Learning with Humor

“A sense of humor …is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.”—journalist Hugh Sidey.

So here I am again, for the umpteenth time, committing finally to becoming computer proficient. My kids are probably laughing, not truly believing that the day may soon arrive when I do not rely on them for technical support.

Those who knew me in my former career as a high tech PR executive will be dismayed to learn I was probably the last person in my generation to move my hands from an electric typewriter to a personal computer. I have resisted technology all my life, even though I know how to write about and explain it to the media.

I am anticipating, however, that my social media publicist and webmaster, who have patiently led me through computer glitches, will be greatly relieved when I can talk to them as people versus as a panic-stricken, frantic woman trying to fix a minor problem under a deadline.

The commitment of conquering my fear of technology is so strong that I have left my home base, where I can no longer distract myself by doing laundry, paying bills or emailing friends. This time, rather than learn one-on-one which I’ve attempted on numerous other occasions with a private tutor (to avoid the shame of having others seeing how easily frustrated I am when working with my PC), I am in a six-week adult education class at a local technical high school.

Surrounded by twenty other people who are 40-, 50- or 60-something, I think to myself, “Someone should make a comedy show out of this scene.” Three of us huddled into corner seats work in an assembly-line fashion. Once someone learns a task, we pass along the directions to the person sitting next to us. I could have sworn that the man who sat next to me during the first class would surely pick the most distant seat away next time, after I and the woman beside me badgered him with so many questions. Instead, we became a team of sorts, laughing our way from one Excel spreadsheet to the next.

In this foreign setting, I am discovering something new about myself. I actually enjoy living in this left-brained world after coaching and writing all day, using primarily the right side of my brain. And, I can be quite funny. My classmates enjoy hearing my spontaneous remarks and silly basic questions.

Humor aside (although I intend to keep it more at the forefront of my life moving forward), I leave each class feeling proud and satisfied. Knowing I am addressing one of my greatest professional weaknesses, I am becoming increasingly confident. For, as a coach, I know that if we do not attend to our greatest shortcomings, we often hold ourselves back, at least mentally, by believing we are not good enough.

I do not expect to be the next Steve Jobs, but I do intend to become more self-reliant as often as I can. Rather than yell “help me” when I hit a technical challenge, I am disciplining myself to see what I can first do on my own. I know I have the intelligence to use technology more productively. As a young girl, I was a top math student in elementary school (yes, I am aging myself. I grew up in an era when girls were not encouraged to stay on par with boys, especially in math). The other top math student in my class went on to MIT (I wonder what he is doing now? Yes, I did try to locate him via LinkedIn and Facebook as I am so technically savvy now, but had no luck locating the right person by his name).

In balancing my nurturing and empathetic nature with more hands-on practical skills, I am adding laughter and lightness to the serious sides of delving into the psyche to create anew.

For my clients, I encourage them to risk learning something new, such as a skill that holds them back from being all they long to be or helps them become more marketable. And, may they take humor with them as their companions, remembering part of learning initially is not knowing how to do something.


1. I allow myself to increase my sense of confidence by updating my skills.

2. I allow myself to embrace humor in the learning process.

Beth Shedd’s lighthearted photo reminds us to continue to seek both the learning and the humor as we embrace the new.


  • “Filling Up The Empty Nest” (a six-week coaching package done by phone) is now available.
  • “Welcoming New Possibilities:  Letting Go/Letting In” (a three-session coaching package walking the sands of Crane’s Beach) is available through the end of October.

To sign up or learn more, contact Gail at 978-887-1911 or GailJones@SupportMatters.com



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  • Catie Jones says:

    I agree with this statement and good for you for getting more tech-savvy! Many older adults I feel have issues in the job market because the competition is younger college graduates that know the insides and out of technology. Even people with years and years of experience cannot get a secure employment position without the technology aspect. I know , as a college student, we are taught Access and Excel and I can operate both without an issue, which was the reason for my success at a recent internship. I also believe that technology can get tough, even I have to laugh at myself sometimes. Conquering something that is foreign to you needs to be humorous and a good quality to have is to be able to laugh at yourself.

    • Gail says:

      Catie: Thanks for reassuring us parents that even the younger generation, who grew up with computers, can feel technically challenged at times. Good to know that you also employ humor to conquer learning challenges. Love, Mom

  • Danielle says:

    I love the idea of using humor to ease the process of learning a new skill. Particularly when we are taking on learning something we feel that we should know already, it’s so easy to feel awkward and insecure. Laughing at ourselves — even better with peers living through the same experience — makes the whole process more positive. Another great post, Gail. Keep ’em coming!

    • Gail says:

      Danielle: Thanks for appreciating my blog, and noting the awkwardness and insecurity that often comes with learning something new. It truly is fun to be an adult learner among peers–it also brings back the human connection that is frequently lost in our increasingly technical world. Gail

  • Hey Gail,

    Thank you for sharing this learning experience with us. It’s certainly one that can help all of us deal with learning a new skill. Two things I believe in strongly that I see in this article are:

    1) Trying to figure things out first and in turn learning by doing.

    2) When the point mentioned above is not possible, having the courage to ask for help when you need it instead of gving up.


    Your proud webmaster

    • Gail says:

      Thanks Donato for your wisdom…and your patience with those of us more right-brained folks who are working through our initial resistance to technical challenges. Your new email tutorials are very helpful.


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