Archive for the 'Life Skills' Category

Happening in Las Vegas

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Talking with the Stars
A New Event to Energize the Art of Conversation.

Loren Ekroth, publisher of Better Conversations newsletter, has created a new competition like the successful Dancing with the Stars TV show.  In Talking with the Stars, pairs of speakers draw a random topic, then they explore it extemporaneously while connecting with the audience.  With their skills of asking questions and lively language, each pair will connect with the audience for 10 minutes of entertaining talk.

This event will be free and open to the public.  It takes place in Las Vegas on Friday, November 18, 2011, 7:15-8:45 pm.

Loren is seeking speakers who want to participate in the show.  A panel of evaluators will determine the top 3 pairs, who will receive awards.

If you’re interested in participating, contact Loren at (702) 629-1999 or by email at  After producing several shows, Loren will share the format information with anyone interested in producing their own Talking With The Stars.

Dr. Loren Ekroth is a retired professor of speech-communication from the University of Hawaii and is now a professional speaker and author.  Since 2002 he has published over 450 articles on conversation skills and has been a guest expert on radio talk shows.  Visit his website:

Thinking Like a Tourist

Friday, October 7th, 2011

I remember hearing of someone who lived in New York City and had never been to the Statue of Liberty.  They could see the statue from their apartment window.  I can relate to that.

I lived in the San Francisco bay area for twelve years.  During that time, I never took a ride on a Cable Car.  My first Cable Car ride was on a return trip as a tourist after I had moved to Missouri.

To add interest and diversity to your life I recommend thinking like a tourist.  It will open your eyes to new adventures in your own home town. 

I’ve lived in Las Vegas for the past eleven years.  I love it here.  There’s so much to do.  But you have to think like a tourist.  If you don’t, you’ll spend your life in your living room watching TV.

Getting out of the house for new experiences is a great way to stimulate your humor skills.  Living out of the box helps you develop the habit of seeing things from a different perspective.  The ability to see things differently is a key to creating your own jokes.

Make a list of places to see which you’d visit if you were in your city on vacation.  In addition to sharpening your humor skills, it will make you a better conversationalist.  It will make you a better tour guide when your friends come to visit.  It will help you get more enjoyment out of life.

How to you become familiar with the tourist destinations? 

Your out-of-town friends.  Make a note of where your friends go when they are visiting your city. 

Visitors bureau.  Get a tourism press kit from your Chamber of Commerce.

Local publications.  Watch the around-town section of your local newspaper. 

At work.  On Monday, listen to water-cooler conversation.  Notice what other people did on the weekend. 

Getting your hair done.  Pick the brain of your hair stylist the next time you’re spending time in the chair.  Or your manicurist.  Or other service provider that has time to chat while working.

Watch for special events.  For example if there is a Magician’s convention in town, on one or two nights there is likely a stage show which is open to the public.  Many of the conventions hold the best seats to their shows for the general public.  On stage, a performing magician would prefer that the front rows be filled with non-magicians.  Lay people tend to be more impressed and appreciative than people in the magic business who have seen it all.  I’ve attended show-night for several different conventions.  For example, the World Salsa Dance Competition.  I happened to see it on the television news, and that night I was in the audience.

Other events.  Museums, outdoor movies, film festivals concerts, river and lake cruises, renaissance fairs, civic theaters, food festivals, county fairs, and more.  Make a special effort to attend something that you’ve known about for years, but which you have never had the time to go attend.    

Enrich your life.  Broaden your perspective.  Learn to think more creatively.  Have fun.  Life awaits you.  Don’t let it pass you by.

Volunteering For Success

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Volunteering is a great way to improve your humor skills and your speaking ability.  You volunteer…you win.

Why volunteer?

Growth.  You receive a big gift when you commit to doing something.  You only grow when you take action and exercise your creative muscles.

Reputation.  You become known as a generous person who contributes to others.

Make A Deposit.  Volunteering for something makes it more likely that someone else will volunteer when you go looking for help.

Support Others.  The cliche is right…it’s better to give than to receive.  What you give comes back to you.

Meaningful relationships.  Through volunteering you connect and work with others.  You get to really know the people around you and they get to know you.  It expands your universe of resources.

Have Fun.  If you do it right, volunteering will open the door to fun times.

Where do you volunteer?

Contests.  Volunteer for every contest.  Ideally volunteer to be a contestant.  It you’re not ready for that, volunteer to be part of the support staff.

