of faking it, tired of speaking for speaking sake, and tired of conjuring intellectual passion for a topic on demand. So, I opted out. I was there in body, but not spirit. I sat in the back, I didn’t speak, and I intentionally passed the microphone — the one I would normally grip onto — to others in the room.
My first instinct was to be disappointed in myself. Why couldn’t I “show up” for this? Later on that week, as I was speaking to friends and colleagues about the experience they all responded with different versions of the same question: “What’s really important to you?” “What felt inauthentic about that forum?”, “Why didn’t you feel like yourself?”
It’s hard for me to feel like myself in settings where the pretense is high, and where I can’t inject humor and the child-like do-whatever-you-want-to-make-yourself-completely-JOYFUL feeling. Most professional settings (that I’ve seen anyway…) come with some level of affectation that we all contribute to in order to ensure others that we are comptent, smart, on our game. But it can stifle people bringing their true self and their honest thoughts to the table, which is bad for ourselves, our colleagues and our work.
I bumped into an article a few days later that spoke to this same challenge, and the ways that businesses are starting to think about bringing in humor and comedy as a tool to make people more effective and purposeful in their work. The entire article is worth a read but in essence it says:
“By using humor, we allow great ideas to come from anywhere. Humor breaks down barriers, and people end up having really creative ideas.”
As I thought about this over the past week, it helped reground me in how important it is to me to create professional situations that make people feel as comfortable as possible — that channel the humor and the child-like curiosity that we all have. The humor that allows us to poke fun at the stiff suits we’re all wearing for unknown reasons. The curiousity that allows us to ask questions, whether or not we think we should already know the answers. The excitement for the world that allows us to truly enjoy it instead of growing tired of it, and that enables us to actually get something done together.