There is an Apache legend that the creator gave human beings the ability to talk, to run and to look at things. But in addition, the legend says he was not satisfied until he also gave them the ability to laugh. After giving humans this ability, the creator said, "Now you are fit to live."
A good sense of humor helps to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected and outlast the unbearable.
Life is too short to be serious all the time. How dull our existence would be without the potential to see the lighter side of situations. And how hopeless, too! Humor often represents hope -- the idea that the worst is behind us and better things are coming.
True, not all things are funny. Knowing how and when to apply a filter is critical. And it's usually better when the joke is on you, so your obvious amusement signals permission to see the humor in a situation.
"If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself," said Charles Schulz, creator of the long-running "Peanuts" comic strip.
April is National Humor Month. I would propose that we celebrate humor every single month, all year long. I can't imagine a day without it.
I value a sense of humor very highly when I am hiring people, especially for sales and customer service jobs. My employees know I love a good laugh. For years I started every sales meeting with a funny story or joke, and asked other managers to do the same. I wasn't looking for the next Tina Fey or Jimmy Fallon. I just wanted to loosen up the group and put them in a good mood.
The same attitude is important for anyone who comes into contact with customers. If you've ever flown on a Southwest Airlines flight, you might have heard the safety instructions delivered in a variety of amusing ways. The message is quite serious, but their approach serves a number of purposes: encouraging people to actually listen to what's being said, putting passengers in a more relaxed mood after the stress of airport hassles and letting folks know that the flight attendants are enjoying their work and want you to enjoy your trip.
Did you watch the Super Bowl? Or more specifically, did you watch the commercials? At a cool $5 million for a 30-second spot, the price tag is enough to make a business cry. But year in and year out, the ads command almost as much attention as the game itself -- because they make people laugh. And then talk about them the next day. And buy those products. Beer isn't inherently funny, nor are tortilla chips or car insurance, but, somehow, humor makes those items more memorable.
Some of the funniest people I know are also among the quietest. You have to listen closely to what they say, because the quips sneak out when you least expect them. For example, a woman approached President Calvin Coolidge, aptly nicknamed "Silent Cal," at a dinner and said, "Mr. President, I have a bet with my friend that I can get you to say more than two words." Coolidge replied, "You lose!"
You may think you have to be born funny, but I disagree. Finding the humor in everyday life is easy if you just look for it. People who take themselves too seriously are a constant source of amusement for me. Take this young job-seeker, for example:
At the end of a job interview, the human resources person asked a young engineer fresh out of a top university, "And what starting salary were you looking for?"
The engineer said optimistically, "In the neighborhood of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."
The interviewer said, "Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks' vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50 percent of salary and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?"
The engineer sat up straight and said, "Wow! Are you kidding?"
And the interviewer replied, "Yeah, but you started it."
Mackay's Moral: Life isn't always funny, but a sense of humor always helps.