“If you hang in there, you will get the last laugh”
Nothing is worst than for people to laugh at you when they know you are being serious. It is the worse form of ridicule and humiliation. In that moment, their laugher is a very powerful way of saying that you don’t belong. Your key to success is to not let their behavior deter you. If you keep pressing on, you will be the one who gets the last laugh. I know because I have lost count of the times I’ve been laugh at. Also, even though I have lost count, I have not forgotten.
My most memorable time was when a big shipment optimization study was taking place for one of our biggest business units while I was in the Transportation Division. A big-named consulting firm was engaged to lead the study. I won’t mention their name to protect the guilty. They brought in an army of analysts, PhDs who specialized in linear programming, and “experts” in network optimization. It must have cost millions of dollars for them to do the study. My IT organization supported the business unit that was doing the study. I had just purchased a software package that did network optimization. It required the biggest PC available at the time to process all of the data. (This was back in the early 1990s.)
During one of the regular project update meetings to the executive sponsors of the initiative, I rolled the PC into the room. I got that strange “What is he up to?” look from the consultants. I projected onto the screen the current picture of how shipments were going all over the place from the different distribution centers. I then showed the picture of the optimized version. You could have heard a pin drop because I had done in 5 minutes what the consultants had been working on for months to do. The led consultant then broke out in laugher and said, “James, that water-cooled PC can show some pretty pictures! Also, did you get your PhD in quantitative analysis from a correspondence school?” The next thing I knew everyone was laughing. The most senior of the business sponsors said, “OK, the show is over. What’s next on the agenda?”
I rolled the PC out of the room and back into my office. Their laughter took me back to how badly I was laughed at growing up. I was always doing, wearing, or saying things that people didn’t expect. In other words, I never stayed in the box people mentally put me in. Laughing at you is the way people try to put you back into the box. Just like when I was growing up, I kept on believing in myself after that meeting even though the laughter hurt very badly.
Are you wondering how the consultants story ended? What they recommended ended up being an unmitigated disaster. A few years later, I began running over $2 billion dollars of that business. Needless to say, I got the last laugh. That has been the ending every time I have been laughed at in very hurtful and humiliating ways. Now, whenever people laugh at me when I’m serious, I smile because I know who is going to get the last laugh.
If you are being laughed at, hang in there, keep on believing in yourself, chances are you’ll get the last laugh, as well.