BiggerPockets Business Podcast 94: How the Science of Humor Can Turn You Into a Better Businessperson with Peter McGraw

BiggerPockets Business Podcast 94: How the Science of Humor Can Turn You Into a Better Businessperson with Peter McGraw

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What does humor and business have in common? At first glance, not much, but after digging a little deeper, there’s quite a lot that humor can teach us about business. Peter McGraw, behavioral scientist, author of Shtick To Business and The Humor Code, and host of the Solo Podcast kept wondering why we find certain things funny. He decided to put it to the test in his lab, HRL, the Humor Research Lab.

Peter discovered that we often find things funny when they’re wrong, but okay. Threatening, yet safe. Things that make no sense, yet make perfect sense. Most importantly, you don’t want to be the person who thinks they’re funny, but actually isn’t it. You have to think funny, not just be funny. You have to fight the status quo constantly, to make material that people will find outlandish, but true enough to laugh at.

But how does that relate to business? Peter brings some great business examples that followed the same flow of most comedy writing routines. Take AirBnB for example, when they first launched the idea, most people thought they were crazy. I mean, who would want to sleep in someone’s spare bedroom or mother-in-law suite for a weekend? It turns out, almost everyone in the world would.

These kind of outlandish but great ideas come through a process that Peter calls “Sh*t-storming”. Contrary to regular brainstorming, sh*t-storming is when you throw out crazy ideas, and sometimes, something will come out that is so crazy, it actually works. Besides AirBnB, Peter relates this to Tim Ferris’s cold calling method and the P90x workout system as just a few examples.

Comedy and business aren’t that far apart in the idea creation stage. Follow Peter’s advice and your business won’t get laughed out of your next meeting!

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

J:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Business Podcast show number 94.

Peter:
But in general, most products, most services, most offerings start very niche. And the idea is to delight your customers within that niche and don’t worry about the haters because you’re never going to make them happy anyway.

Speaker 3:
Welcome to a real world MBA from the school of hard knocks, where entrepreneurs reveal what it really takes to make it. Whether you’re already in business or you’re on your way there, this show is for you. This is BiggerPockets business.

Peter:
How’s it going everybody? I am J Scott, your co-host for the BiggerPockets business podcast and I am here again this a lovely February. It’s February where I am. It’s probably February where you are too, unless you’re not listening to this in February, which I guess-

Carol:
In which case it’s not February.

J:
There you go.

Carol:
There we have it.

J:
I am here this for me, February with my beautiful wife and co-host Carol Scott. How’s it going today, Carol?

Carol:
I’m so happy and BiggerPockets community, guess what? We have to give a major shout out to our producer Kevin. Kevin works like crazy to bring you all of the amazing BiggerPockets podcasts, and we’re going to miss him for the next several weeks. You know why? Because he is going out on paternity leave. Kevin and his wife are welcoming a new baby boy so he’ll be out for a while. He will be very, very, very much missed and we will appreciate them even more when he’s gone. So Kevin, have so much fun with your wife in your new little sweet pea. We are so excited for you and just all the congratulations in the world.

J:
Yeah, absolutely. Congratulations Kevin. And I assume he had somebody filling in for him because otherwise, well, I guess we’re not going to have any podcasts for … no, just kidding.

Carol:
What are you talking about? I’m not sure it’s all worked out.

J:
Well, lots of good podcasts coming your way. Okay. Well, let’s talk about this podcast. So on this podcast, we have a really fun guest. I heard him a couple of weeks ago on another podcast. And I remember at the time thinking I got to have him on because he’s somebody I would just enjoy talking to and I’m positive you’re going to enjoy listening to. His name’s Peter McGraw. And he is, what is he? He’s a behavioral scientist. He’s a professor of marketing and psychology at the university of Colorado Boulder. He’s the author of two books, including a recently released book called Shtick to Business: What the Masters of Comedy Can Teach You about Breaking Rules, Being Fearless, and Building a Serious Career. He’s a TEDx speaker. He’s also a podcast host. He’s working on a second podcast now, basically he’s just an all around busy guy it sounds like, but he’s here today to talk to us about a really fun subject.
He’s going to talk to us about humor and specifically, he’s going to talk to us about the research that he’s done as a behavioral scientist on humor and how we can be using humor to improve our skills as business people, as well as to improve our skills in lots of other areas. And it’s a really fun episode. We talk about why it’s important to think like a funny person, more so than it’s important to actually be a funny person. I try and do both. I’m probably not successful at either, but you don’t need to be funny to be successful at business. But if you can think like a funny person, you can be more successful. And Peter tells us all about how you can think more like a funny person.
We talk about why it’s sometimes appropriate to do the complete opposite of all of your instincts. And this was a really fun discussion as well, basically thinking in reverse or thinking in opposite. And make sure you listen all the way to the end because at the end of the episode, Peter shares an amazing tip on how we can all get better at saying no. One of the things that’s most important to being successful is being able to say no to most things in your life because you want to focus on the things that are important. Peter helps us get better at saying no and includes a really cool example of how one famous person that I know you’ve heard of has basically perfected his ability to sort of tactfully turn people down and say no to people. It’s an amazing story. So make sure you listen to the end.
If you want to learn anything more about what we talk about in the show, about Peter, about his books, about anything we discussed, check out our show notes at biggerpockets.com/bizshow94. Again, that’s biggerpockets.com/bizshow94. Okay. Without any further ado, let’s welcome Peter McGraw to the show.

Carol:
Peter, welcome to the BiggerPockets business podcast. We are so looking forward to digging in and hearing all about your area of expertise, so many great topics. You’ve got wonderful things to offer so thanks for joining us today.

Peter:
Oh, it’s a pleasure Carol. I do a lot of things sort of well, kind of good. So I’ll do my best.

Carol:
Love it.

J:
Well, I’m going to be honest. So when I first heard you on another podcast just a few weeks ago was the first time I had heard of you, my initial thoughts were honestly purely selfish. I was just like, “I just want to talk to this guy, but I don’t think if I called him up he would give me the time of day.” So then I realized I could use this show is kind of an excuse to achieve getting the opportunity to talk to you. So I guess thank you first for falling into my little trap. And second, thank you for being here. So you are a scientist, you’re a professor in the area of behavior, behavioral science, behavioral economics. I don’t know where the lines are drawn there, but for our listeners, can you talk to us a little bit about what that means? What is behavioral science, behavioral economics? What do you do?

Peter:
Okay. Yes. And so I can appreciate being tricked into this because I’ve tricked many people into it with my first podcast.

Carol:
Whatever works, right? You just got to do what you got to do.

Peter:
I seeded an entire book with ideas from a hundred interviews on a podcast. So I appreciate that.

Carol:
Love it.

