Part of the Humourology series
Season 1, Episode 17
Dr Richard Bandler – The Miracle of Mirth – Part 1
Dr. Richard Bandler has built a career on helping people help themselves. What is the answer to creating a better reality? Taking things less seriously. Dr. Bandler joins Paul Boross to discuss the magical miracle of Mirth
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In this week’s episode of the Humourology Podcast, Paul Boross is joined by world renowned hypnotist and co-developer of NLP Dr. Richard Bandler. Dr. Bandler has spent the past 40 years helping people learn how to laugh at their problems. Dr. Bandler believes that when you change the way you think, you change the way you act. Through linguistics, Dr. Bandler knows that the key to learning is laughing.
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Dr Richard Bandler
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Dr Richard Bandler’s Humourology podast Part One
– Humour comes in a lot of forms. It’s about enjoyment. Humour is the expression of enjoyment. It’s not just telling jokes. You can tell jokes and not be funny.
– Welcome to the Humourology Podcast with me, Paul Boross, and my glittering lineup of guests from the worlds of business, sport and entertainment who are going to share their wisdom and their use of humour. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals increases the value of your laughing stock and puts a punchline back into your bottom line. Please, remember to like, subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. My guest on this edition of the Humourology Podcast has, for over 40 years, continually developed new human change technologies. He is the co-developer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and his mantra is, “The easier you can make it inside your head, the easier it will make it outside your head.” He has used his skills to bring businesses back from the brink and brought creativity and charisma to hundreds of thousands of people and corporations around the globe. As well as being considered by many to be the best hypnotist in the world, he is a master of mirth and makes humour fundamental to his magnificent masterclasses. One of my personal favourite quotes of his is, “People say, one day you are going to look back at this and laugh. My question is, why wait?” Dr. Richard Bandler, welcome to the Humourology Podcast.
– Well, it’s a pleasure to be here, Paul.
– Well, it’s fabulous to have you and as ever. I’m a great fan and I’ve been following your work and obviously trained with you over the years. I know you love Bertram Russell. And he said, “The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” How true do you believe that to be?
– Well, I have to tell you when I was in college I started reading a lot of different philosophy things. He was like one of the few that made any sense. Most of it was nonsense, but he was a very sharp guy. And so he discovered a lot of things. And over the years, you know, I keep that in mind, that if you open your eyes and your ears, you find things. There’s nothing like the truth to make things easier, quicker, faster and more fun.
– Wow. The truth is everything, isn’t it, really? Well, actually you always say love is everything as well.
– Freedom is everything and love is all the rest. What sets you free? Usually it’s when you look at things and you discover how stupid you’re being and you start laughing and then you start learning.
– Well, that’s what the Humourology Podcast is all about. Laughing and learning. So was the young Richard Bandler always amusing or amused, or did you have to learn it over the years?
– My sense of humour has started growing from the very beginning. It was a necessity. To me, if you can’t start laughing at the dumb ass things you do then you never learn smarter things. And if you look at my first book you can tell how serious I was. It’s so academic, it could be used as a tranquilliser.
– But describe the young Richard Bandler. What was he actually like? Was he mischievous. Was he somebody who was playing pranks?
– In many ways, I was a hard ass and in many ways I was just looking to find what works. I have a low tolerance for crap and bullshit. And one of the reasons, I mean, I never intended to get into all the things I did. I started out as an information science person which was the beginning of computer technologies back when computers were humongously big in four story buildings. And they kept the computers at zero temperature and the people wore heavy jackets. The idea of a laptop was probably inconceivable at that time. The fact that your phone would have more technology than they had on the shots that went to the moon, it was just not something that we can… The idea you could carry your phone around. When I was young, a phone weighed so much you could kill somebody with it, but I was fairly serious but I was also kind of a party animal. I rode a motorcycle and hung around with people that liked to have fun. And when I encountered things that were too serious, cause you get a lot in school, you certainly get it on TV. We watched these politicians act real serious and not do a thing they say they’re going to do. I learned to be distrustful of what people tell me is the truth and try to find things to just work. And people told me to do something one way and it didn’t work, then I started looking for an easier way because as Moshé Feldenkrais said, “Where it all comes is from the elusive obvious.” And when we get through the blinders that we have on we find out what works. And certainly the field of psychology was abundantly a wealth of place to do that. I mean, when I started there were 160 schools of psychotherapy all claiming they had the right approach when they couldn’t systematically solve a single problem. And to me, the answer seemed really obvious when people told me how they couldn’t do things and instead of why they couldn’t do them, because I’m not really interested in causality, Einstein proved that was nonsense a long time ago. And so I’ve always been more of a science person but I’ve always applied it to life. And if you really listen to people when they talk they are quite funny. And when they start laughing at themselves is when they start changing. If people change the way they think it changes how they feel and therefore it changes what they can do. And the irony is they’ve been doing it their whole life. It’s just, they get stuck in loops because they learn too well. And some of the things we learn are utterly useless and stupid and people who continue to do them, number one, are unhappy, and number two, lose money. They lose time. The currency of living is how you spend your moments. And that’s not just true in your personal life. That’s immensely true in your business. That, the more times you have to do the same thing the more inefficient it is. And if what you’re doing doesn’t work, then it’s really inefficient. And when I’ve been hired to go into companies, the solutions to whatever I’m brought in to find are usually immensely obvious coming from the outside. That, people have basic beliefs and they don’t look outside them. So therefore they’re looking for the answer where it isn’t. And when you look for the answer where it isn’t, you don’t find it
– Well, it’s very interesting because do you think that people actually think themselves out of being humorous as well then? I mean, they’ll talk themselves out of it or convince themselves that they’re not humorous?
