Your Simple Guide To Being Funny 3: How To Write A Joke

386px-F_C_Burnand_Charicatures_Shakespeare

Now that we know about the structure of a joke and the different parts that it consists of, how do we actually go about writing it?

What creative process do you need to go through in order to come up with an idea for a joke and then craft it in a funny way?

Watch the video below to see Jerry Seinfeld’s process:

A lot of humor is based on things happening around you, whether in the news or in your own life. These are the basic starting points of all jokes or funny stories. You just need to be able to capture that, process it and then deliver it in the right way.

You can write a simple story about your day, job, life and use comedy formula to shape it to create laugh points and make the audience start rolling in the aisles.

Aside from velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can’t see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of seventy-five dollars per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything.” Dave Barry

Edgar E. Willis (author of “How to be funny on purpose”) states that every joke has what is called an expressed idea and an inferred idea. The expressed idea is what the joke teller says in an explicit form, while the inferred idea is the idea that the listeners should get out of what he is saying.

So basically the joke is delivering two ideas simultenously, what is said literally and what those words are implying.

Since you have two basic ideas in a joke, you also have two main starting places for a joke: either think up the inferred idea (what you want the audience to draw out of what you say), or come up with the expressed idea (material that will lead audience to make inferred idea).

Listen again to Jerry Seinfeld’s description of his joke creation process. In the example he gives, he is starting out from the inferred idea: Pop Tarts are weird and food is crazy.

Once he has the message he wants to pass in his head, he goes about crafting the words that would deliver it.

Here is another Jerry Seinfeld clip which has as its inferred idea the craziness of the shopping experience. Notice the words he uses in order to show this:

How do you craft the words themselves? Even if the inferred idea is good, the actual words that you use can be the difference between the audience giving out a slight chuckle or breaking out in roaring laughter that makes half the people end up in the hospital due to the fact that they were cracking up so hard that they forgot to breathe.

One way to do this is visualization, describing in such a way as to paint a vivid picture in the head. Another good joke formula is the use of exaggerations, either overstatements or understatements in order to better convey your idea.

This can be done by combining metaphors or analogies with hyperboles. Your brain often thinks using metaphors and analogies and that’s why their use can really underline what you are saying.

These are very powerful ways of expressing an idea. Using these tropes in different contexts can often give a very different spin to your message.

A metaphor basically says that A is B. For example the “war on drugs” is saying that there is a war on drugs.

On the other hand, a simile compares two things that are similar in some way. A simile often states that A is “like” B. In order to tell apart a simile from a metaphor look for words like “like” or “as”. For example when Forrest Gump said that “life is like a box of chocolates” or when you say something is “as cute as a kitten“.

An analogy is essentially an extended, more elegant simile. For example this quote from the character Matt McGrath in the movie “Broken Hearts Club” is an analogy: “Dumb gorgeous people should not be allowed to use literature when competing in the pick-up pool. It’s like bald people wearing hats.
Read More

The Art Of Learning: One Simple Mindset Change That Will Lead You On The Path To Mastery

The Art of Learning: One Mindset Change That Redefined My Life

You learn to live life on the go. At birth, you are not given infinite wisdom, but instead you need to learn by trial and error. Some people are lucky and discover the right paths quite early, for some it takes longer, while the majority of people breeze through life without a clue.

Some people have the luck of getting a mentor who guides them on the right path, while others arrive there in other ways. One good thing about the current period is the explosion of knowledge that we have available at our finger tips.

If you don’t have a mentor, it is much easier now to embark on the path by yourself, aggregating information from different sources and building up a framework to guide you.

Books are one resource that you can use for this purpose. There are a small number of books that can give you a unique insight into your life and the best way to live it. 

Reading them, not only do you gain a lot of knowledge to incorporate into your ever-growing mental library, but you also experience a few “aha” moments. It is during these moments when questions you have been asking yourself about life and how you should be living it suddenly appear clearer.

You are reading a certain passage and suddenly things click. At that moment you know what was that one mistake that you made that redefined your life. You realize what was that one mindset change that you should have made, but didn’t.

These books are the ones that end up having a powerful effect on the rest of your life. These “aha” moments that they provoke, give you a clearer perspective and an understanding of the things that you should be doing in order to be successful in life.