Peter:
So I’m paying it back, paying it forward. Yeah. This is an interesting area to be in now because, let’s see. I mean, I got into, I went to grad school in 1997 and at the time there was no such thing as behavioral economics, at least it didn’t have this formal term, and I was studying what we would call judgment and decision-making. I was essentially studying how do people evaluate options? How do they make choices? And my particular interest was in how do people’s emotions influence those judgements and choices? And how did those judgments and choices influence those emotions? And as a result of being a little bit lucky, I ended up doing my postdoc with Daniel Kahneman, who is a psychologist who won the Nobel prize in economics.
And that coupled with a bunch of popular business books like Freakonomics, Predictably Irrational, and so on, kind of launched this area into the real world, into the business world. And in short, it’s just a reaction to these very heady, theoretical economists who have these ridiculous assumptions about how regular everyday people make judgements and choices. And this essentially is the injecting some psychology into it, some reasonableness into this overly rational approach to how people make choices. And I’m sure your listeners can appreciate this looking into their own lives and looking to the lives of their potential customers to know that people don’t act like economists say they’re supposed to act. And so the work that I’ve been doing has been looking into those ways that people don’t act the way they’re supposed to.

Carol:
Awesome. Love that. So I’m so curious, related to that, so much of your research has been talking about what people aren’t supposed to do, whatever. So much of your research has been in the field of humor. So what led you down that path initially? What were you hoping to find? How did you get there? Where did that come from?

Peter:
So the way that happened was like many things in life through happenstance. That is that humor is not the typical topic of a behavioral scientists or behavioral economist. It’s a topic that the comedians care about. It actually is a topic that Plato and Aristotle and other great thinkers, however, cared about. So this is an age old question of what makes things funny? It goes back 2,500 years and people way smarter than me have tried to crack The Humor Code. Emmanuel Con, Thomas Hobbes, Sigmund Freud. Most of that work was done in a sort of philosophical sense. And about a dozen years ago, I was completely unaware of this work and had stumbled on this question during a talk. I was doing research on what makes things wrong on moral psychology and I gave example in this talk.
So first off if I could step back for a second. If you’re an academic, you get to do this thing where another university will fly you out, set up a set of meetings through the day where you meet the other faculty. They put you up in a hotel, tell they buy you a fancy dinner typically. And then as part of that day for an hour, hour and a half, you present some of your early ideas and people just ravage you for how bad your ideas are essentially. And this is what we call the scientific process, right? Which is-

Carol:
Sounds awesome. Sign me up.

Peter:
It’s a delight. It’s just a delight. But if your idea can withstand these very smart people kind of chipping away on it, chipping away on it, you might have a pretty good idea worthy of publication and one that might actually help at least in some way, improve the world or the very least explain the world a little bit better. And so I was doing work on what makes things wrong on moral psychology. And I was looking at how these religious organizations, these evangelical churches in particular were using marketing principles to save souls and I was fascinated by this topic. I visited the Joel Osteen church in Houston to see how they were great business people to be honest. They were great marketers. And so I was giving this talk and I just, I like to have some fun with my talks. I like them to be more than the normal, dry esoteric snooze fests that are a typical academic talk.
And I used what I thought was a pretty entertaining example of a church, a church in Tampa, Florida that was using a raffle to get people to go to it’s winter retreat, right? We want to save souls, got to get them to the retreat. Let’s incentivize them. You can win a prize, prizes and the grand prize was I thought a kind of fun, funny prize, and that was a yellow H2 Hummer SUV. So go to the winter retreat, win a H2 Hummer and my audience chuckled at this in the way that I wanted them to chuckle at it. And a hand goes up in the back of the room and I got asked the most important question of mine life, which was, “You’re telling us that this is potentially immoral behavior, at least in the eyes of some, and yet we’re laughing, we’re experiencing positive emotion. Why is that?”
And as someone who has a lot of answers or at least thinks he has a lot of answers to a lot of questions, I had no answer to that question. And rather than dismiss it, I kept ruminating about it and ruminating about it. And when I went back to the university of Colorado, my home university, I was like, “I want to answer this question.” And that has set me just going down this path, this kind of a regular, everyday behavioral economist and shot me this world of comedy and has changed my life and has in many ways done what might be my most legacy producing work.

J:
I love that. And so for those that don’t know, I assume you kind of spend your days running psychological experiments related to humor and other topics to see, like you said, where people’s actions and decisions deviate from what would be expected from typical, let’s call it economics or typical purely quantifiable analysis of where you think they would go. People do things differently than you would expect and your job is basically to figure out where those deviations are and why they exist. Is that fair to say?

Peter:
Indeed. Absolutely. Yeah. Running lab studies, writing up these results, running our model regression equations, doing all that kind of stuff. And then what ended up happening was those very same skills allowed this pivot into the world of humor. Because prior, not prior completely, but overwhelming the research that has been done on humor has been philosophizing thought experiments. So I recruited this incredibly bright, ambitious graduate student, Caleb Warren, and I said, “We can answer this question. We can use science to actually run experiments and figure out the answer to this question once and for all.”

J:
Okay. So in the next paragraph, I’m just going to start by insulting you, but then it’s going to turn into a compliment. So stick with me here. We have a lot of authors on this show and typically my rule is I get their books and I read their books before they join us so that I know what I’m talking about. I’m well-informed. I bought your two books. You have a book that you wrote several years ago called The Humor Code and you have your most recent book that you launched in 2020 that you’re relaunching called Shtick to Business: What the Masters of Comedy Can Teach You about Breaking Rules, Being Fearless, and Building a Serious Career. I have both those books that I bought. I didn’t read them, but there’s a good reason I didn’t read them.
So you’ve already mentioned Daniel Kahneman who has one of my favorite books of all time, Thinking Fast And Slow. Carol and I have a vacation coming up in a couple of weeks. I didn’t want to read your books as work. I didn’t want to read your books to prepare for this interview. I want to read your two books and I mean this sincerely, I want to read your two books on my vacation-

Carol:
Under a palm tree.

J:
Under a Palm tree. So I do apologize that I haven’t read your books, but it’s for a very good reason because I really want to enjoy them because I know I will.

Peter:
Thank you for that. Thank you.

J:
No, thank you. So that being said, can you walk us through some of the revelations from your book, some of the revelations from your work as a professor, as a scientist, what have you found about humor that maybe we wouldn’t expect?

Peter:
Certainly. Yeah. So I’m happy to do that. Let’s start first with any answer to this question should probably start with an answer to this age old question. So anybody who’s still listening to me is probably like, “Well, then what makes things funny, dude? What are you waiting for? I don’t have time to wait for J Scott to read the book under a Palm tree and then report back in.” So what ended up happening was, and I think this is sort of a good lesson for business people in general is that most academics, for example, Danny Kahneman’s Thinking Fast And Slow, his book was an Opus, right? It was a look back on a 40 year career, a career that changed the way people see and think about the way we make decisions.
when I had stumbled on this question of what made things funny, I launched HuRL, the Humor Research Lab. I started running these experiments. I started publishing these papers, but academia is slow. And so if I had waited, I would only start writing a book maybe now, if that makes sense. But I had been teaching MBAs by day. I had been teaching my students that they should be creating minimum viable products, that they should be testing their ideas in the marketplace. And I thought to myself, I should be testing my ideas in the marketplace of ideas, not just through the rigors of peer review. And so I started giving some talks. I started doing interviews. I started just being a lot more outward facing. I tried my hand at stand up. I started taking improv classes.
I started doing all of these things and the standup experience in particular was important because at that point, the work that we had been doing in the Humor Research Lab had revealed that the things that we find funny, the things we laugh at are benign violations, things that are wrong yet okay, things that are threatening yet safe, things that don’t make sense yet make sense. Right. And so essentially the sort of overlap between wrong and okay and that sweet spot in the middle is this delightful experience. And we laugh and we signal to the world, this threatening thing is actually not threatening. And so your point about I haven’t read your books because I want to savor them is in many ways the benign violation. I laughed at that idea, right? Like it’s wrong for a podcast host to skip reading the book that he might be asking about, but you had a very good reason to do it.

