Today, I spoke with Lisa Earle McLeod, who is a writer, speaker, and author specializing in humor business coaching and spirituality attainment. A lot of people are feeling depressed, anxious and under pressure right now, so I figured I would interview Lisa, who will cheer you right up. We discuss how humor can help you in the workplace, how to write for magazines (this is huge for personal branding/getting your name out there), and what you can do to fight the economy with a smile on your face.
Lisa, when trying to get a message across, how does humor either help or hurt your cause? In what situations can it make you relate to someone and when do you look not as serious/lose your audience?
Humor helps open people’s minds.
“Scientific studies show that when you’re laughing, your brain is literally more open, the little receptors in your brain are all lit up, and it’s easier to receive new information.”
Humor allows you to address touchy topics in front of a group, like change and performance problems. When you use yourself as the funny example is breaks down people’s resistance, they relate and they see that they share some of the counterproductive behaviors you;re laughing about. Humor allows you to be with your audience, rather than preaching at them or lecturing. Good humor is always based in the truth; it’s when you comment on the disconnect between what we pretend to be and what we really are.
Where humor poses a challenge is in the marketing. When people people see your funny side, they often think that’s all you are, a comedian. So it’s a challenge to marry subject matter expertise with humor on the front end, it’s not hard to do in a 45 minute keynote, but it’s harder to capture on your home page or one sheet. In my case, our marketing materials refer to me as an Inspirational Humorist. Humor is the delivery vehicle, however, the actual subject matter is sales, leadership, productivity, and all the self-created angst that holds people and organizations back (a subject I consistently find both fascinating and hilarious)
The other challenge with humor, to be quite frank, is that some people are just so uptight they refuse to laugh. Of course, these are usually the very people who cause the most problems in organizations, because they are hell-bent in making everyone else as miserable as they are.
They occupy what I call “The Cubicle of Darkness.” I’ve gotten to the point where I can spot them pretty early. I try to give them special attention, to bring them along, because I find that behind all their negativity they often have a good grasp of the facts. My job is to help them realize that understanding the facts doesn’t mean that you have to spend your days painting the doom and gloom picture for everyone else.
A lot of my readers are interested in how to get opportunities, such as writing articles for magazines. How does one go about discovering and pitching to get something like that?
The first thing you have to do is pretty simple, write the damn articles. You can’t pitch unless you have some example of your work. Sure, Suze Orman or John Grisham could call up some magazine editor and say I’d like write and article for you, here’s my idea, and bingo, bango, they’ve got a deal. But unless you’re a well-known expert or writer, you need some samples.
My best advice is write five articles, and get them posted everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. Put them on every web site you can find, sites are always looking for content, and yes, you do have to give it away in the beginning.
Then once you have yourself on the web, try pitching some magazine editors. But you have to do your homework first, READ THE MAGAZINE! I have several editor friends and they are always amazed at how many people pitch them without even understanding the voice of the magazine. There’s a big difference between newspapers, which are a collection of voices, and magazines, which usually have one an overarching voice or theme.
Any tips for people who are lost in life and are desperately looking to find themselves?
Welcome to the club. In today’s environment people are questioning everything. People who once thought they were secure and had a life plan are now finding themselves broke. Relationships that seemed stable are crumbling in the face of stress.
Personally, I think the problem is much bigger than a financial crisis. I think we’re in a spiritual crisis that has caused a financial crisis, meaning that we are having a crisis of spirit.
The secret of happiness is really simple, it’s two things : You need to be connected to the people around you, and to know that you’re part of something bigger than yourself.
That’s the only one way out of the angst, you’ve got to get present in the moment you’re in and you have find a higher purpose in your life, it doesn’t have to be huge, it can be a simple as being a good parent, but part of our soul knows that it can never be all about you.
When we feel lost it’s because we are experiencing between our souls and our actions.
Our souls are yearning for a larger purpose, but we continue to focus on things that don’t matter, or we fail to see the meaning of the daily things that do matter, and so the heartache in our souls continues to gnaw away at us, and it spills out to everyone else around us.
Is there such thing as a perfect life?
If you’re waiting for the day when you have no stress and problems, then no. We’re all waiting for that magic moment when we have no stress, no problems and no responsibilities, but the only time you’re going to have that is when you’re drooling in a nursing home, and your kids are feeding your pureed prunes.
You weren’t sent to earth to have the perfect house, or the prefect car, or the perfect body.
You were sent to earth to learn to love and to be loved, it’s quite simple, and your life circumstances are set up to help you do just that. Every challenge that you face is an opportunity to grow, as trite as this sounds, your whole purpose on this plan is to master the art of love. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the lesson.
Life can be perfect, in the sense that you can enjoy and be grateful for every moment. But only if you accept life or what it is, a series of ups and downs, some of which will be pleasurable, some of which will be painful. But your life will never look like a TV commercial, or a Hallmark card and the more you judge it by those externally set standards. the unhappier you will be.
What can someone do to have a cheerful holiday season, despite massive layoffs and economic uncertainties?
That’s a tough one, if you’re struggling for food and shelter, it’s probably hard to feel grateful. However, having said that, gratitude and being present in the moment is the only way to have a happy holiday. Yes, the economy is tanking, you may even be out of a job and facing foreclosure or bankruptcy, and yes, your circumstances may get worse before they get better. (Trust me, my husband and I own our own business, a sign business that is closely tied to the economy, so our future is just as uncertain as everyone else’s.) But you have this day; this is the only day of the year when your kids will be the age they are right now, this is the only time in your marriage when you and your spouse will have been married this long, and this is the only time when your parents and friends will ever be this young again.
So now matter how many problems you’re plagued with right now, there’s probably part of your life that is still very special, so that’s the part you need to hold onto, because you will never get this time back. So yes, look for work, try to get your business back on track, and do whatever you can during your waking hours to improve your situation, but don’t let your problems define you.
Because you’re not going to get a do-over on this stage of your life, EVER, and it would be a huge mistake to allow money worries to ruin it for you.
Happy Holidays 2008. May whatever version of faith fulfills you and whatever version of family sustains you be with this holiday season, and may you find grace, peace and joy in the year to come.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a syndicated columnist, speaker, the author of Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear and business coach who specializes in helping individuals and organizations turn angst and dysfunction into happiness and success (no group hugs or Prozac required).
A frequent keynote speaker Lisa has rocked the house everywhere from Apple Computer to the United Way. Lisa has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Christian Science Monitor. She is frequent media guest appearing on Good Morning America, Oprah & Friends and hundreds of other radio and TV shows.