Party Planning.  Work groups and clubs are always needing someone to coordinate a party, a roast, or event where people are rewarded and recognized.  For you, it becomes a practice ground to discover what is entertaining.  It’s a chance to work on your humor skills.  This is how I ended up getting into the humor business.  In the 1970’s I was a regular member of my work group’s party planning committee.  I wasn’t funny, but co-committee members, John Ferenz and Harry Poynter, were.  Over a three-year period I learned the foundation of good humor and never looked back.  In the early 1980’s I won three trophies in humor at the Regional level.  In the 1990’s I started a 20 year career as a full-time professional humorist.  And it all started with volunteering to help organize a retirement party in 1976.

Be An Officer.  Your club or civic group is always looking for good officers and committee members.  Volunteering gives you a terrific opportunity to practice your humor while leading a team.  The leadership skills you gain will serve you well in your professional life.

A speaker at the top of my “Most Respected Persons” list is Don Ensch, DTM, Accredited Speaker, Past International Director for Toastmasters International.  Don’s advice is: “Always say YES…and then figure out how you’re going to do it.”  He practices what he preaches.  He is one of the best speakers I know and highly respected by top professionals in the speaking business.

Volunteering is a win-win proposition.  The people you volunteer for win the gift of your expertise.  But mainly you win by becoming a better you.

Game Time

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Jeremy Webster, a talented member of our Las Vegas improv troupe, is a Game Master.  He has dozens of fun games and we can always count on him to add a spark to a party.  The right game is a sure-fire way to add laughter to an event.  I asked him what are some of his favorite games.   Here are a few, along with his comments:
1.  Mad Gab:  Great for wordy people and people who are good listeners.  (John’s note:  An easy-to-play game around a dinner table at a restaurant.  We played it at Applebee’s after an improv show.  It’s a cryptic, phoenetic, phrase-pronunciation game.  Not easy to describe, but fun to play.  It’s easy to play the game sprinkled around dinner conversation, ordering, serving and eating.  We just pass the deck around, no winners, no losers.)

2.  Liar’s Dice:  Learned it from Pirates of the Carribean second movie…har, har, harr!

3.  Catch Phrase:  Get people to say the word on the card.  Interesting to see how they get people to arrive at the answer.

4.  Cranium (Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Acting, Charades, drawing, sculpting, word smithing.  Uses many different intelligences.  Great party game.

Thanks to Jeremy for sharing.

Writing a Blog or a Newsletter

Friday, November 26th, 2010

There are many good reasons to write a blog or a newsletter.

1.  Commitment.  Once you set your blog or newsletter in motion, you have deadlines to meet.  Whether it’s once a week or once a month, you have a target date which gives you a push to write an article.  I’ve written over 400 articles and posts the past five years.  Without the structured deadline of my blog and newsletter, that would have never happened.

2.  Stretch yourself.  It’s amazing how the stream of articles never ends. The first dozen or so come easily.  And then you “run out of ideas” to write about.  But that dry spell is only temporary.  You’ll probably amaze yourself with the creative new-article ideas that will come to you.  Some seem to come out of nowhere.  Some are an extension or re-write of an old article.  Some ideas are stimulated by your readers. 

3.  Flexibility.  Based on your creative flow or time availability, you can always change your editorial calendar…increasing or decreasing your writing commitment.  Last year I decided to cut back on my writing.  I went from two newsletters a month and a blog post every four days, to one newsletter a month and a blog post every seven days.  That is a reduction of about one article a week.  But the reduced schedule still gives me a challenge to keep creating new insights to share with readers.

4.  Easier than you think.  Learning to format and publish a blog is not difficult.  Like anything else, there is a learning curve.  Your first few posts will take a little more time than subsequent ones.  When I first started my newsletter, I managed my mailing lists manually.  When I hit 1600 subscribers, I switched to a hosted list service.  My subscriber list is now 5400.  If I had it to do over, I would have switched sooner.  The company that hosts my list is very affordable and provides great service.

5.  An investment.  In time, your efforts to produce a blog and newsletter will create a bank of articles which could be turned into a book.  I’ve written nearly 1500 pages of humor related articles.  It also gives you a data base for creating articles for print magazines and internet related publications.

6.  Networking.  The result of your efforts is good business and social connections.  I’ve made friends worldwide as a result of my writing. 

7.  Take action.  If you’ve been considering starting a blog or newsletter, why wait?  Today would be a great day to commit to putting your ideas to work to stimulate your creativity, build a network, and to share your knowledge with others.

Look For Something Else to Do

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The day after publishing my June newsletter, I received an email from a subscriber:

“honestly, i didn’t get your humor, why don’t you look for something else to do?”

Feedback like that can create thoughts which can be either destructive or productive.

DESTRUCTIVE THOUGHTS make us feel bad.  They can make us angry.  They block our growth.  They don’t serve us.  Thoughts such as:

   – I worked for hours creating that newsletter.  And I sent it out for free!  Neither of these thoughts are good cause to be upset.

