I love writing. I write all sorts of things, from serious business articles to lighthearted movie reviews. And lots and lots of jokes. For a while, I worried I was being a little too ambitious in sharing my jokes because I might run out of ideas for them someday. But now I’ve learned that I shouldn’t worry about running out of creativity, but I should instead make the best use of what I have.
Since I came to Fishbowl two and a half years ago, every Thursday morning we’ve had a meeting led by our Development team. Developers briefly describe everything they worked on in the past week, and how it affects Fishbowl’s inventory management software.
In between the different presenters, they would tell jokes off the wrappers of Laffy Taffy candies and then toss them to whoever correctly guessed the answers. This would help keep people’s attention during the transitions. I don’t think I ever got one right, but I couldn’t help wishing we had something better than those simplistic, and often lame, jokes.
Unfortunately, I had never come up with creative jokes before, so I didn’t feel qualified to try to improve the situation. But then something odd happened. I came up with a clever joke, and then another, and then a couple more in just a few weeks. Pretty soon I had a half-dozen jokes that were way better than the ones being shared every Thursday.
So at one meeting I asked if I could share one of my jokes, instead of following the status quo. The developers had never been asked that before, but they gladly accepted my request. To my surprise, my coworkers actually enjoyed my joke. Sure, they groaned a little at its silliness, but they also chuckled a bit and complimented me on it.
Then something scary happened. They wanted more. Soon my coworkers were asking for my jokes by name at our weekly meetings. “Rob joke!” they’d say. I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task of always being so creative. I certainly didn’t want to let them down or say something to embarrass myself.
The thing about being a writer, artist, singer, or anything else that involves creativity is that no matter how good your work is at the moment, you need to keep coming up with fresh material to keep people interested and coming back for more. I guess that’s true of anything in life, really. The mantra in a competitive environment is: What have you done for me lately? That’s a good thing because we certainly don’t want people to get lazy and sit on their past performance instead of always working hard. But it’s scary, too.
A Way Out?
I hate to admit it, but at one point I was tempted by a job offer at another company partly because it meant I wouldn’t be under so much self-imposed pressure to keep coming up with new jokes. It had become a burden in my mind. I thought that suddenly being free of any commitment to tell jokes would make life better.
Unfortunately, when I told a few of my favorite jokes at my new job, my coworkers didn’t groan or chuckle at them; they hated them. These were the same jokes that my Fishbowl friends found funny. That, among other things, clued me in to the fact that I didn’t belong there.
Thriving in Adversity
After a couple of weeks, Fishbowl was gracious enough to welcome me back with open arms. And I went back to my joke writing and other work with renewed vigor. Suddenly I was having fun. Being funny wasn’t a chore; it was a delight! I loved sharing my latest ideas with people who were eager to hear them.
My experience at Fishbowl has taught me not to be afraid of running out of ideas, but to be happy that I have so many. I no longer count how many weeks’ worth of jokes I have; I simply keep having fun and letting my creativity flow.
We often thrive in adversity. If I didn’t have a constant incentive to come up with new jokes, I wouldn’t have amassed more than 200. I plan to keep going and challenging myself to be better, and I encourage you to do the same. If you find yourself feeling stressed out about your responsibilities, think about all the good you’re able to do because of them. That should bring a smile to your face.