Bob Mankoff – Work in batches of 10

Bob Mankoff
Bob Mankoff, Cartoonist and Author talks about why you should "Work in batches of 10", why "Talent is the ticket but that's all " and the why you should "Appreciate when 'good' is 'good enough'". Hosted by Duff Watkins.

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About Bob Mankoff

For over 40 years, Bob Mankoff has been the driving force of comedy and satire at some of the most honored publications in America, including The New Yorker and Esquire. He has devoted his life to discovering just what makes us laugh and seeks every outlet to do so, from developing The New Yorker’s web presence to integrating it with algorithms and A.I. Mankoff is currently the cartoon editor at the weekly online newsletter Air Mail.

A student of humor and creativity, Mankoff’s presentations largely focus on the creative process, from writing a successful New Yorker cartoon to inspiring creativity in others and enhancing ideas with A.I and big data. With his storied career of editing literally thousands of cartoons, Mankoff brings a hugely entertaining night of laughs, tips to bring humor to the workplace, and the option of participating in a cartoon caption contest.

In 2018, Mankoff founded and launched Cartoon Collections, parent company to CartoonStock.com, a new spin on the Cartoon Bank, the world’s most successful cartoon licensing platform that he founded in 1992. At CartoonStock.com, Bob has brought together cartoons from the New Yorker and previously unavailable cartoons from National Lampoon, Esquire, Playboy, and Barron’s to create the largest cartoon licensing source on the planet.

With comedy writer and developer Jamie Brew, Mankoff runs Botnik Studios, a network of writers, artists, and programmers who create software that augments human creativity with big data analytics.

During his recent stint at Esquire, Mankoff revived the magazine’s legacy of satire and humor, editing humor pieces, providing story ideas, and drafting his own cartoons.

For twenty years as Cartoon Editor for The New Yorker, Mankoff pored over thousands of submissions each week, analyzing, critiquing, and selecting each cartoon. He mentored cartoonists, new and old, toward the laughs readers expect. In 2005, he helped start the “New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.” With 5,000 reader submissions a week and millions of entries to date, Mankoff partnered with Microsoft and Google Deep Mind to develop algorithms to help cull the funniest captions.

Bob is the author of numerous books, including his New York Times bestselling memoir, How About Never – Is Never Good For You?: My Life In Cartoons, of which the Washington Post wrote, “Mankoff’s deep understanding of humor, both its power and its practice, is the live wire that crackles through his book.” His latest book, Have I Got a Cartoon for You!: The Moment Magazine Book of Jewish Cartoons, was released in October, 2019.

Mankoff’s career started, unexpectedly, by quitting a Ph.D program in experimental psychology at the City University of New York in 1974. Shortly after, he began submitting cartoons to the New Yorker. Three years and over 2,000 cartoons later, he finally made the magazine and has since published over 950 cartoons. His story and day-to-day at the magazine were the focus of the 2015 HBO documentary Very Semi-Serious.

Mankoff has taught classes at Swarthmore, Fordham, and led workshops on the creative process

 

Episode Notes

Lesson 1. Work in batches of 10 06:25
Lesson 2. Amateur’s love their own work, professionals don’t 11:14
Lesson 3. More problems are caused by respect than disrespect 14:44
Lesson 4. Talent is the ticket but that’s all 17:39
Lesson 5. Don’t rue and stew 24:40
Lesson 6. Originality is overrated 32:33
Lesson 7. Appreciate when ‘good’ is ‘good enough’  36:39
Lesson 8. Find your sweet spot of fame 40:16
Lesson 9. Play the cards you’re dealt but know the game you’re in 47:32
Lesson 10. The office will always be there, your talent and opportunity won’t 55:38

Bob Mankoff – Work in batches of 10

[00:00:00]

[00:00:08] Duff Watkins: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. 10 lessons. It took me 50 years. to take two. Hello and welcome to the podcast

[00:00:18] Bob Mankoff: Want me to do this for you?

[00:00:20] Duff Watkins: Maybe you can introduce yourself, make it easier for me. Try it again. Let’s try it again. Hello. The podcast 10 lessons that took me 50 years to learn where we dispense wisdom for your career and your life.

[00:00:31] My name is Duff Watkins and I’m your host. Today our guest is legendary cartoonist Bob Mankoff. Bob is a guy started off. Okay. In life, comes from good family, had a good education, and somehow just took a strange turn and ended up as a, as a cartoonist Bob, how does anybody end up as a cartoon?

[00:00:51] Bob Mankoff: Well, I was draft dodging for a while.

[00:00:54] uh, in the sixties, uh, by going to school and then eventually, uh, going for a PhD in psychology and I was on the cusp of my PhD, but it was the world’s longest cusp. And I never, never finished it. And I had, in, in New York city, when I was growing up, there were, uh, a number of specialized schools.

[00:01:22] Uh, there was, uh, the Bronx hall, uh, high school of science. Uh, there was Brooklyn tech for engineers and there was a high school of music and art for musicians and artists. And these were schools that you actually had to get into. Yeah. You know, and I lived in Queens and the school was in Manhattan and I showed my portfolio because as a kid, I had always drawn, started to draw sort of funny pictures early on.

[00:01:53] And I got into the high school of music and art. And, uh, so that was sort of the start of it. But once I got into high school music and art, they had selected the best artists from all over the city. And I was definitely not the best artist from all over the city. And, and so I sort of took a 10-year detour, partly helped by the sixties.

[00:02:15] But happily, all those people who were better artists than me ended up being dentists and it worked out for me, but I had drawn early, and I had drawn funny things, and I took this detour in the sixties, Vietnam war, avoiding it, getting a PhD in almost PhD in psychology. And then at 30. At 30. I, I heard the clock tick really hard and fast.

[00:02:42] And I said, you know what, I’m going to do this. And I just dropped everything. Fire burned in my head. I had all these ideas. Look, I told you maybe that in 67, when I really got out of college or went around to magazines in New York, and I had done 27 cartoons and I thought 27 cartoons is most cartoons you can do in the world.

[00:03:03] And I got, ’em all rejected. And that rejection at that time floored me enough that I, I didn’t go back. But a long story long longish, that sort of, I got to be a cartoonist. Oh, by the way, I’m funny. That helps. I can draw. That helps. Yeah. And I can’t do, and I can’t, and I can’t do that much else.

[00:03:23] Duff Watkins: so, well, let me explain to people now, you, you submitted 500 cartoons to the New Yorker, which is like the standard in the United States and maybe in many other Western countries and, and 500 before you got one accepted. Now that turned into a 20-year career as a cartoonist for them, then another 20 year as editor of the cartoon department or whatever it yeah, sure.

[00:03:48] And then you let them went to Esquire, wrote some books, started some businesses, all that sort of stuff. So that’s, so you’ve had quite a, an esteemed career in it. We’ve had two people on this show, Bob who wanted to be astronauts, we’ve had CEOs, Ambassadors, but we’ve never had a cartoonist before.

[00:04:03] So it’s, we’re making history.

[00:04:06] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Well, the, I actually wanted to play center field for the New York Yankees, but that didn’t pan out and I got good feedback almost as starters. I, when I became a cartoonist, I wasn’t getting into the new Yorker, but I was getting published elsewhere.

[00:04:22] Mm-hmm so first I think if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have continued, but the fact that it’s an enormous kind of validation. Remember this is, uh, 73 74 that I, the, this magazine doesn’t exist in a review of literature and the editor, there was Norman Cousins who was sort of a big deal.

[00:04:44] Literary guy wrote, wrote a book about humor and, and, and the fact that, you know, all of a sudden, you go from nothing to being in a magazine to seeing your names, either shows you, you can do it. You know what I mean? It shows you, and I think we mentioned this before. If you, if no one anywhere at any time, for whatever reason will.

[00:05:09] Will open their wallet to pay for your work. You probably should look for other work, but right away, I found that, you know, what, some people would pay me for it. And that was a huge, huge charge. And then I had to forget about the odds. I mean, I didn’t say this as one of the lessons, but there’s sometimes where you have to, Hey, Hey, what are the odds?

[00:05:32] This doesn’t make sense. And when you’re young or youngish, you have to say, fuck the odds. it’s a long shot, but, uh, a fortune favors, the long shot with enough effort doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but you know what I mean? You know? And so that’s, uh, the fact that I got some feedback and also, I, I think I, I said to you.

[00:05:54] I mean, one of my lessons was more harm is done by respect and disrespect. I mean, not in general, even in terms of satire and all sorts of things, authority has enough things going for it. You know what I mean? It’s got the trumpets; it’s got hail to the chief. It’s got everything. You don’t have to respect authority.

[00:06:14] You know, that’s, that’s its coin of the realm. Well, let me, we have to undermine it.

[00:06:19] Duff Watkins: Let me, cut in there and get to the lesson. Cause I think your career is a testimony of persistence and perseverance.

[00:06:25] Lesson 1:   Work in batches of 10

[00:06:25] Duff Watkins: The first lesson you talk about is work and batches of 10 and really the more we talk is work, think and live in batches of 10.

[00:06:33] So what do you mean by that?

[00:06:34] Bob Mankoff: I mean, quality comes from quantity. You know, writers will tell you they’re not writers. They’re rewriters. And writing over and over again. I mean, every, you know, so almost everything you do is something that you will get better at. And so, the way you, one of the things that’s very hard to judge your own work.

[00:06:59] And, but the only way to really judge it is for that to be a lot of work to judge over time. a lot of work, a lot of work, you know what I mean? You do one cartoon, okay. I judged that. We’re going to come back the next day I judge it. I’m still judging the same thing. And, and so, quality comes from, uh, a quantity.

[00:07:17] Creativity comes from quantity, bad ideas are the way stations, the good ideas by iteration, you know, and you know, if I’d say. I mean, I think then another thing I said, you know, our originality is overrated. So often when you do you do something which has been done before, but it’s slightly different, eh, it’s not that very much better, but it’s a little bit different.

[00:07:43] It’s different enough so that it makes somebody laugh. So, when people ask me, well, how do you know this is different enough from that? I said, well, because you saw the other things still laughed at this. Okay. It’s different enough. But by gradations you can move from these differences to something that’s completely original.

[00:08:01] But to do that, you have to have produced a lot of stuff. You’re not going to, if you try to be original from the start, you’ll be. Original in a mannerist way as an, an affectation, but sometimes you can get to a kind of originality your originality or your voice. So that’s the other thing. Why do that? Why do 10 things you’ll find out who you are in this medium and you can’t find that out except by lots of work.

[00:08:31] Jack Siegler was a great cartoon from new Yorker passed away a couple of years ago said he didn’t think he really learned how to do it till he had done 3000 cartoon. That’s the lesson thousand 3000.

[00:08:46] Duff Watkins: so, point is, I mean, you, you were saying to me earlier or I read it somewhere that most ideas are bad, not out of 10 things that you, that we try fail.

[00:08:55] So you have to think in terms of, well, batches of 10.

[00:08:58] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Most ideas are, uh, okay. Bad is strong. And most ideas might be bad. Then they have the subset that’s mediocre. Then you have the subset. That’s not good enough. Not bad at all, but not fair. So, you have to get in a field of talent.

[00:09:20] To, to the apex of ideas. And that’s why by that definition they’re bad or not. Good enough. I just had someone; people send me all the time. Hey, I’m so, and so I write comedy. Do you have a cartoonist who, you know, here are some of my gags. I didn’t get back to this guy yet. And I’m, I’m never rude. Uh I’m never rude.

[00:09:41] I’m. If I go to the Midwest, I’m automatically rude. Cause I’m from New York. you know what I mean? Could I get a second opinion on the rudeness? I’m not rude. I’m just honest. You know what I mean? I give you an example. I mean, I told you I’m a Jewish background and I’ve been married three times just keeps getting better and better.

[00:10:02] But, but my, my last third and best wife, Corey Scott Wittier, not Jewish waspy. Uh, uh, and so when we were courting and dating, she said, why are you arguing with me? I said, I’m not arguing. I’m Jewish. And so, so, so, so what I’m saying, I I’m actually very, I like to mentor people, but I like to tell ’em the truth, which is, and not, and not be mean, but blunt.

[00:10:32] So the guy who sent me cartoons and I’ll say, they’re okay, you know, in other words, they’re not terrible. Which is, which is actually a big leap from all the ideas that are terrible, but they’re not good enough. I’m just saying they’re not good enough. Uh, reading an interesting book, lately, you know, which says,

[00:10:51] every college basketball player is in the 99.9% percentile of human basketball ability. and then there’s the NBA. So, it’s not that similar to cartoons but it’s sort of the same kind of idea when you, what you have to be really good is, often, uh, not good enough.

[00:11:14] Lesson 2:   Amateur’s love their own work, professionals don’t

[00:11:14] Duff Watkins: let me, that takes me to your second lesson. The difference between professional and amateur. We’re talking about cartoonists.

[00:11:21] We’re talking about writing; we’re talking about sports. Yeah. And there is, there is a huge difference between professional and amateur in my mind, but what do you mean by it? What’s how do you recognize the difference?

[00:11:32] Bob Mankoff: Well, I mean, the way I do it, say it in sort of a quip or an aphorism is a professional is dissatisfied, always dissatisfied. Mm-hmm they always it’s. It’s never like, oh, I can’t believe it. This is so great. I mean, analogous to, athletics, you know, if a golfer is he, you know, it’s this idea of dedicated practice, always being a little bit dissatisfied with what you do, you know, Uh, Roger Feder played lousy yesterday, but even if he had played pretty well, even if he had won, he would be looking at everything he did wrong.

[00:12:11] He wouldn’t be looking at the shots he did hit well. Mm-hmm so I guess the difference between is that, you know, an amateur is happy with everything they’ve done and often they haven’t done very much often amateurs. I mean, one of the things I used to say, if you send one cartoon to me as cartoon editor.

[00:12:28] You might as well stamp have stamp amateur on it. You might as well stamp amateur on it. You got a big one cartoon. I’ll give you another funny anecdote about idea. This, this is, this is true. Uh, when I worked at the new Yorker was in the, I think I were, this, this one was on 42nd street, uh, in the Condé Nast Building at that time.

[00:12:50] And really the cartoonists were like a separate species, but that building was full of all, you know, all the magazines, executives and whatever. And I was in the elevator with a guy and it’s, it’s starting at like, I don’t know, 20 or something. And he says, uh, they stole my idea. They stole my idea every floor down.