   – What does he know!  I’ve done hundreds of monologues and over one thousand comedy programs over the last 40 years.  Lots of people think I’m funny.  But it’s still a fact that I’m not funny to him.

   – I’m being personally attacked.  Our humor can easily become a touchy area.  We take ownership of our funny lines.  We’ve created our jokes.  They’re part of us.  They’re a reflection on our judgment and our logic.  We invested time and effort in their design.  And when someone doesn’t like a joke, it can sting…but only if we allow it to.  Our attitudes, positive and negative, are always a choice.

PRODUCTIVE THOUGHTS help us to accept feedback positively.  Thoughts such as:

   – He was speaking the truth.  His truth.  My style of humor was not funny to him.  Only he is the judge of what is funny to him.

   – He probably has a good sense of humor.  If I were to observe him telling a joke to his friends, they would probably laugh.  There’s a good chance I might not find it funny.  Neither of us is bad, or wrong, just different.

   – He is coming from a good place.  Maybe this isn’t always true, but usually it is (98 percent of the time in my opinion).  And it’s a thought that serves you well.

   – We have different tastes in humor just as we have different tastes in many areas of life.  Not everyone likes heavy metal rock.  Not everyone thinks that rap music is music.  We like different movies.  We get excited about different TV shows.  Some people love reality programs.  Others think they’re totally fake.  So it is with humor…different jokes for different folks.

   – We thrive by accepting feedback.  It helps us to understand people better.  The better our understanding of what makes people tick, the more likely we’ll have stronger relationships with a wide variety of people.

   – No joke will ever connect with every member of a specific audience.  Few of us are experts in cultural humor, generational humor, regional humor, or in the differences between male and female humor.  I’m not an expert in those areas.  So I try not to beat myself up when one of my jokes doesn’t pass the test with a reader or an audience member.

   – It doesn’t matter that I think a joke was funny.  It doesn’t matter that other subscribers think I’m funny.  Those things are irrelevant.  Some people aren’t going to like my humor.  And that’s OK.

   – Let your expectations be positive.  It helps that my goal for the newsletter and blog isn’t primarily to be funny.  My aim is to help others get in touch with what they find funny.  And when I get an occasional email from someone who found a monologue really funny…I’m usually more surprised than I am pleased.  Because I know that the power of the humor is often based on the “you had to be there” factor.  So I expect most of my writings to be learning tools not laughter generators.

   – Don’t be needy.  Don’t be searching for validation.  It helps that over the last 40 years I’ve had audience feedback that I am funny.  Hundreds of Observational Humor monologues, and over 1000 comedy programs have passed the audience test and confirmed to me that I can be funny.  But not to everyone.

   – Fortunately, I don’t receive lots of emails like the one I quoted.  It isn’t that other readers don’t feel the same way.  Most of them just quietly go away and don’t tell me why.  That’s probably a good thing.  If I received 100 emails like that every week…I’d look for something else to do!

Fun In The Workplace

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Two years ago, I was meeting a friend for lunch at a cooking school in Las Vegas.  I knew the school was in a large complex of new office buildings, but didn’t know exactly where it was.  My first choice is always to ask for directions, so I stepped into the first office building I came to.  It was lunch time and there were about 20 people in the front office, coming and going.  The room was filled with laughter and happy faces.  It felt like a party was happening.  One of the people walked me outside pointed me to the cooking school which was about a block away.

The energy in that office made a lasting impression.  It turned out to be the headquarters.

Last week I had the opportunity to tour Zappos and meet CEO Tony Hsieh.  What an amazing company!  And Tony impressed me as an analytical person with a focus on long-term growth.  He cares about people.  Ideal qualities for a leader.

The tour was set up by Liz, who listed her job description as Time Ninja.  The web site referred to the people who work at Zappos as Zapponians.  I knew I was in for an interesting tour.

When I arrived for the tour, the front office was again filled with laughter and smiles.  It was obvious that people were enjoying their day.  The one-hour tour included all areas of the headquarters which is home to about 800 people.  Nearly everyone had their own cubicle, including CEO Tony.  No big fancy office for the Chief.  Each team’s area was decorated differently, from fantasy themes, to jungle themes, and other unique environments.  We walked by the “nap room” where two people were sound asleep.  In the lunch room I discovered there is such a thing as a free lunch.  It was a happy place to work.

In the front office I had noticed what appeared to be a mini book store. Personal development books, maybe forty titles, lined the shelves.  I asked Tony if it was a Lending Library.  He said, “No.  It’s a Giving library.  If someone sees a book which looks interesting, they’re welcome to take it.”  That includes employees and visitors!  Tony picked out three of his favorites and gave them to me to take home.

