The Power of Humor with Dr. Jennifer Aaker & Naomi Bagdonas

January 25, 2022

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Dr. Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a leading expert on how purpose and meaning shape individual choices and how technology can positively impact both human well-being and company growth. Her work has been widely published in leading scientific journals and featured in The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Science. A recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award and the MBA Professor of the Year, Aaker counts winning a dance-off in the early 1980s among her greatest feats.

Naomi Bagdonas is a Lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an Executive Coach. She helps leaders be more creative, flexible and resilient in the face of change by facilitating interactive sessions for Fortune 100 companies and coaching executives and celebrities for appearances ranging from Saturday Night Live to the Today Show. Formally trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Bagdonas performs at comedy venues and teaches improv in San Francisco’s county jail. Her constant stream of foster dogs describe her as gullible and full of treats.

Backed by science and drawing on practices developed from coaching thousands of executives, we’ve created a HS toolkit which is a suite of digital programs designed to help you harness the power of humor IRL. You can explore here at

John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit

John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. This is the first edition in January of 2022 of the Impact and we’ve got two very, very funny and special guests with us today. We’ve got Naomi Bagdonas and Jennifer Aaker with us today. Dr. Jennifer Aaker, welcome to the Impact Podcast.

Jennifer Aaker: We’re so happy to be here.

Naomi Bagdonas: Thanks for having us.

John: Well, I had the benefit of hearing you two women speak at the Goldman Sachs conference recently, you blew myself and my wife away and everyone else in the audience. Totally unexpected but just such an impactful message that you brought. Today, we’re going to be talking about your new book, Humor, Seriously. And you teach a course at Stanford University called Humor, Serious Business. And, before we get doing all of that and talking about that and comedy, and everything else in between, first, tell us a little bit about your backgrounds. Jennifer, give us your little origin story, where were you from, where you went to school and how you even got here.

Jennifer: Yes, absolutely. So, I went to school in Berkeley. Before that Mira Monte, which ironically Naomi did too.

Naomi: Same high school.

Jennifer: Yes, the same. Yes, it’s eerie. And, so, yes, my academic background, not a field, academics is not a field known for its sense of humor, nor was I ever known for my sense of humor. I’ve been rated the least funny person in my family, about five times running, that includes the dog as you know, John. And, so, yes. Basically, about 10 years ago, I started seeing some little stories of different leaders or people that actually achieved really quite remarkable things by using humor. So, I got really interested in this idea that humor is not a thing that can distract from your goals or be inefficient or silly, but, in fact, could enhance your goals. And, that’s what kind of put me on this path to try to understand it. And, that’s when I met Naomi.

John: Where did you two meet?

Jennifer: She gave a guest lecture at my Power of Story class, and it was all on quantitative analysis around how you build teams and how you use actual data to actually inform how teams work well together. But, here’s the thing, “And now, we’re in a half guess lecture.”, people were dying laughing? Like she was like doing this guest lecture almost as a stand-up. And, more importantly, 10 weeks later, not only did they rate her guest lecture extraordinarily high, but they remembered this highly technical information that she communicated. So, it was just this great case of how humor, when embedded in dense information, can actually make it more memorable in the long run.

Naomi: I will say when you’re talking about I get analysis, the bar for humor is very low.

John: So, all right, Naomi, your turn. Where you grow up, you guys went to the same high school obviously…

Naomi: Went to the same high school, Mira Monte High School. John, here’s where you reveal that you also went to Mira Monte High School.

John: No.

Naomi: No? Oh, my gosh.

John: All right. I missed that.

Naomi: Waiting for that one podcaster to be like, “So, did I.”. So, yes, I grew up in the Bay Area. And, I’ve spent my career straddling the worlds of business and impromptu comedy. So, I grew up in corporate strategy at a large consulting firm. But, all the while, I was doing impromptu comedy- nights and weekends. Totally for fun, not trying to ever- I literally would not allow my friends to come to my shows because it was just for fun. I just loved and was so passionate about it. And, a couple of years into my career, I was in my mid-20s, and I came to this realization that I was basically living a double life. Where, at work, I was professional, I was doing really well climbing whatever corporate ladder I was on, but I had no semblance of a personality. I was having no fun, and I basically had no good friends at work. And, that was early in my career. And, so, I sort of started coming to this realization and wondering whether I could merge these two worlds. And, I was really lucky. I was in this incredible group doing creative work within Deloitte. And, the group was so supportive of this. I work with people who brought their full selves to work and sort of model with that look like. And, so, I started merging those two worlds, building really good friendships at work and sort of coming to this realization that actually, there’s incredible power at the intersection of humor and business. So, I went off to business school at Stanford, and that sort of became my mission after business school, after meeting Jennifer and realizing we really had this shared passion around it.

John: When did you both start teaching this wonderful course, Humor, Serious Business?

Naomi: Six years ago. Seven years ago. What is time?

Jennifer: Dates.

Naomi: What is time? Yes. It’s now been running for let’s say six or seven years.

Jennifer: Most likely eight.

Naomi: Two decades. It’s been running at the business school in Stanford.

John: So, it’s 20 years in the making and how popular is the class?

Jennifer: Not at all.

Naomi: Yes. Not at all. It’s just us at the front of the room by ourselves mostly.

Jennifer: No, actually it is. It’s surprising. The first time we taught it, filled up the class the second time. It kind of was oversubscribed, then we built out two sections. Now, we teach it online. It really has blossomed. And, I think part of it is that, right now, especially, the world needs humor. It’s also an incredible tool for leaders to lead in more authentic and effective ways. There’s a large-scale study that recently came out that showed that, since the pandemic, 89% of these respondents said their life was getting worse and 85% said, their mental well-being was on the decline. And, so, it’s in these moments right now where humor is not just nice to have, it’s a mandatory thing and it’s really a secret weapon, especially, for leaders who really want to navigate a very new way of managing teams.

Naomi: Yes. I’ll add to that. In all seriousness, our course at Stanford has become a really important part of the curriculum and part of recognizing what it takes to be this new type of leader. That it used to be that leaders need to be revered and now, more and more, they need to be understood. They need to be seen, we need to have vulnerability from our leaders and even humor. So, by the way, our course gets the same academic credit at Stanford Business School as Financial Accounting which is truly not a joke. So, yes, that’s the journey we’ve been on and where we are now.

John: And because of, the new world that we live in has evolved in person, and people can also log in and watch it online as well.

Jennifer: Well, we do have a TED Talk coming out.

John: Really.

Jennifer: Yes.

John: When?

Jennifer: It’s a surprise.

John: This is a surprise.

Jennifer: It is a surprise. All right, for our guests right now, we told John this, so, it’s not a surprise. But yes, people can get online glimpses into it. The Ted Talk basically condenses a 10-week course into 10 minutes.

John: Wow, how hard was that?

Jennifer: Ridiculously hard. Seriously, we slaved on this for like six months. Is that right, Naomi?

Naomi: Yes. We’ve been slaves for six months.

Jennifer: Yes. And, we had coaches, amazing coaches, that helped us as well. So, we were very spoiled and yet it still took six months.

John: Where did you film it?

Jennifer: Monterey.

John: Monterey.

Naomi: Yes. Ted was back in person this year in Monterey after a couple of years off.

John: Wonderful. Did it turn out the way you wanted it to?

Jennifer: Yes.

John: Obviously preparation is one thing but, then, post is another, are you happy with it?

Jennifer: Well, I broke my leg two weeks before. I broke my femur. And so she brought a sexy cane. I kid you not, it was a cane. So, Naomi had like prop me up but except for that part.

Naomi: Yes, we had backup plans. For if Jennifer started to go down, I would like to nudge over and catch her and we would continue.

John: What were you doing? Unless you have an NFL career that you’re going to now reveal to us, how did you break a femur?

Jennifer: Yes, it was an e-bike that basically… Anyway.

John: Oh, okay.

Jennifer: Yes. It was sad. Although it does bring up this really good point which is, at the end of our class, we do these things with our students. We have them write their signature story. Something that was hard. It was meaningful. It was not necessarily fun. And, then, we have them change their story in one minute and make it a comedy. And, so, we call this a levity reframe. So, you take something bad, and you actually reframe it as a comedy. And, so, that’s what I did when I broke my femur, and it was truly hysterical. Like when you look at life in that way, it’s easy to live on the precipice of a smile which is really what the focus of our book is. I’m not about being funny. It’s just about how do you look at life and live on the precipice of a smile, not an e-bike.

John: Okay. Well, for our listeners of yours, we’re going to talk about a lot of things today, all comedy-related. But one thing we definitely going to do, we’re going to talk about your great book, Humor, Seriously- Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life, and how anyone can harness it. Even you, as you can tell, I didn’t love the book, – I really loved the book. And, there is statistical evidence in the book that you laid out in terms of longevity of life and happiness in life with regards to folks. That takes any negative experience they’ve really had, and they re-frame it in a way. That’s sort of funny, in terms of, how they perceive it and how they actually related to others. Is that not true?

Naomi: Yes. Absolutely. Because there’s a wealth of behavioral science showing that humor helps us be more resilient. As you said, there are even linkages to longevity. Part of this is that, when we laugh, we don’t necessarily think of humor as being medicine. And, we’ve all heard the phrase, laughter is the best medicine. Well, as it turns out, medicine is the best medicine, not laughter, but laughter is a close second because it truly changes the chemistry of our brains. So, we release all of these happy hormones that change, not only how we feel about ourselves- more confident, more competent, more powerful, but, also, how other people perceive us. So, we know from the research that leaders with a good sense of humor are seen as 27% more motivating, that their employees report being 15% more engaged, and their teams report being more bonded and creative. And, of course, bonded at work also connects to being happier and feeling healthier at work as well.

John: I’m going to just tell you, I’m 59 years old, and everything that I read in your book, I found to be true. And, of course, I learned a lot also about myself, and also about the power of humor that I never even had heard before. But I wish I was 21 again going through college, and I had a chance to sit in and take your course. Because I could have been a much better leader for the last 35 years, 38 years if I had had a course like this, and I’ll tell you what, it is so powerful. Humor is just, just the best. I really just want to say this going into this before we get talking about, specifically in the book and other things with regards to what you’re doing. And, for our listeners and viewers who just joined us today, we’ve got Jennifer Aaker with us and Naomi Bagdonas. They’re the writers of this book, which by the way, we’re going to have a dozen copies to give out signed by them for those who want to write to us and tell us why they want to get a little humor in their life or in their leadership. And, also that, you could go to Buy the book or you could just hire them to help you in your business life in terms of speeches and other things you’re trying to do and another type of services that you might need from both, Jennifer and Naomi. So, I went to the Goldman Sachs conference. You were speakers there. A week away from that conference, I had a very big speech coming up, six hundred plus people. The first big public event in Fresno since covid, and I was very nervous just even thinking about it. And, I didn’t know how I was going to open the event and I love humor. I mean, truth be known, if I wasn’t a business person, I really would have been a stand-up. I wanted to be a stand-up comedian.

I just think funny is just the way to live, and I always try to look for the funny in everything. And, you came on stage, both of you. People that I had never met or seen before. And, you literally captivated the whole audience. You started with the Saturday Live clip, and, then, you went to the George Bush clip. Maybe I have it in reverse. But, anyway, that was the 1-2 beginning of how this whole thing started. You explain the importance of oxytocin and what laughter does for the brain, and you made me feel so much more confident about how to open up the next week, and how to get the audience on my side. And, I’m just going to tell you, you are a blessing for me, and I’m so thankful because that speech went very well, but it’s not because of me. It’s because of both of you and what I learned just in that 45-minute discussion that you put on at the Goldman Sachs conference. So, if that’s not an advertisement for how girlie you both are, nothing is.

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Naomi: Wow. Can you share how you opened or is it too specific to the audience?

John: No, it’s not specific to the audience. And in fact, it’s going to be like, you got to be like you talked about terms of radical truth-telling and things of that such. So, Fresno is a very red community, generally speaking. And, I’m a native New Yorker, and I’m very progressive in these photos of me online with Obama and all that other nonsense. That comes along with being progressive in a political advocate and things of that such. So, there was nothing funnier to start the whole show with than- I just used your George Bush clip. And, just tell them, I’m very nervous to be here today and it’s not easy to be the first speaker in Fresno after two years of no public events. And, people didn’t know that they come with non-stop dance and the whole crowd just wanted to be together. And I said, listen, I’m not the only one who sometimes gets nervous before their big public speaking event. And, I just like framed it up and show that they went nuts, had the crowd on my side. And from there, we were off to the race.

Naomi: That’s awesome.

John: So, I plagiarized your great work, but I’m going to tell you, it works. So, you to ask the question. I’m just being really frank with you both.

Naomi: I love that. So, a small tip that we always tell our students is the first 30 seconds of any talk of any meeting is so critical to setting the tone. And, if you can get people to laugh in the first 30 seconds, then it shifts the entire dynamic going forward. People are warmer. And, we know this from research too. That person are warmer, they’re more trusting of each other. There’s more creativity. There’s less stress in the room. And, so, those first 30 seconds are so critical. And, again, if you can get people to laugh, it doesn’t need to be telling a joke. It can be showing a video. It can be just naming something that’s going on in the room.

Jennifer: That’s right. And there’s research to show when you just laugh a little bit, that people self-disclose personal information much more. So, one of the reasons we shared those clips is not just because George Bush was following us. But, also, because when you share information about each other after laughing together, people tend to be more trusting and much more open. And it completely shifts the follow-on conversation and how productive it is.

John: That clip was just, I mean, tremendous, and it got the whole room on the right side of the whole fence, and, from there, it was really easy. And, so, I just want to say thank you both. That really helped me a lot. And, as I said, in reading your book, I learned so much more. And, I’ll tell you what, there’s nobody who’s watching or listening to this podcast today that can’t learn from reading your book and become just a better leader, a better family member, and just a better part of any organization you’re part of. To smile a little bit more laugh a little bit more and make fun of yourself. I mean, there’s no better way to live life, and this book shows you how and shows you how to do it well.

Let’s go into the book. When did you come up with doing this great course? You have a consulting business, and when did you come up like, hey, we’ve got to put this into a book.

Naomi: I could type years. I think, at some point, we both were really excited about the idea of scaling this beyond just what we could do at Stanford.

John: Yes.

Naomi: We absolutely love what we’ve been able to do at Stanford. But we also teach impromptu comedy in the local County jails. We’ve worked with nonprofits and communities outside of Stanford as well. And, there was this idea of, okay, how do we really create a movement here, how do we create a movement towards people living their lives on the precipice of a smile and doing serious things without taking themselves too seriously. And, so, that was this mission, to write this book. And, Jennifer and I, both, we’re a little hesitant to write a book. It seemed pretty intimidating. And, so, Jennifer had written before, so she knew how hard it was. She had just told me stories about how hard it was. And, so, when we started it, we actually started a Google doc, and we tried to put our research into practice. So we said, okay, how are we going to have fun with this even when it’s really hard.

So, we started a Google doc, and we named it “A Really Shitty Proposal”. That was the name of Google Docs. And, every time we open it up, we’re like “Hey, do you want to work on the shitty proposal?” “Yes. Let’s go work on it.” Just as a way to sort of keep ourselves like-hearted about it. And, what happened was, we accidentally submitted it to our agent with the title “A Really Shitty Proposal’. We just forgot to change the document name. And, she liked it so much that she submitted it to publishers with the title “A Really Shitty Proposal”. And, so, throughout our entire book writing process, everything was really shitty- “A really shitty chapter 1″,” A really shitty preface”, “A really shitty opening by former Pixar President Ed Catmull”. Everything until the very last moment.

John: Holy Toledo. And, nothing like setting your expectations low. So, anything they read was going to be really genius after that anyway.

Naomi: There you go. Exactly.

John: And the fact that it was really brilliant, anyway, just created a wonderful paradox of a really shitty proposal to a really great and funny book.

Naomi: But I do want to double click on that a little because this is about creating queues for ourselves in our lives to not take ourselves so seriously. And, so, it’s about what behaviors or what safeguards can we put in place when we start getting too serious. And, Michael Lewis, who wrote the afterword of our book with us, talks about how- when you don’t have enough humor in your life, it sort of feels like walking through a forest and things are a little too quiet. Like there is a lion that is going to come and eat you up. And, so, if you’re walking through your life and you don’t have laughter, you don’t have levity, it’s a really bad sign. That things aren’t going well, that something is out of alignment in your life, and you really need to change it and make some behavior changes to do so. And, that’s what Jennifer did too with the breaking her leg, right? She’s like okay, great. I broke my leg. I’m going to choose right now to send a photo to Naomi of myself on the pavement. And, we’re gonna laugh about this.

John: I was going to ask this later but since you brought up Michael Lewis, and I read the Afterword. I loved it. His story about his daughter and himself going to The Improv and the workshop and him sweating and coming out, like he just left a soul cycle class, and she just coming out bubbly like this is easiest, the breeziest thing she’s ever done, was great. But why Michael Lewis? There is a story behind it, Jennifer. Why did you choose Michael Lewis instead of Jimmy Fallon or some other great comedian that I’m sure you could have gotten.

Jennifer: Part of this, I mean, we were lucky enough to have a bunch of comedians that come into our class like Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Seth Meyers and others. But, what was important for us also is that this is not just about being a comedian. This is about leaders. And, so, there are so many things that are incredible about Michael Lewis, but he is not only a brilliant author, but he spans many, many domains. And, he’s studied leaders and really effective people in an extraordinarily important role. So, his vantage point, his view was actually really interesting for us to have. And, then, we complemented that with Ed Catmull, who was the CEO of Pixar. And, he talks about what’s interesting about humor is that, when you bring humor into an organizational setting, it actually creates meaning for people. It bonds people. It allows meanings and stories to actually unfold in ways that lift others.

John: It’s true. So, I know you’ve heard, I’m sure, over the recent movie that came out called The Ricardo’s.

Jennifer: Yes.

Naomi: Yes.

John: So, Nicole Kidman sat down for an interview with the New York Times. And, in that interview, over the weekend, she said “We’re talking about preparing for the role.” She says, “I’ve got to be funny, and funny is hard.” when she was preparing to play the role of Lucille Ball. Talk about that, is funny as hard a true statement in your mind, or is it just a matter of practice in terms of…? Let’s go into the areas that you’ve talked about in the book, in terms of timing matters, words matter, and context matters.

Naomi: Funny is hard, levity is easy. Levity is a choice. So, we also share in the book this spectrum of levity humor, and comedy. And, oftentimes what can be so intimidating about the idea of humor especially at work, is people think I have to be funny. And, I would absolutely agree with Nicole Kidman, funny is hard. But that’s actually not what we’re going for here. We’re going for a little bit of lightheartedness, a little bit of levity, and, especially, I mean, I joked of that the bar and in I get analysis is very low. But, truly, the bar in business for laughing is so low. Often, all it takes is naming the truth or asking you about what in the world those pictures are in the background of your Zoom background, which we have to go to next. It often just takes a little bit of humanity to get to levity. And, the one tip for getting a little step further to humor is to just notice what’s true? Don’t look for what’s funny in your life. Notice what’s true. And, minding that truth will get you to authentic humor that will connect with other people.

John: Got it. Wow. If that doesn’t say it all.

Naomi: Okay. Now, what’s in the background?

John: That’s my wife of 37 years, who saw you up at Goldman Sachs. And, those are my two children, both much funnier than I am. They’re both lawyers. This was painted in about 14 years ago. This artwork, it’s been in my office just like this and those have been on my wall for 14 or 15 years. But, when this whole Zoom thing started, I just started the zoom thing and it has ironically turned out to be my background and everyone seems to like it. My kids are very supportive. But I told him that I was doing this interview and I’ve had this, first, it was a radio show starting in 2007 which evolves into a podcast because, of course, podcasts then exist in 2007. I told them this interview is coming up and how excited I was because I just love comedy. And they said, “Dad, that’s great.” They said, “How’s your listenership?” I said, “It’s up.” And, so, they called my social guy, who they’re friends with. And they asked him, “What are dad’s numbers?” And he said, “40 percent in 2021. The numbers are up 40%.” So, they wrote me a card for Christmas saying, “Dad, it’s so great. You finally hit 14 listeners, and we wish you well in 2022.” So, that’s where they are. And that’s how they live their life.

Naomi: Okay. So, we have talked about humor styles next, because we got to talk about humor styles in your family.

John: Humor styles in my family is, it’s got to be self-deprecating because my kids jump on me all the time. They’re both so funny. My wife’s not funny at all, but she likes to make jokes. And, then, she goes, “I’m not the funny one anyway. John’s going to do the joke.”

Jennifer: I was giving a little mini-lecture in my daughter’s second-grade class many years ago. And, I ran out of material because second graders consume material much more quickly than MBAs. They’re like yes, we got it, we got it. So, at the end of my lecture, I said, humor, how many of you think you’re funny? Everyone raises their hands, and, then, I asked, tell me who you think is the funniest person you know. Everyone, except for one person, said their dad or their brother. It was horrifying. And, then, I decided to write a book on this with Naomi. But Naomi mentions this idea of humor styles. One of the biggest breakthroughs we had was that people think this is about being funny, and it’s not. It’s about having a humorous style. And there are four, and you can go to to take the quiz and have data share with what you are. But we have a sense of what you are John, so, we’ll guess at the end of this. But you can guess first. First is the stand-up. They’re bold, they’re brash, they’re unafraid to ruffle a few feathers to get a laugh. There are the sniper- edgy, dry, sarcastic, masters of the unexpected dick. Then, there is the sweetheart, they’re earnest and honest, and they often use humor to uplift others. And, then, there’s a magnet. They’re a little silly, a little like fit, more physical, more charismatic. They’re the people who light up a room when they come to a party. So, what do you think you are primarily?

John: Magnet.

Jennifer: I think so, too. You’re also extroverted, right?

John: No.

Jennifer: You seem extroverted. And, so, yes, I bet it, you would have also made me a secondary dimension of stand up. Naomi, what do you think?

Naomi: Exactly the same. I think that you’re a magnet but that New Yorker energy really pulls you towards stand up and sniper every so often.

John: Here’s my wife’s version of humor, and she tries her best. So, it’s 1986 we’re at New York Airport. No one’s in the terminal, and we’re waiting for my daughter to arrive. She’s eight or nine months old, with my brother who’s bringing her back from California. And, who strolls into the terminals the middle of July and it’s a hot summer night in New Jersey but Bill Murray. And, he’s licking an ice cream cone. And now, Bill Murray was at the height of Bill Murry-ness. And he’s still, of course, who he is. And she goes, “I’m going to go ask him for his autograph.” And, I’m like, “Oh boy, how can this go wrong?” “I can’t really go wrong asking Bill Murray for his autograph.”

So, my wife walks up to him. And she says, “Come with me, come with me. I want to ask.” And, so, I sort of sheepishly go alongside, and finally, she goes up to him. She goes, “Mr. Murray, can I just have your autograph?” She goes, “And by the way, I loved you in the movie Fletch.” That’s how that goes. And Bill Murray didn’t even know because, of course, he’s archrival at that time. Coming out of Caddyshack was probably much more made about it than it really should. It was his competition and sort of adversity at that moment with Chevy Chase. So, he sort of laughed it off. So, he says, “Give me something to sign and I’ll sign it.” So, the only thing she had was a check. So, he turns the check over and he writes, Merry Christmas, drive safely home. And, that was Bill Murray. And that’s how he did middle of July “Merry Christmas.”

Naomi: Oh, my gosh.

John: She tries.

Naomi: I thought that you are going to say he signed Chevy Chase.

John: Oh, no. He should have, but it’s great. Listen, what other takeaways do you want? Obviously, the bar is low in business. I do agree with you. Levity brings us together. Talk about what you do for folks like me that have to go do speaking engagements and want to open and be funny but be contextual and timely at the same same time but get everybody on their side. How do you coach them? How’s that part of your practice? And even your book, how can you make us better in terms of opening, so, we get the crowd on our side?

Naomi: Yes, so, if someone comes to us and says, hey, I’ve got this talk to give please help me be funny, write jokes. We turn right back to them and say, great but the takeaway, tell me what’s true for you. So, it’s literally just helping them mind their life for what’s true. So, I would ask you things like all right, John, tell me about your last five dances. Tell me about the holidays. Tell me about what your dynamic with your kids is like. Tell me a little bit about your wife. What’s going on at work? What do you most energize by? What do you most drain by? And it’s in minding those truths from our life that we find material that’s going to land on the moment. So, one example is, a CEO that we work with came to us the other day and said this, and so we said, great, tell us some things about your life. And, also, what strategic message do you need to get across right now? What tone do you need to say? Right. So, his tone was, he feels there is an incredible distance between him and his team and if he walks in the room people feel nervous. He wants them to see him as more of a human, right? So, how do I be a little self-deprecating and have them feel safer on me?

So, he gave us some information about his life like the fact that his kids never listen to him. And, this is like a real problem in his life. So, he came in and he opened it, he’s all hands. And he named off the fact that he wants people to feel comfortable around him. Like, come talk to me. And, just so, you know, it may seem like I’m the CEO in this room. When I walk into this room, I’m CEO, but when I walked out that door, I’m the executive assistant to two teenage girls. And, then, he went through all of his responsibilities as an executive assistant. I cut the crust off all of the sandwiches. I’m a professional Uber driver, all these things. And, even though, again, this isn’t haha, funny, perfect comedy, it’s humanity. And it’s a little window into his life that got everyone in the room laughing and also feeling a bit more comfortable with him. So, the biggest. the takeaway for people who have an event coming up, they want to be more human, is first thinking about what’s true for you. And, also, what’s going to be true for others in the room.

John: Love it. I love it. Jennifer, do I have this, right? Do you watch every Saturday Night Live episode?

Jennifer: Oh, yes, absolutely. I’m part of this too, just not being a student like a student at this domain. But, part of this is very personal to me as well. My mom has worked in hospice for as long as I can remember, 40 plus years. And, I remember talking to her as a young girl, who are the people that have regrets in their last days of life? Because it was her job to see if she could help them, right? Because that’s what you do as a hospice volunteer. So, I remember her sharing the types of people that had so much joy and no regrets versus those who had regrets. And, the regrets really kind of more bucketed into a few areas. One is bold people often mentioned they wish they had been bolder and traveled more, changed more, took more risks. And, then, another was authenticity people wish that they had been just more authentic in life and listen less to what others had said, and more to what they felt to be true. They wish they savor these small little moments. They wish they laugh more than take themselves so seriously. It is one of the most serious moments of life and they mentioned that. And love, they wish they had the chance to say I love you one more time.

And, what’s really powerful is that all of this work of the neurosciences, social sciences, all of these things that Naomi and I have delved into over the last decade, it’s revealed that not only is having a sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously. would allow you to mitigate that one regret. It really allows you to mitigate the others. Because when you have this like sense of humor and mindset of levity, you’re able to take bolder risks. You are by definition, as you already mentioned, you feel more authentic. You can read the room better as well. You by definition have to be present because you’re looking for these small truths that actually can make you smile each day. And as you noted, Michael Lewis ended our book. And he said when humor exists love is not far behind, and we find that to be extraordinarily true. This is why it’s very important to watch SNL as often as you can.

John: Favorite skit. Go. What was your favorite skit ever?

Jennifer: Oh my gosh, Cowbell. Yes, I’m just going to stick with that.

John: And, Naomi, favorite skit?

Naomi: Oh, I don’t think I can name a favorite set of all time. But recent favorites are Iceberg. So, Bowen Yang is the Titanic iceberg. I will always love Totino’s commercial, High School play, where Will Ferrell is the teacher and he’s casting it. Too many dimensions but those are some recent favorites.

John: Listen. I know we’re up against the time limit here. For our listeners and viewers who want to learn more and or potentially hire you to help them get better at this in business and in life, they can go to or they can buy your book, read it as I did. You can also write to me and potentially win a free copy signed by both Jennifer Naomi. But this book is great. You can buy it on, on their website, Barnes and Noble, and other great bookstores close to you.

Naomi and Jennifer, both of you are amazing. I could spend three hours just chatting with both of you. You are doing amazing and important work. I’m just grateful for your time. I’m grateful that you came to Goldman Sachs and spoke. And I can’t wait to see you again in person and listen to what you’re up to. Because, I think, you both are just doing such important, impactful work that’s so underrated in society and in business that I think there’s a big future ahead. And, I hope you come back one day on the Impact Podcast.

Jennifer: Thank you, John.

Naomi: Love to. And yes, thank you so much for having us. And, you can tell Courtney and Tyler that two more regular listeners, they might have noticed, have been added in the last couple of months. So, I think we’re up at least 20%.

John: Thank you both for everything. And, seriously, I really want you to come back. Also, on January 13, your Ted Talk comes out. Listen to their Ted talk. If you can’t make it to their Stanford class, which most of us won’t be able to unless we’re students at Stanford. Listen to their Ted Talk that comes out that Jennifer did while she had a broken femur.

Jennifer: All right, thanks so much.

Naomi: Thank you, John.

John: Thank you both for everything. Be well. Have a great 2022 and way beyond.

Naomi: Thank you. You too.

John: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry. With thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent, speeches, custom experiences, live streams, and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talent today, visit