- Let’s face it. It’s been a challenging year.
Covid has forced us to mask up, distance and sanitize our hands until they are raw.
We’ve had to isolate, bubble and some of us have had to learn so much new technology, we could probably talk Apollo 13 down.
We’ve faced more ZOOM meetings that we care to think about.
Thank goodness for the front line and essential workers who have done everything to keep the rest of us safe. Without them, we would be lost -or worse.
Compared to other global catastrophes – war, earthquakes, tsunamis- Covid asked the majority of us to do one thing: stay home. Watching Netflix is not a hardship. It has brought us gems like the latest season of the Crown, and of course, the Queen’s Gambit. If you haven’t seen The Queen’s Gambit, may I say it has renewed my passion for tranquillizers. I mean chess. I’m not good at chess. I have to take a nap after four moves, but this mini-series has inspired me to become a better player as well as, step up my wardrobe game!
Netflix was one of the ways that I got through Covid.
I also read a tremendous amount. Three books changed my perspective about the future (and it does look good). You might have read about them in my past blogs- Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Steven Pinker and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling.
Purpose also got me through Covid. A few years ago, I joined an amazing local organization here in Toronto called City Street Outreach. Spearheaded by husband and wife, Alex and Grace, City Street Outreach makes it their mission to feed and clothe Toronto’s homeless and most needy. Covid gave me more time to help them. I’m also grateful to family, friends, friends of friends and strangers who chipped in food, clothing, dry goods, time and tax-deductible donations to this worthy cause.
Finally, laughter got me through Covid and the US elections.
I shared virtual laughter with friends, family, clients and strangers. Experts say that humour and fear are closely linked in our brain. Many times, when we face the unknown, we laugh. Humour is not only a release but it’s also a way of making sense and making fun of the unknown. Covid still remains a huge unknown.
I have been blessed to have some very funny people around me. They make me laugh at times when the only other option is to pour a glass of red wine and cry endlessly into my Viggo Mortensen satin pillow.
I have been blessed to turn ‘the funny’ into a career and get a chance to share it with others; whether it be through stand-up comedy or motivational speaking. Now, I would like to share the gift of humour this holiday season. If you or someone you know needs to share their humour, feel free to check out my virtual comedy course entitled Stand Up In Ten Steps.
I leave no comic behind. Everyone is funny, even the seemingly most boring people because they usually have a dark side! Whether you are a comedian, a speaker, or someone who just wants to take a fun course, join me. While sharing a laugh, you’ll also get to help someone in need- 25% of proceeds will be donated to City Street Outreach.
Happy Holidays. Stay Safe.
I know…not exactly the most hilarious, side-splitting way to open a conversation or a comedy show, for that matter. Ah, remember the good old days when we used to do comedy shows???
Relax, Chicken Little. I bring some good news, even as I write this after a see-saw US election that still hasn’t been completely resolved. This good news comes in the form of two amazing books that coaxed me out from underneath my comforter and back into the real world.
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker, and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling. Both books are really uplifting and perfect for the challenging times that we are going through.
Maybe it’s all fake news?
I don’t think so. These books are based upon facts. Remember when we used to care about facts? Also, each book comes with a heavy hitter list of endorsements including two people you might have heard of.
‘A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.’
‘My new favorite book of all time.’
I’m no Barack Obama or Bill Gates, but my Goldendoodle Barnie thinks I’m pretty swell.
I give 10/10 to both books, too!
Okay, great, so Barnie loves you. What are some takeaways from Factfulness?
Facts! Lots of good facts!
-In the past 20 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half.
-60 percent of girls in low-income countries finish public school.
-80 percent of 1 year-olds in the world have been vaccinated against certain types of disease.
What are some takeaways from Enlightenment Now?
Again, lots of solid facts. For example, we are fighting world famine.
In 1973, just forty-seven years ago, one-third of the world was malnourished.
Today, because of advances in science and agriculture, that percentage is down to 13 percent and scientists are working to bring that statistic down even further.
Did you know that just 150 years ago, people starved to death in Sweden because winter was so long? In 1820, 90 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty, but trade encouraged countries to put differences aside.
Globally, there is more wealth and less inequality.
Globalization and technology are helping more countries get wealthier.
The wealthier a country is, the more likely it is to spend on social programs.
The wealthier a country is, the more unlikely it is to be influenced by militant groups.
What about climate change?