[00:13:11] He said they stole my fucking idea. I can’t believe they stole it. I just, my idea, finally, we get down to the bottom floor. I don’t know this guy. I tap him on the shoulder. I say, get idea. And there’s always another better idea. Right?

[00:13:30] Duff Watkins: There’s always another better

[00:13:36] Bob Mankoff: idea. So that’s the, another better idea you haven’t reached? The end of it, or there’s a different idea or this idea would lead to something else. The right professional attitude is humility. And even before you are a professional, the idea is I’ve talked about the sweet spot, the sweet spot between respect and disrespect.

[00:14:03] I mean, if you’re showing and cartoons to someone who supposedly knows what they’re doing has been in the business, respect their, what, their feedback they’re giving you respect it. You know what I mean? Listen to it. Don’t argue with it. Cause I’ve never been argued.

[00:14:19] I I’ve never found anyone argue me into a laugh. Okay. No argue with me. Oh, ha you you’re right? Huh? Okay. So, so it does work and also realize that the person on the other side of the desk, even if, though they have all the credentials might be wrong, but that’s not the time. Yeah. To tell them they’re wrong.

[00:14:44] Lesson 3:   More problems are caused by respect than disrespect

[00:14:44] Duff Watkins: Speaking, you mentioned this point before, this is point number three, there are more problems caused by respect than disrespect. Um, and, and you, you’re saying to me, you know, you don’t seek to offend people, but then don’t fret over it. And, and then if people judge you wrongly and correctly, well, so what,

[00:15:06] Bob Mankoff: so yeah, it used to be, so what now?

[00:15:09] They now they’ll try to take your job away from you. Fortunately, I’m the president of a company and, and they can’t fire me, so it’s on, on many levels. So, I think. You got to believe a little bit in your own talent in terms of don’t, don’t be in awe. I was never in awe of what was done in the New Yorker.

[00:15:27] I thought it was really great. And then I thought, yeah, but I can do it, but I can do it. You know, everybody who succeeds has to feel in some way that they can do it. So, and the other thing in in humor itself, disrespect is required. You’re satirising,

[00:15:48] the best of institutions are corrupt the best. It’s just a level of, of bureaucracy or corruption that exists of covering your ass uncovering the mistakes. Fortunately, in democracies, Sometimes there’s the, there’s the balance where it works out, but you’ll always find the rot there be. That is just what it is.

[00:16:14] So as a humorist, you are there to expose it. You’re not there to praise it. Any humor cannot praise anything. It always involves diminishment. It doesn’t elevate. Its whole purpose is to bring down a notch, whether it’s politicians or the professions in which it’s satire or even ourselves, that’s the, that’s the point.

[00:16:38] And so that’s why I say disrespect is good on that in terms of offense, you know, that’s a huge problem now in which. It used to be people who are, who said they were offended. And you know, then I’d say, then what happened? Did you have lunch? Did you sleep okay? sure, fine. Now they’re saying they were micro aggressed and, and have, and have experienced trauma.

[00:17:03] Duff Watkins: We used to call those hurting feelings. Bob. Now it’s trauma

[00:17:08] Bob Mankoff: yeah. Right. Hurting feelings. But it’s often, it’s not even their feelings are hurt their wise, but it’s the other people they’re protecting whose feelings that they’re protecting from being hurt.

[00:17:19] And really, it’s good to have your feelings hurt. That’s what they’re for. That’s why it’s bad to have your body hurt, but it’s okay to have your feelings hurt. That’s about sticks, and stone will break for names, gets a little bit of resilience, a little bit of resilience.

[00:17:39] Lesson 4:   Talent is the ticket but that’s all

[00:17:39] Duff Watkins: All right. Point number four. This is important. I think talent is the ticket, but that’s all it gets you in.

[00:17:47] Bob Mankoff: I love sports and I play sports and I think it’s a wonderful, foundation to think about things, especially I like that, whatever you’ve done in sports, like one of the sports I play basketball and I play table tennis. I say, yeah, reasonably high level. But where I play is at a club here in Westchester, which is the biggest club in the Northeast and they’re professional tournaments every month.

[00:18:11] And you see these guys who were raised in China, who were born in China, live here now, who, who had trained eight hours a day, and when you talk to any of them, they were selected. They didn’t just train out. They were given tests, all sorts of weird coordination tests to show they had the ticket to benefit from eight hours a day, eight hours a day on footwork, eight hours a day on every single thing.

[00:18:39] So It’s there’s always talent. You know, let’s say in terms of, being funny now, I, I wouldn’t even go in to say whether the talent is, you know, inborn or learned, but it’s obviously a combination of both in, in sports, but in humor, I think it’s, it’s something that has to happen very early for you to have this kind of mind for one reason or another, that learns very early, how symbols are manipulated, how ideas are manipulated, that that has part of your mind, that’s processing things in a different way.

[00:19:15] And. So that when you say, well, can people be taught to be funny? Uh, well, everybody has learned to be funny. everybody who is funny has somehow learned it in some way, but they started learning it very early. They started learning it very early. So, the sports analogy is this.

[00:19:35] You want to take up skiing at 15, good luck. You, you never get into the Olympics. Doesn’t matter how, how many hours you put in so, you know, you will find out and, and it’s important to measure yourself in that once again, if you are, since I’ve played sports and have played, you know, with different levels, whether it’s pickup or, or at the club there, I’ve seen up close what, look, what professional looked like.

[00:20:03] You can’t tell if you can hit a baseball by going, to a batting cage. you know what I mean? You, you know, it’s interesting also because the internet tells us a lot about talent. For instance, I can do Rubik’s cube. I sort of looked at it. I learned it. It takes me a minute or two. Hey, there’s a kid in Japan.

[00:20:23] Who’s doing it blindfolded in 11 seconds. okay. He he’s got some other talent. It wasn’t, it wasn’t just practice. There was something there, same thing with chess and all of his things. So, talent’s just your ticket. It’s your ticket to the 10,000 hours, the 20,000 hours or whatever. So, the question is, do you want to punch that ticket?

[00:20:49] Most people don’t want it punch the talent ticket. They don’t want to punch it because that’s the other side of it. It doesn’t get the talent. Doesn’t get you in it’s the ticket for all the work. It’s a ticket on a train that isn’t a free ride. So that’s, that’s that, and that’s what I found out also in terms of people who even wanted to be cartoonists and did have talent, they didn’t want to punch that ticket really. They didn’t want to work that hard. Here’s another thing that I found out; I was very blessed to have parents that didn’t care about me too much.

[00:21:26] They were older and. They have been through depression, World War II. I came along late. The fact that, you know, my mother would put a mirror up to my mouth and that I would fog up. That was like, good enough. He’s breathing. and that’s fine. And you know, I didn’t have to get, I didn’t have to get outstanding.

[00:21:49] Satisfactory was okay. And so, I could go my own way. They weren’t praising they loved me, but they weren’t praising me all the time. They were, we have a whole generation of people now raised on praise. They praise raised as, you know, it’s like the snowflake generation as soon as they hit resistance.

[00:22:09] Okay. They, they’re the most talented kid in Peoria, and they come to New York and that’s where all the talented kids are coming, or any of the metropolitan hubs. And now they’re up against. Everybody else and they haven’t experienced, they haven’t experienced rejection.

[00:22:29] So I think the fact that my parents didn’t hover over with me in that way and didn’t praise me. In fact, always were just like because where, because of the times they grew up in, they thought that the best kind of job you could actually get was a civil service job where they couldn’t fire you. And, and, you know, and , it was funny story because I decided to become a cartoonist, uh, after I quit, you know, uh, my psychology and I told that to my parent, my, my mother and father and my father looked at me sternly and said, you know, they already have people who do that.

[00:23:08] I.

[00:23:09] I don’t see any help wanted ads in the magazine that cartoonists wanted. But I said, besides that one of them might die. And then all I got to do is read the obituaries. As soon as the cartoonist dies, I’ll be right there. So, so but here’s the other thing, I didn’t put this in a lesson. So still my parents supported me in other words, when I quit to do that, I mean, the big thing was always, why can’t you do something else?

[00:23:45] And so you have something to fall back on. And I’m totally against falling back on anything. uh, totally against falling back. If you are going to go for one of these things, go for it because otherwise your mind is going to be divided and you’re going to be amazed at how quickly you’re back to where you need to fall back to. But they supported me. Of course, I really wasn’t making money. And my father who had, done pretty well, you know, would send me $200 a month. You know what I mean? So, you know? In other words, they still backed me. And that’s the thing I would advise also, you know, parents who find the kid who was supposed to be the lawyer, wants to be the artist, the kid who was supposed to be the lawyer, she wants to be a singer and stuff, support them, you know, support them, uh, give them, let them take a shot at it.

[00:24:38] Let them take a shot at it.

[00:24:40] Duff Watkins: okay.

[00:24:40] Lesson 5:   don’t rue and stew

[00:24:40] Duff Watkins: That takes us to lesson number five. Don’t rue don’t stew. And I think you were talking about how rejection isn’t something rejection, isn’t personal. It’s just necessary.

[00:24:52] Bob Mankoff: Right. And.

[00:24:56] It’s I remember I gave talk to the moth, which is like this, you know, audio where you tell a story about, and I told a story about you know, about rejections, about the benefits of rejection in terms of building your re resilience in terms of perfecting your art, uh, in terms of, uh, understanding that the world is not your oyster, especially when you’re young and you come at it and everything, and it’s been pretty much a glide path from you, especially if you’ve had a, a good education and all of that and, and done well.

[00:25:35] And, but then in the end, as a joke, I said, believe me rejection will make you a better person. Look how much better a person it made me. And so that was my snarky little joke on it. It’s the annealing fire it hardens you, uh, and, and that’s what you need.

[00:25:54] You need to be not mean to succeed, but tough.

[00:25:57] Duff Watkins: You reminded me of a, of a joke, uh, talking about your parents. Leo Buscaglia was a psychologist. He wrote a bunch of popular books in the eighties or nineties, and he’s raised in Italy, and he decided he wanted to go see the world. His parents said Leo don’t do it.

[00:26:12] And he said, but he did anyway. So, he traveled around France and Italy, and he studied at the feed of Jean Paul Sartre. And eventually he ran out of money as the kid would. So, he cobbles enough money together to telegrams his, uh, sends his mother a Telegraph and says, Dear mama starving Leo. And he waits around all day for the reply to come back.

[00:26:32] And it does. And, and the reply was from his mother was dear Leo starve mama and, and it’s that sort of, and he said it was the best thing for him because it forced him to, to go to that next step in his maturation and his individuation as a person. Yeah. I can only hope that is true.

[00:26:54] Bob Mankoff: Well, yeah, well, I, I mean, it’s, but it’s funny cause parents, it’s interesting, they’ll say one thing, but they really believe, or either the thing I don’t know in my group anyway,

[00:27:07] My mother would say, we, we don’t care what you do. We don’t care if you’re a garbage man, as long as you’re the best garbage man. And I said, mom, in the city of New York, you have over 12,000 garbage men. That’s hard. I’ll go into cartooning,

[00:27:25] Duff Watkins: and, okay. So don’t Ru don’t stew when you encounter failure. And you said to me too, your signal must be louder than the noise because you know, there’s a lot of noise out there in the world and it’s a very competitive, um, well, anything, everything is competitive nowadays, right? So, so there, there’s lots of noise, lots of static, and it’s very hard to have a unique signal.

[00:27:50] Bob Mankoff: And that also comes out of work. You know, it’s depending on the level of success, when as cartoon editor, I might buy a gag from someone cause a gag stands by itself and sure, that’s great. The person got into new Yorker, but are they going to continue to produce?

[00:28:05] And is there a particular voice, you know, is there, is there a sensibility, is there something different about what they are doing at least different enough so that they have a signature way of thinking or, and, and drawing, because that is part of the pleasure. Part of the pleasure of anything really is the human context. You get to know this person, this cartoonist you’ve enjoyed them before this comedian, this singer. So, everything they do is not anew, right? It has the whole penumbra of their other things. And that builds in, but only if you have a unique, if it’s all generic, you can have, you know, you could have generic, good jokes, but they just remain generic.

[00:28:54] So you don’t get that extra level of pleasure. that you get from, from voice, from, you know, from personality and all of that, all of that. I mean, it all comes down to work and, you know, it’s not just the work of

[00:29:11] producing the thing. It’s the cognitive work the cognitive lift of, of devoting your mind space to doing it. So, it’s, you have to do a lot to find out what it is you do, and you have to think a lot just to end up doing anything so a lot of times it doesn’t look like you’re doing anything.

[00:29:36] a lot of times you’re not doing anything, or it doesn’t look like it, but you’re unconscious is doing something because you are focused. So, One way I put it is boredom is really important. If you are not bored, you shouldn’t be entertained by something. Look, most of the time, you’re not going to have ideas.

[00:29:57] Okay. So, what is the other time? Well, you’re trying to get ideas, and nothing is coming and you’re bored. In other words, you’re unhappy. They’re the birth pains of ideas. That’s your unconscious actually working that. That uncomfortableness that you feel is very useful. Cause then when you do get the ideas, when you do get the ideas, they feel that much better.

[00:30:21] They’ve relieved that very unpleasant state of having no idea. So, this sort of, almost bipolar or bimodal at least way is, it’s the sort of wavelength of creativity. And even to some extent, mood and emotionality, the highs, and lows that you, that you have, I think often in a creative field,

[00:30:45] you’re not feeling that great. That’s why it’s a burden. So, it’s burden to be in that field. It’s like you produce the thing. Now you’re back to where you were sort of, I mean, not there are tricks and there are all things you could do, but often you’re, you’re stymied at any particular moment. So, at any particular moment, you’re actually not a cartoonist.

[00:31:07] You’re just like everybody else. Most of the time, you’re not a cartoonist, you don’t have an idea. So, you where you’re better is that that a hundred percent of the time the other people aren’t cartoonists. So, the fact that you’re in cartoons, 2% of the time is enough. But you, I don’t even like to ha to hang out mentally with all those other people who aren’t cartoonists, the 98% of the time get lost.