Carol:
I love that. And so I’m sitting here as you’re talking Peter and I’m focused and fixated on the extreme irony overall that your work is to solve the questions of humor with science, right? The fact that you have this, that you’ve founded the HuRL, the Humor Research Lab, again, the fact that innately is just something as humans we’re all about, we love funny, we love humor, we love to be entertained and engaged. And the fact that there’s a science behind it in your life work is to solve it in that manner is just so ironic and I love everything about it. So in the realm of science, I’ve heard you mention that non-human, they can grasp humor, they can grasp amusements. So does it mean that this is innately, it’s an evolutionary trait? So, I mean, where does that come from and what’s the benefit of that?

Peter:
Yeah, certainly. So I actually think part of the reason … it was really striking when I stumbled on this question that no one in my field was doing work on it. And I think part of the reason, and again, this is another good lesson is we should question our assumptions. So I think much of the reason that people weren’t doing research on this incredibly important topic, think about it, think about how humor guides your life, guides who you hang out with, who might become your life partner, how you spend your leisure dollars and leisure time on a Friday night, you think about how comedy can fail, right? And this is something that I’ve been looking at a lot which is, I’m not sure that we should be trying to make people funnier in the workplace because when you fail, it can be really uncomfortable.
The reason that people weren’t doing this work in some ways is because comedy is seen as this sort of frivolous, lighthearted thing. And science is so serious and so on, but yet science should be tackling the world’s most important topics and I think comedy is one of those important topics. And so I find that to be an important element, which is oftentimes what’s being overlooked just because we have a particular belief about the way the world ought to be? And so in that sense, I feel very lucky that I didn’t let that just sort of brush off my shoulder. I don’t know the answer to that question that’s there. So one of the ways we know how important comedy is is that it actually exists in other mammals, not even just nonhuman primates, although it is on display with monkeys, chimps, Bonobos, apes, and so on.
But even there is and I have to tell you this, this is one of the most fascinating things and it was like perspective changing for me. There was a researcher at Washington state university who discovered that rats can laugh. Now they don’t … yes. They don’t laugh like we laugh, but they laugh when experiencing a benign violation, a harmless attack. And so first of all, rats are very social creatures and they kind of get to know the scientists who are studying them and they’re comfortable with them. And so what these folks would do, and we actually visited one of the actual original research assistants who worked in that laboratory as part of The Humor Code. He now is like a full on researcher at Northwestern. These rats, what they would do is sort of jostle them and tickle them and like flip them over and rub their bellies and so on.
And with the right sort of ultrasonic device, you can pick up this sort of chirping sound when that’s happening. So if you think about it, that’s that harmless attack. It’s a lot like tickling, it’s a lot like play fighting. Anybody who has a child can understand that kind of phenomenon. What’s amazing about this video is then when the researcher moves his hand away from the rat, the rat will chase after the hand and sort of try to put itself under the hand. It’ll seek out this experience, this sort of arousing, delightful, titillating kind of experience in that sense. And in many ways, tickling and play-fighting are the sort of prototypical benign violations that people find amusing and it’s the ones that other mammals do too. Now here’s the question, why? What is the usefulness of this and why laughter? So why laughter?
Well, so laughter is a signal who’s doing most of the laughing when you’re tickling or you’re play-fighting, it’s actually not the observers, it may not even be in the person who’s doing the attacking, it’s the person receiving because what that laughter says is I know this is scary. I know this is bad, but it’s actually okay. I know that it’s safe and anybody who’s had a child who maybe tickles too aggressively or too long, that laughter can turn to tears in that sense. Well also if you think about it, other animals, when they move through the world, there are moments that might be threatening. That rustling in the bushes, is that a goat or is that a saber tooth tiger? And so when the recognition that that is a goat, the laughter is a way to signal very quickly without language, the coast is clear. This thing that seems bad is actually okay. And that’s part of the reason why it spreads contagiously. It’s an automatic kind of thing.

J:
That’s interesting because I’ve always heard and I’ve always thought, like when I explained to my kids, we actually had this discussion a couple of weeks ago. Like what makes something funny? And the definition I’ve always heard is it’s when something happens that’s unexpected, but there are plenty of unexpected things that happen that aren’t funny. A boulder falls on a car and crushes a car, we’re not going to laugh. So it’s that second-

Peter:
Well, Carol will.

J:
Carol might laugh especially if I’m the one in the car.

Carol:
I don’t know why that was hilarious but it was. Okay.

Peter:
When it’s your car, not funny.

Carol:
That’s a problem. [crosstalk 00:23:01].

J:
I think we need a whole different type of scientist to evaluate why you just laughed at that.

Peter:
Yeah. That’s outside my training.

J:
Yeah. So it’s the piece that at the end of the day, it’s unexpected, but it’s also safe. And so I guess that’s kind of the second the disclaimer comes in.

Peter:
Indeed. And you know, the unexpectedness has been a very popular explanation for a long time. It doesn’t hold up very well in the following way. You can watch a movie, a comedy movie that you love and you know the jokes and you still find them funny. And so you could even have a sure thing that is an inside joke, not unexpected, even predictable, still can get a laugh. So that said, unexpectedness, surprisingness, I think often enhances and it often enhances the threateningness, the violation side of that formula. And it is the biggest violations that get the biggest laughs. It’s also the biggest violations that are also the most heartbreaking, upsetting and so on such as when a big Boulder drops on your car.

J:
Yeah. That makes sense. Okay.

Peter:
Can I add one thing?

J:
Please, please.

Peter:
Yeah. So the only reason I want to add one thing is how do you get from tickling to satire, right? How do you get from tickling to stand up comedy? How do you get from tickling to improv? These are big questions. And essentially the short answer that we believe is true in HuRL is … I can’t believe I have a lab that I call HuRL. [crosstalk 00:24:39].

J:
I love it. I love it.

