They The People

Lately, I catch myself avoiding the news. It’s not just that it all seems bad; it’s that I feel so helpless in the face of it. I realize that I can’t do anything about violence everywhere; the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer; recession, unemployment, and so on. Oh, I write my Congresswoman but she responds with platitudes and blames the administration for everything.

For a person who likes to fix things it’s very frustrating. Then I remember a lecture I gave many years ago. It was while I was teaching at Louisiana State University – Shreveport. The student government sponsored a “Last Lecture” series, in which they asked various faculty to deliver the lecture they would deliver if they know it was their last. I was flattered to deliver the first “Last Lecturer.”

I called it “They The People,” and began by referring to the United States Constitution and the powerful and dramatic beginning to the Preamble: “WE THE PEOPLE.” I talked about how this was the first time in history that the people had created a government, not had one imposed on them. I went on about how that spirit of “can do” had tamed the wilderness, built the Panama Canal and rescued Europe form the threat of Nazism.

I referred to “The Little Engine That Could,” a children’s book featuring the phrase, “I think I can, I think I can,” as the little engine pulled the train over the mountain.

But, I commented, it seems that today in place of “I think I can.” I hear more and more, “Why don’t they?” Why don’t they do something about the economy? Why don’t they do something about war over seas? Why don’t they do something about poverty and hunger?

And I confess that I am also guilty of this litany.


Then I realize that while I may not be able to solve the problems of violence, injustice, and poverty in the world, I can do something about it in my world. I live in a world that is bounded by what I can see at any moment. I call it “my sphere of influence,” and in this smaller world I do have power. I can do something about the hungry man on the corner. I can do justice and teach my children to do justice, I can be peaceful and a peacemaker. I can spread joy and happiness to those I come into contact with.

If we all did that, perhaps the world’s problems could be solved as well.


Play! Play! and More Play!

Today was a red-letter day for me. Weighed in on the Wii Fit Plus at 233! This is the fittest I have been since I can’t remember when. My secret? Well of course it means eating less, but for me that has simply been smaller helpings, healthy snacks and avoiding sugared drinks. But the key is exercise, and the key to exercise, for me at least, is play! Tell me to jog in place for 10 minutes. After 3, I’m done. But put me on an imaginary bicycle and send me around an imaginary island looking for flags, and I’m in! Tell me to exercise my upper body for three minutes and I’m not going to do it, but put me on my Wii for Bird’s Eye Bull’s Eye, and I’ll do it over and over.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not an advertisement for Wii. It just happens that Wii is my exercise of choice, given my situation. In the past, I have lost weight playing racquet ball and other games. The point is, play makes it easier to do what you need to do. Exercise as fun is much more productive than exercise as a chore. (I realize this is not true for everyone. I know several people who do exercise for the sake of exercise, and I think that is great. It’s just that for me play makes it easier.)

Not long ago, I discussed Matt Weinstein’s book, Work Like Your Dog. In the book, Matt makes the point that dogs don’t distinguish work from play and suggests ways to make your work fun.

Then sometimes, play is just play. Last Saturday my son and daughter-in-law hosted their annual “Sci-Fi-Fish-Fry,” where they invited their friends to come and celebrate science fiction. Many, including most of the children came in costume.

Of course at Laugh2Learn, we believe that play is an important component of learning. But whatever its purpose, everyone needs to play!

Failure? Why not?

Hmmm. Judging from the views of this space, the puns are not packing them in!

Wonder if they are driving them away.

 So maybe the pun of the day will go into the list of failed ideas I am celebrating. However, if you want them, let me know. I’m nowhere near out of them.  I’m also having second thoughts about a daily blog post. Kim DeYoung, who sends me free advice about blogging, suggests three posts a week. Perhaps quality over quantity is best.
Well, I’m fairly new at this, so I would appreciate feed back from either of my regular readers. (You know who you are.)

Note that I said I’m celebrating my failures. At laugh2learn training sessions we almost always take time to celebrate failure. (I know I have written about this before, but it is so important it bears repeating.) If you Google “failure quotes,” you will find dozens of them, but my favorite is from Michael Jordan:

 I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

It’s somewhat ironic that I encourage everyone to accept and celebrate failure. Once in a conversation with my friend and colleague Andrea Engstrom, I was ranting on about how acceptance and celebration of failure is such a big part of improv based training, and how I always include a “celebrate failure” exercise in my training sessions. Not too much deeper into the conversation, I confessed that I wasn’t a very good salesman because I had a tremendous fear of rejection. Andrea just looked at me.

“Oh,” I said in a very small voice. “Fear of rejection is a lot like fear of failure, isn’t it?”

The next week I called on three potential clients, and two of them scheduled training sessions!

Sometimes you just have to practice what you preach!


OK, today we are featuring one line puns, so I’m providing two for the price of one. (No real bargain since they are free!)

What do you get if you drop a piano down a mine shaft? A flat minor.

What do you get if you drop a piano on the officer’s club? A flat major.

Well either yesterday’s LEAP Summit was a big success or the participants are a bunch of liars.  I know that if they had half as much fun as I did, they really enjoyed themselves. We began as I always do with some improv based warmup games. As usual one of the most popular games was the “celebrate failure’ game where we stand in a circle, take turns announcing failures and cheer each one. Perhaps the biggest laugh was when the videographer I had hired announced that he had forgotten to push the “record” button. He was joking of course. I mean, he must have been, right?