[00:31:33] So, I mean, I’m making jokes about it, but it’s absolutely true. So, one of the things about getting ideas is it’s important not to be over stimulated by the outside. That’s why you go someplace. That’s why you have a studio. That’s why you, you know, it’s a horrible environment now in some ways, because you’re can constantly distracted by like everything that comes down the pike.

[00:31:58] You know what I mean? But I mean, it’s interesting when people try to think they often close their ideas, they try to re their eyes. I mean they try to reduce stimulation. So, when you look, you do you have stimulation and of course you have stimulators naturally all the time. I don’t, I never got ideas at parties that I was being, I was having eyes at a party.

[00:32:20] I was talking and stuff, but all that experience is filtering through. And then when you eliminate that outside stimulation, it’s your inside stimulation that will make the, the, the connection

[00:32:33] Lesson 6:   Originality is overrated

[00:32:33] Duff Watkins: Point number six. And you mentioned this before, originality is overrated.

[00:32:40] Bob Mankoff: Yeah, it depends on the field. If the field is the only thing about it is that it’s original and that’s often the field with, in art and, you know, which is, uh, bullshit.

[00:32:54] But, that’s just me, uh, the kid from Queens saying, yeah. Okay. I’ve never seen, I don’t know, for some reason you decided to Julian Schnabel to take plates and throw them against the wall and glue them on canvas, I guess. Uh, but what I mean is that your popular forms, songs and theater and movie and humor is based on previous forms.

[00:33:23] it’s always within the cocoon of familiarity that you make something new. For someone who’s never seen these forms, everything would look pretty much identical in terms of pop music from any decade. They hadn’t seen it. If you, if you took someone from the 18th century and you played Beatles or Elvis Presley where Sam Cook, they’d say, well, it’s pretty much all the same, you know, like if you don’t know anything about classical music, it pretty much sounds all the same.

[00:33:51] So I’m saying within that within once, you know, that that’s, you, you work with those forms, you work with the classic tropes and cartoons. It could be a, it could be, uh, mountain climbers, desert island, uh, couples in bed, uh, uh, wise man on the mountain.

[00:34:08] All of those things are done before and people will see them just like most jokes have a form before. And that’s what people like, it’s, it’s your job with often within a form to create some novelty that works. And that is very hard. it does give you a leg up in that you, you know where to start and from that, you may gradually get to something that is very different from that form. But only by, I guess it’s the old sob. You got to learn the rules to break the rules. You got to learn the rules to break the rules. If you don’t know it at all, it’s really easy to create something no one has ever seen before. And you think there’s funny and they’ll say what, you know what I mean?

[00:34:54] Duff Watkins: well, I know that in, in business when companies create products, if the product is too original, if it’s too exotic, if it’s too foreign, and if it’s too far, if it’s too much, the consumers won’t buy it, because there’s no connection. They don’t relate to it. It just seems more of an oddity to them, and businesses have learned the hard way.

[00:35:14] I, the way you put it was originality must be born within the cocoon of familiarity. I, there must be some sort of

[00:35:21] Bob Mankoff: oh right. Yeah. For popular, for popular forms. but there is real originality that we don’t respond to immediately in art. And then eventually we do eventually we do, but it’s because we’ve become familiar with it.

[00:35:38] It’s not the first time. It’s interesting also that, because there’s another phenomenon and this would be true of, for example, sitcoms, uh, Seinfeld was one of the great sitcoms of all time, you know, a friend of mine said, Hey, this it’s funny. And I saw it. I said, yeah, it’s okay. I liked it.

[00:35:56] Yeah. But I didn’t like it really as much as I was going to like it. once I became familiar with it, once I became familiar, once I became familiar with its forms with, you might think, because it’s interesting in, in that the familiarity was seeing the same with seeing Kramer come in that door with, understanding who George was, who Jerry was, who Elaine was and what they were going to do, added pleasure to it. You like to see the people do their thing. so, to some extent, every episode was sort of like, like the previous episode, but also different so familiarity built and built and built.

[00:36:36] And anyway, so that that’s that point, I think.

[00:36:39] Lesson 7:   Appreciate when ‘good’ is ‘good enough’

[00:36:39] Duff Watkins: lesson number seven, appreciate when good is good enough.

[00:36:43] Bob Mankoff: Well, I mean, so in business I’ve found that, uh, I’ve got this website, cartoonstock.com plug there. Uh,

[00:36:59] you know, you re and I’ve done I’ve credited cartoon bank for the New York. I mean, before the New York and new Yorker so you work on these websites, you get into the, into the deep weeds and everything. You get obsessed with the little things that you keep trying to make better, and you realize this is, you know, this is a diminishing return thing here.

[00:37:21] This is not a thing that has to be perfect. It just has to be good enough to what it’s supposed to do. Good enough to what it’s supposed to do, uh, which is different than if I’m writing the caption. I want that caption to be as good as it be. Cause there’s a whole other standard, but even in putting out the magazine,

[00:37:41] You might not have, you know, you would look at the cartoons again and think, oh, it’s so good, but still you needed 17 cartoons in the end. You know, this was the team you’re going with, and this is what you actually have to produce. So, it’s the exigencies of, if you don’t have a deadline and you don’t have this demand for it to be on a newsstand or something, then you can fiddle forever.

[00:38:04] once you do, you have to cut bait. You have to, you have to do it. And so, then you have to say, you know, it’s good enough, but also you can just waste. You got to realize when you’re just wasting your time going down. Uh, you know, you’ve become obsessed with a particular thing that you, that you feel you absolutely have to get.

[00:38:28] Right. And it’s just a question of moving on in some ways. That’s why let’s say the magazine with the editor, like David Remnick, the important thing about the editor. I mean, it’s important that they make good decisions, but probably the most important thing is that they make decisions.

[00:38:44] Duff Watkins: You put it to me this way is stop making it better sooner rather than later, but better.

[00:38:51] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Yeah. which I better. Well, yeah, so I had put better before, but right. Stop making it better sooner. And so, so right in your mind at the beginning, have that idea, right? That, that you can stop this now because otherwise there’s a kind of momentum.

[00:39:12] There’s a kind of apparatus you may have arranged in, in some sort of business that people have said. You’ve said, okay, you’re supposed and okay. Would you please, when is that? And then you realize, uh, it’s going to be embarrassing, but let’s stop. You know, let’s stop because there are these, these, uh, social networks that you’ve set up and sort of pressures on you in terms of, but you said we were going to do this and you’re not a politician.

[00:39:43] You could say. but it was a bad idea. I changed my mind. Most that’s hard for people to say hard for everyone to say right. To say, oh, the idea I, I was so excited about. That was a good idea is bad. mm. You ne it never happens in politics. And it really happens in business, but it could happen in my business because there’s not that it’s not, it’s not a corporation.

[00:40:06] Having corporations. I think it’s the last thing in the world that can happen.

[00:40:10] Duff Watkins: unfortunately, yes. Uh, admitting failure is, or mistakes seems to be against a grain for some reason.

[00:40:16] Lesson 8:   Find your sweet spot of fame

[00:40:16] Duff Watkins: Well, let’s let me move on to lesson number eight, find we’re talking about recognition. Find your sweet spot of fame.

[00:40:24] You’ve talked. You were mentioning sweet spot earlier.

[00:40:27] Bob Mankoff: Yeah, I mean, I told you that was anecdote when I was on, uh, It was a Nightline show about when I became a cartoon editor in 97 and my daughter was, uh, I think six at the time. And she was there. I said, she said, daddy, are you famous? And I said, uh, to someone who’s famous, I’m a nobody.

[00:40:50] And to a nobody I’m famous. And so that was that’s the, and I said, that’s not a bad sweet spot to be in. You didn’t tell her that she was only six, but, but we’re

[00:41:01] where you don’t feel famous. But you get some cred for being known. It helps you. It’s a card that you can play. It’s a card that you should play, you know, I’m oh, I play the card. I was cartoon editor at the New Yorker. That, and that, to some extent, why you, you have me on this podcast and that’s a nice amount of, of credibility to have, but it’s not O it’s not overwhelming.

[00:41:28] It doesn’t distort your life in any way. It makes people admire you, but not so much that it’s creepy. you know, they’re not like fans of celebrity. I don’t have to worry about anyone stalking me. I’ve never heard about cartoon as

[00:41:42] Duff Watkins: being stalked. That’s true. That’s your good point.

[00:41:45] Bob Mankoff: stalked. So, I think that’s the, that’s a good thing to, and that’s also a line of when. It’s a good thing to be known. It’s a good thing to have some degree of renowned and tiny bit of celebrity within a small world, but that’s plenty good enough so that your life doesn’t get distorted I feel sorry for people who are celebrities in a way they have so far to fall. they have so far to fall. Whereas if you’re a middle thing and you broke some books and you stopped like that, it’s not going so good for you. Well, it was never that high to start with. You can still be a normal person.

[00:42:26] Duff Watkins: Does the sweet spot hold true for wealth as well?

[00:42:30] Bob Mankoff: I think absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:42:33] You know, the amounts of wealth. We have some people having a bizarre and distorting and the, I mean, probably not good for society either, but I would, I would think absolutely because then you become

[00:42:46] a king, you know what I mean? It’s a bad, heavy, heavy hangs is the head that wears that kind of crown and everything. You don’t have a normal life anymore. You know, you’re not normal because of where you, you put in. And also, there’s nothing you, there’s nothing you can spend it on.

[00:43:06] So I do think, I mean, and, and probably, I think there’s studies that show sort of the curve of sort of a certain amount of money does make you happier. But beyond that.

[00:43:16] I’ll tell you. Okay. Because it’s, in a nice house. I have a pool, the lights, the lights at night that weren’t working in the pool.

[00:43:26] They went out so shit. So, we got to replace the lights really $3,000. Okay. Fuck. I can. Why? And like where, where do they got to have scuba dives go down there and put in these for and where the lights are put in there and they’re supposed to change color, like show and I’m in the pool. At that point, I don’t care about it.

[00:43:50] And my wife says they’re not changing color

[00:43:56] I said, oh yeah. So, look even there now I’ve. I found my way to be unhappy because I had $3,000 to spend on, on these silly pool lights that aren’t working. So, imagine that you’re enormously wealthy, you’ve got the 800-foot yacht that somehow, the balls in the bowling alley aren’t coming back the way they were supposed to.

[00:44:21] And now you’re totally pissed. Look, I didn’t fucking get this bowling alley on my yacht, so it wasn’t going to work. I don’t care if I don’t bowl. That doesn’t matter. It’s the principle of the thing I want my yacht bowling alley to be perfect. And certainly, better than Bezos’ yacht bowling alley.

[00:44:44] Right. Yeah. So, I think that know, you will find really, really. Unhappy wealthy people because of the, and in a way that, that sort of blends over to be careful what you care about very much, anything that you decide to become a connoisseur of, you’re going to mostly be unhappy with.

[00:45:05] It’s never going to, if all of a sudden, you’re a coffee connoisseur, almost every cup of coffee you have is going to be shitty. Really, it’s terrible. You’re just, you go there. You, I don’t know it was, it had body, but I didn’t like the notes. You know, all of a sudden that’s coffee. When I grew up, everybody’s just drinking coffee.

[00:45:24] But now because I got a see I’m already in that place because we had the little Keurig thing it broke and my wife said, why don’t we use the French press? I said, okay, let’s choose the French press. And then, oh, this is better now. I can’t go back. I can’t have the other coffee now. I’ve always got to have the French press coffee.

[00:45:42] in a way it’s like all of these things are…

[00:45:46] Jack Siegel had a funny cartoon in which there’s a couple on a road and you see the road sign. It says enchantment the gateway to disenchantment and,

[00:46:00] Duff Watkins: but it’s true. It’s true.

[00:46:03] Bob Mankoff: no, it’s true. So, the, the, so, so there it is. So, I guess that’s my get look for the sweet spot when enough, when good enough is good enough. You know what I mean? And. Uh, I just thought of this. I don’t even know what it means exactly, but I do think through this humorous lenses. Sometimes treat yourself to something really bad.

[00:46:27] treat yourself to something really bad. You think that coffee Keurig is bad, have some real bad coffee. Now it won’t seem so bad instead of constantly looking for better, better, better, sometimes shift your perspective, move it around.

[00:46:42] Duff Watkins: Recalibrate your taste. Just I, I can see the logic in that.

[00:46:46] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Re recalibrate your taste.

[00:46:48] You know, all of a sudden, you’re. I mean, I, I, I hardly smoke cigars every once in a while. I, I do, uh, and I went to the cigar. Place. And I look, I like these David off cigars. Cause I like the way they burn. Cause they burn completely perfect. And so now I’m a guy who can’t smoke a cigar that the Ash doesn’t look right?

[00:47:08] Yeah. Cause you heard the Ash doesn’t look right. You’re

[00:47:11] you’re a Connecticut shade on the outside kind of guy, Bob. I can tell that’s the kind of,

[00:47:17] I, and then I said, shit really 27 bucks for cigar. This is getting a little bit out of hand. You know what I mean? It’s a little bit out of hand. And so anyway, so that’s I think all related,

[00:47:32] Duff Watkins: So

[00:47:32] Lesson 9:   Play the cards you’re dealt but know the game you’re in

[00:47:32] Duff Watkins: it takes us lesson number nine, play the cards you’re dealt, but know the game you’re in.

[00:47:39] Bob Mankoff: Right. I was dealt the card to be funny and

[00:47:43] I played it. I, so I did really have two choices to play it. I could’ve done stand-up, which would’ve been a little hard because I was a little bit older than most of the people who got into it being born in 44. Uh, so when you really had comedy clubs by, you know, 72, 73 you know, uh, and I think that would’ve been, been a game where my card really wouldn’t have worked my comedy card wouldn’t work.

[00:48:14] Because I was also combining it because I was funny enough, but then it was just being funny. Wasn’t combining with the art thing or my philosophy or other ideas. I don’t think I would’ve had that connection to people that’s necessary to be really successful at stand-up. A lot of people can do stand-up successful.

[00:48:34] So the game I played was the game that, that combined my talents. That was the game I played. So, you got to know that the game that you have to know the game you’re in and whether, and whether you have those cards, but in general play every card you have. Uh, if you’re good looking, make yourself a little, even better looking, it’s, it’s better.