– Part of my job with people, especially private clients, is to get them to see that what they’re doing is funny enough to laugh at. And you know, I’ve been… I usually start my teaching seminars off by asking people, is there somebody in here that thinks about the same bad memory over and over and over again? And you know, if you worry about a problem about 30 minutes a day, you’ve wasted 150 plus hours. And that means 10 years, it’s 1,500 hours. And if then 40 years, it’s 6,000 hours. And when I ask people, I go, “So, your planning?” And they go, “Well, I’m not planning it, it just happens.” And I go, “No, you told me this is your plan. That you can count on doing this in the future. You have to participate in it otherwise it doesn’t happen.” And if you don’t make the pictures and say the things to yourself and make the feelings, then you you get back this enormous gift of time. And when you laugh at a mistake it saves you enormous amounts of time. I went in and did a sales training once and a guy had two furniture stores, one on either side of the road and you couldn’t get off the exit unless you went miles down. So he built another one on the other side of the road and oddly enough, the new store was selling 40% more stuff than the store on this side with the same number of people, the exact same stuff, same floor plan, everything is identical. And he hired me and he goes, well, he said “What’s the difference between them?” And I said, “The people that were at the first store had been there longer, so they’re more stuck in the way they’re doing things. The new people don’t know what they’re doing so they’re trying to find out. And I went into the old store and I asked the Salesforce. I said, “When somebody comes in the door,” I said, “Which people can’t you sell something to?” And one guy said, well, he said, “A lot of people come in with somebody that knows more about it, that’s older or has bought a lot of furniture and they haven’t, and you know that person’s going to talk them out of whatever you say.” And I said, “So when you see somebody come in with somebody who’s going to help them buy something, you think, ‘I’m not going to sell a couch’. And I’m thinking, ‘I got two people to sell couches to’.” And as soon as you change your belief you start looking for, “All I got to do is convince the expert, and the other guy comes automatically. If I can sell a couch to the guy that’s the expert so all I got to figure out is how he knows when he wants to buy something and I’m not even subtle about it. I sat in the furniture store. I walked up to people when they walked the front door. And I said, “Let me ask you a question. How do you know when you’re going to buy something?” Watch where their eyes moved and they’d go, “Well, when it looks just right.” So I know exactly where to put my brochure. And if you pay attention to human beings, they’ll tell you exactly what you need to know. And if you take your problems too seriously, and most of the time I start exaggerating what they’re doing. When I run sales training programmes, I usually run them at the worst of times. During the late seventies, there was the oil embargo and they couldn’t sell really expensive cars. And I went in and sold Mercedes, which probably got the lowest mileage of any car at the time. And I went, and there were four salesmen just sitting there looking depressed. And I took the most expensive car and left, came back an hour later with four people and had the salesman… I said, this guy wants a red one. This guy wants a blue one. That’s guy wants a silver one. You guys fill out the paperwork and I’ll split the commission with it. One guy afterwards walked up to me, he goes, “Where did you find these people?” And I went, “Outside.” There’s no one here, you go to where they are. And I thought, “Where would be the people?” And so, of course I thought, country club. So I drove through the golf course up to the country club walked in the door and said, “Who wants to be happy for the rest of your life?” Nobody is going to say no to that. And brought them outside and tried to… Some guy goes, he goes, “What about the gas mileage?” And I said, “Number one, this isn’t going to last forever. But number two, I can put a tank in the back with an extra 75 gallons.” People say, necessity is the mother of invention. And I say, humour is. When people go, “Oh, we could never get there. The plane won’t make it that far. Oh, terrible. So we’ll just sit here and do nothing.” That’s the wrong approach. You got to go. Well, that’s stupid. If the tank doesn’t hold enough, put another tank on, seems obvious. But most people in their life aren’t looking for what’s obvious. They come in and they tell me, they go, “Well I’ve got all these problems. I’ve blown out of proportion.” And I go, “Well, how big are they?” And they go, “What do you mean?” And I go, “Well, if they’ve blown out of proportion, it’s a picture in your head.” I say, “Well, can you see the sides of it?” And some people go, “No.” And I go, “Well, put a border around it, shrink it down.” Most of the things that really change people are putting things in perspective. When for a moment you step outside yourself and look at yourself and go, “This is really stupid. I’ve been doing this for years and feeling bad, enough is enough.” And I’ve found that happens to people naturally. It just takes too long. So I tried to speed the process up. The actual quote for me is, “People say, you’re going to look back on this and laugh. My policy is, why wait?” Do it now and move on.
