Will Rogers

Will Rogers: 100 Years of Laughs

May 24th, 2016  | 

Published in Leadership

On the recent occasion of my birthday, a well-wisher sent me 10 thoughts on growing old from American humorist Will Rogers.

Will Rogers began building his reputation as a satirist in 1916, and these 10 insights on aging are as funny today as they were 100 years ago.

  1. Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
  1. The older we get, the fewer things seem to be worth waiting in line for.
  1. Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.
  1. When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.
  1. You know you’re getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.
  1. I don’t know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.
  1. One of the many things no tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.
  1. One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.
  1. Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.
  1. If you don’t learn to laugh at trouble, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you’re old.

Give ‘em Want They Want

Will Rogers was born in Oklahoma in 1879. He left home when he was 22 to begin traveling the world as a working cowboy, spending time in Argentina, South Africa and Australia.

Rogers returned to America and entered show business as part of a Wild West show where he was the featured trick roper.  During a performance at Madison Square Garden, a steer broke from the arena and Rogers lassoed the steer to the delight of the crowd.

This performance earned headlines in New York City’s newspapers, which drew the attention of a producer who signed Rogers to his own act.

By 1916, Rogers had become a featured act in the Ziegfeld Follies where he dropped his horse and rope act and moved into satire. Rogers combined his folksy style, keen observations and earthy anecdotes to poke fun at politicians, big government and other controversial topics without offending anyone as he amused his audiences.

“When I die,” Rogers said, “my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like.’ I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”

Wit that Bit

Will Rogers was a tireless worker.

He appeared in 71 films, wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns that reached 40 million readers daily, and hosted his own radio show for seven years. His show was ranked one of the most popular broadcasts in the country.

Roger’s witty observations are as fresh today as they were then. Here are a few:

Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.

Last year we said, ‘Things can’t go on like this’, and they didn’t, they got worse.

Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing, and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even.

The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.

The best way out of a difficulty is through it.

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. 

An ignorant person is one who doesn’t know what you have just found out.

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

If you’re riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.

People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.

Never let yesterday use up too much of today.

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

Get someone else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as far.

A remark generally hurts in proportion to its truth.

You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.

If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

Sometimes the best advice is the simplest.  “Do the best you can,” said Rogers, “and don’t take life too serious.”

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 200 strategic planning sessions, and he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. His fifth leadership book—How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices—examines 52 of history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies and debuted in April as the #1 new historical reference book on Amazon.

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