[00:48:58] You know what I mean? If you’re fit, become, fit, whatever it is, people are going to judge you. They’re going to look at your place in the hierarchy and they’re going to judge you by a million different things. Everything that you got good about, you make better and understand how, uh, to use it. Because I also use humor.

[00:49:18] For instance, if you have humor, play that card and it doesn’t mean professionally, it will put people at ease. It will show that you are confident. It will let people. Bond to you if you use it correctly. So, let’s say you have it, you know? So, when people say, well, you know, up terms of using humor in business, I go back to the talent thing.

[00:49:42] I say, you need to have a talent for it. Okay. If you have that talent, use it. If you don’t have a talent for it, it it’s not going to work. And a lot of people have more of that talent within that game. The business game doesn’t demand much humor at all. It demands just a little bit, a little bit to be playful, a little bit to make the, the slightly relieving comment that shows your confidence.

[00:50:06] It’s not an out and out joke. See what I mean to play that. So, you have that card for that game. That doesn’t mean you go into stand up. That doesn’t mean that, you know, that’s so I think that’s the way. You look at it and, you know, and, and, and everybody plays the, the cards, uh, where they should play the cards, they have and just know the game they’re in.

[00:50:28] Now, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t always mean that, uh, you’re going to achieve wealth or success by that. I mean, this is sort of like tricks for appearing smart when you’re not

[00:50:43] Duff Watkins: I’m to write this down, please. Yes.

[00:50:46] Bob Mankoff: The direct, the conversations of things, you know,

[00:50:49] Just direct the conversations to things, you know well. And people will be very impressed and try to move it away from things you don’t know too well through things you do. Of course, it it’s better if you know, more than, you know, baseball statistics or something, but, uh, a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things, you know, that could, can be very helpful.

[00:51:11] Duff Watkins: I, I say, okay, so they’re talking about the exchange rate mechanism now I got to shift it to basketball. Okay. That’s a good tip. I’ll be doing that.

[00:51:18] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Right, right, right, right.

[00:51:20] Duff Watkins: You also made the point though, you know, you’re dealt cards in life and you play the cards you’re dealt with, but also, and bearing in mind that depending on the game, sometimes two of a kind will win, you know, and that’s not a hard, that’s not a hard hand to get.

[00:51:34] Bob Mankoff: So that’s what I mean in business, the two of a kind for, for being funny will win. It shows you’re, you’re relaxed. you know, and, it could be the slightest thing, you know, that you say about a meeting about, it can be self-deprecating, I’m going to show you a lot of boring slides, so let’s get to it, you know, or something, just something that it can be just so easy and simple.

[00:51:59] It can simply be you moving out of a completely serious frame. to smile, to talk with the people before the meeting, in a relaxed, friendly way in which humor will often come out about, you know, just think. What is everything that it’s perfectly okay to bitch about here and then, and then open that up and then people will enjoy that.

[00:52:23] So I’m just saying that’s where two of a kind, uh, can, well, in a way it’s even true everywhere. You never know the lottery you are in or in, in terms of talent. Maybe it’s not two of a kind, but the exact same cartoon that might come in one week and wouldn’t make the cut would make it another week.

[00:52:42] Duff Watkins: Well, that’s the point?

[00:52:43] You don’t have to be dealt or Royal flush in the cards of life in order to succeed, you have the card you have, and you can deal with them and, and you probably have more than enough to do well. I is what I’m hearing you say.

[00:52:56] Bob Mankoff: Right. You have more enough to do well because you have to look for the different kinds of spots could be businesses.

[00:53:02] It could be. You know, it could be, ah, I’m not right for this corporation, but maybe I’m, maybe I’m perfect for a smaller organization I’ve had exactly that same, same situation where there was employee who really took a lot on himself on himself and did a good job, but took so much on it and, and things didn’t necessarily work out.

[00:53:29] And it wasn’t really his fault. And it was partly because the organization was just too small to absorb that, uh, thing that didn’t work out whereas a bigger organization. They would’ve been perfect because they would’ve gone on to the next project. It wouldn’t have been a big deal. It might not have been as important.

[00:53:49] So it’s not always, you know, the analogy, maybe doesn’t hold always with cards, Royal flush, two of a kind. Sometimes it’s just the variety of abilities that are right for one place rather than the other. And those are your, those are your cards. Those are your attributes. You have to try to, to find the, the, you know, the right fit.

[00:54:10] I mean, one of the things I realized is that,

[00:54:13] which is why now I’ve gone on with my own business is that I was just a cartoonist all those years. And then I started at the cartoon bank and that was my own business. Then I sold out to New Yorker, and I became cartoon editor and a cartoonist there. But at that point I was in a big corporation. And even though I had a lot of success there, it wasn’t really the right spot for me.

[00:54:34] I didn’t really get there until I was 50 in Maverick, all my life and looking back on it, I can see, oh man, that’s a whole other, other game. That is another game. That’s a game of siloed information and we are where bluntness is not valued.

[00:54:52] I mean, I got through it and I, I benefited enormously from it, but I realized that I wasn’t, that I may or realized as part of the satisfaction. I was always dissatisfied in a way, because. I realized it’s a corporation and corporations will make decisions. They’ll be, you know, all of a sudden there’s, you know, you were doing something and then somebody somewhere changes something.

[00:55:15] And at one point, when I left the cartoon bank and they gave it to, uh, lawyers or other people, and, and then they’d have people come in, I was still sort of consulting them. And, and every person who came in before they left five would say, failure is not an option. And as soon as they came in and said, failure, isn’t, wasn’t an option.

[00:55:33] I knew they were going to fail right away. But that’s, but that’s what a corporation is,

[00:55:38] Lesson 10: The office will always be there, your talent and opportunity won’t

[00:55:38] Duff Watkins: well, that takes us to the, uh, lesson number 10, about the speaking of corporations and of offices, lesson number 10, the office will always be there, your talent and opportunity. Won’t

[00:55:48] Bob Mankoff: right. So that’s use your youth.

[00:55:51] In other words, For most people who are, who are talented and also intelligent, there’s always an office job. There’s always a corporation. You know what I mean? The ability to travel light and to burn bright, stay up all night. I, I feel like I’m going to do a rap here. Stay up all night is a gift of the young, you know what I mean, to just be in your twenties and you get a break, and that break means no sleep.

[00:56:22] That break means you, you know, traveling across the country, that means doing this. And that means doing that. And you’re traveling light you don’t have a family and you don’t have a baby and you don’t have anything, and you feel sort of invulnerable in, you know, physically, it’s not bad, you don’t have a bad back.

[00:56:40] You don’t have acid reflux; you don’t have anything you don’t have to see. Well, where’s the pharmacy out here in the Mojave. Where’s the toilet, please. Where’s the, where’s the toilet, you know what I mean? So, you’ve got to use that time. That’s your booster rocket to get you into orbit.

[00:57:00] It doesn’t work out you’re 32 or whatever. And then, you know what, you know, go to monster.com. You’ll find something, you’ll be there. And so, the office will always be there. And I’ve been saying that for many years, to all, all the kids who I met the office will always be there, you know, give it everything you’ve got while you’ve got it.

[00:57:20] Duff Watkins: what do you think of this? I would elaborate on that a little bit, and I say, uh, people ought to use their youth at any age at any stage of their life. You know, you know, you don’t have to subscribe to being elderly and firm and, and enfeebled, you know, what a lot of people do, but I, I, I think it’s useful to accurately assess your age and stage of life because all, you know, there are certain opportunities available to, to you and I now in our stage of life, then we’re not available to us when we’re in our twenties.

[00:57:54] So these age and stage brings something new and novel and good.

[00:57:59] Bob Mankoff: okay. So here are my three jokes. One of the things is humor helps you cope. with getting old. So, when I was 70, I created these three jokes, not cartoon, just jokes. I said, I’m 70. The good news is it could be worse.

[00:58:13] The bad news is it will be

[00:58:19] uh, I’m 70. The good news is 70 is the new 50. The bad news is dead is not new alive. And I’m 70. And when you’re 70 and you’re a guy, you wake up stiff everywhere, but where you want to be. So, I, I think you’re right though, but I’m saying that in a way, but it is important to understand. I think you’re right.

[00:58:39] That you.

[00:58:40] Standards things you do have, the way you spend your time, your time is, is limited. You’re mortal. The time is limited. How do you want to spend it? Mm-hmm you know what I mean? How do you want to spend it? So, you, maybe you don’t spend it on what you spent it on before. You don’t have to hold every standard that you had before and think you’re a failure.

[00:59:00] Mm-hmm because you’re not meeting that. I mean, I ran marathons when I was, you know, 30 pretty well. I’m not going to do that at 77. I’m not going to look at my apple watch and say, gee, how come? I mean, uh, uh, I mean, a joke, I just made up talking to someone. I had, uh, problems with my shoulder and, you know, some other, other physical problems just minor.

[00:59:23] But I said, I thought, I’d go to the doctor and they do extensive tests and say, we’ve done extensive tests, Mr. Mankoff and we found the problem you’re 77 so, so, so that, so just on, you know, on, I think there is a kind of wisdom that comes to it in that you intuitively understand, bullshit, you know, things that are real things that aren’t. I’m sort of middle road kind of guy.

[00:59:52] I, you know, when people tell me.

[00:59:54] There’s going to be a green new deal, and it’s going to have to last 30 or 40 years consistently people doing these policies. And I’ll say, well, that means the same people have to get, keep getting elected. And I have never seen people keep getting elected. How can you think this is PO you know, I, everybody who’s had experience knows this is a fantasy?

[01:00:17] Yeah. It can’t possibly happen. It can’t possibly happen because in, in democracy, you, so it’s just sort of this knowledge of things you’ve seen when people are predicting about the future. And you know, what I know is that. I can’t remember any, anybody who predicted anything during my lifetime. I mean, people predict all sorts of things that actually turned out.

[01:00:40] Yeah. I don’t know. It’s unlikely. So, so I, I think when you’re in the moment you suffer from people do when they just had that moment from Chron centrism, they feel like this is the truth. this is the moment for the first time that people actually understand everything. They never understand anything.

[01:01:00] And the, I mean, we talked about this, a lesson is that.

[01:01:05] More it’s a little bit like a disrespect, respect thing. More harm is done by smart people than stupid people. Much more harm is by smart people. Don’t have the levers, they don’t have the power, they don’t have anything really. It’s smart people who really think that they know the world. I mean, going back to endlessly my sports analogy, I big sports fan.

[01:01:28] I know a lot of statistics believe me. I know all this stuff. Now here’s a universe. We actually have data for. We actually have statistics. We know a lot about it, and we can’t predict it. Is the world easier than the NBA to predict? Is the world easier or are there more variables? Seems like there might be more.

[01:01:49] And now you’re looking at this little universe that you are actually an expert on. If you are a fan, you know, more about the NBA than any politician knows about any country. You actually know more and yet what happens? So, I mean, that’s one of the benefits. I think that doesn’t, that my daughter just says you’re cranky.

[01:02:10] That’s all. But as

[01:02:14] Duff Watkins: if there’s something wrong with that, Bob. Yeah. What is she trying to say?

[01:02:20] Bob Mankoff: Yeah, no, I think that, you know, it’s the same thing. You should be idealistic in your youth. There else. Nothing ever changes, but if you’re still idealistic, when you’re, you know, when you’ve been through the mill, then you missed the lesson.

[01:02:34] Yeah.

[01:02:35] Duff Watkins: Yeah. Well, let’s finish up with one last question for you. We’ve been talking a lot about the things, wisdom, things that you’ve learned in life. What is one lesson that you, what is something that you have unlearned maybe lately, something you absolutely positively new to be true then, but now that was not the case.

[01:02:54] Bob Mankoff: Well, I unlearn a lot of things just by forgetting them so, as you get older. Although I have very strong opinions, like I’ve just said I sort of unlearned or unfelt even as I, as I performatively spout them, I unlearned my confidence in them kind of humility. What I’m, I mean, to some extent I unlearned my egoism, which made me successful.

[01:03:22] I unlearned that part of it or maybe it’s really learning, it’s learning. I’m not a guy who throughout my life. Uh brimed with humility. So, it’s sort of it’s unlearning. I would say to some extent it’s unlearning, I can make it more specific, all the tricks, just like I said to you.

[01:03:43] Okay. How to manipulate the conversation, how to make yourself seem smarter. How to, in every way, you know, focus so much on my, uh, tricks in a way to dominate, to enforce my personality on people or things to get my way, because it’s no longer at my age satisfactory to me. I don’t really want to do that.

[01:04:08] I, some of that, when I look at that was, was useful to me and some of it was hormonal, you know, having to do when you’re younger and you got Testosterone out, you’re, you’re aggressive. Everything is you; you want to win; you want to win. And from sports to every single argument. And so, I’ve absolutely unlearned, Hey, I don’t have to win this argument with my daughter.

[01:04:35] I don’t have to win an argument with anybody. I don’t have to win an argument. And that’s hard for me because I it’s natural for me to, to a part of my mind automatically martial my forces, my, armamentarium everything. I spent a lifetime learning how to always do that.

[01:04:56] And so I’ve unlearned that, or, you know, Damped it down. You know what I mean? I, I see that as, it got me where I am, but it’s, it’s not going to get me where I want to go for the rest of my life to be that way.

[01:05:10] Duff Watkins: Okay. We’ll finish on that note. You’ve been listening to the podcast. 10 lessons just took me 50 years to learn.

[01:05:16] Our guest today has been legendary famed, cartoonist Bob Mankoff. My name is Duff Watkins you heard from us. We’d like to hear from you. Email us. The address is podcast@10lessonslearn.com that’s podcast 10. Number one zero lessons. learn.com. Tell us what you think. Tell us who you’d like us to talk to.

[01:05:36] This episode is produced by Robert Hossary and is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum. PDF. You can find them online, professionaldevelopmentforum.org. They offer webinars, social media discussions, podcast, parties, anything you want, everything you need, and it’s all free. Professional Development Forum.

[01:05:54] Oh, and while you’re at it go ahead and hit that subscribe button. That way you won’t miss any episode. And after all, this is the podcast on the internet that makes the world a wiser place lesson by lesson. Thanks for listening.

