Being a Clown

Kathy Kolbe for clown

I dressed up in a clown outfit once. To entertain kids at a camp I ran. It totally embarrassed my then 8-year-old son, David, who was in the audience.

Wearing a clown costume doesn’t make you a clown – but it can make a clown out of you. It proves my theory that dressing for success is often a waste of time and money.

Could a good school for clowns train me to be a better clown?

Not if I only mimicked being a clown. Being trained to act like a clown doesn’t make you good at it – anymore than being trained to act like a salesperson makes you a top salesperson. If you don’t have the right instincts to be good in a role, your attempt at it can come off as awkward.

Ouch Factor: Happy masks hiding Sad realities

Putting on a happy face while suffering in a misfit role is the stuff of tragedies (think Death of a Salesman). When people don’t have an ounce of the right conative instincts for the outfit, pretending the shoe fits ends up causing a lot of hurt. Maybe that’s why there are so many sad clowns. It’s the Ouch Factor.

We sense inauthenticity. It makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to deal with a person who is putting on an act — whether it is as a carpenter, cleric, or cable guy.

People radiating the yucky vibes of the Ouch Factor seem to believe the fairy tale about being able to do anything they want to do. They must have bought into the notion that their preferences were the key to determining career decisions. It would be interesting to track people who followed career advice from programs based on such assumptions, and rate their Ouch levels.

Effort Effect

That wasn’t my excuse for being a lousy clown. It is in my conative nature to be at least OK at clowning around.

Being a clown was a side show for me. I certainly didn’t put much effort into it. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It might have helped if I had a least practiced a couple of minutes in front of a mirror. Instead, I was just me being silly. (Moms being silly always seem to embarrass their kids.) I overlooked the Effort Effect.

My clown moment was a bundle of years ago, and I still regret that I wasn’t more convincing. The point is not that I discovered “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” If that were true, I would have garden that’s a show place – and not had the time or energy to create the Kolbe theories.

I imagined that my clown act would get a “Good job!” rating from more than a couple of kids (My son proved he had learned the lesson of not giving false praise.). Mid-act I knew I hadn’t made the necessary effort to pull it off.

Effort Effect – Reversed

I bet the most creepy clowns are the most conatively misfit clowns – who work especially hard at being untrue to themselves. Kids trust their instincts – and stay really far away from clowns they sense are that degree of phony.

There’s something ugly and unsettling about watching a person trudge through life trying to be something he or she was never intended to be. Why try so hard to be a clown when it just isn’t working?

There is a time to turn in the costume. Misplaced efforts rob us of opportunities to succeed in roles for which we are a good conative fit. A misfit clown might make a terrific Ring Master or Lion tamer. The trick is to find roles that fit both our M.O. and our interests. That’s when we make wise efforts.

Effort + right Instincts avoids the Ouch Factor and ups the level of our performance.

I trusted my instincts when I did the clown act. I dressed for success in the role. But I didn’t make a high enough commitment of effort. I have both trusted my instincts and worked hard as a Theorist. I’d say “I made the shoe fit” – but much of the time I’ve been barefoot.


Filed under Self-Help

12 responses to “Being a Clown

  1. This is a great story, but are you kidding or is it really true?

  2. Interesting and thought provoking. It is often said that 95% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, work all day doing something the do not love just to make ends meet. While the other 5% are doing what they love and have a passion for. I’m assuming they ( the 5%), knowingly or not, are also conatively suited for their chosen field. There is certainly something to be said regarding how someone chooses their definite purpose in life and how they come to that conclusion. Understanding and embracing your innate instincts and strengths has to be a key success factor in living the life you dream of.

  3. Thanks reminds me of the saying “its your mum’s and dad’s job to tell you that you can be whatever you want to be but its my job as a mentor/ coach to discipline you to become the best at what you are gifted for.

  4. Missy Froeber

    Kathy, your blog makes me think of something I tell my kids all the time, “Just be yourself”. Why is that such a hard piece of advice to follow as adults? We start off pretty good at it. When we are young, we dance and sing and don’t care who sees or hears us. We just like to sing or dance and so we do it. It “feels” good. Then we start school and it all changes. Suddenly it is ultra important to fit in, to be the same as everyone else. Pretty soon we are doing what is expected of us and we forget to “be ourselves”. We forget to work in our instincts and with our strengths. Maybe we all need to tap into our “Inner Child”, the one who insisted on buttoning her shirt from the bottom up or had to eat his dessert before he could eat his vegetables. The other day, I heard my husband say in frustration to my youngest, “I don’t care how you do it, as long as you get it done.” Great words of advice, honey! Wouldn’t it be great if our boss or our co-workers said these words to us? Wouldn’t it be nice if we said them back? Maybe that’s all we truly need, permission from someone to do it our way 🙂

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