Find Your Fool

389px-Jester-_Joker_Card001It’s April Fools’ Day. So keep your eyes open for the best jokes and pranks.  Typically, Google goes above and beyond by offering a variety of ways to mark the occasion. (For example, see how Google puts “the ‘real’ in ‘virtual reality‘” by creating Google Cardboard Plastic.) To keep track of Google’s 2016 efforts, VentureBeat has created a list of Google pranks that will be updated over the course of the day.

Not to be outdone, even normally staid news organizations will likely get into the act. In 2014 NPR pranked all those people who jump to comment on articles they haven’t bothered to read.  The NPR headline asked Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore? The comments that followed more than proved the point NPR was making.

If you’re looking for a great way to celebrate the day, may I point you in a different direction? Rather than looking for a clever prank to play, try looking for your own fool instead. What fool, you ask? A court jester kind of fool.

Let me explain. In earlier times, a court jester or fool was hired to entertain people of wealth. The fool might dress in brightly colored, eccentric clothing and would likely speak in a provocative or discomfiting manner. While many jesters entertained, others were hired for a much more serious purpose: they were required to speak truth to power. In fact, some were hired expressly for the purpose of criticizing their employer. According to the Royal Shakespeare Company, “Queen Elizabeth (reigned 1558-1603) is said to have rebuked one of her fools for being insufficiently severe with her.”

While criticism is not in short supply in some work places, consider the type of direct feedback you usually receive from your team. Do they feel comfortable telling you the truth? Are they willing to take a position that you do not endorse? Do they let you know when things are about to go off the rails? Are they able to point out shortcomings in policy or action, and do so in a constructive manner? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” it may be time for you to find your own fool: a truth teller whose honesty will help you bring your best game every time.

Now do you see the value of a fool? If so, celebrate April Fools’ Day 2016 by finding your own fool. And then see what a difference a forthright, constructive colleague can make in your life.

 

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