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Seven years ago, I woke up, sent some emails, and went bowling for a friend’s birthday. And I did it all as a full-time entrepreneur. As of July 1, 2012 I was no longer a Procter & Gamble employee, I had officially started working on Humor That Works full-time. And 2,556 days later, I’m still at it.

Over the past seven years, I have: delivered 536 programs, performed 574 comedy shows, published three books, delivered two TEDx talks, spoke in front of 40,000+ people, launched a coaching program, online course, and awards program, visited all 50 states, 27 countries and 6 continents, and, most importantly, have built a sustainable business spreading the word about the power of humor.

But not everything I’ve done has gone according to plan. Below is a look at some of those “accomplishments” in a little more detail, along with the takeaways I’ve gained from each.

I wanted to share this recap not to brag about what I’ve done (you can see many aren’t brag-worthy), but to share the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, content creator, and idea haver. Not everything you do is going to work, not every project will be profitable, and not every video will be impactful. But if you never put anything out there, you’ll never create the thing that can change the world (or at least one person’s day, year, or life).

21 Lessons from 7 Years as an Entrepreneur

JULY 24, 2012: I did my first paid gig for Humor That Works after making it my full-time job.

The event was a 3-hour workshop for Santander in Dallas, TX that paid me $1,000 plus travel. Going into the event, the organizer acted liked there would be the opportunity to do a lot of different trainings for the group. After the event, I never heard from her again. That may have been because I didn’t deliver on what they were expecting, it was just hopeful optimism on both of our parts, or it was a way to get me to lower my price (like getting paid in “exposure”).

Takeaway #1: There’s never a guarantee for additional work unless it’s in the contract.

NOVEMBER 13, 2012: I uploaded a video called Zombie Tag to YouTube.

The video was a simple demonstration of one of my favorite applied improv exercises. I had little expectation of how many people would see it, I just wanted to share a fun activity. It slowly became a popular team-building video, now with more than 500,000 views. I foolishly used the song O Fortuna to make the video seem epic which means any ad revenue from the video goes to the music owner, not me.

Takeaway #2: You never know what’s going to resonate with people. As a result, create as though the entire world will see it, but only do the things you’d do even if no one saw it.

NOVEMBER 14, 2012: My first “real” book launched.

501 ways to use humor book

I say “real” because I had previously published a collection of quotations, but they were more curation than creation. I self-published 501 Ways to Use Humor, Beat Stress, and Increase Productivity in both print and on Kindle with the goal of providing a resource for people who wanted to use humor but didn’t know how to get started. The book has so far sold 6,123 copies, netting a 3.8 rating on Amazon off of 18 reviews.

Takeaway #3: You can’t have a third book if you never created a first one. Even if it doesn’t go gang-busters, the first attempt helps you learn for the next several.

MARCH 14, 2013: I officially launched my humor coaching program.

The goal was to provide one-on-one coaching for people who were looking to make a change in their life. After the first six months I all but abandoned the idea after discovering I didn’t really love coaching. I had a grand total of 12 clients, three of which were paid.

Takeaway #4: Just because a successful person does something a certain way, it doesn’t mean you have to. Find the things you like to do and focus on those, rather than doing something because you think you’re “supposed” to.

APRIL 3, 2013: I announced the first ever Corporate Humor Awards.

The awards were created to celebrate individuals and organizations that use humor in the workplace. They recognized five individuals and five companies that effectively used humor in creating a better work environment for the humans that worked there. I repeated the awards in 2014, completely ignored them for three years, and then brought them back in 2018 and (soon) 2019. Yes, I wish I had continued the Corporate Humor Awards every year, but I don’t want the inconsistency to stop me from bringing back the awards whenever I have capacity for them.

Takeaway #5: More important than being consistent is being persistent.

FEBRUARY 4, 2014: I had an enlightening lunch with a fellow engineer.

The lunch was with two PhD students at Carnegie Melon University. I had reached out to them because they were also engineers  who were interested in improv. Towards the end of the lunch, one of the guys asked me who managed my website. I proudly claimed I did and asked why. His response was, “When I talk with you now, I get that you’re an engineer and that you focus on humor because it works, and it sounds fascinating. But when I read the site, it seems fluffy and touchy-feely, and doesn’t seem like something I’d be interested in.” I was appreciative of the feedback and it made me wonder how many other people never reached out or considered booking me because they were turned off by the language on the site.

