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How Do You Write Jokes?


If you’re a business leader or a professional speaker you don’t necessarily need to learn how to write jokes, but it will help you if you can learn to be funny. 

Someone recently asked me, “Rory how do you write jokes?”

My response was “don’t try to write jokes; instead write stories.” 

For most people it’s much easier to write about something that really happened to them that makes them or other people laugh as they think back on it. And there is automatically an extra added element of humor when it’s based on a true story. 

Start with writing out the story first in as much detail as you remember. Then as you go back through and edit the story, look for natural opportunities to use these humor techniques:

Exaggerate the character features – Developing your characters is always one of the best ways to improve your stories. So let us know more about who the people are that were in the story and anytime you exaggerate their characteristics it’s usually funny. 

Instead of saying “she was an older woman” say “she was probably 67…thousand years old. Seriously, she was in the Yoda stage of life.”

Embellish the circumstances – Think of interesting ways to express the circumstances. 

Instead of saying “the family was poor” say “there was no way this family was going to have the money…there was a better chance of an Amish family pulling up in a Hummer.” 

Be self-deprecating – People love to laugh at a speakers own ineptness so don’t be afraid to highlight it. 

Instead of saying “I don’t know anything about changing air filters” say “I went to Home Depot and asked the lady for an air filter and she said ‘what size’ and I said ‘they come in different sizes?!'”

Connect the old with the new – Since all stories are from the past it makes us laugh when you introduce an element of the future that everyone knows wasn’t there. 

Instead of saying “Jesus went to Galilee” say “So Jesus pulled up Google Maps and said we must go to Galilee!”

Humanize inanimate objects – Anytime you treat things as living that aren’t really living it is often funny. 

My friend Craig Valentine has a cute story where he says “I needed help so I picked up a book. I remember I looked at the book and then the book looked at me!” The book then proceeds to give him advice as if it were a real person. 

Get inside their heads – We connect with other people by being able to relate with what they’re thinking and experiencing. So tell us what the characters were thinking in the crazy moments. But say something different than what everyone might expect. 

For instance let’s pretend you’re telling a story about a bicycle accident you once had during one of your first jobs. As the bike is falling over tell us what you were thinking. Except what we would expect to hear is “this is going to hurt” so instead say “wow this is really going to enhance my resume!”

Remember you’re not a stand up comedian so no one expects you to be. Which actually very much works in your favor because people won’t be expecting you to be funny in a business environment – and that makes it easier to pull off. So instead of starting with trying to write jokes, just tell stories. 

When speaking you don’t want to “lie” and just outright make things up because that’s dishonest. But you also don’t want to just tell what happened in plain detail because that’s boring. Both are a disservice to your audience. 

Instead, use what is commonly referred to as a “license to embellish.” Which simply means to highlight and play up the most salient features of the story. 

This will give your stories more life, more color, and more laughs.  

P.S. For more on the psychology of why we laugh and how to become a funnier person check out my book “How to be funny to make more money.

How to overcome your fear of public speaking

Rory Vaden Public Speaker

I am amazed that it has already been over eight years since I came in second at the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.

And still to this day many interviewers ask me questions about that season in my life, which was so long ago. The most common question asked is, “How did you overcome your fear of speaking in public?”

It really is quite simple.

First, you have to have an understanding of what causes this type of fear in general.

Fear is the result of a self centered perspective. It is thinking about whether or not you’ll be good enough, whether other people will like it, or whether you are ready.

In other words, fear results when you’re thinking about all of the bad things that could happen to you.

That is amplified when you think about being in front of a room full of people. If something goes wrong, you not only have the personal embarrassment you would feel of making a mistake, but it is compounded by the humiliation of having many people witness it live.

In general, fear is your creativity working in the wrong direction.

In this instance, fear results as you allow yourself to daydream about all of the terrible things that could happen to you while you are up speaking.

So the solution to overcoming this fear is very simple…

The solution is to not think about yourself.

The solution is to be others-centered.

The solution is to think about other people-specifically the audience.

The solution is to think about how you are going to help them – and not worry about you.

If you simply direct all of your energy into helping them rather than into worrying about yourself, your presentation, what you’re going to say, and whether or not they are going to like you…your fear will go away.

“It’s hard to be nervous when your heart is on service.”

So right before any presentation I do not think as much about what I’m going to say, or what people are going to think about me.

Instead, I stand back stage behind the curtain and I look out over the room. And then I pick people out of the crowd one by one.

And in my mind I think about what life might be like to be that person. I think about what are the types of things that person might be struggling with on a day-to-day basis. I create a story in my mind about some of the physical, mental, emotional, financial, professional, relational, and spiritual challenges they might be dealing with.

I think about how hard it might be to be that person.

And then I think about how likely it is that this person has only a very small few number of people – if any – who constantly encourage them in their life.

In that moment, when I feel connected to that person, I simply ask God to use me in a way that would help them. That He would give me the words to say that would encourage them. That the ideas that I share would excite them.

And then I move on to the next person.

I consider that as my creativity working in the positive direction.

It takes all of the focus off of me and my fear goes away with it.