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com that’s podcast, 10 number one zero, lessons learned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

 
Bob Mankoff

Bob Mankoff – Work in batches of 10

Bob Mankoff, Cartoonist and Author talks about why you should "Work in batches of 10", why "Talent is the ticket but that's all " and the why you should "Appreciate when 'good' is 'good enough'". Hosted by Duff Watkins.

About Bob Mankoff

For over 40 years, Bob Mankoff has been the driving force of comedy and satire at some of the most honored publications in America, including The New Yorker and Esquire. He has devoted his life to discovering just what makes us laugh and seeks every outlet to do so, from developing The New Yorker’s web presence to integrating it with algorithms and A.I. Mankoff is currently the cartoon editor at the weekly online newsletter Air Mail.

A student of humor and creativity, Mankoff’s presentations largely focus on the creative process, from writing a successful New Yorker cartoon to inspiring creativity in others and enhancing ideas with A.I and big data. With his storied career of editing literally thousands of cartoons, Mankoff brings a hugely entertaining night of laughs, tips to bring humor to the workplace, and the option of participating in a cartoon caption contest.

In 2018, Mankoff founded and launched Cartoon Collections, parent company to CartoonStock.com, a new spin on the Cartoon Bank, the world’s most successful cartoon licensing platform that he founded in 1992. At CartoonStock.com, Bob has brought together cartoons from the New Yorker and previously unavailable cartoons from National Lampoon, Esquire, Playboy, and Barron’s to create the largest cartoon licensing source on the planet.

With comedy writer and developer Jamie Brew, Mankoff runs Botnik Studios, a network of writers, artists, and programmers who create software that augments human creativity with big data analytics.

During his recent stint at Esquire, Mankoff revived the magazine’s legacy of satire and humor, editing humor pieces, providing story ideas, and drafting his own cartoons.

For twenty years as Cartoon Editor for The New Yorker, Mankoff pored over thousands of submissions each week, analyzing, critiquing, and selecting each cartoon. He mentored cartoonists, new and old, toward the laughs readers expect. In 2005, he helped start the “New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.” With 5,000 reader submissions a week and millions of entries to date, Mankoff partnered with Microsoft and Google Deep Mind to develop algorithms to help cull the funniest captions.

Bob is the author of numerous books, including his New York Times bestselling memoir, How About Never – Is Never Good For You?: My Life In Cartoons, of which the Washington Post wrote, “Mankoff’s deep understanding of humor, both its power and its practice, is the live wire that crackles through his book.” His latest book, Have I Got a Cartoon for You!: The Moment Magazine Book of Jewish Cartoons, was released in October, 2019.

Mankoff’s career started, unexpectedly, by quitting a Ph.D program in experimental psychology at the City University of New York in 1974. Shortly after, he began submitting cartoons to the New Yorker. Three years and over 2,000 cartoons later, he finally made the magazine and has since published over 950 cartoons. His story and day-to-day at the magazine were the focus of the 2015 HBO documentary Very Semi-Serious.

Mankoff has taught classes at Swarthmore, Fordham, and led workshops on the creative process

 

Episode Notes

Lesson 1. Work in batches of 10 06:25
Lesson 2. Amateur’s love their own work, professionals don’t 11:14
Lesson 3. More problems are caused by respect than disrespect 14:44
Lesson 4. Talent is the ticket but that’s all 17:39
Lesson 5. Don’t rue and stew 24:40
Lesson 6. Originality is overrated 32:33
Lesson 7. Appreciate when ‘good’ is ‘good enough’  36:39
Lesson 8. Find your sweet spot of fame 40:16
Lesson 9. Play the cards you’re dealt but know the game you’re in 47:32
Lesson 10. The office will always be there, your talent and opportunity won’t 55:38

Bob Mankoff – Work in batches of 10

[00:00:00]

[00:00:08] Duff Watkins: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. 10 lessons. It took me 50 years. to take two. Hello and welcome to the podcast

[00:00:18] Bob Mankoff: Want me to do this for you?

[00:00:20] Duff Watkins: Maybe you can introduce yourself, make it easier for me. Try it again. Let’s try it again. Hello. The podcast 10 lessons that took me 50 years to learn where we dispense wisdom for your career and your life.

[00:00:31] My name is Duff Watkins and I’m your host. Today our guest is legendary cartoonist Bob Mankoff. Bob is a guy started off. Okay. In life, comes from good family, had a good education, and somehow just took a strange turn and ended up as a, as a cartoonist Bob, how does anybody end up as a cartoon?

[00:00:51] Bob Mankoff: Well, I was draft dodging for a while.

[00:00:54] uh, in the sixties, uh, by going to school and then eventually, uh, going for a PhD in psychology and I was on the cusp of my PhD, but it was the world’s longest cusp. And I never, never finished it. And I had, in, in New York city, when I was growing up, there were, uh, a number of specialized schools.

[00:01:22] Uh, there was, uh, the Bronx hall, uh, high school of science. Uh, there was Brooklyn tech for engineers and there was a high school of music and art for musicians and artists. And these were schools that you actually had to get into. Yeah. You know, and I lived in Queens and the school was in Manhattan and I showed my portfolio because as a kid, I had always drawn, started to draw sort of funny pictures early on.

[00:01:53] And I got into the high school of music and art. And, uh, so that was sort of the start of it. But once I got into high school music and art, they had selected the best artists from all over the city. And I was definitely not the best artist from all over the city. And, and so I sort of took a 10-year detour, partly helped by the sixties.

[00:02:15] But happily, all those people who were better artists than me ended up being dentists and it worked out for me, but I had drawn early, and I had drawn funny things, and I took this detour in the sixties, Vietnam war, avoiding it, getting a PhD in almost PhD in psychology. And then at 30. At 30. I, I heard the clock tick really hard and fast.

[00:02:42] And I said, you know what, I’m going to do this. And I just dropped everything. Fire burned in my head. I had all these ideas. Look, I told you maybe that in 67, when I really got out of college or went around to magazines in New York, and I had done 27 cartoons and I thought 27 cartoons is most cartoons you can do in the world.

[00:03:03] And I got, ’em all rejected. And that rejection at that time floored me enough that I, I didn’t go back. But a long story long longish, that sort of, I got to be a cartoonist. Oh, by the way, I’m funny. That helps. I can draw. That helps. Yeah. And I can’t do, and I can’t, and I can’t do that much else.

[00:03:23] Duff Watkins: so, well, let me explain to people now, you, you submitted 500 cartoons to the New Yorker, which is like the standard in the United States and maybe in many other Western countries and, and 500 before you got one accepted. Now that turned into a 20-year career as a cartoonist for them, then another 20 year as editor of the cartoon department or whatever it yeah, sure.

[00:03:48] And then you let them went to Esquire, wrote some books, started some businesses, all that sort of stuff. So that’s, so you’ve had quite a, an esteemed career in it. We’ve had two people on this show, Bob who wanted to be astronauts, we’ve had CEOs, Ambassadors, but we’ve never had a cartoonist before.

[00:04:03] So it’s, we’re making history.

[00:04:06] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Well, the, I actually wanted to play center field for the New York Yankees, but that didn’t pan out and I got good feedback almost as starters. I, when I became a cartoonist, I wasn’t getting into the new Yorker, but I was getting published elsewhere.

[00:04:22] Mm-hmm so first I think if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have continued, but the fact that it’s an enormous kind of validation. Remember this is, uh, 73 74 that I, the, this magazine doesn’t exist in a review of literature and the editor, there was Norman Cousins who was sort of a big deal.

[00:04:44] Literary guy wrote, wrote a book about humor and, and, and the fact that, you know, all of a sudden, you go from nothing to being in a magazine to seeing your names, either shows you, you can do it. You know what I mean? It shows you, and I think we mentioned this before. If you, if no one anywhere at any time, for whatever reason will.

[00:05:09] Will open their wallet to pay for your work. You probably should look for other work, but right away, I found that, you know, what, some people would pay me for it. And that was a huge, huge charge. And then I had to forget about the odds. I mean, I didn’t say this as one of the lessons, but there’s sometimes where you have to, Hey, Hey, what are the odds?

[00:05:32] This doesn’t make sense. And when you’re young or youngish, you have to say, fuck the odds. it’s a long shot, but, uh, a fortune favors, the long shot with enough effort doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but you know what I mean? You know? And so that’s, uh, the fact that I got some feedback and also, I, I think I, I said to you.

[00:05:54] I mean, one of my lessons was more harm is done by respect and disrespect. I mean, not in general, even in terms of satire and all sorts of things, authority has enough things going for it. You know what I mean? It’s got the trumpets; it’s got hail to the chief. It’s got everything. You don’t have to respect authority.

[00:06:14] You know, that’s, that’s its coin of the realm. Well, let me, we have to undermine it.

[00:06:19] Duff Watkins: Let me, cut in there and get to the lesson. Cause I think your career is a testimony of persistence and perseverance.

[00:06:25] Lesson 1:   Work in batches of 10

[00:06:25] Duff Watkins: The first lesson you talk about is work and batches of 10 and really the more we talk is work, think and live in batches of 10.

[00:06:33] So what do you mean by that?

[00:06:34] Bob Mankoff: I mean, quality comes from quantity. You know, writers will tell you they’re not writers. They’re rewriters. And writing over and over again. I mean, every, you know, so almost everything you do is something that you will get better at. And so, the way you, one of the things that’s very hard to judge your own work.

[00:06:59] And, but the only way to really judge it is for that to be a lot of work to judge over time. a lot of work, a lot of work, you know what I mean? You do one cartoon, okay. I judged that. We’re going to come back the next day I judge it. I’m still judging the same thing. And, and so, quality comes from, uh, a quantity.

[00:07:17] Creativity comes from quantity, bad ideas are the way stations, the good ideas by iteration, you know, and you know, if I’d say. I mean, I think then another thing I said, you know, our originality is overrated. So often when you do you do something which has been done before, but it’s slightly different, eh, it’s not that very much better, but it’s a little bit different.

[00:07:43] It’s different enough so that it makes somebody laugh. So, when people ask me, well, how do you know this is different enough from that? I said, well, because you saw the other things still laughed at this. Okay. It’s different enough. But by gradations you can move from these differences to something that’s completely original.

[00:08:01] But to do that, you have to have produced a lot of stuff. You’re not going to, if you try to be original from the start, you’ll be. Original in a mannerist way as an, an affectation, but sometimes you can get to a kind of originality your originality or your voice. So that’s the other thing. Why do that? Why do 10 things you’ll find out who you are in this medium and you can’t find that out except by lots of work.

[00:08:31] Jack Siegler was a great cartoon from new Yorker passed away a couple of years ago said he didn’t think he really learned how to do it till he had done 3000 cartoon. That’s the lesson thousand 3000.

[00:08:46] Duff Watkins: so, point is, I mean, you, you were saying to me earlier or I read it somewhere that most ideas are bad, not out of 10 things that you, that we try fail.

[00:08:55] So you have to think in terms of, well, batches of 10.

[00:08:58] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Most ideas are, uh, okay. Bad is strong. And most ideas might be bad. Then they have the subset that’s mediocre. Then you have the subset. That’s not good enough. Not bad at all, but not fair. So, you have to get in a field of talent.

[00:09:20] To, to the apex of ideas. And that’s why by that definition they’re bad or not. Good enough. I just had someone; people send me all the time. Hey, I’m so, and so I write comedy. Do you have a cartoonist who, you know, here are some of my gags. I didn’t get back to this guy yet. And I’m, I’m never rude. Uh I’m never rude.

[00:09:41] I’m. If I go to the Midwest, I’m automatically rude. Cause I’m from New York. you know what I mean? Could I get a second opinion on the rudeness? I’m not rude. I’m just honest. You know what I mean? I give you an example. I mean, I told you I’m a Jewish background and I’ve been married three times just keeps getting better and better.

[00:10:02] But, but my, my last third and best wife, Corey Scott Wittier, not Jewish waspy. Uh, uh, and so when we were courting and dating, she said, why are you arguing with me? I said, I’m not arguing. I’m Jewish. And so, so, so, so what I’m saying, I I’m actually very, I like to mentor people, but I like to tell ’em the truth, which is, and not, and not be mean, but blunt.

[00:10:32] So the guy who sent me cartoons and I’ll say, they’re okay, you know, in other words, they’re not terrible. Which is, which is actually a big leap from all the ideas that are terrible, but they’re not good enough. I’m just saying they’re not good enough. Uh, reading an interesting book, lately, you know, which says,

[00:10:51] every college basketball player is in the 99.9% percentile of human basketball ability. and then there’s the NBA. So, it’s not that similar to cartoons but it’s sort of the same kind of idea when you, what you have to be really good is, often, uh, not good enough.

[00:11:14] Lesson 2:   Amateur’s love their own work, professionals don’t

[00:11:14] Duff Watkins: let me, that takes me to your second lesson. The difference between professional and amateur. We’re talking about cartoonists.

[00:11:21] We’re talking about writing; we’re talking about sports. Yeah. And there is, there is a huge difference between professional and amateur in my mind, but what do you mean by it? What’s how do you recognize the difference?

[00:11:32] Bob Mankoff: Well, I mean, the way I do it, say it in sort of a quip or an aphorism is a professional is dissatisfied, always dissatisfied. Mm-hmm they always it’s. It’s never like, oh, I can’t believe it. This is so great. I mean, analogous to, athletics, you know, if a golfer is he, you know, it’s this idea of dedicated practice, always being a little bit dissatisfied with what you do, you know, Uh, Roger Feder played lousy yesterday, but even if he had played pretty well, even if he had won, he would be looking at everything he did wrong.

[00:12:11] He wouldn’t be looking at the shots he did hit well. Mm-hmm so I guess the difference between is that, you know, an amateur is happy with everything they’ve done and often they haven’t done very much often amateurs. I mean, one of the things I used to say, if you send one cartoon to me as cartoon editor.

[00:12:28] You might as well stamp have stamp amateur on it. You might as well stamp amateur on it. You got a big one cartoon. I’ll give you another funny anecdote about idea. This, this is, this is true. Uh, when I worked at the new Yorker was in the, I think I were, this, this one was on 42nd street, uh, in the Condé Nast Building at that time.

[00:12:50] And really the cartoonists were like a separate species, but that building was full of all, you know, all the magazines, executives and whatever. And I was in the elevator with a guy and it’s, it’s starting at like, I don’t know, 20 or something. And he says, uh, they stole my idea. They stole my idea every floor down.

