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  • Rich Haglund

The power of not taking ourselves too seriously

An experience at my law school graduation and a recent Supreme Court filing may seem unrelated. But, I hope you'll understand why I've combined them here.


Our son was 18 months old when I graduated from law school. Walking on the university lawn after the graduation, I grabbed my son, lifted him up in front of me and smelled his bum to see if he needed a diaper change. Just then, one of my law school professors walked by. She said, "Rich, that really humanizes you!"


I didn't think my humanity was in question. But, I guess I'd shown up as a legal cyborg in class!


Are you willing to share embarrassing or even normal things that happen to you? To remind friends, family, and coworkers of your humanity? Is there sufficient trust on your team that colleagues are willing to call you out when you make "that face?"


There aren't many "friend of the court" briefs submitted to the United States Supreme Court that begin with utter falsehoods: "Rising from its humble beginnings as a print newspaper in 1756, The Onion now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history." The Onion submitted its amicus brief in a recent case involving an Ohio man arrested for parodying the local police department. In the brief, The Onion added, "One of parody’s most powerful capacities is rhetorical: It gives people the ability to mimic the voice of a serious authority—whether that’s the dry news-speak of the Associated Press or the legalese of a court’s majority opinion—and thereby kneecap the authority from within." I'm not suggesting kneecapping your boss. But I am inviting you to consider the value of using humor, not to criticize, but to avoid the damage we inflict upon important relationships when we think too much of ourselves. (You can read more about the Ohio case and parody in this interview with the author of the brief.)

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