Become a Laughingstock

Have you heard the joke about… the guy who wanted to sell water (the stuff we were used to getting for free!) for more money than sodas or even beer? Or how about the one who wanted to start a new airline, the bloodbath of competition, during the dot-com crash? Then there is the one who launched a new cola company up against Coke and Pepsi. Oh, I know, how about the one about the guy who bought 160 acres of orange groves to build what he wanted to call “the happiest place on earth.” Nut ball, right?!

Are you laughing? Most were when the Evian, Jet Blue, Virgin Cola and the Disneyland business plans were discussed. Evian gets $18.6 billion chuckles a year in revenue. Launched in 1999, Jet Blue was one of only a few airlines after 9/11 to be profitable. David Neeleman has $2 billion reasons to guffaw. People are always laughing at Richard Branson and for Virgin Cola it proved justified. But don’t laugh to hard, because Sir Richard has 360 other companies and giggles $3 billion times with his personal banker. Walt Disney has snickered 515 million times as each person has entered his happy place.

Historic revolutionaries, extraordinary achievers, and icons often were laughed at and ridiculed at first. If you believe in your dream or your vision, or a plan, don’t let the snickering and finger-pointing going on behind your back deter you.

They laughed at the young black female raised in abject poverty in Mississippi when she wanted to become a news anchor. She was both the youngest and the first black female at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. They laughed again when she wanted to take on the king of talk shows Phil Donahue (remember Phil? Barely). They once again laughed in the mid-1990s, when she wanted to turn from a tabloid-based show to positive, uplifting and inspirational-based programming. Well, now as the richest African American of all time, and according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world, it has become increasingly hard to laugh at Oprah.

When he told his countrymen he was going to America, they laughed. When he announced he would win Mr. Olympia, they laughed (he laughed back seven times). When he announced (in his awkward thick Austrian accent) he was going to be the biggest movie star in the world, they laughed really hard (during his Terminator reign he was the highest paid actor of all time). When he announced himself as a candidate for California governor, people couldn’t stop laughing. They laughed all the way to the polls and voted him in. This is probably why Arnold Schwarzenegger has such an infectious laugh himself.

Schwarzenegger once said of his fortune, “Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million, but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.” (He is now worth several hundred million.)

Schopenhauer explained most new ideas will first be ridiculed (Fred Smith getting a “C” on his paper describing what became Federal Express), then violently opposed (British Airways slander against newcomer Richard Branson), then treated as self-evident (oh, you are so LUCKY!).

So, the lesson here? If no one is ridiculing or laughing at you, you probably don’t have a revolutionary, change-making idea.

Don’t only accept the naysayers laughing at you; try to make ’em laugh. Only when they are laughing might you be on to something… BIG!

Have your friends and family laughed at you? Tell us how you overcame their ridicule and mockery in the comments below.


Darren Hardy is the former publisher of SUCCESS magazine, an entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author of The Compound Effect and Living Your Best Year Ever: A Proven Formula for Achieving Big Goals.

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