[00:13:11] He said they stole my fucking idea. I can’t believe they stole it. I just, my idea, finally, we get down to the bottom floor. I don’t know this guy. I tap him on the shoulder. I say, get idea. And there’s always another better idea. Right?

[00:13:30] Duff Watkins: There’s always another better

[00:13:36] Bob Mankoff: idea. So that’s the, another better idea you haven’t reached? The end of it, or there’s a different idea or this idea would lead to something else. The right professional attitude is humility. And even before you are a professional, the idea is I’ve talked about the sweet spot, the sweet spot between respect and disrespect.

[00:14:03] I mean, if you’re showing and cartoons to someone who supposedly knows what they’re doing has been in the business, respect their, what, their feedback they’re giving you respect it. You know what I mean? Listen to it. Don’t argue with it. Cause I’ve never been argued.

[00:14:19] I I’ve never found anyone argue me into a laugh. Okay. No argue with me. Oh, ha you you’re right? Huh? Okay. So, so it does work and also realize that the person on the other side of the desk, even if, though they have all the credentials might be wrong, but that’s not the time. Yeah. To tell them they’re wrong.

[00:14:44] Lesson 3:   More problems are caused by respect than disrespect

[00:14:44] Duff Watkins: Speaking, you mentioned this point before, this is point number three, there are more problems caused by respect than disrespect. Um, and, and you, you’re saying to me, you know, you don’t seek to offend people, but then don’t fret over it. And, and then if people judge you wrongly and correctly, well, so what,

[00:15:06] Bob Mankoff: so yeah, it used to be, so what now?

[00:15:09] They now they’ll try to take your job away from you. Fortunately, I’m the president of a company and, and they can’t fire me, so it’s on, on many levels. So, I think. You got to believe a little bit in your own talent in terms of don’t, don’t be in awe. I was never in awe of what was done in the New Yorker.

[00:15:27] I thought it was really great. And then I thought, yeah, but I can do it, but I can do it. You know, everybody who succeeds has to feel in some way that they can do it. So, and the other thing in in humor itself, disrespect is required. You’re satirising,

[00:15:48] the best of institutions are corrupt the best. It’s just a level of, of bureaucracy or corruption that exists of covering your ass uncovering the mistakes. Fortunately, in democracies, Sometimes there’s the, there’s the balance where it works out, but you’ll always find the rot there be. That is just what it is.

[00:16:14] So as a humorist, you are there to expose it. You’re not there to praise it. Any humor cannot praise anything. It always involves diminishment. It doesn’t elevate. Its whole purpose is to bring down a notch, whether it’s politicians or the professions in which it’s satire or even ourselves, that’s the, that’s the point.

[00:16:38] And so that’s why I say disrespect is good on that in terms of offense, you know, that’s a huge problem now in which. It used to be people who are, who said they were offended. And you know, then I’d say, then what happened? Did you have lunch? Did you sleep okay? sure, fine. Now they’re saying they were micro aggressed and, and have, and have experienced trauma.

[00:17:03] Duff Watkins: We used to call those hurting feelings. Bob. Now it’s trauma

[00:17:08] Bob Mankoff: yeah. Right. Hurting feelings. But it’s often, it’s not even their feelings are hurt their wise, but it’s the other people they’re protecting whose feelings that they’re protecting from being hurt.

[00:17:19] And really, it’s good to have your feelings hurt. That’s what they’re for. That’s why it’s bad to have your body hurt, but it’s okay to have your feelings hurt. That’s about sticks, and stone will break for names, gets a little bit of resilience, a little bit of resilience.

[00:17:39] Lesson 4:   Talent is the ticket but that’s all

[00:17:39] Duff Watkins: All right. Point number four. This is important. I think talent is the ticket, but that’s all it gets you in.

[00:17:47] Bob Mankoff: I love sports and I play sports and I think it’s a wonderful, foundation to think about things, especially I like that, whatever you’ve done in sports, like one of the sports I play basketball and I play table tennis. I say, yeah, reasonably high level. But where I play is at a club here in Westchester, which is the biggest club in the Northeast and they’re professional tournaments every month.

[00:18:11] And you see these guys who were raised in China, who were born in China, live here now, who, who had trained eight hours a day, and when you talk to any of them, they were selected. They didn’t just train out. They were given tests, all sorts of weird coordination tests to show they had the ticket to benefit from eight hours a day, eight hours a day on footwork, eight hours a day on every single thing.

[00:18:39] So It’s there’s always talent. You know, let’s say in terms of, being funny now, I, I wouldn’t even go in to say whether the talent is, you know, inborn or learned, but it’s obviously a combination of both in, in sports, but in humor, I think it’s, it’s something that has to happen very early for you to have this kind of mind for one reason or another, that learns very early, how symbols are manipulated, how ideas are manipulated, that that has part of your mind, that’s processing things in a different way.

[00:19:15] And. So that when you say, well, can people be taught to be funny? Uh, well, everybody has learned to be funny. everybody who is funny has somehow learned it in some way, but they started learning it very early. They started learning it very early. So, the sports analogy is this.

[00:19:35] You want to take up skiing at 15, good luck. You, you never get into the Olympics. Doesn’t matter how, how many hours you put in so, you know, you will find out and, and it’s important to measure yourself in that once again, if you are, since I’ve played sports and have played, you know, with different levels, whether it’s pickup or, or at the club there, I’ve seen up close what, look, what professional looked like.

[00:20:03] You can’t tell if you can hit a baseball by going, to a batting cage. you know what I mean? You, you know, it’s interesting also because the internet tells us a lot about talent. For instance, I can do Rubik’s cube. I sort of looked at it. I learned it. It takes me a minute or two. Hey, there’s a kid in Japan.

[00:20:23] Who’s doing it blindfolded in 11 seconds. okay. He he’s got some other talent. It wasn’t, it wasn’t just practice. There was something there, same thing with chess and all of his things. So, talent’s just your ticket. It’s your ticket to the 10,000 hours, the 20,000 hours or whatever. So, the question is, do you want to punch that ticket?

[00:20:49] Most people don’t want it punch the talent ticket. They don’t want to punch it because that’s the other side of it. It doesn’t get the talent. Doesn’t get you in it’s the ticket for all the work. It’s a ticket on a train that isn’t a free ride. So that’s, that’s that, and that’s what I found out also in terms of people who even wanted to be cartoonists and did have talent, they didn’t want to punch that ticket really. They didn’t want to work that hard. Here’s another thing that I found out; I was very blessed to have parents that didn’t care about me too much.

[00:21:26] They were older and. They have been through depression, World War II. I came along late. The fact that, you know, my mother would put a mirror up to my mouth and that I would fog up. That was like, good enough. He’s breathing. and that’s fine. And you know, I didn’t have to get, I didn’t have to get outstanding.

[00:21:49] Satisfactory was okay. And so, I could go my own way. They weren’t praising they loved me, but they weren’t praising me all the time. They were, we have a whole generation of people now raised on praise. They praise raised as, you know, it’s like the snowflake generation as soon as they hit resistance.

[00:22:09] Okay. They, they’re the most talented kid in Peoria, and they come to New York and that’s where all the talented kids are coming, or any of the metropolitan hubs. And now they’re up against. Everybody else and they haven’t experienced, they haven’t experienced rejection.

[00:22:29] So I think the fact that my parents didn’t hover over with me in that way and didn’t praise me. In fact, always were just like because where, because of the times they grew up in, they thought that the best kind of job you could actually get was a civil service job where they couldn’t fire you. And, and, you know, and , it was funny story because I decided to become a cartoonist, uh, after I quit, you know, uh, my psychology and I told that to my parent, my, my mother and father and my father looked at me sternly and said, you know, they already have people who do that.

[00:23:08] I.

[00:23:09] I don’t see any help wanted ads in the magazine that cartoonists wanted. But I said, besides that one of them might die. And then all I got to do is read the obituaries. As soon as the cartoonist dies, I’ll be right there. So, so but here’s the other thing, I didn’t put this in a lesson. So still my parents supported me in other words, when I quit to do that, I mean, the big thing was always, why can’t you do something else?

[00:23:45] And so you have something to fall back on. And I’m totally against falling back on anything. uh, totally against falling back. If you are going to go for one of these things, go for it because otherwise your mind is going to be divided and you’re going to be amazed at how quickly you’re back to where you need to fall back to. But they supported me. Of course, I really wasn’t making money. And my father who had, done pretty well, you know, would send me $200 a month. You know what I mean? So, you know? In other words, they still backed me. And that’s the thing I would advise also, you know, parents who find the kid who was supposed to be the lawyer, wants to be the artist, the kid who was supposed to be the lawyer, she wants to be a singer and stuff, support them, you know, support them, uh, give them, let them take a shot at it.

[00:24:38] Let them take a shot at it.

[00:24:40] Duff Watkins: okay.

[00:24:40] Lesson 5:   don’t rue and stew

[00:24:40] Duff Watkins: That takes us to lesson number five. Don’t rue don’t stew. And I think you were talking about how rejection isn’t something rejection, isn’t personal. It’s just necessary.

[00:24:52] Bob Mankoff: Right. And.

[00:24:56] It’s I remember I gave talk to the moth, which is like this, you know, audio where you tell a story about, and I told a story about you know, about rejections, about the benefits of rejection in terms of building your re resilience in terms of perfecting your art, uh, in terms of, uh, understanding that the world is not your oyster, especially when you’re young and you come at it and everything, and it’s been pretty much a glide path from you, especially if you’ve had a, a good education and all of that and, and done well.

[00:25:35] And, but then in the end, as a joke, I said, believe me rejection will make you a better person. Look how much better a person it made me. And so that was my snarky little joke on it. It’s the annealing fire it hardens you, uh, and, and that’s what you need.

[00:25:54] You need to be not mean to succeed, but tough.

[00:25:57] Duff Watkins: You reminded me of a, of a joke, uh, talking about your parents. Leo Buscaglia was a psychologist. He wrote a bunch of popular books in the eighties or nineties, and he’s raised in Italy, and he decided he wanted to go see the world. His parents said Leo don’t do it.

[00:26:12] And he said, but he did anyway. So, he traveled around France and Italy, and he studied at the feed of Jean Paul Sartre. And eventually he ran out of money as the kid would. So, he cobbles enough money together to telegrams his, uh, sends his mother a Telegraph and says, Dear mama starving Leo. And he waits around all day for the reply to come back.

[00:26:32] And it does. And, and the reply was from his mother was dear Leo starve mama and, and it’s that sort of, and he said it was the best thing for him because it forced him to, to go to that next step in his maturation and his individuation as a person. Yeah. I can only hope that is true.

[00:26:54] Bob Mankoff: Well, yeah, well, I, I mean, it’s, but it’s funny cause parents, it’s interesting, they’ll say one thing, but they really believe, or either the thing I don’t know in my group anyway,

[00:27:07] My mother would say, we, we don’t care what you do. We don’t care if you’re a garbage man, as long as you’re the best garbage man. And I said, mom, in the city of New York, you have over 12,000 garbage men. That’s hard. I’ll go into cartooning,

[00:27:25] Duff Watkins: and, okay. So don’t Ru don’t stew when you encounter failure. And you said to me too, your signal must be louder than the noise because you know, there’s a lot of noise out there in the world and it’s a very competitive, um, well, anything, everything is competitive nowadays, right? So, so there, there’s lots of noise, lots of static, and it’s very hard to have a unique signal.

[00:27:50] Bob Mankoff: And that also comes out of work. You know, it’s depending on the level of success, when as cartoon editor, I might buy a gag from someone cause a gag stands by itself and sure, that’s great. The person got into new Yorker, but are they going to continue to produce?

[00:28:05] And is there a particular voice, you know, is there, is there a sensibility, is there something different about what they are doing at least different enough so that they have a signature way of thinking or, and, and drawing, because that is part of the pleasure. Part of the pleasure of anything really is the human context. You get to know this person, this cartoonist you’ve enjoyed them before this comedian, this singer. So, everything they do is not anew, right? It has the whole penumbra of their other things. And that builds in, but only if you have a unique, if it’s all generic, you can have, you know, you could have generic, good jokes, but they just remain generic.

[00:28:54] So you don’t get that extra level of pleasure. that you get from, from voice, from, you know, from personality and all of that, all of that. I mean, it all comes down to work and, you know, it’s not just the work of

[00:29:11] producing the thing. It’s the cognitive work the cognitive lift of, of devoting your mind space to doing it. So, it’s, you have to do a lot to find out what it is you do, and you have to think a lot just to end up doing anything so a lot of times it doesn’t look like you’re doing anything.

[00:29:36] a lot of times you’re not doing anything, or it doesn’t look like it, but you’re unconscious is doing something because you are focused. So, One way I put it is boredom is really important. If you are not bored, you shouldn’t be entertained by something. Look, most of the time, you’re not going to have ideas.

[00:29:57] Okay. So, what is the other time? Well, you’re trying to get ideas, and nothing is coming and you’re bored. In other words, you’re unhappy. They’re the birth pains of ideas. That’s your unconscious actually working that. That uncomfortableness that you feel is very useful. Cause then when you do get the ideas, when you do get the ideas, they feel that much better.

[00:30:21] They’ve relieved that very unpleasant state of having no idea. So, this sort of, almost bipolar or bimodal at least way is, it’s the sort of wavelength of creativity. And even to some extent, mood and emotionality, the highs, and lows that you, that you have, I think often in a creative field,

[00:30:45] you’re not feeling that great. That’s why it’s a burden. So, it’s burden to be in that field. It’s like you produce the thing. Now you’re back to where you were sort of, I mean, not there are tricks and there are all things you could do, but often you’re, you’re stymied at any particular moment. So, at any particular moment, you’re actually not a cartoonist.

[00:31:07] You’re just like everybody else. Most of the time, you’re not a cartoonist, you don’t have an idea. So, you where you’re better is that that a hundred percent of the time the other people aren’t cartoonists. So, the fact that you’re in cartoons, 2% of the time is enough. But you, I don’t even like to ha to hang out mentally with all those other people who aren’t cartoonists, the 98% of the time get lost.

[00:31:33] So, I mean, I’m making jokes about it, but it’s absolutely true. So, one of the things about getting ideas is it’s important not to be over stimulated by the outside. That’s why you go someplace. That’s why you have a studio. That’s why you, you know, it’s a horrible environment now in some ways, because you’re can constantly distracted by like everything that comes down the pike.