The corporate culture of Zappos has evolved over the past ten years to what it is today.  They now share with other companies how they can create a WOW customer experience.  Anyone can take a tour.  They make it easy.  It’s free.  They’ll even send a shuttle to pick you up at your hotel. In addition to their web sites, they offer workshops for other companies, sharing their success story.

Watch for Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness, which is being released in June 2010.  It will give you great insight into the building of a unique and thriving company which went from zero to over one billion dollars in sales in less than ten years.  I’ve read an advance copy and I highly recommend the book.

I mentioned the tour to my mother while chatting on the phone.  Mom is a retired switchboard operator and former call center supervisor for Disney.  She is 85 years old and I wasn’t sure she would know the name Zappos.  But she did.  “I remember calling them.  It was one of the nicest experiences I’ve had.”

If only everyone we did business with was so nice!

New Year’s Humor Resolutions

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Another year begins.  And with it comes New Years Resolutions. Here are a few you may consider adding to your list to help you tune your humor radar and exercise your sense of humor.

 1.  One of the challenges of a New Year’s Resolution is that the goal is so massive that you don’t know where to start.  As a result, you don’t!  You can solve that problem by breaking the resolution down in to smaller bites.  What is the First Step toward achieving that desired goal?

 2.  Enter one of our contests this month.  First Step:  Take just five minutes to look over the contest and write just ONE line. If you think it’s funny, submit it.  The current contest is to write a cartoon caption.

 3.  Load a funny message on your telephone answering device.  First Step: Read related article on humorous phone machine outgoing messages.   Related article.

4.  Every time you’re in a shopping mall, take a quick walk through a toy store.  It’s a good place to stimulate your funny bone.  First Step:  Ask the clerk, “What’s the most fun, new toy in the store?”

 5.  Hang around people that make you laugh.  First Step:  Select one toxic person in your life and resolve to spend a little less time with that person.  You become the people you hang out with.

6.  Start a humor journal.  Log the funny and nice things that happen to you.  You’ll start to see more fun in your life.  First Step:  Buy a notebook.  Label it Humor Journal.  Place it on the nightstand by your bed.

 7.  Smile at the first person you see in the morning and say something nice.  It gets you in the right frame of mind to enjoy the day.  First Step:  Before you leave your home, look in the mirror and smile at yourself.  Related article.

8.  Get your hands on a new humor book, tape or CD.  Spend a little time each day with it.  Do it as a morning exercise or meditation.  Play it while you are dressing for the day or driving to work.  First Step:  Spend ten minutes on with a search for Humor Books.

9.  Look for humor greeting cards, bumper stickers and T-Shirts.  Or make your own.  At past National Speakers Association conventions they featured an event called Meet the Experts.  It’s held in a room filled with over 100 tables.  With two or three rotations you sit at a table with an intimate presentation on a topic of interest.  I’ve often worn a T-Shirt designed just for that event:  “So Many Tables — So Little Time.”  First Step:  The next time you’re in a grocery or drug store, visit the humorous greeting card rack and spend three minutes browsing. 

10.  Join an improv troupe or start your own.  First Step:  Spend ten minutes in the phone book or on the internet to see where the nearest improv troupe or comedy club is located.  Related article

11.  Join a Toastmasters Club.  First Step:  Visit and find the clubs in your area.  If you already know where a club is, find an officer for that club and call that person.

12.  If you are already a Toastmaster, commit to competing in the Humorous Speech Contest next fall.  First Step:  Find a humor seed and start to collect ideas for your speech.

13.  Develop your skills in observational humor and learn from every professional performer you watch.  First Step:  At every meeting and program you attend, sit with pad and pen waiting to jot down humorous and learning connections you note.  Eventually you’ll have a chance to start using the skills in your own presentations.  Check out the dozens of Observational Humor case studies in the Humor Power Blog.

14.  First Step:  Pick at least ONE of the ideas listed above and do it in the next 24 hours!

Christmas Cheer to Make You Smile

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Check out this fun arrangement of  The Twelve Days of Christmas, Straight No Chaser, Men’s A Capella, Indiana University.  Entertaining and very professionally done.  I heard about it from Loren Ekroth, Better Conversations Ezine.

Humor Resources

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Creativity and The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest
Visit Keith Sawyer’s blog for a great article on humor and creativity.  He’s a creativity expert and interviewed winners of the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.

Contagious Laughter
Here’s something fun from Brad Montgomery.  He created a new app for the iPhone.  It’s a modern day Laugh Box.  Check out The Contagious Laughter iPhone app.

The Power of Observational Humor
The November 2009 issue of the Toastmaster magazine features an article, The Power of Observational Humor, by John Kinde.  The three-page article shows you the power of fresh humor and how to create it.