Both books state that developments in science and technology are pushing us to get our carbon dioxide emissions cut in half by 2050 and eliminated by 2100.
What about the current political climate – especially, you know where?
Political ‘glitches’ happen every now and then throughout history but hopefully, a growing number of young, educated, more tolerant voters will help make the world a better place in the future. It may not be happening fast enough for most of us who couldn’t peel ourselves away from the TV set on November 3rd, but the demographics are changing.
What about Covid?
Oh yeah, that. Well, researchers are working around the globe and the clock.
As a planet, we have faced many challenges in the past, including war, disease, natural disasters, and political upheavals, just to name a few. But as the facts have shown us over and over again (see my last blog Humankind by Rutger Bregman) the worst actually brings out the best in most humans. It’s better to bet with clan than against it. Sometimes, when things get really, really dark, we laugh with the clan. It helps to stop us from freezing in fear and it keeps us moving forward. We laugh, we learn, we overcome, we do better.
Until we discover a vaccine for Covid, continue practicing the three W’s:
-Wash your hands
-Watch your distance
-Shop at Walmart
-Wear a mask
And don’t forget to laugh. I had the pleasure of working with Monty Python’ John Cleese a few years back. The man is brilliant and obviously hysterical. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from him:
‘Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.’
Until next month,
Humankind by Rutger Bregman: Part Two
A few more examples to show you just how awesome humans really are.
Covid, the economy, the un-presidential debate, Tiger King’s Carole Baskin competing on Dancing With The Stars – there is certainly a lot of frightening news lately. Are things just getting worse?? Last month, I reviewed the book Humankind by Rutger Bregman. It gave me hope. Bregman provided examples throughout history that proved the awesomeness of humans in times of distress. If you’ve got six and a half months of Zoom, mask, and sanitizer burn-out, perhaps a few more of the author’s stories will help lift your spirits.
During grade school, you were probably asked to read William Golding’s Lord of The Flies. It is the story about a group of boys stranded on an island. Over a period of time, they end up turning on each other and supposedly displaying the worst of mankind.
Bregman actually found a real-life Lord of the Flies example in 1966. Six schoolboys from the island of Tonga stole a boat and became shipwrecked on a remote Pacific island for 15 months. Unlike, Lord of The Flies, they did not turn on each other. Instead, they built fires, shared food and they made a pact not to argue. After the rescue, they remained friends for years.
Bregman cites another example of camaraderie over conquest from the first world war, when English and German soldiers defied orders and stopped fighting on Christmas Day. From the trenches, the two sides drank, sang Christmas Carols and exchanged gifts instead of gunfire. Even after they were forced to resume battle, the rival soldiers sent each other secret messages regarding attacks and/or they fired above the enemy lines so as not to cause death or injury.
Contrary to what action movies seem to depict, taking a human life is not easy or natural. Bregman provides a statistic from the Battle of Waterloo. Less than one percent of the injuries inflicted during that battle were injuries from bayonets. This is phenomenal considering that bayonets were attached to tens of thousands of rifles. Bregman says that, even in the face of life-or-death situations, humans avoid violence whenever possible.
Yes, there has been and will continue to be dark glitches in history, but statistics show that it is not the norm to react like barbarians. Humans have stepped up and risked their lives to prove over and over again that no, it is not survival of the fittest. In many cases and as Bregman states, it is survival of the friendliest. It is part of our caveman brain and instinct to want to be part of the clan, not against it.
So, take a deep breath, take the bone out of your hair and smile. If history provides any indication, we are still pretty darn amazing as a race. The majority of us will summon our better sides to get through these challenging pages of the calendar.
Until next time,
Admit it. How many of you got dragged into the virtual presentation world, kicking and screaming? How many of you had nightmares of sweat dripping down your forehead one minute before the green light came on in front of a virtual roomful of clients? How many of you felt like Dave from Space Odyssey 2001?
“HAL, open the pod bay doors!!”
“I’m sorry Judy, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“All right, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.”
“Without your space helmet, Judy, you’re going to find that rather difficult.”
Okay, so maybe this was my imagination going overboard.
For the past few years, I have been encouraged by friends and clients to do more video presentations. As a comedian and motivational speaker, I have always enjoyed live presentations and conferences.
In the past, I had been speaking and coaching virtually with some of my clients but then COVID hit. The game changed overnight. There wasn’t an option to do conferences or comedy shows.
So, like many, I was forced to make a choice. Wait it out or go all-in virtually.