[00:31:58] You know what I mean? But I mean, it’s interesting when people try to think they often close their ideas, they try to re their eyes. I mean they try to reduce stimulation. So, when you look, you do you have stimulation and of course you have stimulators naturally all the time. I don’t, I never got ideas at parties that I was being, I was having eyes at a party.

[00:32:20] I was talking and stuff, but all that experience is filtering through. And then when you eliminate that outside stimulation, it’s your inside stimulation that will make the, the, the connection

[00:32:33] Lesson 6:   Originality is overrated

[00:32:33] Duff Watkins: Point number six. And you mentioned this before, originality is overrated.

[00:32:40] Bob Mankoff: Yeah, it depends on the field. If the field is the only thing about it is that it’s original and that’s often the field with, in art and, you know, which is, uh, bullshit.

[00:32:54] But, that’s just me, uh, the kid from Queens saying, yeah. Okay. I’ve never seen, I don’t know, for some reason you decided to Julian Schnabel to take plates and throw them against the wall and glue them on canvas, I guess. Uh, but what I mean is that your popular forms, songs and theater and movie and humor is based on previous forms.

[00:33:23] it’s always within the cocoon of familiarity that you make something new. For someone who’s never seen these forms, everything would look pretty much identical in terms of pop music from any decade. They hadn’t seen it. If you, if you took someone from the 18th century and you played Beatles or Elvis Presley where Sam Cook, they’d say, well, it’s pretty much all the same, you know, like if you don’t know anything about classical music, it pretty much sounds all the same.

[00:33:51] So I’m saying within that within once, you know, that that’s, you, you work with those forms, you work with the classic tropes and cartoons. It could be a, it could be, uh, mountain climbers, desert island, uh, couples in bed, uh, uh, wise man on the mountain.

[00:34:08] All of those things are done before and people will see them just like most jokes have a form before. And that’s what people like, it’s, it’s your job with often within a form to create some novelty that works. And that is very hard. it does give you a leg up in that you, you know where to start and from that, you may gradually get to something that is very different from that form. But only by, I guess it’s the old sob. You got to learn the rules to break the rules. You got to learn the rules to break the rules. If you don’t know it at all, it’s really easy to create something no one has ever seen before. And you think there’s funny and they’ll say what, you know what I mean?

[00:34:54] Duff Watkins: well, I know that in, in business when companies create products, if the product is too original, if it’s too exotic, if it’s too foreign, and if it’s too far, if it’s too much, the consumers won’t buy it, because there’s no connection. They don’t relate to it. It just seems more of an oddity to them, and businesses have learned the hard way.

[00:35:14] I, the way you put it was originality must be born within the cocoon of familiarity. I, there must be some sort of

[00:35:21] Bob Mankoff: oh right. Yeah. For popular, for popular forms. but there is real originality that we don’t respond to immediately in art. And then eventually we do eventually we do, but it’s because we’ve become familiar with it.

[00:35:38] It’s not the first time. It’s interesting also that, because there’s another phenomenon and this would be true of, for example, sitcoms, uh, Seinfeld was one of the great sitcoms of all time, you know, a friend of mine said, Hey, this it’s funny. And I saw it. I said, yeah, it’s okay. I liked it.

[00:35:56] Yeah. But I didn’t like it really as much as I was going to like it. once I became familiar with it, once I became familiar, once I became familiar with its forms with, you might think, because it’s interesting in, in that the familiarity was seeing the same with seeing Kramer come in that door with, understanding who George was, who Jerry was, who Elaine was and what they were going to do, added pleasure to it. You like to see the people do their thing. so, to some extent, every episode was sort of like, like the previous episode, but also different so familiarity built and built and built.

[00:36:36] And anyway, so that that’s that point, I think.

[00:36:39] Lesson 7:   Appreciate when ‘good’ is ‘good enough’

[00:36:39] Duff Watkins: lesson number seven, appreciate when good is good enough.

[00:36:43] Bob Mankoff: Well, I mean, so in business I’ve found that, uh, I’ve got this website, cartoonstock.com plug there. Uh,

[00:36:59] you know, you re and I’ve done I’ve credited cartoon bank for the New York. I mean, before the New York and new Yorker so you work on these websites, you get into the, into the deep weeds and everything. You get obsessed with the little things that you keep trying to make better, and you realize this is, you know, this is a diminishing return thing here.

[00:37:21] This is not a thing that has to be perfect. It just has to be good enough to what it’s supposed to do. Good enough to what it’s supposed to do, uh, which is different than if I’m writing the caption. I want that caption to be as good as it be. Cause there’s a whole other standard, but even in putting out the magazine,

[00:37:41] You might not have, you know, you would look at the cartoons again and think, oh, it’s so good, but still you needed 17 cartoons in the end. You know, this was the team you’re going with, and this is what you actually have to produce. So, it’s the exigencies of, if you don’t have a deadline and you don’t have this demand for it to be on a newsstand or something, then you can fiddle forever.

[00:38:04] once you do, you have to cut bait. You have to, you have to do it. And so, then you have to say, you know, it’s good enough, but also you can just waste. You got to realize when you’re just wasting your time going down. Uh, you know, you’ve become obsessed with a particular thing that you, that you feel you absolutely have to get.

[00:38:28] Right. And it’s just a question of moving on in some ways. That’s why let’s say the magazine with the editor, like David Remnick, the important thing about the editor. I mean, it’s important that they make good decisions, but probably the most important thing is that they make decisions.

[00:38:44] Duff Watkins: You put it to me this way is stop making it better sooner rather than later, but better.

[00:38:51] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Yeah. which I better. Well, yeah, so I had put better before, but right. Stop making it better sooner. And so, so right in your mind at the beginning, have that idea, right? That, that you can stop this now because otherwise there’s a kind of momentum.

[00:39:12] There’s a kind of apparatus you may have arranged in, in some sort of business that people have said. You’ve said, okay, you’re supposed and okay. Would you please, when is that? And then you realize, uh, it’s going to be embarrassing, but let’s stop. You know, let’s stop because there are these, these, uh, social networks that you’ve set up and sort of pressures on you in terms of, but you said we were going to do this and you’re not a politician.

[00:39:43] You could say. but it was a bad idea. I changed my mind. Most that’s hard for people to say hard for everyone to say right. To say, oh, the idea I, I was so excited about. That was a good idea is bad. mm. You ne it never happens in politics. And it really happens in business, but it could happen in my business because there’s not that it’s not, it’s not a corporation.

[00:40:06] Having corporations. I think it’s the last thing in the world that can happen.

[00:40:10] Duff Watkins: unfortunately, yes. Uh, admitting failure is, or mistakes seems to be against a grain for some reason.

[00:40:16] Lesson 8:   Find your sweet spot of fame

[00:40:16] Duff Watkins: Well, let’s let me move on to lesson number eight, find we’re talking about recognition. Find your sweet spot of fame.

[00:40:24] You’ve talked. You were mentioning sweet spot earlier.

[00:40:27] Bob Mankoff: Yeah, I mean, I told you that was anecdote when I was on, uh, It was a Nightline show about when I became a cartoon editor in 97 and my daughter was, uh, I think six at the time. And she was there. I said, she said, daddy, are you famous? And I said, uh, to someone who’s famous, I’m a nobody.

[00:40:50] And to a nobody I’m famous. And so that was that’s the, and I said, that’s not a bad sweet spot to be in. You didn’t tell her that she was only six, but, but we’re

[00:41:01] where you don’t feel famous. But you get some cred for being known. It helps you. It’s a card that you can play. It’s a card that you should play, you know, I’m oh, I play the card. I was cartoon editor at the New Yorker. That, and that, to some extent, why you, you have me on this podcast and that’s a nice amount of, of credibility to have, but it’s not O it’s not overwhelming.

[00:41:28] It doesn’t distort your life in any way. It makes people admire you, but not so much that it’s creepy. you know, they’re not like fans of celebrity. I don’t have to worry about anyone stalking me. I’ve never heard about cartoon as

[00:41:42] Duff Watkins: being stalked. That’s true. That’s your good point.

[00:41:45] Bob Mankoff: stalked. So, I think that’s the, that’s a good thing to, and that’s also a line of when. It’s a good thing to be known. It’s a good thing to have some degree of renowned and tiny bit of celebrity within a small world, but that’s plenty good enough so that your life doesn’t get distorted I feel sorry for people who are celebrities in a way they have so far to fall. they have so far to fall. Whereas if you’re a middle thing and you broke some books and you stopped like that, it’s not going so good for you. Well, it was never that high to start with. You can still be a normal person.

[00:42:26] Duff Watkins: Does the sweet spot hold true for wealth as well?

[00:42:30] Bob Mankoff: I think absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:42:33] You know, the amounts of wealth. We have some people having a bizarre and distorting and the, I mean, probably not good for society either, but I would, I would think absolutely because then you become

[00:42:46] a king, you know what I mean? It’s a bad, heavy, heavy hangs is the head that wears that kind of crown and everything. You don’t have a normal life anymore. You know, you’re not normal because of where you, you put in. And also, there’s nothing you, there’s nothing you can spend it on.

[00:43:06] So I do think, I mean, and, and probably, I think there’s studies that show sort of the curve of sort of a certain amount of money does make you happier. But beyond that.

[00:43:16] I’ll tell you. Okay. Because it’s, in a nice house. I have a pool, the lights, the lights at night that weren’t working in the pool.

[00:43:26] They went out so shit. So, we got to replace the lights really $3,000. Okay. Fuck. I can. Why? And like where, where do they got to have scuba dives go down there and put in these for and where the lights are put in there and they’re supposed to change color, like show and I’m in the pool. At that point, I don’t care about it.

[00:43:50] And my wife says they’re not changing color

[00:43:56] I said, oh yeah. So, look even there now I’ve. I found my way to be unhappy because I had $3,000 to spend on, on these silly pool lights that aren’t working. So, imagine that you’re enormously wealthy, you’ve got the 800-foot yacht that somehow, the balls in the bowling alley aren’t coming back the way they were supposed to.

[00:44:21] And now you’re totally pissed. Look, I didn’t fucking get this bowling alley on my yacht, so it wasn’t going to work. I don’t care if I don’t bowl. That doesn’t matter. It’s the principle of the thing I want my yacht bowling alley to be perfect. And certainly, better than Bezos’ yacht bowling alley.

[00:44:44] Right. Yeah. So, I think that know, you will find really, really. Unhappy wealthy people because of the, and in a way that, that sort of blends over to be careful what you care about very much, anything that you decide to become a connoisseur of, you’re going to mostly be unhappy with.

[00:45:05] It’s never going to, if all of a sudden, you’re a coffee connoisseur, almost every cup of coffee you have is going to be shitty. Really, it’s terrible. You’re just, you go there. You, I don’t know it was, it had body, but I didn’t like the notes. You know, all of a sudden that’s coffee. When I grew up, everybody’s just drinking coffee.

[00:45:24] But now because I got a see I’m already in that place because we had the little Keurig thing it broke and my wife said, why don’t we use the French press? I said, okay, let’s choose the French press. And then, oh, this is better now. I can’t go back. I can’t have the other coffee now. I’ve always got to have the French press coffee.

[00:45:42] in a way it’s like all of these things are…

[00:45:46] Jack Siegel had a funny cartoon in which there’s a couple on a road and you see the road sign. It says enchantment the gateway to disenchantment and,

[00:46:00] Duff Watkins: but it’s true. It’s true.

[00:46:03] Bob Mankoff: no, it’s true. So, the, the, so, so there it is. So, I guess that’s my get look for the sweet spot when enough, when good enough is good enough. You know what I mean? And. Uh, I just thought of this. I don’t even know what it means exactly, but I do think through this humorous lenses. Sometimes treat yourself to something really bad.

[00:46:27] treat yourself to something really bad. You think that coffee Keurig is bad, have some real bad coffee. Now it won’t seem so bad instead of constantly looking for better, better, better, sometimes shift your perspective, move it around.

[00:46:42] Duff Watkins: Recalibrate your taste. Just I, I can see the logic in that.

[00:46:46] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Re recalibrate your taste.

[00:46:48] You know, all of a sudden, you’re. I mean, I, I, I hardly smoke cigars every once in a while. I, I do, uh, and I went to the cigar. Place. And I look, I like these David off cigars. Cause I like the way they burn. Cause they burn completely perfect. And so now I’m a guy who can’t smoke a cigar that the Ash doesn’t look right?

[00:47:08] Yeah. Cause you heard the Ash doesn’t look right. You’re

[00:47:11] you’re a Connecticut shade on the outside kind of guy, Bob. I can tell that’s the kind of,

[00:47:17] I, and then I said, shit really 27 bucks for cigar. This is getting a little bit out of hand. You know what I mean? It’s a little bit out of hand. And so anyway, so that’s I think all related,

[00:47:32] Duff Watkins: So

[00:47:32] Lesson 9:   Play the cards you’re dealt but know the game you’re in

[00:47:32] Duff Watkins: it takes us lesson number nine, play the cards you’re dealt, but know the game you’re in.

[00:47:39] Bob Mankoff: Right. I was dealt the card to be funny and

[00:47:43] I played it. I, so I did really have two choices to play it. I could’ve done stand-up, which would’ve been a little hard because I was a little bit older than most of the people who got into it being born in 44. Uh, so when you really had comedy clubs by, you know, 72, 73 you know, uh, and I think that would’ve been, been a game where my card really wouldn’t have worked my comedy card wouldn’t work.

[00:48:14] Because I was also combining it because I was funny enough, but then it was just being funny. Wasn’t combining with the art thing or my philosophy or other ideas. I don’t think I would’ve had that connection to people that’s necessary to be really successful at stand-up. A lot of people can do stand-up successful.

[00:48:34] So the game I played was the game that, that combined my talents. That was the game I played. So, you got to know that the game that you have to know the game you’re in and whether, and whether you have those cards, but in general play every card you have. Uh, if you’re good looking, make yourself a little, even better looking, it’s, it’s better.

[00:48:58] You know what I mean? If you’re fit, become, fit, whatever it is, people are going to judge you. They’re going to look at your place in the hierarchy and they’re going to judge you by a million different things. Everything that you got good about, you make better and understand how, uh, to use it. Because I also use humor.