– Oh, that’s brilliant. Well, I’ll correct that then. But I love your new quote, which is, “Humour is the mother of invention.” I just think that’s brilliant. It also displays the attitude that moves you forward. Also, one of your other quotes that I love is, “Disappointment requires adequate Planning.”
– Yeah, otherwise you wouldn’t know when to be disappointed or what to be disappointed about. And I went to advanced systems planning at one of the largest corporations in the United States back when I had an R & D company to try to convince them that we had a storage system that wasn’t magnetic. It was actually a holographic and on film. And when I went in there, instead of listening to how far ahead of time this was the people that were there went, “Well, film is too delicate. We could never use it.” So I took the prototype, turned it on its side and slapped it while it was running. And because the truth is, a hologram, everything is everywhere, instead of something is somewhere, so you don’t get an error rate, just doesn’t happen. But yet what got in the way of their even exploring the ideas, was they kept going, “Well, someday we’ll figure out how to do this with magnetic storage systems.” And literally said to me there’s no future for optics in computer. And of course, we all have optical discs now in our computers, they’re everywhere. They’re in your iPod, they’re in everything. But it took him… It’s like IBM thinking there wasn’t a future for personal computers.
– What makes you laugh, Richard?
– People, mostly. The more serious they are the more I end up laughing. Most of my life I’ve spent training people and I’m kind of in the ‘edutainment’ business. They force people to go to school and bore them to death for years and then wonder why they don’t learn that much. Because if you don’t make learning feel good people don’t do it. That it’s only really when you can create an environment where people are having fun. And it’s pretty easy because most people will. If you really listen to what they’re saying, you can find the nonsense in it. And, I mean, I even hear myself talk sometimes and burst out laughing. Yes, sometimes I just say really ridiculous things. And if you can’t laugh at yourself, you can’t move on. And I think this is especially true in science. When they start talking about the limits, that one time they didn’t think you could go faster than the speed of sound. And yet bullets fly faster than the speed of sound. It’s just nonsense. I don’t know why they believed it, but finally Chuck Yeager got in the plane, went up and did it. Went, “Nope, not a problem.” That the limits of science are in what we believe. Einstein one time was accosted by somebody at Princeton. She asked him, she said, “Well can you explain to me just something about the universe?” And he said, “Yes, it gives us everything.” And if you look at the universe that way and realise that we’re not in it, we are both apart and a part of it. From the beginning of time until now, we’re all made out of the same cosmic stuff. And if the limits in what we can understand are the limits in what we can understand, they’re not the limits in what’s possible.
– I think that’s very profound and beautiful. But tell me a funny story about something that’s happened to you that has had a profound effect on the way you’ve thought about life and the world.
– When I first went into business, I made terrible mistakes. And one of them was, when I formed my first corporation, I put my lawyer and my accountant on my board of directors when I was already paying them for advice. I met a guy who at the time was running GRT which controlled about 20% of the music industry. His name is on the patent for things like the microwave oven. And when I met him, he said to me, he goes, “Why don’t you have me on your board of directors?” And I thought, this guy’s running a multi-million dollar corporation. I said, “Why would you want to do it?” And he said, “Because I like this.” And when I discovered that people in business, were doing it because they enjoyed it. It never really dawned on me that taking on the challenge of here you are running a big major corporation and you go and get on the board of directors of some small company, you can really take your wisdom and advice and lead them somewhere, and that’s fun. And that’s when it dawned on me. If you don’t make things fun, people don’t do it. Money is a way of keeping score. That real success is the quality of your experience. And if what you enjoy is playing the stock market then that’s what you should do. I found a profession I really liked. I listened to people say stupid things and get them to laugh at it and show them an easier way. What could be better. I model all kinds of successful people. So I get to learn new things all the time.
