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My Mark Twain Approach

by Zeenat Merchant-Syal


This is a guest post from Zeenat Merchant-Syal from Positive Provocations.  I started reading Zeenat’s blog a few months ago.  When I realized she loved Mark Twain as much as I did, I begged her to write this post, on the condition that I would do a dance.  I am dancing right now, I promise.  Enjoy the post.



While I was in school, my most favorite subject was always English. I loved the stories, the poetry, the subtle magic. It somehow seemed like this magical subject for me compared to Math and Chemistry of course!! Now who can find the magic in math and chemistry???? Certainly not me.

I always felt safe with my books and thankfully with the stories I read at that time. Whether I liked them or not, most of these stories left a very deep impact on the way I thought. It was only natural that as i grew up, and began to learn about these writers who told me these beautiful stories, I would have favorites. One Such favorite Writer/Author was and still is Mark Twain.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer became my favorite books. As with all natural curiosity, I read almost all of Mark Twains books. In my teenage years and even now, I am still in awe of this man. With every book I read, I found another facet of this man opening up.

It’s said that each writer writes with examples from his own life. And two aspects of Mark Twain’s life and personality were the bench mark in all of his writing- his awesome sense of humor and his ability to speak his mind.

Today I am going to attempt to show you how we can incorporate these two facets in our life:

Sense Of Humor

“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.” ~Mark Twain~

sense of humorIn day to day life, culminating a good sense of humor is often hard to do. Its hard to have a sense of humor when you’re having a financial crises or when you’re sick or when things are simply down in the dumps. But, as all great things come in surprise packages, so does humor.

These are the times when you need to keep that sense of humor up in order for you to break the intensity of the situation youre in. Humor can be used like a kind of coping mechanism.

It lightens the aura of negativity and instantly fills it in with some positive light. Usually its this positive light that will give us the courage and strength to make rational decisions in these difficult times.

Ability to Speak Your Mind

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” ~Mark Twain~

There are times when you need to make a point, but you have to do it right. When it comes to speaking their minds, the vast majority of people in this world fall under either one of two categories: they either speak their minds without considering the feelings of others, or they do not speak their minds at all. To become successful, you must be different from these people.

speak your mindYou must know how to speak your mind without offending a lot of people at the same time. However, one thing that you have to accept is that you will sometimes ruffle the feathers of others when speaking your mind, and the reason for this is because there will always be people who do not agree with you.

When it comes to speaking your mind, the last thing you want to be is a coward. A coward tries to avoid speaking his mind “in order to avoid conflict.” Trying to avoid conflict is worthless and meaningless, simply because it is a fact of life.

Me First?

We live in a world full of non-altruistic humans who think first and foremost of themselves.

What this means is that they will be quick to impose their ways of life on you, and many of them will try to control you. Your goal should be to make sure this does not happen.

The best way to accomplish this is by knowing how to speak your mind. The first step in speaking your mind properly is to monitor your tone of voice. Even if someone is doing something that angers you, you will want to tell them this is in a calm manner.

Your tone of voice communicates a lot, and if it conveys anger or similar emotions, it will hurt others or push them away. Your goal should be to maintain a calm demeanor and tone of voice at all times. The second step in effectively speaking your mind is to pay attention to the words you use.


It is always a bad idea to speak your mind without taking the time “to think before you speak.” Remember, once the words come out of your mouth, there is no way to put them back in. If you say something which hurts someone, you may try to repair the damage by apologizing, but depending on the circumstances, the damage may be done.

Therefore, the best way to speak your mind effectively is to think carefully about what you say. You can become a master of getting your point across to others without being rude in the process.

Many people are not assertive because they are too aggressive. They are quick to insult others, and some even resort to using foul/bad language in order to make sure they get their point across. This behavior will almost always drive people away.

Many a times, when you are blatantly rude when speaking your mind, your words will simply “go in one ear and come out the other.” While people will hear you, they will not listen with attention, or if they do, they will only hear the negative things that you said.

A Critical Skill

The ability to speak your mind properly is a critical skill that should never be taken for granted. In this world, there will be times when you will need to get your point across, and depending on the field you work in, this could be daily.

By thinking about the things you say before you say it, you will save yourself a lot of headaches, and you will often be able to maintain relationships which would otherwise be lost. It is also important to make sure you avoid “not saying anything,” as this will only cause feelings to build up inside you.

Adopting these two facets of Mark Twains life and personality have been a great help for me personally and professionally. Try it and you will see the difference yourself.