Peter:
So what we believe is the following, is that as humans evolved from our non-human primate predecessors and we started to get language and we started to have these interconnected communities and culture and social norms, the things that can go wrong and the ways that those wrong things can be okay, became infinite. And so now what we’re essentially doing in the same way that our emotions, in the same way that we can be scared of a gun, in the same way that we could be scared of a snake, right? It’s like we didn’t evolve to be afraid of guns, we evolved to be afraid of things that can kill us.
And so we now evolved to apply this broadly to a whole host of things that can go wrong and can be okay. And so that’s where the magic of comedy is how do you discover new ways to create this beautiful experience in part, because the best comedy, to your point about unexpectedness, is novel. It is new. The best jokes are the jokes that you’ve never heard before. It’s not like a comic can behave like the rolling stones and play street fighting man and everybody’s happy to hear that song from 40 years ago. If Chris Rock tells the same jokes that he told in the nineties, people are like, “Dude, what are you doing?”

J:
Yeah. But by the same token, if I tell a joke to somebody that grew up in the nineties with Chris Rock, they may still laugh. Even like you said, they may know the joke, they may have heard the joke a million times, but it’s still funny.

Peter:
It’s still has the bones. Yeah.

Carol:
Cool. So I’m curious to dig a little deeper and you study things, Peter, where you study areas where people act differently than expected and that’s the behavioral economics. So can you give a couple of just good examples of some of these unexpected findings?

Peter:
Certainly. So let me talk about my most recent books. So the first book, The Humor Code was this global expedition to crack The Humor Code. It was basically, I teamed up with this journalist Joel Warner and we went to Tanzania to try to understand laughter. We investigated a laughter epidemic there. We went to the Amazon with Patch Adams at a hundred hospital clowns to try to answer the question is laughter the best medicine? And so that’s a very fun book and it solves a lot of curiosities. But all along the way I was teaching my MBA’s by day and I was decoding comedy by night. And I just was like, “How do I put these worlds together?” And my first instinct, and again, this is an important observation is my first instinct was I’m going to write a book about how to get ahead in business by being funny, right?
How leaders should be more humorous and how they should use comedy as this tool in the workplace. I even gave some talks. I created a minimum viable product. I created talks that put forth the virtues of this. And as I stood in these ballrooms in front of 500 people and I was telling them to go forth and be funny, there was part of me that was not comfortable and I was not comfortable for the following reason, that guy. You know that guy, you know the guy who thinks he’s funny and really what he does is he just makes the room incredibly uncomfortable? And so if I gave that guy a little more encouragement, I now turn him from a mile of annoyance into a monster. And so what I realized was of course there are people who are funny in business and of course they should lean into it because they’re very highly skilled, but it’s not something that we should broadly suggest to people.
And it wasn’t until I had this second insight and it took a while to work through is that it’s not about being funny. It’s about thinking funny. It’s about the way that you go about making this incredibly difficult product and that the world’s funniest people, the Chris Rocks of the world, they have practices and perspectives that can be useful. They can be useful to people like you and me and they certainly can be useful for people who run businesses and who are entrepreneurial because what we know and what I teach every single week is that business is hard, business is hard, business is hard. We get a false sense of how easy it is because of the Amazons of the world and we read these business books and everything just seems so easy and smart in hindsight, but it is an incredibly risky proposition.
And actually, the biggest risks also have the biggest rewards. And so how can we learn, what we can learn from the people who go on stage and take risks every single night and are willing to take the rewards and the downsides of that. So I’ll give you a quick example, just because right now it seems very abstract. So Henny Youngman, right? Speaking of old comics, Henny Youngman is the King of the one-liners and he has a joke, a one-liner as you might imagine, in which he said, “When I read about the dangers of drinking, I stopped.” Carol, what do you think he stopped doing? When he read about the dangers of drinking?

Carol:
He stopped reading about them.

Peter:
He stopped reading. Yeah. That’s exactly right.

Carol:
That’s classic. I love it. Man after my own heart.

Peter:
Yeah. So we find that this idea of the reversal, so chapter one of my book, Shtick To Business is called reverse it. This is comedy 101, right? So comics think in reverse either naturally or they learn it on like day one of the day they decide to become a comic as a great way to create comedy. But thinking in reverse has all these other benefits. So for example, in comedy, it may be the punchline to the joke or it may be a premise to a sketch or to a movie. So for example, again, I’m dating myself, but Trading Places with Dan Aykroyd and what is his name?

Carol:
I know I can see him. [crosstalk 00:31:13].

Peter:
Eddie Murphy.

Carol:
There we go.

Peter:
Right? You have the street hustler and the Wall Street banker reverse roles and comedy ensues. More recently Trainwreck with Amy Schumer is a reverse romcom, right? So a romcom has a very clear formula. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Now in Trainwreck, it’s girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy back. And so that serves as this very fun, refreshing repremise of an old idea. Well, in business, oftentimes thinking in reverse can be beneficial in part because it overcomes what we call the status quo bias, right? So this is one of those things that behavioral economists have studied for years. Why is this so difficult to make change? Why is it so difficult to think differently, think creatively? Well, one reason is creative thinking requires a change from the status quo, from the way we do things, right?
Anytime you’ve ever sat in a meeting and put forth an idea and someone goes, “Well, that’s not how we do things here,” is basically an example of the status quo bias, is that whatever our state of the world is often becomes fixed because the change from the status quo has the gain, has some benefits, but it also has some costs that has some losses. And because humans are loss averse to use Danny Kahneman’s term or subject to what’s more broadly called the negativity bias is that losses and negative things loom larger on our psyche than those positive things and so it keeps us stuck. But comedians, they don’t not only avoid the status quo, they fight the status quo. They sometimes head in the opposite direction than everybody else’s, as you can see this, and I think sort of more entrepreneurial minded folks can do this.
For example, Tony Horton, the creator of P90X, at the time the P90X came along, it came at a time where the previous 50 years of sort of health and wellness promises were about how easy it is to get in shape, how easy it is to lose weight. We’re going to make it easy for you. And then you get these really stupid products like the ThighMaster or the shake weight or toning shoes, right? But not Tony Horton who actually had done a little bit of a standup comedy when he was a younger man. Tony came along with P90X. P90X is an exercise program. It’s the precursor to CrossFit, the precursor to Orangetheory, to F45 to all these HIIT based trainings. And he said, “It’s not easy. It’s incredibly difficult. It’s insanely difficult to get in shape.” And he put forth this program that A, worked and B, was truthful and turned into a company that was worth $200 million to its parent company. When everybody’s going one way, he reversed it in the other direction.
And so I think reversals are like oftentimes a starting point for when you’re stuck is how do I head in the opposite direction? And one of the reasons that reverse has worked so well is that almost no one thinks in them. And so you’re often in blue ocean, when you think in reverse.

J:
I love that. And now I think for some of us, humor is a bit more innate than others. Not always in a good way. I mean, you talk about issues of using humor in the workplace. I’m probably a good example. I tend to have a very dry wit and I’m also very self-deprecating. So if I’m sitting in a meeting, sometimes I’ll say something where half the people laugh and half the people think that I basically just insulted by my family in earnest. And so you have to be careful, but it sounds like you said, it’s not about being funny. It’s about thinking funny and you just gave a great example of thinking in reverse. Are there any type of mental exercises? Are there any type of, I mean, should we go out and start literally practicing standup comedy? How do we get better at thinking in reverse or thinking in ways that will help us in the workplace?

