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Life Lessons You Can Learn From The Joker

Life Lessons You Can Learn From The Joker

    Batman’s most infamous nemesis, the Joker, has been a longstanding archetype for prankish mayhem, and the late Heath Ledger’s masterful performance in The Dark Knight has only elevated the character to new heights. Despite the Joker’s unforgettable acts as a sociopathic murderer, many people are intrigued by him, and even find this Clown Prince of Crime to be maddeningly charismatic.

    So what’s there to love? A lot, and here’s why:

    Storytelling matters!

    In “ye olde days”, humankind had myths and fables. Today, we have comic books and graphic novels. A central part of the human condition will always be an interest in motivation: whether it’s why someone killed another person or how someone came to be the deranged maniac they are today — that someone for the purposes of this illustration being the Joker — knowing the “roots of the tree” is a persuasive, compelling hook. Even if the person telling the story is a lying psycho, if they’re convincing, you can’t help but want to believe. Clearly, this can be used for nefarious as well as positive purposes.

    A central thrust of successful marketing, emphasized by everyone from guerilla pioneer Jay Conrad Levinson to newer mavericks like Seth Godin, is that people love to be told stories. They don’t necessarily have to be nice stories, but they must be memorable. Whether you’re babysitting kids or closing a big deal, telling a story that’ll stick with your audience is key: a story is a soft shell that seals in the facts and livens up hard data.

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    And even if the “facts” are subject to reinterpretation as we’ll see, it doesn’t change that people love a good yarn. And always will.

    Reimage yourself while keeping your core!

    This is also known as “reinventing your image”, but I figured that was too long: plus, since the Joker is our example and his origins are birthed in visuals, it makes sense to say reimage.

    Changing your mind too often is a bad thing and would result in more flip-flopping than Two-Face in a penny fountain. But spaced out over time after people have gotten used to change, reimaging — or even reimagining — keep things sparklingly fresh, as long as the core of who you are is consistent and earnest.

    The Joker’s origin story has changed many times over decades, and portrayals of him range from zany to disturbing (or a mix of both). But he’s most commonly recognized as having a pale or white skin, an impossibly wide grin, green hair, and a mostly-purple suit. Those visual aspects combine with his characteristics as a crazy killer clown. If we were to reinvent him as, say, a kindly fireman and not set it up as a trick, the readers would feel betrayed and all manner of YouTube-quality comments would erupt.

    The same is true for all popular characters who’ve been reimaged, from Sun Wukong (the trickster Chinese “Monkey King” now being featured in Olympics ads) to, well, Batman’s other villains. And it’s true for you too: whether you have a personal reputation to uphold or are representing a company, your focuses can change over time, but your core values cannot — the Joker wouldn’t be the Joker without a demented sense of what’s funny.

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    Use wild humor and capture it!

    By “wild”, I don’t mean “disgusting” or “death-inducing” as the Joker tends to do, but I do mean these attributes which the Joker flaunts: visceral, raw, spontaneous, and passionate.

    Here’s the problem: I’ve often heard people improvise something brilliant and wickedly humorous mid-conversation, and then I egg them on to write it down for later. They don’t, and that gem gets lost. This saddens me, because maybe you’ve heard a friend say something like: “I’ll get around to it someday?” but never does? Same emptiness here.

    The people who do end up recording their flashes of brilliance are able to expand on them later: witness the tide of Internet phenomena, on “tape” for the whole world to see. And even on a personal level, you can work through life’s problems more effectively with a sense of perspective, and there’s no more reliable way than keeping a journal — so you can clearly refer to adversity you dealt with before, and stay on track with ambitions you’ve got up ahead.

    So why is “humor” important here? Because jokes ease idea transmission; you’re more likely to remember amusing conversations than boring ones. Most people get more impact out of 30-secnd prank videos than 2-hour C-SPAN snorefests.

    The Joker knows the value of capturing his ideas: for example, he takes cruel pictures to taunt Commissioner Gordon in The Killing Joke. And while I certainly don’t recommend going down that dark path, having tools to document your genius will lead to your future self thanking the present you. It can be as simple as a paper notepad, or a PDA. In fact, our own Dustin Wax wrote a great article recently, “Back to Basics: Capture Your Ideas“.

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    Pick a strong color scheme!

    Quick, what colors do you think of when the Joker comes to mind? Chances are it’s predominantly green and purple. (Incidentally, my fave colors are green and pink like a neon watermelon, and it’s helped me many times.)

      If the Joker was, say, orange and yellow, you might as well blurt out, “That’s not the Joker!” This principle is true of superheroes and world flags — colors are associated with certain things, and also help ease idea transmission.

      Here, “Pick a strong color scheme!” means to apply this whenever appropriate. If you’re setting up a new blog to capture your ideas, consider the tones and tints used your theme. If you’re organizing files in folders, color-coding can help you distinguish between them faster. If you’re dressing up for a night at the club, colors again come into play. Be coordinated — but don’t take every color of the rainbow: 2-4 solid colors will do.

      For further exploration on this path, see my personal scheme as featured on Kuler and COLOURlovers. The latter even has a list of Joker-inspired schemes — colors, not ways to rob a bank.

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      Catchphrases count!

      I covered this last week, and it’s important to bring up again: people have finite time, attention, and memory. If you can easily embed yourself into someone’s head (and pleasantly, I’m hoping), you can have a better relationship because they remember you. You’d rather be called upon by name than thought of as, “Uh… who’s that guy/girl again?”.

      The Joker has many notable quotables. Just about every incarnation has a catchy saying. Some of them, like the meme-birthing “Why so serious?” (currently with almost 1.3 million Google hits and a Facebook app), have been used to market The Dark Knight and accelerate the film’s popularity. Others are much longer and not fit for printing in a single dialog bubble, but are unmistakably part of the Joker’s identity.

      Don’t use catchphrases as a cheap joke: do use them to extend your identity and build interest in the rest of you. Like the Joker’s calling cards left at crime scenes, catchphrases create curiosity.

      HA HA HA… I hope that’s given you something to laugh and learn about — now, tell me, what otherwise deplorable, fictional characters have you learned life lessons from?

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      Last Updated on March 31, 2020

      Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

      Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

      Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

      Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

      There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

      Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

      Why We Procrastinate After All?

      We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

      Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

      Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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      To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

      If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

      Is Procrastination Bad?

      Yes it is.

      Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

      Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

      Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

      It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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      The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

      Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

      For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

      A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

      Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

      Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

      How Bad Procrastination Can Be

      Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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      After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

      One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

      That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

      Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

      In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

      You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

      More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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      Procrastination, a Technical Failure

      Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

      It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

      It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

      Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

      Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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