Takeaway #6: You hardly hear the “nos.” No feedback is, in fact, feedback. If something you try isn’t getting a response, it means something needs to change.

FEBRUARY 8, 2014: I delivered my very first TEDx talk at TEDxOSU.

humor at work tedx

Though the talk never went “viral,” it has racked up more 200,000 views and has led to 13 speaking engagements and over $30,000 in revenue. Looking back at the talk now, I still believe in the content but cringe at the delivery knowing that I’m so much stronger as a speaker now. Part of me wishes I had delivered a stronger talk, but that was a great delivery for my skill level at the time. Plus, I’d much rather look back five years and think I’m a better speaker now than look back five years and realize I haven’t grown at all.

Takeaway #7: If you don’t look back at the past five years and at least cringe a little bit, you probably aren’t taking big enough chances or continually improving.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2014: I had my first five-figure event day.

For the first time in company (and my personal) history, I earned over $10,000 in a day. To do so, I delivered a keynote, breakout, and two workshops over the course of one day for a group of project managers at Nationwide in Columbus, OH. It would be two years before my next five-figure day.

Takeaway #8: One success doesn’t guarantee another success, just as one failure doesn’t guarantee another failure. But a peak at one time can give you a glimpse of what the future could hold.

JANUARY 21, 2015: I launched an online course on humor at work.

After three months of planning, shooting, and editing, my first (and currently only) online course went live on Udemy. I hoped that it might lead to a nice stream of passive income and generate leads for in-person workshops… thus far it has netted $1,682 from 1,198 students and zero leads. Despite my insistence that it is not a course on being funnier, it sits at a 4.15 rating (on 45 reviews) with more than a few negative comments about how it doesn’t make people funnier. More than anything, it did force me to put together a cohesive workshop-style program that I used for in-person deliveries.

Takeaway #9: Passive income is very misunderstood; very often it’s delayed income from work you put in a long time ago, and it’s not guaranteed.

AUGUST 7, 2015: My second app, the Perfect Day (now called 5 Daily Habits), launched.

While I hoped others might benefit from the app, the primary purpose was to provide an easy way for me to follow my five daily habits program. My first app, 501 Ways to Use Humor, came out in November 2013 as an add-on to my first book and has made -$723 dollars off of roughly 200 downloads (revenue of $902 minus $1,625 cost to build). 5 Daily Habits has netted -$3,960 (the app is free but app development is not) with over 6,000 downloads, but it has more than paid for itself in keeping me accountable to my short- and long-term goals… that is until I stopped tracking my habits sometime in 2018.

Takeaway #10: Return-on-investment doesn’t always come in the form of money back, sometimes it’s a new skill, accountability, or additional credibility. Also apps are hard.

JULY 17, 2015: I did a talk for sales new hires at P&G.

Since leaving P&G, I’ve returned to the organization for a number of the events, including one for new employees in sales. In the audience for the talk was Adam, a new hire and the son of the president of the National Speakers Bureau, Brian. Adam enjoyed my presentation so much, he called his dad about it and two days later I talked with Brian about being part of his speaker line-up. That meeting resulted in them listing me as one of their speakers and I’ve done five talks with them for more than $25,000. I’m also friends with Adam and Brian.

Takeaway #11: You never know who is sitting in your audience and what opportunities may come when you deliver a good product or program.

FEBRUARY 11, 2016: I completed my 1,000th performance in my 50th state on my 32nd birthday.

performances by year running

The storytelling show in Hawaii was one of the defining moments of my career up to that point as it was the culmination and celebration of months of travels, years of performances, and decades of existence. I never would have guessed that this introverted teacher’s pet would go on to perform in more than 1,000 shows, let alone do it in all 50 states.

Takeaway #12: What starts as a hobby today could become your passion/career/purpose  tomorrow (where “tomorrow” is a metaphor for the future, 24 hours from hobby to career seems unlikely).

APRIL 22, 2017: I gave my second TEDx talk, this time on the skill of humor at TEDxTAMU.

I dedicated nearly four months to prepping for the talk, doing stand-up and speaking engagements to iterate on the message. I felt great about the performance and the end result. On January 2, 2018, six months after the talk came out, it only had 3,000 views. It hit one million views on July 2, 2018, currently has over four million views, and has been an idea worth spreading.