Peter:
Yeah. So I’m glad you asked that because I invented this reverse brainstorming task as a result of this and I’d call it, and I don’t know if I can say this, but I call it shit storming or the HR friendly term, shtick storming.

J:
We’re good with either one on the show.

Carol:
I prefer shit storming-

Peter:
I do too.

Carol:
Anyway, just whatever works for you. I’ll roll with that.

Peter:
If you go to my website, petermcgraw.org, you can download a workbook for Shtick to Business and in the workbook is the shit storming task, but I can explain it to you right now. And I think it is it’s actually worthwhile doing. So shit storming is designed to fix the problems with brainstorming. So the problem with brainstorming is people hold back because the most revolutionary ideas often seem crazy at first. Like Airbnb, let me get this straight. And if everybody forgets this, when Airbnb came out, people were like, “Wait, hold on. You’re going to let strangers move into your house for the weekend.” And Airbnb is like, “Yup.” And people are like, “Never going to work. It’s never going to work.” And now, we don’t think twice about it. That’s right. So it’s the crazy ideas that are often the most profound. It’s also the craziest ideas that are often the most crazy.
So there’s just a lot of variance at that level. So what happens when you brainstorm is people are reluctant to say something dumb. So they self-censor because they anticipate that when J Scott says this, Carol is going to be like, “Not so good.” Right? Well, when you do a shit storm, you’re supposed to come up with truly terrible, awful ideas. Well, who is worried about getting criticized for your idea being not bad enough? So one is it helps disinhibit your peers. It also is a great warmup to a more traditional creative tasks because shit storming is so fun. There’s tons of laughs. People build on ideas, they lean into this kind of thing. And then it has this last I think powerful option, which is sometimes someone goes, You know, that might actually work.” And so I think just that’s a great way to practice this thing, which is what seems to be an awful idea naturally is in the opposite direction of what you’re trying to think about.
The other way to do it is and I’m just a big believer of this in general is like any time you’re puzzling over an idea, you just have to say what would happen if I did the opposite? And I just think that that’s a useful way to think in general about life. What would happen if I did the opposite? I’ll give you a quick example of this. Tim Ferris, who people know from the 4-Hour Workweek. I’m sure your listeners are familiar with his kind of life hacking, business hacking type stuff. He had one of these smile and dial jobs. He was doing cold calls to people and he’s working 9:00 to 5:00 along with everybody else.
And he said, “What if I just did the opposite? I didn’t make calls during 9:00 to 5:00. I made them after 5:00.” And and what he ended up finding was oftentimes the person he was trying to call was still in the office, but that person’s admin had gone home for the day. And that person often picked up the phone because they’re not expecting a sales call at 8:00 o’clock at night. And so it’s just a useful thing. I’ll say this again. What would happen if I decided to do the opposite? It’s a very simple question. Most of the time, it won’t provide a good answer, but sometimes it’ll provide an answer that can be profound and no one else is thinking that way.

Carol:
It sounds like so many of these principles are really extremely just building on that whole concept of reversing everything, right? Taking it to extreme levels through the shit storming sessions, for example, through completely turning things on their head and encouraging yourself and encouraging others to go farther and farther and farther in the opposite direction of what is typically done is what’s going to produce those results. So how do we transform that? What are some more tactical things we can do in addition to these practices, these principles? How can we really apply this in the workplace? This is a business podcast. What are some things we can do from a humor perspective, for example, that is going to create, that is going to really help us achieve that end result we’re looking for, achieve greatness, achieve something better than what’s been done before?

Peter:
Okay. So I’ll give you one of my favorites and this is from the chapter called create a chasm. Imagine you’re a standup comic and you’re out there and you’re performing. It’s a tough time to be a comic for obvious reasons, but it’s always been a tough time to be a comic. And the reason is to create a benign violation, you actually have to really understand your audience because what an audience thinks is wrong and what they think is okay, is influenced by a host of factors. The context they’re in, whether they’re in a comedy club or a church, how many drinks they’ve had, their cultural beliefs, social roles and so on. Well, what that creates in the marketplace is what we call heterogeneity. That is the people have different values, different lifestyles, different needs. And so if you try to create a joke that everybody will find funny, you will create a joke that no one finds funny.
And so this is why a comic, all they care about is their audience laughing. So if they tell a joke and their audience is laughing, and then there’s people on Twitter who are complaining about it, that comic doesn’t care because the comic knows they can’t make both the audience and the Twitter sphere happy. So they create a chasm. As I say, in a world of people who want hot tea or ice tea, do not serve them warm tea, pick one or the other. And so I think that that is an incredibly important idea for people in business. Yes, there are some businesses that survive by serving warm tea, like Walmart for example, that’s designed mostly for everyone. But in general, most products, most services, most offerings start very niche. And the idea is to delight your customers within that niche and don’t worry about the haters, because you’re never going to make them happy anyways.
And so this idea of creating a chasm, because I think that it just does such a good job of what could business is to do. And I’ll give you a real quick example. Another exercise one, forgive me, but I’m living in California so everybody exercises here. Well, I was living in Hollywood and a buddy of mine invited me to go to Barry’s bootcamp, which was down the street from me. So for listeners who don’t know Barry’s bootcamp, it’s a lot like Orangetheory. It’s like hard runs on the treadmill and then calisthenics and weights and stuff on the floor. And it is a hard workout, you will get fit. Jake Gyllenhaal has done it and Kim Kardashians’ done it and so on. But if you go to Barry’s bootcamp, it’s wild. It’s like going and working out in a nightclub. The music is incredibly loud.
So when I went, I was like, “I can’t stand this.” I went to the front desk and I was like, “Do you have earplugs?” And they’re like, “Oh yeah.” And they just handed me some earplugs because people go in there all the time and it’s like, “This is too loud. I can’t handle it.” They also let the men remove their shirts during the class. So there’s like these people are basically half naked in this class. I mean, look, the class works so there’s great bodies all around the place. And you are bathed in this red light. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a room with red light, but you look fabulous in red light. Like all the blemishes are gone and all this kind of stuff, but it feels, honestly, it feels like a nightclub. I mean scantily clad people, loud club music, the whole thing, not my scene as you might imagine. I love a good workout, but not my scene, but here’s the deal.
If they tried to make me happy and they lit the room a little differently and they required everybody to wear clothes and they turned the volume down a little bit, well now Jake Gyllenhaal and Kim Kardashian are not interested in Barry’s bootcamp and nor is the person who goes through three times a week, right? So Barry’s creates a chasm in an industry that wants everybody to come to their classes. And I think that that’s a really nice example of … and so what I often think of is like, what can I do that will make my target customers happy, thrilled? And I know will make my non-customers unhappy. How do I create this chasm?

Carol:
I’m loving, loving, loving this principal especially, I mean, well, this visual first of all, I cannot get out of my head. So there’s that. But beside that, this whole concept of don’t worry about the haters because you’re not going to make them happy. It sounds like if I’m interpreting this correctly, you should almost in addition to making your target the people that you want to make happy, extraordinarily happy, you should be just as happy if the people on the other side of the fence walk away and are like, “I never want to have anything to do with that ever again,” because in doing that, you’re really serving the unique needs of the people that you are trying to appeal to who are going to ultimately grow your business. Is that sound about right?