When you apply these little lessons in practice, your life suddenly becomes better, you start doing things differently and you finally start doing things in the right way.

The Art of Learning

One of the books that has had a huge impact on my mindset and the way I live and experience life has been “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin.

Josh is a remarkable character. As a kid he was a chess prodigy and the personality on whom the film “Searching for Bobby Fisher” was based on.

From early on, he was dominating his age groups in chess. He brought piercing focus and intensity to the game that catapulted him to the top.

He was on his way to becoming one of the top chess players in the world. However suddenly things changed and he refocused his life by switching disciplines completely.

He went from chess, a discipline of the mind, to martial arts, more particularly tai chi and push hands competitions, a discipline of the body. Remarkably, he was able to dominate there too.

Not only did he become the US National Champion in the martial art of push hands, he also became the World Champion, beating the Taiwanese on their home turf in their own national sport. This was a rare achievement, made even rarer by the fact that he had switched from a totally different discipline just a few years earlier.

How did he do it? He didn’t do it because he was naturally born to be a chess champion or a martial art champion. He did it because he was good at the art of learning.
Read More

How To Stop Being An Eternal Beginner And Learn A Foreign Language To Fluency

How To Learn A Language By Doing Something Else

As an intermediate to lower advanced level learner, you face many challenges that can prevent you from rising to the next level. Many language learners reach a certain level, but then do not progress further. Once you can already have a conversation or better, how do you go from there?

Many times you lose the motivation to keep on going and your language learning dies as a result. You get stuck in the intermediate level purgatory. What you need to do is continue on learning the language by combining it with something else you love or want to know more about. That way you kill two birds with one stone and keep yourself motivated.

This is something that I have been applying to my own foreign language studies. Unfortunately, my motivation is not always that great, so I often skip doing those grammar exercises that I should be doing.

By using the technique described above, where I combine learning languages with doing something else that I am interested in, I do keep on progressing in my target languages. It sort of lets me bypass the problem of not having motivation and keeps me on the right path.

Learning Spanish by Reading About Gladiators

There are several examples of how I apply this strategy in practice. Last summer, I was in Spain for a few days and did what I always do, I found a local bookstore and went in to browse the books that they had available. I am really interested in ancient history and went over to the history section to check out the books. Since I was in Spain, all the books were in Spanish of course. 🙂

I was looking at the books, when I noticed one on gladiators. I was always interested in ancient sports and this topic caught my interest. Then it hit me, why not satisfy my curiosity by reading a book on gladiators, but do it in Spanish?

That way not only do I get to learn more about gladiators and how they lived, but I also get to practice my Spanish! I decided to buy the book.

When I returned from Spain, I opened up the book and started reading. My Spanish is at a B2 level and so I understand most of what I am reading, but I do come across some words or sentences that I don’t understand.

The key here is to do what I call active reading. While reading the book, I have Google Translate open (or a dictionary) and consult it whenever I don’t understand a word or phrase. I keep the words and their translations listed on screen and when I am finished with the chapter, I transfer them to Anki in order to review them later. That way any new words you learn will stick in your head better.

Watch Cartoons!
Read More

What Have We Learned On The Two-Year Journey Of This Blog?

road-690138_1280

It’s been two years since I started this blog. During that time, I have undergone quite a journey and the blog has changed to reflect that.

I originally started this blog as a way to share my experiences and what I have learned on gaining weight and muscle. Everywhere, everyone was talking about losing weight and all that, but the fact that there are millions of people who have the opposite problem, that of being underweight, was not being talked about. I wanted to help those people out.

So I started the blog in a very particular niche (gaining weight). At the same time, I started other niche blogs as well, such as in language learning. I was working on several different blogs because that was the prevailing advice I was reading on the internet, start niche blogs… So I did.

However over time, it became quite challenging to update all the different blogs, especially with quality content. I also started blogging at a time when blogging was exploding and the internet was saturated with myriads of blogs in basically every niche imaginable, including all the niches I was blogging on.

How could I differentiate myself from all these other blogs? I decided to focus on my strengths and the unique things that I had developed over the years that very few people had.