– It is a great job. And that’s why you do it brilliantly. It’s funny because we had David McCourt, who’s a multi-billionaire, on the podcast recently. And he said exactly the same thing. He said, he only does it… He’s already a multi-billionaire. He only does it because he loves it and he has fun every day. And so they do say that if you never want to work another day in your life do something you love and just have fun with it.
– The problem is, most people don’t know what that is. So you got to try a lot of things. It’s like the young people, I tell them, I go, “Before you get married, meet a lot of women so that you have a cross section.” Because if you go on a thousand dates, you’re more likely to find a good person but if you go out on three… That you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.
– So you think that’s true in business as well. You’ve got to find lots of things, try lots of things, in order to find something that really fits you.
– Or at least expose yourself to them. I meet young people now and I can see, I can foretell a lot of what the future will hold for them. I met people from a freshmen class and I said, “What are you going to do in college?” And instead of saying, have fun and learn and explore, they would go, “Well, I’m going to get a BA in business and I’m going to get an MBA. And then I’m going to go to law school.” And they had it down. I’m going to be an entertainment lawyer. I’m going to an apprenticeship. They got the next 35 years planned out. And what happens if they get there and they discover that they hate being an entertainment lawyer? or they hate being this. One of the psychiatrists that I knew went to law school and became a lawyer and discovered he just hated it. So he went back to medical school and became a doctor. And then he worked in a hospital and discovered he hated it. And he should have gone and hung out with doctors and find out what they do. And if you don’t like what somebody does then that’s the wrong job for you. And most people are thinking about finding a career instead of finding a lifestyle. See humour doesn’t mean you’re laughing every moment. Some people think, if you add humour to something, you’re laughing all the time. It’s really about enjoyment. You may be laughing and singing on the inside and deadly serious on the outside. I asked a judge once how he kept doing this year and the year out. And quite frankly, he said, well, he said “I may appear to be deadly serious, but on the inside I’m telling myself jokes every minute. He’s going, “How could this guy be so stupid?” He goes, “He’s going to go to jail for 17 years for robbing $30 from some convenience store.”
– Is everyone funny, Richard? Potentially?
– I had the most boring, tedious client once. Shrink referred this woman to me. And inside of five minutes I was ready to pull my hair up by the roots. I had hair then. She spoke like this. Never faster, never slower. She was a depressive and I can understand why. I ran into her two years later on a street in San Francisco where comedy clubs were. And I just saw her on the street and I went. “Martha!” And she turned around and looked at me and she went like this, pointed up, and her name was on the marquee. I went, “You became a comedian?” And she goes, “Yeah.” She goes, “I imitate the way I used to be. And everybody finds it hysterical.” She did a satire of herself and that was her comedy routine. So, if the worst depressive can become a funny person pretty much anybody can. But not until they start being less serious. Yeah, I went to a conference once and they were asking people what they considered to be the worst psychological problem. And these doctors were all saying depression and there was a split personality. And I was on the end of the podium when they got to me and they said, “What do you think the worst problem is?” And I said, “Seriousness, because it’s pervasive and it’s stifling. And it causes all the rest of the problems.” If you’re too serious, you can never escape your model of the world, your understanding of things. We all have to understand, but we don’t have to hold it constant. When you have ideas that don’t work change the ideas and set yourself free. Freedom is everything. Love is all the rest
– Talking about humour. How did you develop your humour? Because your good friend, John La Valle, told me a story about you hitchhiking and being picked up by somebody who actually had a profound effect on your humour.
– I didn’t really get to know him other than he gave me a ride because he wanted to try his comedy routine. He talked of just simple things like why do you call a hot water heater but you wouldn’t make it a cold water heater? But actually it makes more sense. But all of it was a play on words. And when I started thinking about how funny language is itself, I started listening better. When I teach, I get people to laugh a lot. And it’s part of the way I’m able to teach them new things. It’s because the release of oxytocin, which… They found with autistic children when they injected them with oxytocin, they started, instead of being afraid of everybody and pushing them away, they started recognising which facial expression is which. It’s part of how our neurology recodes itself. And a little endorphins, a little oxytocin and probably some other things we don’t know about, allow us to change the neuro pathways because the longer we live the more neuro pathways we build. And if we get ones that are just circling in an un-useful way, we have to get out of the loop. And part of the way you jump out of the loop and add something new, because all the memories you ever have are there, all the learnings you had are there, but you have to be able to put something on top of it so you don’t go down the same road. Otherwise you would still be afraid to crawl. If we start playing with things we find new ways of doing them. And we learn new patterns. But sometimes it’s as simple as shrinking an old idea down, blinking it black and white and putting up a new picture. You put a new picture in your head complete with new feelings and you get new behaviours. When I wrote the book, “Using Your Brain For a Change” I wanted to get it across the simple idea that it’s your brain. And if you don’t take control of it it will just keep running on the way it is. And if you don’t like it, that’s bad. If you like it, that’s great. So you keep what works and what doesn’t work, you have to change, and if you can’t look at it and go, “This is absolutely ridiculous…” You don’t want to find it out when you’re 50 or 90. And you want to find it out as soon as possible so that you can learn to behave differently.
