Maybe we should laugh some more?

Heard last month in the halls of Silicon Valley Bank.

Knock Knock

Who’s there?


Cannelloni who?

Cannelloni some money until next week?

A long time ago I was working in Hollywood as a soap opera writer and I had to write funny. Like beauty, comedy tends to be in the eye of the beholder, but in today’s business world, “the cost of being humorless is no joke,” says journalist Joel Stein, writing about the new book “Humor, Seriously” by Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker and Stanford professor Naomi Bagdonas.

Stein notes that in a study of 50,000 Norwegians, women with a strong sense of humor had a 73 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. Also, Norwegians with a sense of humor lived an average of eight years longer. (Great, but you have to live in Norway.)

Aaker and Bagdonas note in their book that creating laughter is not easy. It is not a natural inborn skill. “Humor is an unexpected surprise, sometimes called the Discrepancy Resolution Theory.” (Try explaining this at an open mic comedy night).

Look, I can’t define funny, but I know it when I hear it. My suggestion is that maybe we should laugh a little more. There seems to be a conflict between being politically correct and being funny. Much humor deals with a disconnect between what is said and what we think but would never admit.

Mel Brooks, commenting on the current computer culture, said that his classic film “Blazing Saddles” could never be made today. I don’t suppose his film ranks next to Citizen Kane, but how many times can you laugh at Rosebud?

What I can tell you is that a good joke is a beautiful thing, whether it’s at your expense or someone else’s (be careful here, proceed with caution). It’s a surgical skill to find the right balance, but if we all laughed a little more, we’d probably live a little longer.

Enough dancing on the computer pin head. Now to what you came for, some serious, valuable, entrepreneurial advice. (Who am I kidding).

So you want to be a high-achieving CEO? Business coach Bruce Eckfeldt has some thoughts. It asks, “What do you really enjoy doing that keeps you engaged and challenges you?” The bottom line is not to keep doing things that bore you and that you’re probably not very good at.

Eckfeldt wants us to find those things “that you lose track of time,” where you’re deeply engrossed and might even skip a meal or two to keep working on that problem. Certain different skills are required in the entrepreneurial circus. Don’t get confused. If you’re not an A player in a certain area, get someone who is. Masking a skill is a surefire recipe for failure. (eg the high wire or juggling chainsaws).

What are you really good at? And for this, do not engage in self-assessment, which can border on delusion. Ask someone else. The world will tell you what you are good at. The outer set of eyes is very important. The mirror is not a reliable gauge of your true talent. “It’s always more about what others think than just what you think,” Eckfeldt writes.

Eckfeldt asks us to think, “What can’t anyone else do?” This question can put you in deep therapy for a decade, and of course, it also runs into imposter syndrome. Better to identify a skill you do better than most where you can increase strength.

There’s nothing I do better than “anyone else” — but I have a Ph.D. in cheerleading. (I have custom pom poms). I know my limitations and in my current small company I delegate the important things to the rest of the team.

But here’s the catch. This assumes you have a great team, and finding, assembling and motivating a great team is the key to being able to focus on what you do best – what no one else can do.

Rule #754: You’re open, hit.

Senturia is a serial entrepreneur who invests in early-stage technology companies. Please send ideas to Neil at [email protected].

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