The best is enemy of the good.
The profoundest truths are paradoxical.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Why You Need to Have Fun to Be Successful
Excerpt: "We focus too much on the unimportant and non urgent items during our day because they’re easy. Instead, we should focus on the long-term important items even though they’re not urgent... Part of the challenge is that we’re not good at evaluating our own skills. We tend to overestimate our abilities – that’s why we all think we’re good drivers!"
Ron Culberson spent the first part of his professional career working in a large hospice organization as a clinical social worker, manager, and senior leader. As a speaker and humorist, Ron has delivered 1,000 presentations to more than 120,000 people in more than 700 associations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations. Ron is the 2012-2013 president of the National Speakers Association and is a nationally recognized expert on the benefits of humor and laughter. He is the author of Do It Well. Make It Fun.: The Key to Success in Life, Death, and Almost Everything in Between, as well as Is Your Glass Laugh Full?, My Kneecap Seems Too Loose, and is a contributing author for Humor Me and Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul II.
In this interview, Ron talks about his two step approach to success, how to make your job more enjoyable, how to get good at something, and more.
How did you come up with the two step approach in your book and what inspired it?
I did my graduate thesis in social work on the relationship between humor and depression. As a result, I began offering short presentations on the therapeutic benefits of humor. The program evolved over the years and in 1996, I began speaking and writing full time about the relationship between humor and several different topics such as communication, leadership, stress management, etc.
In time, however, I began to realize that humor or fun without excellence can actually work against you because the credibility is not there. When I looked at my own success in management and leadership, I saw that if I did a good job AND was fun/funny, I was actually more effective. So, I coined the phrase “do it well, make it fun” and now, I show people that this two-step concept can apply to just about anything. It boils down to looking at everything we do as a process and that each process has steps. If we look at the steps, there is great potential for improvement and fun.
What if you can’t get a job that you’re excited about? What do you do?
Once I started my business, I believed more than ever that there is a great job out there for all of us. That being said, it’s not always easy to find. My career evolved over a decade as I kept trying different types of jobs. While I liked each one, it wasn’t until I started speaking and writing that I felt I had found my calling. So, I think there are two approaches. One approach is to spend our lives looking for that calling. This may require taking risks, pursuing jobs that may not work out, and doing things we don’t particularly like to get to the things we like. I love to read about famous authors. Most of them had “real” jobs but wrote whenever they could – in the early morning, late at night, etc. So, their day job allowed them to pursue their passion.
Eventually, they were able to write full time (a rarity for sure). The other approach is to find a way to make a job you don’t love more enjoyable. As I mentioned earlier, a job is nothing more than a series of processes. If we take each process and analyze what we don’t like, there is potential to make it better. For instance, I recall a study that said that 85% of the people surveyed hated meetings. Well, if meetings are part of our jobs, what are we doing to make them less miserable? We have much more control over our day than we often realize. You can see this whenever you encounter someone in a job that most of us would not want and yet that person has a great attitude. They decided to make the job better.
How does someone get really good at something? Do you need to have natural ability?
I love the book by Geoff Colvin called “Talent is Overrated.” In that book, he suggests that talent is a combination of many factors. It’s our innate skills plus practice and the development of some intuitive abilities. One example he gives is wide receiver Jerry Rice. He said that Rice would practice the things that he needed for his particular position in addition to the normal team practices. As a result, he developed very specific skills and is considered by many to be one of the greatest players of all time.
Part of the challenge is that we’re not good at evaluating our own skills. We tend to overestimate our abilities – that’s why we all think we’re good drivers! But if we’re willing to gather data from our own work and get feedback from others, we can see where we need to improve. Once we understand what needs improvement, there are classes, mentors, coaches, and other resources to help us get better. We all have some natural abilities but that doesn’t mean we can’t also develop our skills. I am funny (not necessarily evidenced in my responses to your questions, however) but I also work at being funnier by studying other funny people, writing humor, getting feedback from others, etc. And just because someone doesn’t have natural abilities doesn’t mean they can’t get better at something.
How can someone make the most of their day and best manage their time?
This is an area I struggle with every day! While I work hard at being good at my job, I am also easily distracted. In fact, I’ve checked my email and searched for a song on the internet while I was writing these responses. So, I have to work at it. My suggestion is to determine when you work best (morning, afternoon) and then do the tough work at that time so you’re more focused. In addition, I think it’s important to manage emails, phone calls, and other distractions. Stephen Covey said we focus too much on the unimportant and non urgent items during our day because they’re easy. Instead, we should focus on the long-term important items even though they’re not urgent.
I’ve tried a number of techniques and the best system that worked for me was to set aside a certain amount of time each day for the important items on my to-do list and really focus on those items during that time. So, for instance, if I’m writing, I try not to answer email or the phone for that focused writing time. Or, I set aside an hour at the end of the day to wrap up all the administrative tasks for the day rather than doing them throughout the day when I should be doing something more important. There are many good books out there on time management and I would suggest reading few and then creating a system that works for your particular style.
What tips do you have for people who don’t have a job right now?
A number of my friends/colleagues have been through this recently and it can be very frustrating. At the same time, it can be a good time to reassess the future. Once, during my career, my job was eliminated. I was offered something completely different. I took it because it was a great match for my skills and I love it. But it also took me out of the field of social work which was my profession. Sometimes we get locked into thinking that we have to do the same thing or find the same kind of job instead of getting creative and looking for a different match for our skills.
I read a great story years ago about a snowshoe company that was struggling. Instead of closing their doors, they took their skill of bending wood and started making furniture. They saw a new opportunity and took advantage of it. The hard thing right now is that normal jobs are harder to come by. The good thing is there has probably never been a better time in our history when there are so many different ways to make a living. So, I believe the goal is to identify the best fit between gifts and skills and the job so that as you pursue new opportunities, you more likely to get something congruent with who you are. Then, the work becomes much more fulfilling.