Peter:
Yes, that’s perfect.

J:
Yeah. And it’s so funny because a lot of these principles, they’re not new in business. We hear them from other sides. We hear them from other experts that are researching other things or entrepreneurs who are saying the same things, but you’re tying it back to an area that we don’t necessarily think about as a business related area, humor and comedy. Like one of the things I keep thinking about is you’re talking about, go and flip the script, go and do something in reverse, do something differently. Certainly we hear that in the business world all the time like just go try stuff, test stuff, do a quick test. And as you’re saying this, I’m sitting here thinking of, I watched Jerry Seinfeld. He has a new Netflix comedy special a couple months ago and I was watching it. And it basically was him from decades ago on standup stages, small stages where he was testing new material and he’d walk up and he’d basically start out with I’m testing new material here.
So he just like you said, set the expectation. He was shit showing there. He was saying, “I’m testing new material. This may not work. I don’t know. I guess we’re all going to figure it out together.” And he would tell a joke and if it did work okay, that one’s gone, that’s out, scratch, scratch, scratch. And then one would go over well and he’d be like, “Oh, okay. Circle that one, that one’s going into the routine.” And so again, it’s funny how obvious these, once you say it and once you tell us these relationships between the comedy world and the business world, it becomes a whole lot more obvious and it just encourages us to go out and look for more relationships and look for more analogies and to go out and realize that there are analogies everywhere.
And so you’ve kind of given me this opening to go out and say, “Okay, I’m going to start. I’m going to go watch a comedy show because I’m helping my business, because there’s a lot of ways [crosstalk 00:47:28].” Yeah. But in a lot of ways, it takes somebody like you who one day wakes up and says, “I’m going to start thinking about something nobody’s ever thought about before for us to realize some obvious stuff.” So I guess it just reminds me that there’s always these opportunities that we should be looking at even if they’re not obvious,

Peter:
If I can add one that’s not as obvious, it might be helpful. So yeah. So I like this idea of limiting downside risk. So what a comic does is they tell a joke on a stage. They don’t wait to a stand-up special to tell this joke for the first time. So if you think about a joke as a product and you tell it to 15 people in a club and it bombs, doesn’t hurt you at all, but that joke might end up becoming a career making joke. Right? And so it’s a particular risk profile the comics pursue, which is almost no downside risk and unlimited upside potential. One of the ways that they get there however, is that every good standup I know has a writing practice that is that they write their jokes on almost a daily basis. And I have a chapter in Shtick to Business called right it or regret it.
And one of my early readers, she sent me a text message. She says, “I’ve read easily, I’ve read 200 business books, and I’ve never read one that dedicates an entire chapter to the value of writing.” And so I want to make a case for your listeners for why writing is so important and writing is important for three reasons. And I argue that everybody should have a journal in the same way that every comic has sort of a notebook or some note keeping. So writing will help you record your ideas to keep them for prosperity. That is we too often forget the ideas that we have.
Second, writing helps us clarify our ideas because it slows us down and putting words on paper requires precision. And then lastly, writing can be the basis for communicating ideas. And so as someone in business, you want to keep your ideas. You want to clarify your ideas and you want to be able to communicate your ideas and working on a writing practice can be a very useful way to go about doing that. And I think that’s something that we don’t talk about enough in business. We talk a lot about communication verbally, but not enough about that slow, steady albeit sometimes painful process of putting pen to paper.

J:
Love it. I want to ask a question that’s kind of unrelated to anything we’ve talked about, but it was comedy related and so I’m just curious. So there are obviously different types of humor. So you’ve got Chevy Chase falling down a flight of stairs. That’s funny in a lot of ways, but it’s completely different comedy from Robin Williams just riffing and being completely wacky. And that’s completely different than Stephen Wright let’s say who is dry and very cerebral, but they’re all arguably the absolute best in their fields. And for a lot of us, we have comedy preferences. Is there anything in your research that kind of can take that broad idea of there’s different types of comedy and break it into a framework for how to think about like the behavioral side of, I don’t even know what I’m asking, but it’s-

Peter:
I know what you’re asking. That’s all that matters.

Carol:
Glad you do because I’m not sure but hey, Peter’s got it worked out for you honey. You’re good.

Peter:
Well, so what you’re identifying, I think it’s a brilliant insight. And it’s something that we have to remember is that Robin Williams and Steven Wright and-

J:
Chevy Chase.

Peter:
Chevy Chase can all co-exist in the marketplace and they’re not cannibalizing each other. The problem would be, and I’ll be honest with you. Part of the reason I ended up studying humor was I was interested in engaging in the world with people like you and people like your listeners, but there was already a guy in my field named Dan Ariely who was writing popular press books about behavioral economics is one. And I remember thinking, I can’t out Dan Ariely Dan Ariely. So I maybe I could be a poor man’s Dan Ariely where I’m like the third phone call, you know what I mean, after him and someone else.
And so what I realized was if I followed this sort of, I’m just going to be like him and try to find a way to do it better, I had a pretty tall order. And so if Robin Williams tried to do Steven Wright, it’s hard to out Steven Wright, Steven Wright. And so what I like about this is that it’s a nice example of how, that we don’t want to eat Italian food every night. And so you can have different types of cuisines on the same street and that that can co-exist. And so I think the idea is this is if you look around the marketplace and everybody looks exactly the same, they sound exactly the same, they’re providing same services, the only thing you could do is compete on price and try to outspend them on advertising. And that is just a race to the bottom.
And so my argument is always find differences, find differences, find differences. And it’s probably the case that of everybody looks alike and sounds alike and is offering the same things, there’s a group of people out there in the world who’s not happy with those offerings and will pay the premium for something different. And so I think that that is a big insight to have.

J:
I love that. Yeah. Find your competitive advantage, your natural competitive advantage and leverage it and exploit it. Because if you just try and copy, you’re never going to be … first, you probably don’t have the skills to copy and be nearly as good. But second, you’ll always be playing second or third or 10th fiddle.

Peter:
Yeah. We’re looking for what Marc Andreessen says, “We’re looking for product, market, founder fit.” That’s right. And people often overlook the founder part of this because boy, if you have product market fit, that’s great, but you’re going to spend all of your days and nights working on that fit. And so you better fit within that fit.

J:
Absolutely love that. Okay. I’m going to leave it on that because I absolutely love that. Now I’d like to jump into the last segment of the show is something we do with most of our guests called the for more. And that’s where we ask you the same four questions that we asked all of our guests. And then the more part of the for more, give you an opportunity to tell our listeners where they can connect with you, where they can find out more about you and your books and everything you’ve done. Sound good?

Peter:
Sure. That’s great.

J:
Okay. I’m going to start with question number one. It is a calculus question. I’m just kidding. First question. What was your very first or your very worst job and what lessons did you take from it that you’re still applying today?

