InspiringPeople: How Following Your Passions can Improve your Business

Last week, we continued our InspiringPeople series with Dr. Peter McGraw from CU’s Humor Research Lab, or HuRL (I know, right?) Pete shared with us the story of how he went from a tenure-track professor studying morality to a leading expert in the field of humor research.

Pete’s journey taught him a handful of important lessons than can be applied almost universally, giving us a bit of enlightenment alongside a lot of laughs.

Pete realized he hated writing… not a good place to be for an academic expected to publish in-depth research papers at least once per year. In order to develop this essential skill, Pete took some specific steps:

  • Work on that skill every day
  • Do it when you’re at your peak energy level
  • Make it a sacred time
  • Acknowledge that it’ll be hard at first… but it’ll get better

Through making a concentrated effort to develop this skill, Pete was able to learn to enjoy writing and began publishing more – and more often – than he ever had before… and now, he’s co-written a book!

Taking advantage of your community can be incredibly beneficial to your work. Pete learned this lesson one summer after he started living with a friend in a collaborative environment. He realized his research and teaching weren’t blending… and he was friends with plenty of entrepreneurial people who were doing innovative work, but he wasn’t applying it to his research. By capitalizing on the nature of his community, Pete was able to awaken his entrepreneurial spirit and begin realizing his goal of living a remarkable life.

Spending all of your time in the same environment limits your potential; reach out and broaden your audience to gain a new outlook on an issue. Pete was doing research almost exclusively in the lab – that gave him an incredibly small audience to work with. Going out “in the field” and interacting with people beyond his subjects and colleagues – including travelling all around the world – provided new perspectives and better data.

Having a strong theory can guide your decision making. Through their research, Pete and his colleagues at HuRL developed a key theory to explain what makes things funny – and what makes them not funny – called the Benign Violation Theory, or BVT. Using the BVT, the HuRL team were able to determine what kinds of tests to run in the lab. These guiding principles allowed them to take a more strategic and efficient approach to their research.

Spending time with different types of people from around the world taught Pete that everyone is uniquely funny. Our reactions to an event are based on our experiences; so something one person may find funny or interesting may not elicit the same reaction in someone else. Similarly, everyone is skilled or talented at something; seek to create an environment where your personal skills and those of your team can flourish.

Pete noticed that a lot of comedians spend their time around other comedians… one of the best ways to be funny is spend time around funny people. By surrounding yourself with people who are good at the things you want to be good at, you can learn what makes them successful and apply those factors to your own endeavors. That’s why it’s so important to have a good team in your business. The better people are at their jobs – and the better they are at working with and teaching one another, the more dynamic your environment will be and the more talent you’ll have to draw from each other.

We’re so grateful to have had the opportunity to hear Pete talk, as well as to have been joined by some amazing community guests!

If you’d like to be invited to future InspiringPeople events, please drop us a line or keep an eye out for announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

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