Takeaway #13: Success is rarely instant. Yes, some people “go viral” “overnight,” but often it’s the result of years of hard work before it happens. And yes, luck plays a huge role in success, but the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2017: My second book, The United States of Laughter, came out.

When I started my  nomadic journey on March 1, 2015, I had no idea what it would lead to or why I was even doing it. By the end of trip, I had traveled 159,023 miles, gone to all 50 states, and visited 14 countries over the course of 18 months. I also had such incredible experiences that I felt compelled to write about them. Like 501 Ways, The United States of Laughter was self-published but in a much more professional manner. It’s currently sold 2,220 copies and has a 4.7 rating on 54 reviews. It has led to 22 media appearances and, perhaps most importantly, gave me the opportunity to do a literal book launch.

Takeaway #14: There’s a cliche that asks, “If anyone wrote a book about your life, would anyone care to read it?” Why not do something worth writing a book about, and then write the book.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2017: I uploaded The Cliched Meaning of Life video.

The video is a stand-up bit that involves 100 cliches in 4 minutes exploring the meaning of life. I had spent years perfecting the performance but kept putting off uploading the video as I thought it had the chance to go viral (and maybe even get me on Ellen), and I was scared to find out if it would. The video currently sits at ~7,000 views and I have not appeared on Ellen.

Takeaway #15: Sometimes we hold off on sharing something with the world because the dream that it might work feels better than the confirmation that it won’t. But you can’t watch a video that’s never been uploaded, and holding on to a fantasy prevents you from building a new reality.

FEBRUARY 18, 2018: I delivered a talk at NSA Winter Conference on the Future of Content Creation.

The talk explores what the world of speaking may look like in the future and was well received. In addition to a standing ovation and a few speakers jokingly “bowing” to me, people afterwards told me they could see that talk being given at nearly every tech conference out there… I’ve only delivered the talk one more time, at another speaker event. However, it has prompted me to work on creating the creative assistant I imagine we’ll have in the future, which might be a product or service in the future.

Takeaway #16: Don’t let compliments or insults sway you too far one way or another. They can be helpful pieces of feedback, but they don’t guarantee success or failure. Only your attitude and commitment do.

JUNE 13, 2018: I streamlined my websites into two brands: Drew Tarvin and Humor That Works.

Drew Tarvin became a combination of Drew Tarvin (comedy / blogging), Andrew Tarvin (speaking, authoring), Slash Entrepreneur (entrepreneurship), and Create / Consume (time tracking). Humor That Works (humor at work training) absorbed Humor Engineer (humor work), Humor’s Office (funny office humor), Humor Awards (corporate humor awards), and Understanding Comedy (how to be funny). For those keeping score, that’s two successful sites out of nine that I started. Though none of the other sites really took off, I wouldn’t call them failures either because they helped me explored ideas and many of the posts still exists under the new brands.

Takeaway #17: You will fail more often than you succeed, but often you will only succeed because you’ve failed.

OCTOBER 25, 2018: I stepped down as co-owner of CSz New York.

CSz New York was the first group I did improv with when I moved to New York City. 10 years and over 350 shows later, I was co-owner of the organization and working to build its presence in the city. Eventually, Humor That Works grew big enough that I wasn’t able to commit time to running the organization or performing as frequently as I once did. The group remains one of the most supportive, hilarious, and joyous groups I’ve ever been a part of was one of the biggest things I had “give up” in order to build the business I wanted to.

Takeaway #18: Owning a business is not without sacrifice. Sometimes you have to stop doing the things you really like to do for the things you love to do.

FEBRUARY 1, 2019: The first Humor That Works workshop not delivered by me took place.

The facilitator-led workshop was a version of a communications workshop I had delivered 80 times for the Flatiron School over six years. But workshop #81 was delivered by Vandad, someone who I trained up to do the program. Since then, 22 Humor That Works programs, including one keynote, have been presented by people not named Drew Tarvin, allowing the message of humor to be spread even when I’m not available or already booked.

Takeaway #19: There’s only so much you can do alone. If you want to multiply your efforts, you’ll have to engage or partner with other people. As the adage goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

MARCH 8, 2019: I gave a presentation on my fifth continent in two months (and my sixth continent total).

After a few years of various conversations with IBM, I got booked with them to do three week-long events in three different countries (US, Spain, and Singapore) for the largest contract amount I had ever recorded (more than twice the amount of money I made my entire first year as a full-time speaker). Rather than just do those events and be done with it, I decided to seek out additional speaking opportunities in neighboring countries, adding a talk in Morocco and a workshop in Australia, giving me five continents in 47 days.

