Wayne Gretzky -What Hockey and Humour Have in Common

Wayne Gretzky -What Hockey and Humour Have in Common

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

This past year, I signed up for the online learning course Masterclass.

Aaron Sorkin, Shondra Rhimes, Steve Martin, RuPaul, James Patterson, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, Malcolm Gladwell, Wolfgang Puck, Jon-Kabat Zin and Chris Hadfield were just some of the presenters who filled my head with hundreds of hours of information, ideas and inspiration.

Then there was Wayne Gretzky.

I knew Wayne was The Great One. Please, I’m Canadian.

Hockey is part of our heritage.

I was surprised by Wayne’s presentation because yes, he did speak about hockey but his takeaways could apply to anybody. Even a comedian!

Wayne talked about the power of routine, practice, anticipation, goal setting, having a mentor, having various outside interests and hobbies, keeping your head in the game and perhaps, most importantly, the power of play. Creativity. The importance of not getting locked into structure and a system too early. The need for young players (and comedians) to just play, have fun and have the freedom to discover their own unique skill set.

It was so obvious throughout Wayne’s Masterclass how much of an influence Walter, his dad, had over him.

Walter was a decent hockey player when he was younger, and Wayne’s mother was athletic. Wayne and his brothers and sister all played sports.

Wayne said that his dad built a hockey rink every year in the backyard of their Brantford, Ontario home. The neighbors wanted to know why Walter’s backyard was so green every summer. I guess they thought he was using a secret pesticide or formula. Wayne said it was probably from all the ice that melted in the spring!

Wayne said he loved skating on that ice every winter, from sunup to sundown and well into the dark. His passion and discipline helped him develop the skills that made him stand out in the sport at a very early age.

He worked on his accuracy by firing hockey pucks at a picnic table lying on its side with circled targets. Wayne said he sharpened his shot as a kid quickly because he hated walking in the snow and getting his feet wet while retrieving the pucks from the neighbor’s lawn.

Wayne’s skills developed quickly so he always ended up playing with older kids.

Walter told him that because he was smaller than his older rivals, Wayne would have to

to use his brain and skate with his ‘head up’ to anticipate the play, as well as to avoid injury.

This is where Walter came up with a unique exercise for Wayne.

As Wayne watched Hockey Night in Canada, Walter made him get a piece of paper and draw a rectangle. That rectangle represented the rink that Wayne was watching on TV. Walter told Wayne to watch where the puck was going and draw it on the paper without looking down. Afterwards, when Wayne looked down at the paper, he was able to see the patterns that the puck made during the game. He saw the areas that the puck travelled to most of the time. This later helped him develop a way to capitalize on those areas and helped him to score and set up many goals in the future.

Wayne is famous for the quote, “I skate to where to puck is going to be. Not where it has been.”

He followed the puck, not the players. He learned to anticipate the next play. Those hours and hours in front of the TV set following the path of the puck gave Wayne new ideas for scoring.

The thing that hockey and humour have in common.

Wayne says he is not a psychologist but so many times he sees coaches putting kids into a hockey ‘system’ too quickly. In his opinion, there is too much emphasis on structure and not enough emphasis on play.  He says this approach doesn’t allow young players to learn or think for themselves and thus develop their own style and creativity.

Comedy is similar. I see so many young comedians wanting to replicate somebody else’s writing style, cadence or physical mannerisms. In the worst cases, they actually steal another comedian’s material and do their jokes on stage! Of course, this is a major industry taboo.

I always say to my students: watch, study, and always write but, most of all, don’t forget to HAVE FUN. Play. Discover who you are on stage. Take the time to develop your own point of view.

This is comedy, after all. Don’t be so serious!

No matter who we are or where we come from, when we step out of our comfort zones and allow ourselves to have fun, we have a greater chance of discovering something new and wonderful.

You might not be the next Great One but you might be pretty good –The Pretty Good One! At the very least, you won’t know until you try.

As Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”

Until next time, play, have fun and don’t forget to laugh long and prosper.

 

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

Feel free to take a listen!

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Wayne Gretsky – Hockey and Humour

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Laughter and Leadership

Laughter and Leadership

What Does Laughter Have to Do with Great Leadership?

From Lincoln to Gandhi, Einstein to Nancy Pelosi, and Winston Churchill to Barack Obama, great leaders share a trait that is often overlooked – a sense of humour. 

I recently interviewed Dr. Teruni Lamberg  on my podcast Laugh Long and Prosper. Dr. Lamberg is an associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Nevada.  She holds a doctorate in mathematics education from Arizona State University and a Post Doctorate from Vanderbilt University. 

Dr. Lamberg has been a college professor for over 17 years. 