I looked at all the different blogs and the people behind them. What I saw reflected the era of specialization that we currently live in. Many of the people running the different blogs were heavily specialized and lacked skills in other areas. The language bloggers were all usually out-of-shape, the fitness bloggers didn’t know much else besides fitness, and many of the social commentary bloggers were really out of touch with reality. Plus many of the big-name travel and lifestyle bloggers had bucket lists that were not that impressive (for some of them I had already done a majority of the things on their list).

The biggest eye-opener was that almost noone was combining all these different things. The people who you would describe as polymaths, those who combined a good body with different mental skills such as polyglottery, could be counted on the fingers of one hand. That is where I could make a great impact.

What was it that I could offer to the world that people would want to learn? My biggest strength was my multi-dimensionalness and the fact that I had actually managed to combine all these different skills. I spoke 6 languages fluently, I had reached elite fitness levels and had been a top track star in high school, I had a very deep knowledge of history (I scored a perfect 800 on the SAT2 World History without even studying back in high school), and I had a knack for learning new things.

I think people would want to know how to reach these high levels of achievement and become multi-dimensional. That’s why I decided to transform what was originally Gain Weight Journal, combine it with my other blogs, and focus on a wider variety of topics. The Renaissance Man Journal was born.
Read More

The Genius Way To Learn Almost Anything: The One Tip That Einstein Gave To His Son

Albert_Einstein_(Nobel)

Albert Einstein is remembered as one of the greatest minds of history. His name has become a synonym for the word “genius” and to be compared to Einstein is considered as the ultimate compliment. If someone says this to you, then that means that they regard you as being a rare creative intellectually brilliant thinker.

However Einstein faced many struggles towards becoming the genius that he later became. He failed several subjects in primary school and when he finished university, he was not accepted into any doctoral program. He also did not find any work in academia and instead had to get employment as a clerk in a patent office in Bern, Switzerland.

Einstein did not let these initial failures stop him. He was driven and in many ways was self-taught, continuously learning throughout his life.

He was also a family man who wanted his children to succeed. In one of his letters he shared his secret to learning almost anything with his oldest son, Hans Albert:

I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal.

His secret was to do things with such enjoyment that you forget the passage of time. You learn the most when you are enjoying what you are doing. His son took this advice to heart and became an accomplished expert in hydraulic engineering and the world’s foremost authority on sediment transport.

This simple, but powerful advice can serve as the cornerstone of your learning and self-development. By finding things that you enjoy or learning to find ways to enjoy learning different things, you tap into the unlimited potential of intrinsic motivation.

This type of motivation is the key factor that can drive you towards rising to the top of your field and becoming one of the greats.

Read More

How To Be A Critical Thinker And Develop Your Mental Powers Part 3

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on critical thinking. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

How The Mind Works

Now in order to illustrate how the mind works, do the test below:

So how did you do? Did you get the number of passes right? Did you see the gorilla? This test was done several times to different groups of people and the results are that 50% of the people reported NOT seeing the gorilla.

You see, your mind works very selectively and tends to focus on certain things, while not paying attention to other things. The most extreme example of this is called inattentional blindness, which is demonstrated by the experiment above.

The mind has a limited capacity for paying attention. In some individuals it can be greater and in some smaller, but the end result is that it is always limited.

You need to be aware of this, when thinking and coming up with conclusions. You need to keep in mind that your perception is limited and so the best way to approach problems is to keep an open mind.

How You Interpret Reality

The way that humans understand reality involves taking something that exists in the outside world and interpreting it in order to come up with a certain conclusion.

how you think

You start off with your senses (sight, touch, smell, sound, taste) taking in different things from the outside. These are then put through some filters (such as personality (meta-programs), emotions, values and principles) to form your perception of these things.

These perceptions then serve as inputs into your thinking process. This involves the synthesization of your perception of reality. Based on this synthesization you come up with ideas and conclusions.

Kahneman divides the processes that the brain uses to form thoughts and to come to conclusions into two:

System 1: which is fast, intuitive, subconscious, where your emotions serve as a major source of input and which often uses heuristics to come to conclusions.

System 2: which is slow, but more logical and uses reflection in order to consciously come up with thougths and conclusions.

The main difference between the two systems is that System 1 is intuitive, while System 2 is deliberative. The two systems are of course linked and feed each other. System 1 especially relies on associative memory, which then forms the core of heuristics, and fast decision making. Here feelings and impressions are the main inputs.