Ray Bard: The Power of Quotes – Episode 125 of the Daily Discipline Podcast

Ray Bard’s publishing experience includes more than 30 years of writing, producing, and publishing books and multimedia material. He has written or co-authored 10 business books published by major houses, such as Doubleday, William Morrow, Jossey-Bass, and Addison-Wesley. In 1972, he founded and directed a small press before selling it to the New York Times.

In 1982, he established Bard Productions and produced books for major publishers in New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. He also helped start-up presses around the country get off the ground until narrowing the company’s focus to publishing exceptional books for national retail distribution. Since the founding of the Bard Press imprint in 1996, more than 50 percent of its books have become national bestsellers, with many winning book of the year awards.

Show Highlights:

  • “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of the rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them, or vilify them. The only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who usually do.” – Steve Jobs
  • Salespeople and entrepreneurs need quotes the most because they get rejected the most.
  • The best quotes evoke these three themes: elegance, truth, and punch.
  • If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with a team. – African Proverb
  • Good quotes stick with you and make you feel something.
  • “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
  • “You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people, than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie
  • “There are 7 days in a week, and someday isn’t one of them.” – Shaq O’Neal
  • Quotes can spread quicker to the world than a book ever will. @Rory_Vaden
  • If you’re talking, you’re selling. If they’re talking, they’re buying. @amandajohns
  • Does how we think make a difference in how we act? How, then, do we influence our thinking?
  • “Action conquers fear.” – Peter Zarlenga
  • The more you read and learn, the more likely you are to be a quotable person. @Rory_Vaden

To learn more about Ray, visit, or to join the judging panel for the Fired Up Selling project click here!

The Daily Discipline show is a weekly podcast that Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting™ hosts every Wednesday, which is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts and has listeners from all around the world. The show shares “insights and inspiration for movers and shakers in the world of business”™. Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews one very special expert guest and thought leader every week. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

How to Know What to Write About


I hear it more and more: “I want to be a writer but I don’t know what to write about.”


“How do I get started writing a blog?”

Folks, let’s not overthink this.

Writing is one of those things that you can literally just start doing.

Straight from the movie Finding Forrester, “the first secret of writing is to write.”

You don’t need a big huge strategy plan. You don’t need a large online following. You don’t need a publisher.

All you need is either a pen and paper or a computer with a word processing program.

Other than that, the only thing that is holding you back is your fear.

It’s your fear that you’ll say the wrong thing or you won’t know what to say at all.

Or maybe you fear that it’s such a big project that you aren’t ready to start yet because you don’t know what the end result with be.

All of that is silly and self-centered. And you only feel fear when you are thinking about yourself.

So just start writing. Your writing will become what it’s supposed to be once you just get it out there.

If you are a non-fiction writer or a company that needs to wake up to the power of content marketing, then it’s even simpler to get started.

I learned this from my pal @JayBaer and his book YouTility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype.

Think of every possible question your potential reader or customer could have and then simply answer them one at a time.

You should always be writing from a depth of knowledge or a depth of experience. In other words, you should be writing about things you know something about.

So ask yourself “what are all the questions that someone just learning about this for the first time would ask?” and then answer them one by one.

Now, consistency is very important as well as having a little process to follow like this.

But other than that there isn’t much to it.

Oh, and that fear you have that says, “If I just give away all of my content and answers for free, why will anyone buy anything from me later?”

Don’t worry about that.

People buy from people they trust. You can’t give away too much information. That would be like worrying about building too much trust or too much of a relationship with a prospect.

Plus, we live in a world where information is everywhere. And it’s mostly free.

There is an abundance of information. No, there is an over-abundance of information. Which is why…

People don’t even really pay for information anymore. What they pay for is organized information.

They pay for information that is put together in a systematic logical way that can be followed and implemented.

And because a blog is a free flowing stream of one random idea to the next, it doesn’t solve people’s ultimate problem of still needing whatever you are selling.

Again, to quote Jay Baer it’s like you’re giving away “content snacks to help you later sell knowledge meals.”

So get over your fear, quit thinking there is something more you need to know that you don’t already, let go of being overwhelmed by the big picture of it all and simply write something useful that the world can use.

The Most Painful, Expensive and Valuable Marketing Lesson I’ve Ever Learned

Pardon the transparency but my newest book, Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time, isn’t selling very well.

Don’t get me wrong; we had a very successful initial launch of the book in the first few weeks of the year when we were driving traffic and telling all of our fans and followers about it’s release.

It sells phenomenally well at the back of the room after I speak.

And it sells nicely to people who watch the free 1 hour webinar about it at

The problem, is that unlike Take the Stairs, it isn’t selling organically well to people who have never heard about me. It sells fine in the channels we control where we own the process and know the people and they know us. But it isn’t doing very well yet in bookstores and on the public Bookscan.

In other words, it isn’t propagating among strangers who pass it along to a friend and a friend of a friend.

And I couldn’t figure out why not?

Because (again pardon the transparency) I think the book is brilliant. Not because I wrote it but because I believe it is truly unique from what you hear in most time management or productivity books. I am convicted that it actually forwards the thinking of what has been done in the space and doesn’t just rehash the same tired techniques we typically hear.

