Today I came home from work after lunch. I think my body is threatening me with sickness, telling me I need sleep by making me feel “off” during the day. I worked through it yesterday afternoon, but wasn’t the most productive. Today the feeling came on earlier, and I just decided to take off and sleep. I got home, did some dishes, made some personal phone calls I’d been meaning to make, and then fell asleep on the couch until Sharaun got home. Now I’m up, and feeling a little better for my nap I think. Unrelated, but with no paragraph other than this one to call home: Since the deadline for getting in the ticket lottery is this Thursday, I went ahead and submitted our application for the World Cup 2006 in Germany. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we get tickets for the matches we want, but considering our luck with lotteries of late (we didn’t get trail passes for Whitney, lost the lottery)… I’m a bit on the guarded side.
I had a thought/idea for today’s entry, but didn’t quite know how to describe what I wanted to say. So, after a bunch of rewrites, this sentence seemed to work best: Over the course of my life, I’ve been constantly honing the skill of having “tough skin.” By tough skin I mean that I’ve done a little more than take the old “Like water off a duck’s back” adage to heart, I’ve actually made it a way of life. I realized early on that humor or comedy can be a very useful tool. Jokes can be used to avoid answering questions, a measured wit can smooth over rough situations, and best of all – jest can turn issues of self-confidence into entirely socially navigable subjects.
When establishing my comedy-as-a-net life-strategy, one of the first lessons I learned was the need to be able to poke fun at myself. You have to be able to make jokes about the things that you are most uncomfortable with or afraid of talking about. This is a critical skill. A common usage model: Someone is picking on you about one of your dreaded insecurities, you take their joke and one-up them, effectively out-joking them about your own fault. This not only establishes you as someone who’s “solid,” it makes you the funnier one (and thereby the winner). Being able to talk openly and joke about your insecurities and faults not only makes people feel more comfortable around you, it helps to downplay your own hangups in your own mind, and realize how stupid and tiny some of your self-issues are. Pride is your worst enemy here, you must learn to accept yourself as-is and work with what you’ve got – every dent and scratch. Keep in mind that you’re not shooting to portray yourself as one who has no self-worth or cares about nothing, but rather someone who is comfortable with himself as they are – blemishes and all. When you’re comfortable in your own skin, you’ve effectively put on a suit of armor. With time, you’ll reach a point where you won’t be “pretending” that things don’t bother you, they really won’t bother you – you’ll have bested them. And to those too-sensitive to manage that state of removal, don’t worry; if you still feel the need to – you can cry about things. Just remember: laughter in public, tears in private.
Another benefit of a humor-led life is the effect it can have on relationship-building. The Chinese have a perfect word for what I’m talking about: guanxi (关系). Guanxi is a word that represents the relationships and “networks” a person has built up and maintains; almost all of Chinese business is guanxi-dependent. Your guanxi defines how successful you’ll be as a business person. Having a humorous outlook on life lends itself to being a typically good-natured person; and being of an agreeable and in general good nature is the key to building good guanxi. When people are laughing, they let their guard down; they get comfortable. Even the shyest and most guarded of persons can usually be laughed out of their shell. For tough nuts, the real skill lies in choosing an approach – some folks require precision, individually-tailored comedy that’s tuned to their comfort level. Your technique will improve as you learn to judge someone’s personality; the faster you can assess someone’s personality type, the sooner you can adapt your jest to their palette. Again, being good-natured and agreeable is a far cry from being a pushover. In order to earn respect you must have some hard lines and integrity. But tempering your edges with joviality is the key to a well-balanced, guanxi-reaping, personality.
When you stare and stare and think and think but nothing else comes, it means the post is over. Goodnight.