It takes courage and a sense of security to use humor, especially in unfamiliar situations. Sure, it’s risky, but greater rewards generally require greater risks.
Take John Golden, an amateur champion in golf who qualified for the U.S. Senior Open. The first day, he found himself on the green with Jack Nicklaus and Graham Marsh. After waiting for them to finish, he offered Nicklaus a friendly wager as a little joke, and was greeted with a steely stare and silence.
After the first round, though, Nicklaus invited him to lunch.
Next day, Golden took another risk. After a big drive by Nicklaus, Golden also hit a nice tee shot, and as the ball sailed through the air, he blurted loudly, “Get by him! Get by him!”
The ball didn’t comply, but the gallery laughed at the expression of their universal, secret longing.
Then Nicklaus quipped, “It’s good to talk to your ball, John, but it’s not going to listen to you.” Another round of laughter.
“For years, I didn’t play my best golf because I worried too much about what other people were thinking,” Golden says. “I was afraid they’d think I was being cocky, acting like those guys on television. I struggled to find that middle ground between being a blowhard and being modest.”
That day at the Senior Open, he got to yank the chain of a champion. He didn’t win but, his fear was gone, his risk rewarded.
Lesson: Usually, risks are smaller than they appear and rewards larger.
— Adapted from Fight Your Fear and Win, Don Greene, Broadway Books.