Most of all, the principles in the book actually WORK! They actually help you to create more time and better results in your life. They can radically transform your life and we have stories and examples of clients who have used them to do so.

Plus, the 5x growth of our team at Southwestern Consulting in the last three years is proof that the principles work as we’ve applied them to our own business.

So why the heck isn’t the book selling?

It all became clear to me a few weeks ago when I was sitting around the fire pit chatting with one of my new pals, founder of StoryBrand, and branding guru (not to mention a mega-bestselling author), Donald Miller.

He said, “at first I thought the title Procrastinate on Purpose was genius. I loved how it was catchy and counter culture to everything you ever hear. It was provocative and attention-grabbing. It also seemed like a fun play on what you wrote in Take the Stairs about how to overcome procrastination.”

“Me too!” I replied.

He went on, “But then I realized it had a major flaw.”

“Do tell” I pleaded.

“The problem is the title. And it’s a nuanced problem but the problem is that the title isn’t what people want to do. It may be what they actually do; but it isn’t what they want to do.”

Don explained further, “We only buy things that we really want and nobody wants to procrastinate. Even those that do it don’t typically like that they do it. Plus, nobody needs help learning how to procrastinate. And even though the book is not about procrastination but about how to create more time, the cover says Procrastinate on Purpose. But I don’t want to be a procrastinator and so I can’t allow myself to buy your book. I never even give myself a chance to look to see what is inside.”


That is incredibly deep, truly profound, and starkly simple.

And that was a painful moment for me. It’s not easy to realize that a big part of what you’ve poured the last couple years of your life into (and thousands of dollars) has a massive flaw in it.

But it was also tremendously valuable for me because in that one moment with that one insight from Don, I finally figured out how to title things.

You should title things…

Not based on what you do.

Not based on who you are.

Not based on what you have.

Not based on what people need.

Not based on what people like.

Not based on what is catchy.

Not based on what is popular.

From a marketing perspective, you should simply title things based on what do people want?!

Think about it…

We all want:

a 4 Hour Workweek
to Win Friends and Influence People
to Think and Grow Rich
to know The Secret
to have the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
and to go from Good to Great.

Which by the way probably explains why Jim Collins’ Good to Great has sold over 4x more copies than one of his other books that I believe is far superior called Built to Last.

Fewer people run around thinking “I want something built to last.”

Everyone wants to know how to go from good to great.

When I first started in my career, I had a mentor tell me “Rory nobody will ever buy discipline because nobody likes the word.”

Obviously with the sales of Take the Stairs we have proven him wrong.

But that’s because even though nobody likes discipline, most of us agree that we want to be better at it.

In general, we want to do the right thing, we want to do the things we know we should do, and so even though we don’t like it we do kind of want to Take the Stairs – at least metaphorically speaking.

The simple magic question for you to be asking then is “what is it about what I do that people want?”

Here’s another great case study…

My Ted talk.

My Tedx talk is the most viral thing we’ve ever done. Within a few months of being released we are approaching 250,000 views. And while we’ve dumped thousands of dollars into marketing our book, we’ve done just about zero to market the Ted talk.

Here’s what’s crazy: the Ted talk is based on the exact content that is in the new Procrastinate on Purpose book!

So why is the Ted talk going viral around the world meanwhile nobody is picking up and buying the actual book?


The title of the Ted talk?

How to Multiply Your Time

For the Ted talk title we dropped Procrastinate On Purpose and just instinctively went with How to Multiply Your Time.

And while nobody wants to procrastinate; everybody wants more time! That’s what the book is really about.

The formula fits.

Moral of the story: ask the question “what do people want?” and make that your title.

By the way, I thought about calling this blog “why my book title sucks” which would be attention-grabbing. But it doesn’t have much to do with what people want.

What people want is to avoid painful and expensive marketing lessons and to learn valuable ones, so I went with that. I guess we’ll see how it plays out.

This realization is very painful for me on the book that we just put a huge amount of effort into launching. It’s expensive because the money and time has already been spent.

But it’s valuable because I’ll never make this mistake again.

10 Steps to Writing a Great Blog

Tips to writing a great blog

I’m getting asked more and more about my writing methodologies. Here is my quick preflight checklist for writing blog posts.

  1. Think of a person or persons in your life that you are writing to and put their name at the top of the page.
  1. In one sentence define what the message of your article is and write that at the top of the page. That is what do you want the reader to think feel or do differently after reading your article.
  1. Write the post. Write emotionally, unapologetically and without editing.
  1. Re-read the post and edit for proper message communication. Cut out anything that doesn’t directly forward your message at the top.
  1. Re-read and edit for proper emotional tone.
  1. Re-read and edit for grammar. Read out loud on this one.
  1. Make a list of targeted SEO words you want the post optimized for.
  1. Re-read for SEO purposes and highlight or appropriately add-in any keywords you want the post optimized for.
  1. Re-read for tweet able moments from the post. List them out separately.
  1. Follow the secret posting schedule.

For more writing resources here’s My Secret to Being a Good Writer and Tips for Writers.