Takeaway #20: When you achieve success, find ways you can build on that momentum rather than rest on your laurels.

APRIL 1, 2019: My third book, Humor That Works, was published by hybrid-publisher Page Two.

humor that works books

The book was a culmination of everything I learned over 10 years regarding the what, why, and how of humor in the workplace. The book launched as a #1 new release and was featured in FastCompany, Thrive Global, and Monster.com. It was named a top gift for Father’s Day by Forbes and one of the best 49 business books for Empowered Professionals. In the first 3 months, it sold 941 copies, garnered a 4.8 rating on 29 reviews, and led to literal book launch version 2. To get all of that, all it took was over $30,000 in publishing and PR services… but it has led to increased credibility, workshop add-ons, and helped confirm a few booked engagements.

Takeaway #21: To get to the next level, you have to be willing to invest in yourself and your business. The payoff may not always be immediate, but it will come eventually (hopefully).

SUMMARY

That brings us to today, July 1, 2019, when I wrote this post capturing some of my successes and failures over seven years of working for myself. Reviewing the past septet of years has served as a helpful reminder of the importance of continuing to create. Honestly, I hadn’t remembered all the things that I tried that didn’t go according to plan. By always having things I was working on, I could focus on what worked instead of dwelling on what didn’t.

A sincere thank you to all who have supported me these past seven years, and for the haters who have helped me grow and get stronger. Here’s to another seven (and hopefully more) years full of successes, failures, and everything in between.

It’s now been six years since I left my job at P&G. While looking through old files, I found this note that I shared with my coworkers as I left: Six Lessons I Learned from Six Years at P&G.

As I leave, I can’t help but be compelled to leave some advice for you and your next employee (I promise not to be too jealous). Unsolicited, unrequested, unasked-for advice from a non-executive, far-from-veteran, boyishly-handsome employee:

1. Take chances.

The best advice I received came from my first manager: “it’s better to have to beg for forgiveness than to sit around waiting for permission.” Take chances, do what inspires you, and don’t sit around waiting for someone to tell you to be great.

2. Deliver results.

If you want long-term success with P&G (or any company), you have to deliver your workplan consistently–that’s what gets you solid ratings. The other stuff you do (these other tips) will get you the top ratings.

3. Be yourself.

Why have split personalities (you at home and you at work)? Be yourself, be silly, have fun. It’ll help you enjoy your work more, and help your co-workers enjoy you more.

4. Be positive.

It’s easy to be negative. Trust me, as a Bengals fan I would save myself a lot of heartbreak if I didn’t get my hopes up. But that’s not what life is about. Be positive about the situation and look for things you can build on (instead of criticize).

5. Be inclusive.

A leader includes and lifts those around them, even if they do things that irk you (like chew gum in that really obnoxious way). It improves not just your own situation, but the situation of your team, organization and co-workers.

6. Choose fun.

As the self-proclaimed corporate humorist, this is the most important piece of advice I can give you. If you want to enjoy your work more and gain the benefits of using humor in the workplace, you have to make that choice. It’s one you make, actively or passively, every day, so choose fun.

That’s it. Six years boiled down to six bullet points.

3 years ago today I left my corporate job at Procter & Gamble to focus on Humor That Works full-time. In those 1,095 days, I’ve had some incredible adventures and met some amazing people.

In honor of my anniversary, I thought I’d answer some of the most frequent questions I get about leaving the safety and security of gainful employment at a company.

How did you know what you wanted to do?

I wish I had a “sexy” answer where I said it all happened in one single moment of hilarious clarity… but that’s not how it went down. It was a gradual progression of events and experiences that led me to teaching people about the value of humor.

When I moved to NYC with P&G in 2008, I had a strong suspicion that I wasn’t a lifer–that at some point I would decide to leave. But I wasn’t 100% sure of what I would do. I was performing a lot of stand-up and improv comedy at the time and thought I might want to do something in entertainment.

csz rachel dratch

In my experience, the only way I can know if I want to do something is to actually try it, so I experimented with a bunch of things part-time while still at P&G:*

  • I toured for a bit as a stand-up comedian. I didn’t like being in a different hotel every weekend with people I didn’t know where the most common form of passing the time was drinking in bars.
  • I wrote for a sketch TV show on Dish Network. I didn’t like giving over creative control of an idea I had and seeing it poorly executed.
  • I co-wrote and edited a short-film. I had a lot of fun on the project but realized I didn’t want to spend every day behind a computer meticulously shaving off milliseconds to get a shot to look right.
  • I acted in a few sketches and took an auditioning class. I didn’t like the process of auditioning and realized I wasn’t very good at “acting” (making memorized lines look spontaneous was hard).
  • I taught people about the value of humor and used improv exercises in some of my trainings. I loved this. It was like performing stand-up and improv comedy but with the added benefit of getting to tell people what to do.

