Sabbatical report: Part 2

About this time last year my sabbatical was coming to an end. I wrote a sabbatical report in which I reflected on seven successes and failures during my time away from my “normal” professor gig. Spoiler alert: most were successes (thankfully).

The last item asked what might be in store for me after the publication of my book:

7. Start thinking about what my post-Humor Code life might look like. What is the ‘next big thing’?

In process. Check back later for a detailed report.

Well, the last six years have been a whirlwind… Reinvigorated my career. Learned to be a “not bad” writer. Published a bunch of papers. Had a global adventure. Made interesting friends. And so on.

Where will the next six years take me? What’s the next big thing? (Note: Six years from now I will be 50 years old.) Here’s my answer from smallest to biggest “thing”:

1) Continue to get the word out about what makes things funny and the importance of living a humorous life. I will continue speaking and writing for the popular press.

2) Turn greater attention to the ways that humor can enhance business and organizations. See this op-ed about my current thinking.

3) Draw on the benign violation theory and related behavioral science research to examine how we can enhance humor. That’s right. I want to use science to make people funnier. If science can explain what makes things humorous, it should be able to help people appreciate and produce humor more often, right?

Now, who is dumb enough to try to take on such an audacious task? Meet the team:

– Adam Barsky at the University of Melbourne (Adam does research on positive psychology and was kind enough to host me during my sabbatical trip to Melbourne.)
– Caleb Warren at the Texas A&M University (Caleb is the co-creator of the benign violation theory. He is wicked smart and from Massachusetts.)
– Erin Percival Carter at the University of Colorado Boulder (Erin is a bright grad student who likes comedy and tolerates my bad jokes on Twitter.)

You might think that the idea sounds impossible, but there are good reasons to believe that people can develop a better sense of humor. Here are three reasons to believe we can do it: 1) comedians and improvisers get funnier with practice, 2) people regularly learn difficult social and artistic skills (public speaking, painting, etc.) with coaching and practice, and 3) positive psychology has already shown how things such as curiosity, gratitude, and mindfulness can be enhanced (and thus a path to improved well-being).

What do you think? Are you with us or against us?