[00:49:18] For instance, if you have humor, play that card and it doesn’t mean professionally, it will put people at ease. It will show that you are confident. It will let people. Bond to you if you use it correctly. So, let’s say you have it, you know? So, when people say, well, you know, up terms of using humor in business, I go back to the talent thing.

[00:49:42] I say, you need to have a talent for it. Okay. If you have that talent, use it. If you don’t have a talent for it, it it’s not going to work. And a lot of people have more of that talent within that game. The business game doesn’t demand much humor at all. It demands just a little bit, a little bit to be playful, a little bit to make the, the slightly relieving comment that shows your confidence.

[00:50:06] It’s not an out and out joke. See what I mean to play that. So, you have that card for that game. That doesn’t mean you go into stand up. That doesn’t mean that, you know, that’s so I think that’s the way. You look at it and, you know, and, and, and everybody plays the, the cards, uh, where they should play the cards, they have and just know the game they’re in.

[00:50:28] Now, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t always mean that, uh, you’re going to achieve wealth or success by that. I mean, this is sort of like tricks for appearing smart when you’re not

[00:50:43] Duff Watkins: I’m to write this down, please. Yes.

[00:50:46] Bob Mankoff: The direct, the conversations of things, you know,

[00:50:49] Just direct the conversations to things, you know well. And people will be very impressed and try to move it away from things you don’t know too well through things you do. Of course, it it’s better if you know, more than, you know, baseball statistics or something, but, uh, a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things, you know, that could, can be very helpful.

[00:51:11] Duff Watkins: I, I say, okay, so they’re talking about the exchange rate mechanism now I got to shift it to basketball. Okay. That’s a good tip. I’ll be doing that.

[00:51:18] Bob Mankoff: Yeah. Right, right, right, right.

[00:51:20] Duff Watkins: You also made the point though, you know, you’re dealt cards in life and you play the cards you’re dealt with, but also, and bearing in mind that depending on the game, sometimes two of a kind will win, you know, and that’s not a hard, that’s not a hard hand to get.

[00:51:34] Bob Mankoff: So that’s what I mean in business, the two of a kind for, for being funny will win. It shows you’re, you’re relaxed. you know, and, it could be the slightest thing, you know, that you say about a meeting about, it can be self-deprecating, I’m going to show you a lot of boring slides, so let’s get to it, you know, or something, just something that it can be just so easy and simple.

[00:51:59] It can simply be you moving out of a completely serious frame. to smile, to talk with the people before the meeting, in a relaxed, friendly way in which humor will often come out about, you know, just think. What is everything that it’s perfectly okay to bitch about here and then, and then open that up and then people will enjoy that.

[00:52:23] So I’m just saying that’s where two of a kind, uh, can, well, in a way it’s even true everywhere. You never know the lottery you are in or in, in terms of talent. Maybe it’s not two of a kind, but the exact same cartoon that might come in one week and wouldn’t make the cut would make it another week.

[00:52:42] Duff Watkins: Well, that’s the point?

[00:52:43] You don’t have to be dealt or Royal flush in the cards of life in order to succeed, you have the card you have, and you can deal with them and, and you probably have more than enough to do well. I is what I’m hearing you say.

[00:52:56] Bob Mankoff: Right. You have more enough to do well because you have to look for the different kinds of spots could be businesses.

[00:53:02] It could be. You know, it could be, ah, I’m not right for this corporation, but maybe I’m, maybe I’m perfect for a smaller organization I’ve had exactly that same, same situation where there was employee who really took a lot on himself on himself and did a good job, but took so much on it and, and things didn’t necessarily work out.

[00:53:29] And it wasn’t really his fault. And it was partly because the organization was just too small to absorb that, uh, thing that didn’t work out whereas a bigger organization. They would’ve been perfect because they would’ve gone on to the next project. It wouldn’t have been a big deal. It might not have been as important.

[00:53:49] So it’s not always, you know, the analogy, maybe doesn’t hold always with cards, Royal flush, two of a kind. Sometimes it’s just the variety of abilities that are right for one place rather than the other. And those are your, those are your cards. Those are your attributes. You have to try to, to find the, the, you know, the right fit.

[00:54:10] I mean, one of the things I realized is that,

[00:54:13] which is why now I’ve gone on with my own business is that I was just a cartoonist all those years. And then I started at the cartoon bank and that was my own business. Then I sold out to New Yorker, and I became cartoon editor and a cartoonist there. But at that point I was in a big corporation. And even though I had a lot of success there, it wasn’t really the right spot for me.

[00:54:34] I didn’t really get there until I was 50 in Maverick, all my life and looking back on it, I can see, oh man, that’s a whole other, other game. That is another game. That’s a game of siloed information and we are where bluntness is not valued.

[00:54:52] I mean, I got through it and I, I benefited enormously from it, but I realized that I wasn’t, that I may or realized as part of the satisfaction. I was always dissatisfied in a way, because. I realized it’s a corporation and corporations will make decisions. They’ll be, you know, all of a sudden there’s, you know, you were doing something and then somebody somewhere changes something.

[00:55:15] And at one point, when I left the cartoon bank and they gave it to, uh, lawyers or other people, and, and then they’d have people come in, I was still sort of consulting them. And, and every person who came in before they left five would say, failure is not an option. And as soon as they came in and said, failure, isn’t, wasn’t an option.

[00:55:33] I knew they were going to fail right away. But that’s, but that’s what a corporation is,

[00:55:38] Lesson 10: The office will always be there, your talent and opportunity won’t

[00:55:38] Duff Watkins: well, that takes us to the, uh, lesson number 10, about the speaking of corporations and of offices, lesson number 10, the office will always be there, your talent and opportunity. Won’t

[00:55:48] Bob Mankoff: right. So that’s use your youth.

[00:55:51] In other words, For most people who are, who are talented and also intelligent, there’s always an office job. There’s always a corporation. You know what I mean? The ability to travel light and to burn bright, stay up all night. I, I feel like I’m going to do a rap here. Stay up all night is a gift of the young, you know what I mean, to just be in your twenties and you get a break, and that break means no sleep.

[00:56:22] That break means you, you know, traveling across the country, that means doing this. And that means doing that. And you’re traveling light you don’t have a family and you don’t have a baby and you don’t have anything, and you feel sort of invulnerable in, you know, physically, it’s not bad, you don’t have a bad back.

[00:56:40] You don’t have acid reflux; you don’t have anything you don’t have to see. Well, where’s the pharmacy out here in the Mojave. Where’s the toilet, please. Where’s the, where’s the toilet, you know what I mean? So, you’ve got to use that time. That’s your booster rocket to get you into orbit.

[00:57:00] It doesn’t work out you’re 32 or whatever. And then, you know what, you know, go to monster.com. You’ll find something, you’ll be there. And so, the office will always be there. And I’ve been saying that for many years, to all, all the kids who I met the office will always be there, you know, give it everything you’ve got while you’ve got it.

[00:57:20] Duff Watkins: what do you think of this? I would elaborate on that a little bit, and I say, uh, people ought to use their youth at any age at any stage of their life. You know, you know, you don’t have to subscribe to being elderly and firm and, and enfeebled, you know, what a lot of people do, but I, I, I think it’s useful to accurately assess your age and stage of life because all, you know, there are certain opportunities available to, to you and I now in our stage of life, then we’re not available to us when we’re in our twenties.

[00:57:54] So these age and stage brings something new and novel and good.

[00:57:59] Bob Mankoff: okay. So here are my three jokes. One of the things is humor helps you cope. with getting old. So, when I was 70, I created these three jokes, not cartoon, just jokes. I said, I’m 70. The good news is it could be worse.

[00:58:13] The bad news is it will be

[00:58:19] uh, I’m 70. The good news is 70 is the new 50. The bad news is dead is not new alive. And I’m 70. And when you’re 70 and you’re a guy, you wake up stiff everywhere, but where you want to be. So, I, I think you’re right though, but I’m saying that in a way, but it is important to understand. I think you’re right.

[00:58:39] That you.

[00:58:40] Standards things you do have, the way you spend your time, your time is, is limited. You’re mortal. The time is limited. How do you want to spend it? Mm-hmm you know what I mean? How do you want to spend it? So, you, maybe you don’t spend it on what you spent it on before. You don’t have to hold every standard that you had before and think you’re a failure.

[00:59:00] Mm-hmm because you’re not meeting that. I mean, I ran marathons when I was, you know, 30 pretty well. I’m not going to do that at 77. I’m not going to look at my apple watch and say, gee, how come? I mean, uh, uh, I mean, a joke, I just made up talking to someone. I had, uh, problems with my shoulder and, you know, some other, other physical problems just minor.

[00:59:23] But I said, I thought, I’d go to the doctor and they do extensive tests and say, we’ve done extensive tests, Mr. Mankoff and we found the problem you’re 77 so, so, so that, so just on, you know, on, I think there is a kind of wisdom that comes to it in that you intuitively understand, bullshit, you know, things that are real things that aren’t. I’m sort of middle road kind of guy.

[00:59:52] I, you know, when people tell me.

[00:59:54] There’s going to be a green new deal, and it’s going to have to last 30 or 40 years consistently people doing these policies. And I’ll say, well, that means the same people have to get, keep getting elected. And I have never seen people keep getting elected. How can you think this is PO you know, I, everybody who’s had experience knows this is a fantasy?

[01:00:17] Yeah. It can’t possibly happen. It can’t possibly happen because in, in democracy, you, so it’s just sort of this knowledge of things you’ve seen when people are predicting about the future. And you know, what I know is that. I can’t remember any, anybody who predicted anything during my lifetime. I mean, people predict all sorts of things that actually turned out.

[01:00:40] Yeah. I don’t know. It’s unlikely. So, so I, I think when you’re in the moment you suffer from people do when they just had that moment from Chron centrism, they feel like this is the truth. this is the moment for the first time that people actually understand everything. They never understand anything.

[01:01:00] And the, I mean, we talked about this, a lesson is that.

[01:01:05] More it’s a little bit like a disrespect, respect thing. More harm is done by smart people than stupid people. Much more harm is by smart people. Don’t have the levers, they don’t have the power, they don’t have anything really. It’s smart people who really think that they know the world. I mean, going back to endlessly my sports analogy, I big sports fan.

[01:01:28] I know a lot of statistics believe me. I know all this stuff. Now here’s a universe. We actually have data for. We actually have statistics. We know a lot about it, and we can’t predict it. Is the world easier than the NBA to predict? Is the world easier or are there more variables? Seems like there might be more.

[01:01:49] And now you’re looking at this little universe that you are actually an expert on. If you are a fan, you know, more about the NBA than any politician knows about any country. You actually know more and yet what happens? So, I mean, that’s one of the benefits. I think that doesn’t, that my daughter just says you’re cranky.

[01:02:10] That’s all. But as

[01:02:14] Duff Watkins: if there’s something wrong with that, Bob. Yeah. What is she trying to say?

[01:02:20] Bob Mankoff: Yeah, no, I think that, you know, it’s the same thing. You should be idealistic in your youth. There else. Nothing ever changes, but if you’re still idealistic, when you’re, you know, when you’ve been through the mill, then you missed the lesson.

[01:02:34] Yeah.

[01:02:35] Duff Watkins: Yeah. Well, let’s finish up with one last question for you. We’ve been talking a lot about the things, wisdom, things that you’ve learned in life. What is one lesson that you, what is something that you have unlearned maybe lately, something you absolutely positively new to be true then, but now that was not the case.

[01:02:54] Bob Mankoff: Well, I unlearn a lot of things just by forgetting them so, as you get older. Although I have very strong opinions, like I’ve just said I sort of unlearned or unfelt even as I, as I performatively spout them, I unlearned my confidence in them kind of humility. What I’m, I mean, to some extent I unlearned my egoism, which made me successful.

[01:03:22] I unlearned that part of it or maybe it’s really learning, it’s learning. I’m not a guy who throughout my life. Uh brimed with humility. So, it’s sort of it’s unlearning. I would say to some extent it’s unlearning, I can make it more specific, all the tricks, just like I said to you.

[01:03:43] Okay. How to manipulate the conversation, how to make yourself seem smarter. How to, in every way, you know, focus so much on my, uh, tricks in a way to dominate, to enforce my personality on people or things to get my way, because it’s no longer at my age satisfactory to me. I don’t really want to do that.

[01:04:08] I, some of that, when I look at that was, was useful to me and some of it was hormonal, you know, having to do when you’re younger and you got Testosterone out, you’re, you’re aggressive. Everything is you; you want to win; you want to win. And from sports to every single argument. And so, I’ve absolutely unlearned, Hey, I don’t have to win this argument with my daughter.

[01:04:35] I don’t have to win an argument with anybody. I don’t have to win an argument. And that’s hard for me because I it’s natural for me to, to a part of my mind automatically martial my forces, my, armamentarium everything. I spent a lifetime learning how to always do that.

[01:04:56] And so I’ve unlearned that, or, you know, Damped it down. You know what I mean? I, I see that as, it got me where I am, but it’s, it’s not going to get me where I want to go for the rest of my life to be that way.

[01:05:10] Duff Watkins: Okay. We’ll finish on that note. You’ve been listening to the podcast. 10 lessons just took me 50 years to learn.

[01:05:16] Our guest today has been legendary famed, cartoonist Bob Mankoff. My name is Duff Watkins you heard from us. We’d like to hear from you. Email us. The address is podcast@10lessonslearn.com that’s podcast 10. Number one zero lessons. learn.com. Tell us what you think. Tell us who you’d like us to talk to.

[01:05:36] This episode is produced by Robert Hossary and is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum. PDF. You can find them online, professionaldevelopmentforum.org. They offer webinars, social media discussions, podcast, parties, anything you want, everything you need, and it’s all free. Professional Development Forum.

[01:05:54] Oh, and while you’re at it go ahead and hit that subscribe button. That way you won’t miss any episode. And after all, this is the podcast on the internet that makes the world a wiser place lesson by lesson. Thanks for listening.

 This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum, which office insights, community or discussions, podcasts, parties, anything you want here, but they’re unique and it’s all free online. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s podcast@10lessonslearned.com that’s podcast, 10 number one zero, lessons learned.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.

 

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