After the warmup we divided the group into teams of about 10 and asked them to imagine the best possible programs for school and business partners to pursue. We wrote those on flip charts, and gave the participants a break while I and the program committee looked for common themes. We identified six programs based on common themes from the “imagine” groups, and then invited the participants back to self select which one they would like to work on to develop action plans to make the programs work. Although the summit was scheduled to end at 6:00 all of the groups worked beyond that time.

During our debrief, we decided that the only change we would make next time would be to use 5×8 cards rather than flip charts to write the suggestions from the “imagine” session. We had some difficulty with finding common themes working from flip charts. If we had used cards, we could have moved them around to facilitate finding commonalities.

I read an interesting exchange on Face Book:

Donna: “I am looking for a good interactive training for the administrative staff at KNEA

Someone: “You should check with Laugh2learn.”

Donna: We had Laugh2learn for our last quarter training and got the best evaluations we have ever had. We will be having him back for every other training.”

Smart people there at KNEA.

Double Punday

I was attending the Kansas Public Health Association’s annual conference, and didn’t find time to post a pun yesterday. I’ll make up for it today by doubling your punishment. First a short one: Women, support the second amendment. Wear sleeveless blouses. Protect your right to bare arms.

And a somewhat longer one involves Rudolph Ivanovitch Orloff, a minor official in the Communist Party during the early days of the Soviet Union. One morning he awoke to the sound of pitter-patter on the roof. He turned to you wife, Ivana, and said, “Listen to the rain.” Ivana listened for a moment and replied, “You know dear, I don’t think that is rain, it sounds more like snow to me.” “No!” said Rudolph, “I’m quite sure it’s rain.” Ivana was adamant. “Snow!” She shouted. “Rain!” Rudolph replied. The argument became quite heated until Rudolph shouted. “Don’t argue with me. I say it’s rain, and Rudolph, the red, knows rain dear.”

Today is a big day for Laugh2Learn. I worked with the board of the Lawrence Education Achievement Partners (LEAP) to create an exciting an innovative program for their LEAP Summit, and today is the day! We anticipate that all of the participants will leave the Summit with specific plans to find new ways for businesses and schools to partner. The summit will be in the Leid Center’s new education complex, and we are thrilled to be one of the first community organizations to use it.

I plan to have a videographer there, and with any luck I will be able to post some video here soon.

Next week we change gears somewhat as we perform a Theatre of the Oppressed session for the Kansas Head Start Association’s Parent Leadership Conference.

Versatility is the word of the week.

By the way, do you like the puns? If you do please let me know. Puns, I am told, are the lowest form of humor. I’ve also heard that the reason we groan when we hear one is because we wish we had thought of it first. I honestly don’t know, but they make me laugh, and laugh is my first name.


Tuesday’s pun

Busy, busy, busy this week, but not too busy to punish you.

Pavel was from the Czech republic. He and his Polish friend, Zoltan considered themselves great hunters, although their exploits were pretty much limited to rabbits and squirrels. They had always dreamed of bigger game, so when Pavel came into a small inheritance, he invited his friend to go hunting for grizzlies in Canada. They went to Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, rented gear and set off. When they didn’t return at the scheduled time, a search party set out to find them. They found their camp in total disarray, and there were tracks from a male and female grizzly. After a search, they shot and killed a female grizzly, cut her open and sure enough, found what was left of Zoltan. “Well,” Said the leader of the search party, “I think we can be sure of one thing. The Czech is in the Male.”

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Avast me hearties, it be talk like a pirate day. That bein’ the case, I’ll be posting a pirate pun this mornin’ Arrrgh!

It’s not often you see a pirate on the street in Topeka, Kansas. But this morning that’s just what I saw. He was dressed as piratey as he could be, right down to the peg leg and eye patch. The only incongruity was, in place of a hat, he had a paper towel. I also noted that his behavior was a bit strange. He kept looking behind him, and seemed, frankly, to be a bit paranoid. So I asked him what he was afraid of. “Arrrgh,” he said, “I’ve got a Bounty on me head.”

OK, enough of that. This blog is supposed to be about laugh2learn, and how  you can use improv concepts to improve the environment at work and, for that matter, at home. The main concept is “yes…and.” Based on the notion of accepting the offer from another and adding to it. The opposite is “yes…but,” which stifles creativity. When we work with employers, we usually do verbal and physical exercises to demonstrate the power of “yes…and,” but here is a powerful exercise you can do almost anytime anywhere, and you don’t even need to hire me to do it!

Find two or three partners and sit at a table with a single sheet of paper. Your goal is to create a drawing. If you want you can decide what kind of drawing you will create; face, landscape, animal, etc. Then without speaking further, one person makes a single mark on the paper and passes it to the next person who also makes a single mark. Continue passing the paper, each player adding a single mark until one person feels that the drawing is complete. Again without speaking that person writes a single letter on the paper. This is the beginning of the title of the work of art. Each person contributes a letter until the drawing is complete. Katt Koppett’s Training to Imagine has some wondeful examples

I have used this technique with people from sixth grade to adults. The quality and creativity of the resulting artwork never cease to amaze me.