Dr. Lamberg discovered that humour separates superior leaders from lackluster and/or boring ones! A funny bone! A haha when things are not so funny.  A prolific author and speaker, and a leading learning expert, Dr. Teruni Lamberg extensively researched this topic for her seminars and book Leaders Who Lead Successfully. She shares her innovating ideas on leading, motivating, and aligning project teams.  

Dr. Lamberg and I talked about humour and leadership.  Here are some excerpts from that interview:

Judy: Time and time again, humour has been an overlooked common denominator when looking at great leaders throughout history.  Thank you for coming on the show.

Dr. Lamberg:  I’m glad to be here. It’s nice to know that you are a humourist as well. 

Judy: I knew the power of humour a long time ago. I see it in individuals, comedy clubs and workplaces, but I was really intrigued by your research that confirmed how necessary humour is when it comes to leadership. Some of the examples that you gave were incredible. Can you share them with our listeners?

Dr. Lamberg:  It actually happened accidently. I was working on a state wide project with teachers. One day it dawned on me as we were laughing together and bantering back and forth. I remember turning to my colleague and saying, “We know that we are productive when we laugh and when there is playful banter. How do we quantify this?”

I think one of the things with humour is that it puts people at ease. But it has to be natural.

I’ve been to places where people try to be funny but they’re not. When humour comes naturally, it gets people to interact. For example, including humour in a PowerPoint when starting the day.  My colleagues played a joke on me. Apparently, I can’t park. I thought I was good at driving (laugh).  But they ended up doing a documentary about my parking. Everybody was laughing. With that, we were then able to get into more complex things. Subtly, we were able to join together. When you create humour, you are also creating relationships and a level of comfort. You can’t laugh if you’re not comfortable. 

What I found in my leadership research is that an innovative leader – a leader who motivates people – knows how to make people feel comfortable. They know how to create an environment where people feel welcomed to sit at the table and discuss their ideas. 

Judy: When you are dealing with really complex issues, you need people to sit back, relax and take a deep breath. Laughter has that effect. 

Dr. Lamberg: Yes, I actually interviewed a lot of famous researchers. How do ordinary people do extraordinary things in their work with their teams? Their teams actually changed things nationally and internationally in terms of research. One researcher from UCLA mentioned that they would have a retreat with all the graduating students and faculty members and they would cook together. As they cooked together, they were laughing and joking. As this was taking place, they were also brainstorming because they were relaxed. They were creating innovative connections. I was wondering how to generate innovative ideas and how do you do that in teams?

Judy: Indeed. Not only is laughter bonding but it’s contagious and it helps us cut through so many social barriers when we laugh with someone. 

Dr. Lamberg: Yes, if you walk into a room and nobody is laughing and it looks really tense, chances are you’re going to have a harder time getting things done. Of course, there are times when you have to focus. 

Humour is generated when there are relationships between people. You’re not going to tease somebody or crack a joke if you don’t feel comfortable with that person. 

Whether you’re running a meeting or putting a team together, you really should think about what it takes to create an environment that makes people feel comfortable. 

I notice, Judy, that you do a lot of work with mindfulness. Like mindfulness, humour helps you catch your breath. Can you tell me a little bit about mindfulness? I think it’s interesting to connect humour with that. 

Judy: Well, what I always say to my audiences is, “When we laugh, we relax. When we relax, we learn.”

I teach stand-up comedy. I notice that a lot of new students panic when they first start the course. Their ‘fight or flight’ response naturally forces their brain to go into ‘survival mode’ or, in other words, their left logical brain. I need them to get to their right-brain, bright, creative side to make connections between various random subjects and then find the funny. So, I found that by doing improv along with mindfulness and meditation exercises, those students were more relaxed afterwards and thus, more open to create. 

Dr. Lamberg, I noticed in your leadership studies that humour came up over and over again. 

It doesn’t surprise me that whether it’s on the stage or in the boardroom, humour is a wonderful leadership tool that quite frankly, I don’t think we use enough.

Dr. Lamberg: You made a really interesting point. In comedy, you try to make connections between different ideas. That’s really what creativity is all about- the ability to see patterns and make connections. Sometimes those connections happen when you are in a state of flow and your brain is relaxed. It allows you to think outside the box. As opposed to when you are trying to force yourself to think. 

Also, when you have a group of people together, not everybody feels the same level of power.  

You’re a professor and someone else thinks, well I have don’t have a PhD so I don’t have something to say. But I think it’s about just getting people comfortable and developing that relationship. I think that humour allows everyone to put themselves on a similar level where they can share their stories. A sense of humour allows us to be more human. 

Judy: It’s funny that you talk about taking away those levels of power. 

On one of my previous podcasts, I was interviewing a Danish friend about a tradition in Denmark called hygge. Part of hygge (which roughly translates to the word ‘cosiness’) is a sense of community. The average Dane belongs to three associations. Those gatherings allow people of various occupations, ages, gender, experience to play a game and/or engage on the same level. People discover what they have in common.  As a result, they get an opportunity to think freely and collaborate. 

