If you were one of Major League Baseball’s most successful club managers, would you aspire to have quirky comedian Bill Murray play you in a movie?

Joe Maddon may not have set out to do that, but it’s easy to see why he and Murray are a good match:

  • Maddon has been called the quirkiest person in baseball.
  • He’s most frequently described as fun, loose, and a little bit crazy.
  • He’s known for his antics, like meeting the press with a cockatoo on his shoulder; having live penguins waddling around his clubhouse while a live DJ played; and staging numerous themed, costumed road trips to away games.  
  • He’d rather have his players focused on relaxing than on batting practice.

Is that any way to run a ball club?  Only if you want your team to win its first World Series in 108 years–the longest-running winless streak in baseball.  That’s what happened in 2016 when Joe Maddon managed the Chicago Cubs to a joyous World Series victory that had all of America enraptured (well, maybe not so much in Cleveland 😊). 

What’s presence got to do with it?

Does any of this matter to leaders and professionals in more typical enterprise settings than major league sports teams?  It absolutely does, because what Joe Maddon brought to the Chicago Cubs is possibly the most essential component of lasting resilience for any individual, team, or organization: presence.     

This is my 11th and final post in a 12-part series about resilience and the unique gifts each story type brings to the table.  Yes, it’s the 11th of 12 because I combined two story types into one post a while back, and didn’t notice I kept talking about 12 parts, and I’m loosening up about it like Joe Maddon and all other good Jesters would do!

So we’re closing out this series on the Jester story type, and it really is the best place to end.  That’s because Jesters are masters of presence, an ability that builds resilience faster than anything I’ve ever seen or experienced.  

Understanding the Jester’s Gift

A resilient Jester is someone who’s able to keep their present-moment awareness at a very high level.  They know how to use humor, lightness, spontaneity, and fun to let go of future worries and past regrets. 

More than any other type, Jesters can stay in and enjoy each moment—relieving stress and anxiety along the way, increasing enjoyment, and allowing for a kind of angst-less flow that often ends in better performance for themselves and those they work with, manage or lead.

Jesters are typically resourceful, clever, and witty as well.  Because of their present-moment awareness, they’re often able to let go and apply a highly effective kind of detachment to outcomes. That in turn can lead to more innovative approaches that involve a lot less hand-wringing and defensiveness about their ideas (compared to, oh say a Creator like me!).  It certainly helps them bounce back more quickly under duress, and to experience shallower valleys than many other people.  

Of course, Jesters can fall into a non-resilient state just like every story type, and theirs tends to look a lot like ennui. Boredom, a lack of excitement, and feelings of emptiness can translate into weariness and deep dissatisfaction for a Jester.  Unmanaged, those feelings can show up as disruptiveness, irresponsibility and a tough time actually settling down to work.  

There’s also the “tears of a clown” effect we all know about, a kind of despair that’s often seen roiling around right beneath the surface for some of our most beloved comedians.  Professional comedians or not, most Jesters can see the absurdity and hypocrisy that shapes so much of modern living.  This strength helps them translate what they observe into seemingly light-hearted jokes or comments that pack a major truth punch.  It can also leave them feeling pretty gutted themselves.

So, mindfulness practices really help anyone manage Jester responses and emotions more skillfully and resiliently.  Here are some additional lessons I’m taking from Joe Maddon that can contribute as well:

  • Loosen up.  

When Maddon takes on a new club, the first thing he seems to do is size up how loose the players are.  Being uptight is the enemy for him.  It gets in the way of high performance, and he’s more about building confidence in the really talented people who make it onto his teams.  When you’re loose, you’re in the here and now; not in the grip of anxiety or stress.  

Do players feel it?  Here’s what a few of them have to say:

  • “He keeps us loose. That’s basically it. He has fun. He’s the man.” -Dexter Fowler
  • “The non-game stuff that he does, the fun stuff, it helps keep the team looser than the places I’ve been. Not as much attention to things like batting practice and drills, he tries to cut a lot of that stuff out.” -Dan Haren

How would things go better around your workplace if more leaders were like that? Well, if you can think of the last time being uptight actually helped a tense work situation, please let me know about it.  Otherwise, consider where you’re too tight and need to wind down.    

  • Let it go.

Another player, Carlos Pena, talks about how Maddon shared the theory of Occam’s Razor with him rather than trying to correct his play.  Basically, it posits that the simplest, most obvious answer is usually the best.  It’s about not overthinking everything and getting wound up in a ball of rumination.  Ever seen that going on in yourself or around you?  

Remember that letting go has an entirely different feel than cutting something off.  It’s about allowing what’s bringing us down to float out of our consciousness so that something else more positive and beneficial can come in.  Think about what needs to float out of your mindset and envision it drifting away.  

  •  Have some fun.

I’ve already described some of Maddon’s well-known antics (and yes, it’s actually possible to introduce some antics into a workplace without it turning out like an episode of I Love Lucy; although maybe that’s not such a bad idea, actually!).  It’s so easy to devalue the positive impact of workplace fun, dismiss it as lightweight—and miss out on the proven benefits and culture-building opportunities that are built right in.  

Humor, laughter, enjoying the people you work with are all especially important to remember in remote workplaces.  Without that water cooler chat or happenstance personal encounters or in-person celebrations that many of us used to enjoy, it’s easy just to get down to business all the time.  That’s how both boredom and disconnection can creep into our lives if we forget to have some fun.  At the end of the day, Jester is in the relationship-building quadrant of this 12-archetype system.   

So, let’s take a look at our completed resilience chart looks with the addition of Jester!  This chart now offers a full snapshot of what resilience and non-resilience will usually look like, and how it can be leveraged for any one of the 12 story types:  

Type

Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus

Related values

Ruler

Insecurity Confidence Progress

Responsibility, Role Modeling, Influence 

Everyperson

Voicelessness Empathy Solidarity

Community, Justice, Fairness

Caregiver

Overwhelm Compassion  Human potential

Service, Kindness, Development

Innocent

Disillusionment Optimism Hope

Ideals, Faith, Values in Action

Hero

Exhaustion Mastery Achievement

Action, Drive, Making a Difference

Creator

Lifelessness Imagination Re-invention

Invention, Ideation, Expression 

Explorer

Restriction Growth mindset Meaning

Discovery, Individualism, Experience

Lover

Disconnection Relationship building Passion

Aliveness, Appreciation, Commitment 

Sage

Doubt Perspective Curiosity

Insight, Clarity, Wisdom

Magician

Disempowerment Flexibility Possibility Vision, Intuition, Intention
Revolutionary Resistance Troubleshooting Activism

Closure, Unconventional Thinking, Reform

Jester

Ennui Presence Loosening up

Resourcefulness, Enjoyment, Wit

Activating the Jester resilience quotient

What are some first steps for allowing more Jester-building resilience into your professional life? Start with a brainstorming process using these prompts (remembering they can be applied to your team or organization, not just to you as an individual):

  • Where am I too uptight, and how could loosening up a little help?
  • How can I enjoy what I’m doing more?
  • How could I use humor to lighten things up?
  • Where am I overthinking things and what’s a simpler way to move forward?
  • What’s a fun or even kind of crazy thing I could do right now instead of what I’ve been doing?
  • How can I build my capacity for present-moment awareness (hint: think mindfulness techniques)? 

And if you can meet up with either Joe Maddon or Bill Murray, go for it! 

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams, and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/).  

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