– “Using Your Brain For a Change” is one of the… I love all of your books, Richard, but it’s one of my absolute favourites. I also love the ambiguity of the title, which I think is genius. What would the world be like without humour?
– C-SPAN. You know what C-SPAN is? It’s a channel that just plays what government officials are talking about. Committee meetings, speeches in the house of representatives. It’s the channel that’s got to be the most humourless thing on the face of the earth. Years ago, Virginia’s Satir took me to Stanford to hear a guy who was famous. He wrote a book called, “Joy.” And he got up and started talking about “Joy”. And he was the most joyless person I’d ever seen in my life. He went on this monologue without any intonation. It was a monotonous description about how important joy was. And I thought it was like a Saturday Night Live skit. I’ve kept laughing. And I was the only one in the room. Finally somebody came and asked me to leave because they looked at me and they said, “Humour is a really serious business.” And I thought anybody that could say something that’s stupid, really needs to tape record themselves and play it a few times. But to me, humour is a state of consciousness. And it’s like people think there’s a thing called happiness. It’s not, it’s an adverb. We happily do things. We humorously do things. And if you humorously look at your limitations it opens new doorways. If you seriously look at your your limitations, you justify them.
– Quick fire questions, Richard. When was the last time that you actually cried with laughter?
– That would probably be when my daughter was young and she came up and asked me, she said, “Tell me it’s not true. Paul McCartney was not in a band before Wings.”
– Yeah. Oh, out of the mouths of babes. That’s brilliant. What sound makes you laugh, Richard? Now there’s, the ultimate comedy anchor, isn’t it?! Farts are always funny. Who always brings a smile to your face?
– My wife.
– My dog.
– [Paul] And your dog.
– Yeah. Dogs don’t worry about shit. When they want something they just stare at you until you give it to them.
– Would you rather tell a great joke or listen to a great joke?
– I’d rather listen to one, but I think I end up telling them most of the time, but not joke, jokes but… Yeah, I liked listening to a good joke. Especially when they’re weaved together over and not a short joke but something… I saw The Amazing Jonathan one time and he did this talk about a garage sale and it went on for about 30 minutes endlessly. And it was just nonsense, but it was incredibly funny.
– Is there a quote that makes you smile or laugh?
– Well, I do like the one from Einstein, that the universe has given us everything. I think, when you keep that in perspective, instead of thinking of being in your life, that you think of things as the 30 billion year run from the beginning of the universe and ending up with you, kind of puts things in perspective. People go, “I made a mistake yesterday.” And you start thinking, you’re not a mistake. You’re the end of all the things that have been put together since the beginning of time to the present. Evolution was designed. All of the things. The scattering planets and building galaxies, was so that we could be here now so that we could look back at the universe and it could know itself. I think ultimately we will go to the stars. But consciousness is the greatest part of evolution and starting from the big bang to the present and the fact that people will use it to think about such small things and not look at the universe, and not look at the stars and think, “How amazing is it to be here, just amazing.” So when Einstein said, “What would you want people to know about the universe?” “It gives us absolutely everything.” Everything from immense galaxies, time and that new pair of Prada shoes
– And finally, Desert Island Dinner. You can take three comedians, living or dead, to a Desert Island to have an endless dinner. Who would they be?
– Certainly George Carlin would be there.
– I love the George Carlin quote which… I’m a huge George Carlin fan, which is, “Think of how stupid the average person is and then realise half of them are stupider than that.”
– Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard for me to think right now of more. I think I’d be happy just having him there.
– Okay. You’ve got it. You can have George Carlin to dinner on your Desert Island. Richard Bandler, thank you for all the learnings and all the laughs. It’s been a great pleasure. Thank you again.
– Well, it’s been a pleasure, Paul. It’s nice to see you doing so well.
– [Paul] Join us again next week for the second part of our chat With Dr. Richard Bandler.
– [Announcer] The Humourology Podcast was hosted by Paul Boross and produced by Simon Banks, music by Steve Haworth, creative direction by Les Hughes and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe, like and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky production.