Dr. Lamberg: Everybody has something of value to contribute. Everybody in the room has life experiences, work experiences or just different perspectives. They are able to think outside the box because they are not clouded by some particular lens. 

My research showed that the leaders who were really successful talked about being able to take in different voices and opinions. Sometimes, during informal gatherings (like the cooking class or a coffee break), someone might suddenly say, ‘Oh that’s a good idea. I need to go back and write that down’. 

Humour creates relationships and creates the environment to be comfortable. If you’re comfortable, then you are relaxed and you have a greater chance for deeper thinking and making connections between ideas. 

Judy: I was doing a virtual presentation for a group last month and they were giving out leadership awards. The awards weren’t based on seniority or years served but they were strictly based on good ideas. If you brought a good idea to the table (e.g., Frank from IT showed us a neat little trick on our computers to save time) then Frank got an award. 

Good ideas are good ideas no matter who they come from. 

Dr. Lamberg: Humour comes with building a community – an identity for a company. It makes people feel like they are part of the group. Humour is the glue that holds people together. 

Judy: Humour is part of our caveman brain. We want to belong to the clan. Humour is a way of showing our open hand. “Look, I don’t have any weapons. I’m making a joke about myself. I’m showing my vulnerability. I’m not going to hurt you. Let’s work together.” 

I’ve always believed that humour is a sign of leadership. 

When a problem or a crisis arises, everybody else in the group freaks out but it’s the true leader who can find hope, happiness or laughter to get their team through those dark times. They keep moving forward. 

Dr. Lamberg: Think of the flip side to that. At the end of a long hard day, petty things become more important. Humour humanizes the situation.

We need humour, especially now. It brings joy no matter what you’re doing. 

Judy: Dr. Lamberg, before I let you go, what were some of the other qualities of good leadership that you found in your studies?

Dr. Lamberg: Passion, aligning actions with higher purpose (in other words, walking the talk), integrity, and the ability to motivate others or to communicate an idea by painting a picture or using humour. 

I think in order to use humour, you really have to observe what is going on in the room. In fact, the times that I laugh the most are when someone notices the humour in everyday things. I think that is much harder to pull off. 

Judy: I love observational humour. It’s like problem solving. It’s looking at the same situation as everybody else and finding the solution – finding the connection between A and B with a punchline.  Dr. Lamberg, thank you for joining me. It’s been my absolute pleasure.

Dr. Lamberg: Thank you, Judy. 

Judy: If you would like to reach Dr. Lamberg, here is her contact info.

Email: Terunil@unr.edu 

Website: Optimized Learning 

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Laugh Long and Prosper is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point. On Mondays, I host the podcast Just Another Mindful Monday. The full podcast interview with Dr. Lamberg aired Monday April 5th 2021 and is available here.  

Until next time folks,

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig

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Create! Creating Comedy with Comedian Martha Chaves

I had the privilege of interviewing fellow comedian, Martha Chaves. Martha and I talk about the ‘creative process’ and what it takes to write the ‘funny’.
Martha Chaves is a veteran of multiple Montreal’s Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, and of all the other major comedy festivals in Canada, like the Winnipeg, Halifax, Edmonton, and Vancouver Comedy Festivals. She has also performed in Boston and New York Comedy Festivals, and in Colombia’s Festival Del Humour.
Martha’s infectious, candid style, and her natural ability to relate to any audience has made her a very popular headliner comedian at clubs, colleges, festivals, fundraisers, and corporate functions. Martha holds her audiences in a hypnotic spell of familiarity and they think they are her good friends, willing and happy coconspirators of all her adventures.
Her versatility has granted her to do shows all over the world and to entertain a wide range of audiences. For example, she performed for the Canadian troops in Alert, Egypt, Israel, and Afghanistan and also for a delegation of women led by Nobel Peace Prize recipients in Mexico and Central America. In 2015, she performed at the pre-opening ceremonies of the Toronto Pan Am Games, at the Rogers Centre in front of 45.000 people.
Her Stand-Up TV credits include her two national comedy specials: COMICS! On the CBC, and There’s Something about Martha on CTV and The COMEDY NETWORK; plus her multiple TV appearances in Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival and many others. You often hear Martha on Laugh Out Loud on CBC Radio and The Debaters, also on CBC radio.
In her film and TV career she has worked with Whoopi Goldberg (Strong Medicine), Chris Rock, (Down To Earth) and even had scenes with Denzel Washington in “John Q”.
Her One-Woman show, “In Times of Trouble”, was the opening show of Aluna Theatre’s CAMINOS Festival in November 2015.
Martha performs mostly in English, but also in Spanish, French, and Italian.
Martha can be reached at www.MarthaChaves.com
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