Peter:
Wow. I’ve had a lot of bad jobs. I’ll be honest. I think, oh, I know exactly what it was. So when I was in college, I came home one summer and I was just broke. I was broke my whole life till I was in my mid thirties to be honest and I got a job. There was this guy who ran a business who was an engineer and he bought a farm and he hired me on the weekends to work on the farm. And I remember one of the more unpleasant tasks I had to do was, he had sheep and I would go into the barn and I had a pitchfork and I had to jab the floor of the barn and pull out basically sheep poop that had been there for the whole summer and had dried. And then I loaded it onto this cart and then I would drive it through the fields and it would shoot all of the … basically became fertilizer there. It was-

Carol:
Shit storming. There you go.

Peter:
Well done, well done.

Carol:
Thank you. Thank you. I’m working on it, waiting for the opportunity my friend.

J:
See the part of comedy where you always come back, you always circle back.

Peter:
That’s a nice fallback.

Carol:
Circle around my friend. We got it.

Peter:
Wow. I wish we could just set this down right here. That would be the end.

Carol:
Didn’t mean to derail you. [crosstalk 00:55:40].

Peter:
So every time I put that pitchfork into the ground and pulled it up, there was this smell that would hit me. You know what I mean? And it was, and this is pretty podcasts. And this was like, it was just me alone in a hot barn. Here’s the problem. I was not well paid for that job. There’s a reason this guy was such a brilliant business person was he paid me the bare minimum. So I was doing this hard work and I couldn’t even be excited about it because I wasn’t being paid well enough. And so the thing that I have taken away from that is that I want to live in a world where I am either excited to do what I’m doing, because I find it intrinsically interesting or I am so well paid to do this unpleasant task that I do it happily. So I want to live in a world of, yes happy, no happy, but I don’t want to live in a world where I’m yes and unhappy.

Carol:
J, write that down right now. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m yes and unhappy. That is awesome. That is pure gold right there. Love that. Okay. Here’s your second question, Peter. So you’ve talked about the importance of writing. You’ve talked about creating a chasm. What’s another just nugget of pure goal that you have for small business owners or entrepreneurs that you haven’t mentioned yet today?

Peter:
All right. So I think one of the things is about this idea of saying, and this is related to what we just talked about saying no. When you were a small business owner, you have 1000 things to do and everything people are coming at you, your inbox is full, you’re getting cold emails, all this kind of stuff. In order to be successful, it becomes really incredibly important to figure out where are the absolute yeses, the maybe yeses, and then everything else you just have to let go. But if you try to do everything, you’re not going to do any of it well, and really when you get down to it, it’s a few big things that end up really moving the needle for you. And so I think this idea of being able to say no … and I’ll tell you a quick story about someone who I think says no better than anyone else in the world and that man is Bill Murray.
So Bill Murray, imagine being Bill Murray, hall of fame comedian. If you want to get bill Murray into one of your movies, good luck because you can’t call his agent because he doesn’t have an agent. You have to get a hold of his 1800 number. And that’s not easy to get, right? Because no one wants to be the dumb ass who gives some other dumb ass Bill Murray’s 1800 number, right? So you got to get that 1800 number. Then you call it, you leave a message to say, “Hi, my name’s Carol Scott. I’m a producer, I’m a writer, I’m a director and I have a movie that I’m working on and you would be perfect for it. Bill, it’s this, this, this and this. And then you hang up the phone and you wait and you hope. And if you’re good, and if you’re lucky, you get a phone call back and it’s Bill’s admin. Carol. Bill’s interested in the idea. Would you write up a one pager and mail it to this PO box, mail it to this-

Carol:
No way. Wow.

Peter:
So Carol gets old Smith Corona, types out the one pager of this idea, puts it into an envelope, drops it in mail and waits and hopes. And if you’re good and if you’re lucky, you get another phone call that says, “Carol, Bill remains interested. Can you beat him on in Dublin on Thursday to talk about it?” And you’re like, “I just can’t do it. I can’t get there in time. Well, what about Saturday at LAX 3:00 PM?””Yes, I can do that.” Show up at LAX. There’s a black car waiting for you. You open up the door. There’s Bill Murray. You get into the car, you drive out to his house, you have dinner with him. You talk about the project and if you’re good, and if you’re lucky at the end of that meal, Bill says, “Let’s make a movie.” He says no to almost everything in order to be able to say yes to the things that he wants to do as he wants to do them. One last thing. There’s one person who, if that person calls the 1800 number immediately gets a yes. Do you know who that person is?

J:
I don’t.

Carol:
Who, who, who?

Peter:
Wes Anderson.

Carol:
Really?

J:
That’s random. I thought [crosstalk 01:00:29].

Peter:
Wes Anderson gets an automatic yes. That’s right.

Carol:
Wow.

J:
That’s that’s crazy. It’s so funny that you bring up Bill Murray, because I often think that I want to live Bill Murray’s life. Promise if I live Bill Murray’s life, I’d be in prison. Like Bill Murray can just show up to somebody’s wedding and jump in and say, “Okay, I’m going to do the first dance with the bride.”

Peter:
He is the freest man on the planet. Yes.

J:
He is. And anybody else does that and you probably end up in the back of a police car within an hour. So yeah, but it’s an amazing lesson there because you say that Bill Murray says no a lot, at the end maybe he does say no, but the way you describe it, he’s saying no in the nicest possible way. He saying yes but, sure you want me in your movie? Great. Go work for it. I’m not saying no yet. I’m making you put in a whole lot of effort and then you do that. I’m not saying no yet go put in more. I’m not saying no yet. And if you’re willing to work towards it, there’s a shot.

Peter:
I can give you an example. This might be a little bit, your listener’s not going to set up a 1800 number.

J:
A lot of my-

Peter:
I say no a lot. And if you folks were kind enough to reach out to me, if I wasn’t interested in this podcast, here’s how I would have said no. I would’ve said, “I’m very flattered. It seems very interesting. However, I’m unable to do it because I’m working on a secret project right now that’s demanding all of my attention.” Feel free to use that.

J:
I love that. I love that.

Peter:
I’m always working on a secret project by the way. And so it’s whether this opportunity can crowd out my secret project or not. No one gets upset with you for saying no because of your secret project.

Carol:
It’s brilliant. That is absolutely brilliant.

J:
I love that. It makes me sad that people have to get an hour into this to, I’m going to make sure I’m going to call that out because-

Carol:
Yeah. We’re going to just call that out right up top. There you go. That’s worth the listen right there.

J:
Absolutely.

Carol:
You got it. Secret project.

J:
Absolutely love that. Okay. Let’s jump into question three, because I don’t want to keep you all day because I know you have a secret project to work on. Question number three. I’m a big fan of books. We’ve already mentioned your books and we will mention them again, The Humor Code and Shtick To Business. You mentioned Daniel Kahneman, who as I said, has a book that I absolutely love, Thinking Fast And Slow. You mentioned Dan Ariely, who has another one of my favorite books, Predictably Irrational. So there are between you and Daniel Kahneman and Dan Ariely, we now have some of my favorite books of all time. Now I need to know what are one or two other books because we’re betting 100% on your recommendations here. What are one or two other books that you really love that we should all be reading?