Ultimately it was the humor work that I enjoyed the most, so I pursued it further.

How did you get started in talking about humor?

Again, no sexy story, just a lot of work and some reflective thinking.

The short answer looks like: Engineer -> Improv -> Project Manager -> Effective with People -> Stand-Up -> Blog -> Corporate Humorist -> Humor That Works.

This timeline covers the span of 3 to 28 years depending on how you look at it:

  • Engineer: I’ve always been an engineer and have been obsessed with efficiency. I went to The Ohio State University to get a degree in Computer Science & Engineering.
  • Improv: In college, my best friend wanted to start an improv comedy group and needed people, so he forced me to join.
  • Project Manager: After graduating, I started working as a Project Manager at Procter & Gamble, first in Cincinnati and then in New York.
  • Effective with People: While at P&G, I realized that you can’t be efficient with people, but instead you have to be effective. While that wasn’t covered in my CSE degree, I did learn the skills from improvisation.
  • Stand-Up: At the same time, I was performing stand-up comedy in Cincinnati and inviting P&Gers to my show. I was mostly talking about nerdy things like math.
  • Blog: My first year at P&G, I started writing an internal blog called Life of a New Hire, where I wrote about my experiences of a being a new employee at a big company. After a year, I figured I was technically no longer a New Hire, so I decided to start a new blog.
  • Corporate Humorist: Because of the stand-up I had been doing, a few different P&Gers had been asking me about humor. I decided my new blog would be about humor and proclaimed myself the Corporate Humorist of P&G. I also started offering up humor “services” to organizations within P&G, e.g. giving presentations on humor, leading teambuilding activities, and hosting events.
  • Humor That Works: From the internal blog I found I really enjoyed talking about humor and people were interested in what I had to say. I figured if people at P&G enjoyed it, the rest of the world might as well. So I started Humor That Works as a public version of what I was doing at P&G.

Why did you decide to leave?

I loved my job at P&G. I was working on challenging projects, worked with incredible people, and was consistently adding bad puns to the ends of my email.

But the more I worked on humor, the more I fell in love with it. The joy from P&G stayed the same while joy from humor increased, leading to a much larger delta between the two, as illustrated by this graph:

p&g to humor joy graph

Was it scary leaving your corporate job?

Honestly? No. Dishonestly? Scarier than 1,000 spiders.

No, it wasn’t that scary for me. I’m a Project Manager and pretty risk-adverse, so I did a lot of preparation before making the jump. I started blogging as the Corporate Humorist in 2007 but didn’t leave P&G until 2012.

In that time I tried a bunch of things out: I did speaking events in my free time, I took vacation days to see if I could actually motivate myself to work, I talked to people who were doing what I wanted to do. Basically I tried before I buy-ed.

In the days leading up to the decision, I asked myself two questions that I now use anytime I’m faced with a potentially life-changing choice:

  1. What’s the worst that could happen? Humans are driven more by punishment-avoidance than they are reward-attainment, so I tried to think about what the “punishment” would be in making a choice and see if I’m OK with that result.
  2. 30 years from now, which decision will I regret not doing? Very few of my regrets come from having decided to do something, most of them come from not having done something (asking that girl out, trying that food, or riding in that helicopter). So which option would I regret having not done?

Thinking about those two things made it easy. Even if I failed miserably at running my own business, I felt confident I could get another job. With P&G on the resume, improv and humor as a skillset, a network of incredibly smart, talented, and kind people, and a degree in the exploding field of computer science, that seemed a reasonable assessment.

And had I stayed, 30 years from now, I would have always wondered “What could I have I accomplished if I had left?”

So I left not feeling scared but excited.

How did you know it was time to leave?

Right or wrong, I spend much of life quantifying what it is that I do. I tracked my time, 24 hours a day, for an entire year. I know the number of times I’ve performed and the rough estimate of how people have seen me. I can tell you how many times I worked out last year (305).

As a result, numbers motivate me. So I created a list of goals to hit before I’d be comfortable leaving:

  • Speak in front of 50+ audiences.
  • Make at least $10,000 in a year from speaking engagements.
  • Reach 1 million visitors on my website.
  • Have at least 10 rock-solid testimonials.
  • Spend at least 7 straight days working on just Humor That Works.

Once I had achieved those, I felt ready to go. Then it was a matter of finding the right time for the business.

What did your mom think?

My mom, one of the greatest people in the entire world, was very supportive. She was a bit worried, of course, but she encouraged me to do what would make me happy.

I also told her the sooner I left to start my own business, the sooner I’d build it to the point it could support a family, the sooner I’d settle down, and the sooner she’d have grandchildren. That seemed to help.

What do you miss most about the corporate world?

Ask anyone who has ever left P&G what they miss the most and they’ll say the people. I thought it was such a cliche answer until I left and realize it’s 100% true. P&G hires some incredibly talented people and then helps develop them to become more awesome (you have to at a promote-from-within company).

I miss having great managers who guided me through difficult decisions. I have mentors that certainly help, but now that I run the show of my own company, there’s no one as invested as I am that can give guidance on what to do next.

Also, when employed by someone else, you know that a paycheck is coming unless something drastic happens. In self-employment, no paycheck is coming unless something drastic happens.

Are you happy you left?

Absolutely.

I wake up everyday working on something that I’m passionate about that I believe improves the lives of the people I work with. I work with great organizations from all over the world and have traveled to places I didn’t even know existed. My bio says that I’m obsessed with chocolate and event organizers often gift me with a box as a thank you.

box of chocolates

I’m definitely happy.

When I left Procter & Gamble two years ago to focus on Humor That Works, I wrote a love / break up letter of sorts to share some of my thoughts on the company I spent 6 years with. Here is that letter (edited slightly for non-P&G people).

My Break Up Letter with P&G

June 29th, 2012

Dear Procter & Gamble (aka P&G aka PeeG),

first day cartoon
My first day at P&G

It is with great sadness that I write type this letter. In my 2,138 days with you as a P&G employee, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow like I never could have imagined. Thanks to incredible managers and mentors, a grow-from-within culture, and an incredible amount of support, I’ve accomplished things during my career I never thought possible.

But it is now time we go our separate ways. Please, don’t be sad. Be happy for both of our bright futures and for the great moments we had together.

And we have had some great times together.

We worked on some incredible projects with some incredible teams. You had the confidence in me to let me lead a multi-year multi-million dollar project with people from 4 different continents, help build applications for predictive modeling of consumer behavior, work with engineers doing upstream development more than 7 years away, and analyze hundreds of thousands of data points to propose new organizational structures.

We’ve traveled to some amazing cities and places, with trips to Columbus, Dallas, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Mexico City, and Geneva (which included a personal journey to London, Paris, and Edinburgh). We’ve also lived together in two of my favorite cities in the world: my hometown of Cincinnati and the city that never sleeps, New York, NY.

You also granted me the opportunity to have some unique experiences, like the time I sat in the pressbox of a Cincinnati Reds game with a sitting CEO, shared the same training stage as a former CEO, co-wrote a story with the Corporate Storyteller, saw the inside of the corporate jet, produced a fashion show in front of a VP of beauty, sang karaoke with a director of IT, banged on drums with an entire sales organization, and talked workout tips with a Philippines-based VP.

And of course you helped me find and pursue my passion. You supported me when I proclaimed myself the corporate humorist of Procter & Gamble, wrote a blog about humor in the workplace, and led as many humor-based activities as I could.

pringles rap
MC Pringle

As the corporate humorist, I at one point had one of the top ten blogs internally, taught a 4-week improv class, performed stand- up at corporate off-sites, performed improv for a VP in IT (that included an impersonation of the CIO), taught communication training in New York, Cincinnati, and Mexico City, spearheaded a duct-tape fashion show, led a number of improvised talent shows, wrote a poem for the Fine Arts Fund, won internal awards for speaking and training, and even wrote a rap song for Pringles.

And you supported me through all of it (though we both know my rap career isn’t likely to take off).

So if things are so great, why must I leave? What did you do wrong? While it may be cliché, it’s true: It’s not you, it’s me.