System 2 proceeds in a slower, more step by step fashion. It also more actively engages your long-term memory and searches through the different things you have stored there.

System 1 is more prone to making errors, but this tendency can be lessened through experience and deliberate practice. That’s where the 10 000 hour rule described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” comes from (the rule is based on work done by psychology researcher Anders Ericsson).

Experience lets people automate certain tasks for which normal lay people usually need deliberate thinking. Let’s use the example of chess. Chess masters use System 1 when playing chess, since after so many hours of playing and practice, they have developed a skilled intuition and heuristics. On the other hand, normal people use System 2 for playing chess and have to deliberately think about the moves.

Experts (whether in science, music, or sports) have a different way of thinking and doing things, which they developed through countless hours of practice. They see patterns based on past experience, which makes them much more likely to be accurate.

Experts can use heuristics to their great advantage, while a person who is not an expert in that particular area is more prone to fall prey to logical fallacies. However this does not mean that being an expert in one area prevents you from falling for similar logical fallacies in other areas.
Read More

Personality Types: Why Are You The Way You Are? Part 2

Meta-programs are something that drives the way people behave in the real world. Oftentimes the outward manifestations of these meta-programs are what people describe as “personality”. Traditionally, personality is thought of as being unchanging and if you are born with a certain type of personality, then you are stuck with it.

In psychology, the theory that personality is unchanging resulted in different types of models such as the Myers-Briggs model and other similar models. According to these models, personality is fixed and people can be fit into categories based on their personality traits.

However neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) takes a different approach. Instead of types, NLP uses meta-programs. These are the predominant behavioral patterns. They are not fixed, but can be changed with a certain effort. People even adopt different patterns in different situations.

In Part 1 on meta-programs, there was a general overview and a description of two basic meta-programs. Here we will delve into four more.

3) in-time or through-time or between-time

Different people perceive time differently and this leads them to behave differently too. A basic distinction is in-time or through-time. These basically describe a person’s approach to activities having a time aspect.

People can represent the flow of time as different paths or lines in space. That reflects how they experience time. They have different timelines and plot them in their mind differently. Timelines are largely about visualization and picturing things in your mind. You can plot events from the past or future at different places on the timeline and this has an effect on how you experience and think about them.

In-time people live in the moment and for the moment. They are not too worried about the future and devote their full attention to what they are doing now. They are not too worried whether they will arrive late for a meeting or similar things. They often arrive late and don’t see anything wrong with it.

It is very hard for in-time people to plan ahead or even look at the past in an objective way. They also have a very hard time estimating how much time it will take for them to achieve something.

Many in-time people see events through their own eyes and can have an internal feeling of the past and present being both as now.

This is an individual trait, but can also be a cultural trait as well. For example certain cultures tend to be more in-time, for example the Spanish. In Spain, for most people, time has no meaning and if you set up an appointment, most will come late. They live for the “fiesta”.

Through-time people are the opposite of that. For them planning is important and so is organization. They are much better at planning and organizing their actions. They like to analyze things and often give off the impression that they are not absorbed in the activity taking place.

Another trait of through-time people is that they are punctual and realize the importance of time. They see events as flowing in front of them and therefore can often disassociate themselves from them. They know that time passes and that things interact with each other and that actions are connected to each other. One action can have repercussions at other points in time.

These two different ways of viewing time and reacting to its flow have severe repercussions on people’s behaviors. You can often tell pretty easily which people are in-time and which are more through-time. There are certain expressions that give it away. For example in-time people often use buzzwords like “live for the moment” and often talk about the “now” and “feeling”.

On the other hand, the speech of through-time people reflects the importance that they give to the passage of time. They often use time related phrases such as “next time” or “in the future”.

In-time people often react badly at traditional time management techniques. Through-time people on the other hand are often very good at time management.

This has repercussions on planning and following a plan through. It will be much easier for a through-time person to plan out goals and then set out a course of action to achieve them. So in this, it is better to have a through-time mindset, however an in-time person might enjoy the experience of being in the gym more.

