Mark Twain (1835-1910) believed that having fun is important if you want to be successful.
“The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.”
Mark Twain must have had fun as a writer. His sense of fun emerges in his stories. He clearly enjoyed his work as a writer. No wonder he lived to a good age for those days. He learned as a boy how to turn work into a vacation. I owe the following story about him to Alan Elliott and Josh Hinds.
In the 1830’s Mark Twain disobeyed his mother by taking a dip in a swimming hole near his hometown in Missouri. His mother punished him by telling him to whitewash the thirty- foot-long fence.
Sam Clemens (Mark Twain before he chose a pen name) began to paint slowly. He was thinking of an excuse to get out of the work.
He had only just begun when his friend John showed up:
“You call this work?” replied Sam. “A boy doesn’t get to whitewash every day.”
Sam continued painting, pretending he was enjoying this drudgery.
John watched for a minute, then said, “Let me have a go .” Sam told him that the job was skilled.
John offered Sam the core of his apple and Sam accepted pretending he was doing John a big favour.
All afternoon he conned boy after boy to pay for the privilege of whitewashing a portion of the fence. When the task was finished, Sam had collected several objects which delight the hearts of small boys.
Years later, Sam Clemens told this story again in his great book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”
The story symbolizes the inventiveness of the American spirit in making the best of a situation and in treating work as play.
Work can be unpleasant or fun, depending on the way you look at it or the spirit in which it is performed.
Adam Hollioake, the English cricketer, realised when his brother died unexpectedly that the most important things in life are ‘being kind and having fun.’
Anyone who can be kind and have fun for much of their life is a success by this standard.
Joan Rivers is a New York comedienne who has spent 50 years in the entertainment business and is still going strong.
She has been a huge success and is still a success at 71.Joan Rivers has not always been kind to the victims of her jokes but she has had enormous fun and created fun for millions right up to her current age.
Not all comics have found their work fun. Quite a number have suffered from depression and more than their fair share of unfunny thoughts but Joan seems to enjoy her work. However, even she once considered suicide.
She was not speaking to her daughter and was out of work. She took out a gun and was ready to kill herself when her little dog crawled into her lap and she thought “Someone needs me”.
I heard Joan recently on the Parkinson show on Oct 9th 2004 before starting her tour of the UK (ten cities in ten days). The interview was riveting.
Michael Parkinson introduced her as the Queen of comedy. “She has done for plastic surgeons what Mickey mouse has done for Walt Disney.”
She told Michael that all her bookings had sold out except in Birmingham. “No one has bought a ticket in Birmingham.” She pretended to spit. She has the gift of turning any problem into a laugh. I expect that, after the interview, Birmingham will soon be booked out.
Michael referred, somewhat unwisely, to her age and to plastic surgery.
She replied at once: “I know I’m old but I don’t see me so screw me. The only two good things about old age are: You lose your hearing so you can’t hear the doctor say:”You’re going to die” and you can get into the cinema at half price.