You helped me find my true passion—my passion for speaking and training on humor in the workplace, for finding ways to improve the everyday work experience, and for helping others use humor to be more effective at work, at home, and in life.

And if you had the need for a NYC-based full-time corporate humorist, I’d stay in a heartbeat. But truth be told, you don’t need a full-time humorist. You already have a great sense of humor. You had one before you met me and will have one after I’m gone (though I hope I helped you grow your sense of humor, or at least your appreciation of puns).

That’s not to say that there’s not room for improvement. Are there times people need to be reminded of having fun? Sure. Could some individuals or teams use some in loosening up a bit? Of course. Should you hire me to train people to use humor effectively? Absolutely.

But you don’t need me like others do; you’ve already got a great start.

Our recent history together in Business Intelligence is a perfect example. In this organization alone, I’ve attended virtual trainings that used interactive elements to increase engagement (and asked important questions like what color socks are you wearing); I’ve been to off-sites where we’ve sang karaoke, threw paper airplanes to ask questions, and performed an improv show; and the leaders of the organization have dressed in thematic costumes ranging from formal Chinese attire to swash-buckling pirate outfits. I mean this is the organization that had special Humor Awards with categories ranging from Best Email to the “Free the Hamster” Award.

But it’s not the only organization with a sense of humor. I’ve also been to off-sites that have included massages, team-building events like bike-building, and of course scavenger hunts–I’ve scavengly hunted in Cincinnati, Boston, and Las Vegas (I’d love to tell you what I found but it apparently has to stay in Vegas).

You have entire organizations that are seemingly founded on humor, organizations such as the Clay Street Project (which includes improv as part of the business reinvention process), the Corporate Archives (which captures the history of P&G and its brands and is available for sharing and reapply)* and the Behavioral Science group (who explores creative ways to improve employee productivity).

Ivory Baby
Ivory Baby

*Side Note: The Corporate Archives also has a picture of what has to be the ugliest baby ever used in advertising.**
**Side Note Note: I’m not trying to be mean, just being honest. I’m sure the baby went on to become an attractive adult.

But the fun / humor / buck doesn’t stop there. You’re also teeming with incredible individuals who live and breathe humor in almost everything they do. Individuals who have avatars in their email signatures, mix witticism along with smart answers, and teach the power of storytelling.

Perhaps no individual effort is as great as the recently retired Corporate Storyteller, Jim Bangel, who over the course of 10 years wrote more than 100 stories helping educate employees on topics ranging from leadership to productivity to understanding percentage of booklet NPV (I didn’t know what it meant either).

Still it doesn’t end. The opportunity for using humor is available to any one of us, every day. For all the jokes I’ve shared at the bottom of emails, all the meetings I’ve started with a personal question, and all the projects I’ve given a fun name–never once was I told it was too much. Never once did I have to beg for forgiveness, despite actively seeking the bounds to which I could avoid asking permission.

Not everything I worked on was inherently fun, but almost everything I did could be done in a fun way. Did you still expect me to deliver my W&DP? Of course. Did I have days full of stress? Affirmative. But could I make the choice to use humor in a company that will support it? Most definitely.

In fact, that’s what I did for six years. Six years of including the same humorous observation in my OOO message:

Don’t you think it’s cool that the acronym for “Out of Office” is OoO? It’s like people are thinking “Oooooo, where’d you go while you were out of the office?”

Six years of incorporating pictures of myself into every presentation I’ve given:

pictures of drew

And of course 6 years of putting work-related puns at the end of my emails:

  • Why did the barge with bad breath open up our retail tracking tool? So he could get some ship-mints.
  • How is reading email on your iPad like Justin Timberlake? Because it always stays N*Sync!
  • Why did the new employee hire chauffeurs? He heard about the importance of success drivers.

Truly, you are a unique company, one that I hope continues to grow (and not just because of the stock I still own), but because of the incredible things you do and people you hire.

Don’t lose sight of what makes you great. And at the end of the day, realize that if your role or career isn’t as fun as you want it to be, it’s up to you to change it.

Sincerely,

Andrew Tarvin
P&G’s former self-proclaimed Corporate Humorist Chief Humorist of Humor That Works

PS. If you ever have any questions about humor or need help figuring out how to effectively use it, don’t hesitate to reach out; I’m always willing to help a fellow P&Ger. The price: your favorite joke.

Email: drew@drewtarvin.com | Web: drewtarvin.com | Twitter: @drewtarvin