I have to admit, the idea of speaking into a green light for an hour was a bit daunting. It was so different. However, I took a lot of inspiration from my two sisters. One is a speech-language pathologist and the other is an elementary school teacher. I was impressed with how they both learned the new technology necessary for their work and adapted, almost overnight. They had never done virtual presentations before. They were motivated by their young students and clients who really needed them to step up.
I don’t think people give themselves enough credit for making such a huge shift in such a relatively short time. They beat themselves up for not ‘getting it’. Luckily, both of my sisters were able to lean on their teenagers to help them navigate the new information asteroid fields. I’m sure there were some eye-rolling and gum-smacking along the way, but those little astronauts stepped up too.
I was proud of my nieces and nephews. All those years spent on Snapchat and Tik Tok (or Tic Tac, as my dad calls it) finally paid off.
So, if my sisters could step up for those that virtually needed them, then so could I.
During my first mission right after COVID, I talked to the green light for an hour and then I said goodbye. The green light went out.
It was just me alone in my pod.
I had no idea how the presentation went over.
It was only afterward when I received some nice comments from the organizers and participants via email and LinkedIn, that I knew that the presentation was a hit. Phew.
My next few presentations were via WebEx. Although WebEx isn’t as user friendly as Zoom, it is apparently more secure and as a result, a common choice for various businesses. Also, if it was good enough for guests on CNN then heck, I thought, it should be good enough for me. I may not be as political or incendiary as some of those talking heads but I bet I could still make Don Lemon laugh.
Since then, the platforms have changed but the work itself remains the same. Whether you are talking into a green light or a roomful of people, be yourself, tell your story, don’t be a HAL, be human and make sure you don’t have any space food on your face.
We’re all on the same ship together. It’s a new world but let’s travel safely.
Don’t get rattled. As HAL might suggest, “Look, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”
It will be different but we’ll be fine.
Until next time, Laugh Long and Prosper.
Recently, I read a terrific book – Humankind by Rutger Bregman.
Bregman asked, ‘What did Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt have in common?’
They all read a book called The Psychology of the Masses by French author Gustave Le Bon. Le Bon’s main premise is that when all hell breaks loose, humans turn into barbarians. We turn on each other. Chaos is created and as a result, an enemy’s attack is made easier. The flames of fear are good for the oppressor.
Though this ‘survival- of- the- fittest’ mentality may be the case for a small percentage of people, Bregman gives numerous examples throughout history that prove the contrary. His stories and statistics prove that overall, the kids are alright – humans are pretty darn amazing.
Bregman provides the example of the bombing of England during the second World War.
In 1940, Hitler sent 348 Luftwaffe bombers to London. He probably hoped panic and chaos would make the English more vulnerable and easier to overthrow. British authorities worried as well. In anticipation of the panic that war with Germany would create, British authorities built emergency psychiatric wards throughout the country.
Yes, as expected, the bombings were horrific. London alone suffered 40,000 casualties.
However, the psychiatric wards for the most part remained empty.
Churchill encouraged the Brits to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. The English tried to live their lives as normally as possible. The trains continued to run. People shopped. Kids played.
In fact, some people reported feeling psychologically better off than before the bombings started. Suicide rates were down and alcohol abuse decreased.
Why this ‘strange’ reaction in the face of death and fear? As it turned out, average civilians helped each other like they never had before. Hitler’s bombs had the opposite effect – they brought people closer together. Chaos was replaced with camaraderie. Similarly, Bregman describes how so many ‘hardened’ New Yorkers risked their lives to save strangers during that horrific morning of Sept 11th, 2001.
Throughout the ages, contrary to what warlords, dictators and autocrats have and continue to hope for, the worst actually brings out the best in most of us. It is instinctive to choose good. It is safer to be with the clan than against it.
If you need further proof, consider these statistics. According to 700 separate field studies at The Disaster Research Centre in Delaware, the number of murders, thefts and rapes actually decrease in the wake of catastrophe.
So why do we always think the sky is falling?
Fear sells. Left- and right-wing media giants are both guilty.
Bad news is big business.
So, what should we do as we face our recent global ‘attack‘, Covid 19?
Perhaps we should continue to exercise caution, listen to the scientists and, every now and then (and trust me, I’m guilty of this too), turn off CNN. Bye- bye Anderson Cooper.
Keep Calm and Carry On and hey, it doesn’t hurt to crack a smile every now and then.
Until next time, laugh long and prosper.