Elizabethan poet and playwrite Francis Bacon once said, “Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, a sense of humor to compensate him for what he is.”
Last week I was at the Inc. Business Owner’s Council, which is an organization of mostly Inc. 5000 company owners who meet to solve, share, and dialogue business conundrums. I found myself laughing uproariously and often there. It got me thinking about humor and business ownership.
Free flowing silliness and humor is not the easiest thing to find as an entrepreneur. It is not necessarily prudent to share your uncensored business mind with your employees or your clients or the world at large. Yet the successful entrepreneurs I know are remarkably funny people.
It has become abundantly clear to me, after attending the Inc. Business Owner’s Council for over three years that most successful entrepreneurs are wickedly funny. The nice thing about a private, discrete organization of your peers is that you can truly let your hair down and be yourself in your full absurdity.
The role of leading a small business can be a lonely enterprise. (I previously blogged about this on March 15, 2011.) (Loneliness and Entrepreneurship) No one but another entrepreneur can fully understand the special frisson of fear and excitement each day holds for the high-risk small business striver. It is an infinitely not boring experience. Yet it is not something that you can truly share in its unfettered joy and horror even with your wife. To try to talk about your daily trials and tribulations would load an unnecessary burden on your intimates and really to what point? It’s cryptic to anyone who is not living in it. Each of our businesses is unique and peculiar, but the business ocean we swim in is common to all of us.
A place of real safety and discretion to talk openly with very smart, kick-ass successful fellow travelers is great. I find myself relaxing with an almost palpable sigh when I enter the rooms of the IBOC. And humor is frequently a predominant mode of sharing. A lot of the humor is mordant and dark, but it comes out of an ambient sense of relief at being in a safe harbor, a non-darwinian grotto of relief from an darwinian world. There is a glow of irenic happiness and of being with one’s own kind, one’s own little supportive ghetto.
This may not be a particularly profound thought, but participation in a safe, outside personal business community of peers is surely healthful to the business psyche. And the release of business anxiety and uncertainty through humor frees up the animal spirits and the playfulness from whence cometh innovation and ideas.
Psychologist and philosopher William James said, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is common sense, dancing.” Thank you, William.