As stated before, there is no “better” meta-program. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages and is better for certain situations over others. It is also perfectly possible to adopt one meta-program in one situation and another one in another situation. However for drafting goals and then achieving them, the through-time meta-program is the one that is the one that achieves results.
Read More

Learn A Language In A Day

learning foreign languages, good mind in a healthy body

learning foreign languages, good mind in a healthy body

So can you learn to speak a foreign language in a day? Of course not, but I did run into an interesting article by Joshua Foer on how he “learned to speak a language in a day”. Of course the words “speak” and “day” are very relative as will be explained later. Joshua Foer is the author of a book called: “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything”. In the book he describes his journey of learning how to remember things. He describes mnemonics, or a series of special techniques that can be used to remember various things (such as strings of numbers, poems, or other things). I will go into mnemonics in a later post, as it is an interesting subject and some aspects can be even applied to language learning, but also to remembering almost anything.

The particular article I ran across a while back, describes how Foer started learning a language called Lingala, which is an African trade language spoken in the Congo area. It is often used as a lingua franca in that part of the world. Foer started a new project which will have him spend a significant amount of time in that area and so thought that learning the local lingua franca could be useful. He decided to use Memrise, which is a website founded by British memory champion Ed Cooke and Princeton neuroscience PhD Greg Detre. It uses a combination of the principles of mnemonics and social gaming in order to help people remember various things, including words in different languages. So it can be used to enhance a person’s language learning.

Foer decided to use Memrise in order to help him learn Lingala. He found an old FSI Lingala course, as well as a small dictionary of the language, and used those as inputs for his learning. He would go into the site and try to learn new words every time he was logged on. These are learned based on the concept of creating “mnemonics” or “mems”. The article explains the principles in this way: “Memrise encourages you to create a mnemonic, which it calls a “mem”, for every word you want to learn. A mem could be a rhyme, an image, a video or just a note about the word’s etymology, or something striking about its pronunciation”.

Foer goes onto explain the concept of spaced repetition, or repeating concepts in repeated sessions, that are phased across time. This actually goes together with my theory of learning (at least based on how I learn) and that is repeating the same materials at different points in time. For example going through some chapters of a grammar book one month and returning to those same chapters two or three months later. It is amazing how much better you understand the chapters and how much more material you can retain! To get back to Foer and why he said that he learned Lingala in a day. He ended up memorizing over a thousand words of the language and when he looked at the statistics of how much time he spent on the site, it came up to less than 24 hours in total. That’s where the “day” comes from. It’s not a literal day, but instead all the amount of time added up together. This allowed him to have a very limited conversation with a Pygmy from the Congo jungle. Of course he notes, that he did not actually completely learn the language, but instead just formed a significant basis in the language, which can be expanded upon in further learning.
Read More

How To Learn A Foreign Language

learning foreign languages, good mind in a healthy body

learning foreign languages, good mind in a healthy body
There is an old Czech saying: “the more languages you know, the more times you are human.” It’s true, learning foreign languages lets you expand your horizons and see things from different perspectives. More importantly, it lets you connect to people you would not be able to connect to before.

I have written about traveling being a way to see new things and expanding your horizons, however this effect is multiplied exponentially if you speak the languages of the countries you are traveling in and can thereby reach the people in their own native language and find out what they are thinking in their own words.

I can speak 6 languages fluently (level B2 and up) and am in the process of learning three more. I might be a bit special, since I come from a multicultural family and have moved around all my life, so I got some languages for “free”, however other ones I have had to learn from scratch. My only regrets are that I have always been shy and also that I tend to never finish up learning one language properly before starting a new one (classic “toward” behavior).

Learning languages is sometimes a very grueling process, however it all becomes worth it, once you start applying what you learn in practice. The best experiences traveling are usually associated with using a foreign language to communicate. Nothing beats the feeling you get after managing to get your point across to a native speaker in their country without having to resort to speaking English. The feeling of satisfaction and a job well done is the reward for all those countless hours of frustration and all those myriads of exercises you did.

Of course language learning is not all about frustration, but for many people it is an enjoyable activity. It becomes even more enjoyable when it opens up doors for you, doors that would otherwise have been shut, had you not learned that language.

So how do you learn a language?
Read More

Copyright Renaissance Man Journal 2017
Tech Nerd theme designed by FixedWidget
%d bloggers like this: