She Who Laughs, Lasts

thw-blog-award.jpg An artifact from my cubicle days. Around the edge is written, “Repeat as necessary: ‘I can’t. I have to work.’ “

A couple years ago I was cleaning and sorting through piles that had accumulated in my office and found my long-forgotten Mood-Meter. Way back when I was still an employee, I took over for the marketing director of the firm I worked for while she was out on maternity leave. She was (and I presume still is) a woman of many admirable qualities, not least of which were: 1) an extraordinary ability to keep work in perspective and maintain a balanced life and 2) a great sense of humor (the latter contributing a lot to the former).

Knowing that I would essentially be doing two jobs while she was gone, she gave me a “meter” to put above my desk indicating to others what my mood of the moment was – 1) I’d be happy to help you! 2) I might have some time later… 3) You want what? by when? 4) !@#$%^&*!!. It looked a lot like a fire-danger road sign, with zones from green, to yellow, to orange, to red. Sometimes I’d move the arrow, sometimes coworkers moved it for me, sometimes they borrowed the meter…

It was fun. It was funny. It genuinely helped us get through her absence and we continued to use it after she returned. We made more for other coworkers, personalized to their individual quirks.

Finding this after being self-employed for a couple years made me realize I don’t have this kind, or any kind, of humor about working for myself. Becoming an entrepreneur somehow made me all serious… or perhaps I’ve always tended toward serious, but now I lack co-workers to help me remember to laugh in spite of myself.

There’s a lot to be serious about in one’s own business. And with no bureaucracy to blame for the occasional absurdity, in joking about it, it can feel as though you are the pointy-haired boss rather than Dilbert. Or, at best, both at the same time (maybe that’s the joke).

The only cartoon I’ve ever seen about being self-employed illustrated a naked man sitting at a desk working at a computer, entitled something like “Casual Friday at the home office,” (hardly laugh-out-loud humor). The only funny item I have at the moment is a postcard pinned above my desk entitled, “7 Reasons Why You Should Do It For Free” (worthy of its own post). It falls rather short of the Mood-Meter.

My question is this: Where is the Scott Adams of self-employment? We need him. Because this thing we are doing is often truly absurd – and I, for one, could use a good laugh.

Know any jokes about entrepreneurs? Seen any cartoons about self-employment? I’d be grateful if you shared. Thanks.

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