Laughter is the Best Medicine

Why laughing at your mistakes is the perfect way to move past them

HARI SREENIVASAN: In our social media-focused
world, sometimes, it can seem like everybody is bragging about their accomplishments, but
what if we didn’t show the best and the greatest, but rather shared or talked about our mistakes? Tonight, former White House speechwriter David
Litt offers his Humble Opinion on the secret power of self-deprecation. DAVID LITT, Author, “Thanks, Obama: My Hopey
Changey White House Years”: It’s 2011. I’m 25 years old, a junior White House speechwriter,
and just seconds ago, I have been introduced to President Obama for the very first time. I have imagined this moment for years. This is my chance to make an impression. The president looks at me and says, “How’s
it going?” And exactly one thought runs through my head:
“I didn’t realize we were going to have to answer questions.” And I have literally no idea what I said after
that. I actually blacked out. I guess it can’t have been too bad, because,
for the next few years, I did keep writing speeches and jokes for President Obama. And one thing he understood when it came to
comedy is that the number one rule of political humor is, be self-deprecating. Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself. But how many of us follow that rule in our
own lives? We’re always told, put your best foot forward. Fake it until you make it. Don’t let them see you sweat. And, sometimes, that really is good advice. There’s no reason to wallow in every failure. If somebody asks you in a job interview, what’s
your biggest weakness, do not them tell the truth. But what I have learned is that you don’t
have to be president to benefit from a little bit of self-deprecation. Sometimes, the best way to get ahead is to
put your worst foot forward. In a world where everyone feels pressure to
be perfect, there’s real value in admitting that you’re only human. When you can laugh at your own mistakes and
get other people to laugh at them too, that helps give you the confidence to move past
them. Self-deprecation is a way to admit your faults
without letting them define you. It’s also a way to stay balanced. You need to leave room for humility. We all need to acknowledge that we’re going
to try our hardest, and, even so, we will sometimes come up short. Only humor lets you have both doubt and self-confidence
simultaneously. And laughing at yourself takes the pressure
off everyone around you, because, when we’re kids, we think the world is run by these perfect
grownups. But then we get older, and we learn the truth:
There are no grownups. There’s just us. And we’re not perfect. We stumble, and we come up short, and we black
out in front of presidents. OK, maybe that last one was just me. But the point is, once we accept our own imperfections,
it doesn’t have to be disappointing. It’s liberating, because it means we don’t
have to wait for perfect people to come save us. Instead, we can do what everyone who came
before us did. We can each be only human, and yet, somehow
together, we can do big things.

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