Peter:
So one of the books, I’ll give you one. One of the books that I recommend to my MBA students all the time is by Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz, the big venture capital firm, and that book is called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. So if you know Ben, you know he’s an incredibly bright guy. You also know that he is a terrible interview. Don’t watch talk by Ben Horowitz, it’ll put you to sleep. But he’s a very strong writer. And The Hard Thing About Hard Things, I think in many ways is one of the best show don’t tell management books ever written. And the reason for it is it’s so authentic, which is something that I appreciate from someone who studies comedy. It’s so honest and it gives you a real, I think, sympathetic empathic view of running a company.
And so for those of your listeners who are running a company and struggling, it’s just very useful to not have some make it seem so easy. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a book about how fraught it is to run a business and Ben’s approach to it as both thoughtful and honest. And then as a result in many ways encouraging, because it acknowledges the thing that we often don’t and that is, and I’ll say it again, business is hard, business is hard, business is hard.

Carol:
Awesome. Super awesome. Okay. Our fourth question. So Peter you’ve lived this amazingly rich life. You’ve met so many different people, had so many different experiences, lived in different places, went to a shirtless workout where they shine red lights on you, you name it, you’ve done it. So curious-

Peter:
I did take off my shirt too. I was like, well, there we go.

Carol:
When in Rome, I mean, come on. When’s the next time we’re doing this? So I’m curious a long the way somewhere in there, have you had an opportunity to splurge on something, whether it was a material thing, an experience, whatever, something you would’ve have normally done for yourself. So what is your greatest splurge along the way in your personal or your professional life that was totally and entirely worth it?

Peter:
That’s such an interesting question for me because I grew up poor. And so I’ve had to sort of teach myself to spend money now that I have it. And I have a therapist and an accountant who helps me, encourages me to spend money in many ways. But I am a big believer in spending money on experiences. And I’m going to tell you about something that I am going to do more than that I have done. And I made this decision, actually, I made this decision during the pandemic and that is moving forward, I am going to buy business class tickets when I fly. It’s such a pain point. I’m six five. I travel so much, but whenever I’m in business, I look forward to a flight. It’s a game changer and look, it is a luxury purchase. I’m a little embarrassed to tell people that I’m going to do this. However, I work hard and it is going to get me to be excited to be on a plane, I’m going to arrive better rested, happier, and so on. And so I’m going to start buying business tickets when I fly.

Carol:
That is awesome. It is truly a game changer. Like you said, instead of dreading it, you’re going to be productive. You’re going to be happy. You’re going to be comfortable and you’re going to be just excited and that much more awesome when you get there. So kudos to you. Love it.

J:
Coming from the woman who used to fly the private jet when she was in the corporate world.

Carol:
Stop it. And now I’m like backseat of Southwest, how do you deal with it?

Peter:
Yes. There are trade offs.

J:
Peter, this has been absolutely fantastic. Like I mentioned early in this episode, I mean, I was thrilled just to have an opportunity to chat with you and find out more about what you do. I’m fascinated by the work that you’re doing. I am so looking forward to reading your two books and I’m sure our listeners will as well. So let’s jump into the more part of the for more. Can you tell our listeners where they can find out more about you, where they can connect with you, where they can buy your books, where they can … You have a podcast, please tell us about your new podcast called Solo and anything else you want to share with us.

Peter:
Certainly. Yeah. So part of the reason I can afford to buy business class tickets moving forward is I don’t have children and I don’t have a partner. So I live a very lean life, and that has manifest itself into one of my secret projects becoming a podcast called Solo the single person’s guide to a remarkable life, completely different than anything I’ve ever done before. It’s been sort of refreshing. It’s let me lean into a more authentic self and to talk about how to de-stigmatize single living, how to celebrate our time and the opportunities that we have as single people on the planet to build businesses, make art or simply sleep in when we want to.
You can find out more about that podcast and everything I do at petermcgraw.org. I was slow to the game. I did not get petermcgraw.com, but you can find my podcasts there, information about my books and so on. They’re also available on Amazon. If you buy Shtick to business, I get the money. If you buy Humor Code, Simon and Schuster gets the money. So you get to make your decision as to which one or both you want to purchase.

J:
Awesome. All of that is going to be in the show notes. So people check out our show notes. Peter, thank you again so much for taking the time from your secret project to be with us. We really, really appreciate it. This was so much fun for me and I think I speak for Carol as well. Thank you so much.

Carol:
Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Peter:
Thank you much. Cheers.

Carol:
See you soon. Okay. I have to start with my typical, oh my goodness. Absolutely loved that discussion. And I’ve got to tell you, I really very much enjoyed how he talked about not only breaking the rules, but taking that to an entirely new level and intentionally creating a chasm between your target audience and all those haters. Right? So making sure you are so hyper-focused on delivering the experience, the product, the overall goal that you have for your target audience, focusing on that and almost intentionally making sure that the people that do not fit into that audience are almost just like no way that would absolutely not work for me because it enables you to hyper focus on getting that amazing result. So I absolutely love that decision.

J:
Yeah. I love the whole episode. And I think one of the things I love the most is we got to talk about some of my favorite books. So I just want to give a quick recap because anybody out there listening, here are some awesome books to pick up. First, make sure you pick up a Peter’s two books, The Humor Code, and Shtick To Business. So pick those up. And like Peter said, Shtick To Business, he gets more money from that one. So pick that one up first. But he also mentioned a couple other books in this episode that I think are just absolutely amazing.
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize winning scientist wrote a book called Thinking Fast And Slow. Probably one of my favorite books of all time. Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational, which is an amazing book. And then Peter mentioned a book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Harwich. I’m going to go out and pick that one up as well, but just lots of great book discussions. Anytime you can have a good book discussion, I like that because everybody knows I love books.

Carol:
That’s right. Can’t go wrong with a good book.

J:
Yup. So anyway, are we ready to wrap this one up?

Carol:
Let’s wrap it up.

J:
Alrighty, everybody thank you for tuning in this fine February day. Again, unless it’s not February when you’re listening, in which case, thank you for tuning in-

Carol:
We’re back to that again? Oh my gosh. Wrap it up.

J:
Whatever non February day it is.

Carol:
My friend, let’s go.

J:
Thanks everybody. She’s Carol, I’m J-

Carol:
Oh my gosh. I’m messing it up. Here we go. Try extreme reversing to make some great progress today. Boom. February or not, we did it. We so appreciate you community and we can’t wait to see you next time. Thanks for tuning in.

J:
See you next week. Thanks everybody.

 

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • The underlying theme of humor and why we find things funny
  • How writing jokes and creating businesses overlap
  • Fighting the status quo to create something that is great
  • How to create a “chasm” so your customers love you and you’re haters don’t
  • The importance of keeping an idea journal to write in
  • Saying yes to happiness, regardless of the financial outcome
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show:

Connect with Peter: