7 Ways Stand-Up Comedy Can Teach Us to Effectively Motivate Others

05/01/2015 12:46 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2016

What motivates us? What are the key drivers to motivating others? There are so many that resonate -- to deliver a message, to make a difference, to make an impact, to foster change, to create something new.

I had the opportunity to sit in the VIP section at the Warner Theatre in Washington, DC in March for a spectacularly funny stand-up comedy show, featuring Maz Jobrani and guest comedians Tehran SoParvaz Jr., Amir Kamyab and Mo Amer. In addition to being hilarious, these comedians deliver a strong and powerful message all over the world, on outlets like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno by turning a humorous eye on issues like racism and stereotyping, specifically of Middle Easterners. They use their comedy to motivate the audience to make a difference, either through taking action to counteract stereotypes or by simply opening their minds to a new perspective.

So how you can learn from the laughs and then apply these lessons toward motivating yourself and others?

  1. Gratitude - It all starts with being thankful for the opportunities you have. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way. Comedians who are grateful to be up on that stage give off an energy that infects their audience.
  2. Purpose - You have to tune into what's important to you in order for others to think it's important too. What is your inner calling? What is your message? Tehran SoParvaz, Jr. uses his comedy to show that some stereotypes of the Middle East are just ridiculous and that times have changed and that we should, too! His desire is to bring peace, and the message comes through between the laughter.
  3. Delivery - It's not enough to know your message, you have to know how to deliver it. There are so many ways. Jobrani, SoParvaz, Kamyab and Amer use comedy, but you should use whatever matches with your interests and abilities. Some people write essays, books or blog entries. Others give speeches, workshops, or start petitions, thus creating a ripple effect where some of the recipients of this message go out and spread it to others.
  4. No comparisons - Don't judge yourself against others. Your story is different, and you need to OWN it if you want to motivate others. Remember that true leaders motivate people through positivity, not by tearing others down. Help your competitors own theirs. Work together to build a beautiful society. The thing that I loved about the comedy show was that all of the comedians supported and promoted each other, thus creating an impact way greater than the sum of its part.
  5. Authentic - If a salesperson who doesn't believe in his product tries to sell you something, does it motivate you? Or, if you're listening to someone deliver jokes that you can tell they don't believe in, do you laugh? Odds are it doesn't, because we can sense when others are being sincere and honest. So, only try to "sell" things that you would buy. Communicate your points with the right intent. Speak from your heart. Aim to make others feel better and stronger after hearing your message. This doesn't mean to just feed them platitudes or tell them what they want to hear, because that isn't authentic. Judges of competitions often deliver news that is not welcome, but if they are pushing a competitor to be his best self then this can be so very motivating. When I'm at my most authentic is when I see the greatest results. Recently, I spoke from the heart and was then asked to deliver a workshop based on my book, The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind, to a Fortune 100 company.
  6. Cross Check - Remember, everyone is always watching! It's all about perception. How do you want others to perceive you? Kids are watching... our future leaders. Be consciously aware. How do you want the "judges" to view you, your family, or your colleagues? If you're not sure, then ask. 360 degree evaluations are perfect for this, ask your friends and colleagues to give anonymous feedback that is rolled up in a meaningful way. Think about positive comedy versus negative comedy. Comedians like Ellen DeGeneres and Jerry Seinfeld, who base their material on the humor in everyday life, probably sleep a lot better than funnymen whose acts get laughs by making fun of others.
  7. Reflection - Look in the mirror at the end of the day and ask yourself, "Did I make a difference today?" You'll know you're on the right track if you start to smile!

So now I've given you a great excuse to go out tonight and visit your local comedy club or music venue. Then, think about how you feel after you leave and why. Do you feel uplifted? Motivated? Energized? If the answer is "yes", it's because the performer was most likely delivering their message with authenticity, positivity and from the heart. What will your message be? My purpose is to motivate and inspire others to transform their lives through genuine teamwork, strategic planning and career empowerment. I'd love to hear about yours!