If you already have the “Mark Twain” approach then by all means, please share your experiences here. It would help those who haven’t already taken to this approach.

About The Author: Zeenat writes the blog Positive Provocations. Her goal in life is “to ease human suffering in whatever way I possibly can.”  Enough said.

And if you’re looking for more genius or author-related wisdom, you might enjoy this page on Albert Einstein quotes.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Steven November 24, 2009, 2:04 am

    Hey Zeenat,

    great guest post you have done here. You have provided some very wise and important advice here.

    It is definitely important to speak out and express your true self, yet still maintaining a humble character at the same time. This is what gets you the respect and connection, meaning ultimately people will like you.

    And I agree with you completely with the humor, in my opinion we NEED HUMOR. We need those couple of laughs during the day. The average adult seriously don’t get enough laughs on a normal day. Humor lightens up the mood and relaxes our mind.

    Well thank you for this wise post Zeenat and thank you Josh for having Zeenat here, I’m going back to being humorous. 🙂


    • Josh Hanagarne November 24, 2009, 8:50 am

      So Steven, you’ve taken a layoff from being humorous? What is this madness?

      • Steven November 25, 2009, 3:49 pm

        Well, I gotta keep a low profile. Just like Superman and Clark Kent.

        So occasionally I play chess and listen to classical music, then I go back watching cartoons.


    • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 24, 2009, 10:13 pm

      Hey Steven, Mr. Hoot,
      Maintaining a humble character while speaking your mind..now thats simply profound, cause if you arent humble while speaking your mind…the EGO gets int he way….:) Thank you for that awesome suggestion.
      You talking about humor is the best thing….cause you really do it so well with your stick men on your blog. Lately your blog and your stick men have been providing me with my dose of funny….thank you for that Steven.
      Am so glad you stopped by here and shared your thoughts. Appreciate it 🙂

  • Dean Dwyer November 24, 2009, 5:18 am

    I love the fact Mark Twain was so diverse in his thinking. Profound and yet funny. I struggle, at times, with my writing and the idea of when to be funny and when to be serious. But I have often thought of Mark Twain and realized you can be both and still be relevant and have impact. Thanks for that little reminder Zeenat.


    • Josh Hanagarne November 24, 2009, 8:52 am

      Dean, nothing’s harder to pin down than humor, and Twain knew it too. You can wind up being hilarious when you’re trying to be serious, and some of my attempts at humor are taken more seriously than I meant for them to be.

      Maybe you should put “Be hilarious” into the good old Dwyer manifesto:)

    • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 24, 2009, 10:09 pm

      Hi Dean,
      Its so great what we can learn form the authors and great personalities isnt it…
      There are a lot more facets to Mark Twain which i couldnt cover in this post….but by far humor..and speaking your mind were the most impressionable for me personally.
      I think striking a balance between these two is a feat by itself.
      I am going to come over to your blog soon..to see how readily humorous you are 😉
      Thank you fro your lovely comment 🙂

  • Srinivas Rao November 24, 2009, 10:36 am

    Hey Zeenat,

    I think without a doubt, my favorite part of your post is the idea of adopting humor into our daily lives. I’ve gone through a pretty challenging period of my life recently and I have to say if I couldn’t find humor in it, that would be really annoying. At one point the joke was that I would take my costco surfboard and become a pro-surfer. I think laughter is one of the greatest, yet underutilized medicines we have.

    • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 24, 2009, 10:06 pm

      Hey Srinivas,
      It is difficult to find humor when youre going through a bad phase….but when you can find the humor…getting out of the bad phase is far easier…
      Laughter is indeed the best medicine.
      Wow…prosurfer..now that would be FUN!!! 😉
      Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Juancav November 24, 2009, 2:40 pm

    Good read as always.

  • BunnygotBlog November 24, 2009, 2:57 pm

    Without laughter life is sad.
    Great post.

    • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 24, 2009, 10:02 pm

      Hey Bunny,
      Humor is such an important factor in having a balanced life…..
      Glad you liked the post.

  • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 24, 2009, 10:15 pm

    @ Josh- Hey Mr. Hope you’re dancing non stop 🙂 Thank you so much for hosting me here. Am having such a blast with the comments and good feedback 🙂

  • Sajal Nandy November 25, 2009, 8:03 am

    Hi Zeenat,
    It is a fantastic post. Mark Twain was also my most favored adolescent author and Tom was my hero.
    I even wondered how much humour he could have import in his writings if he did not take the pen name ” Mark Twain”.

    Another thing. I often mistook his portrait with Albert Eienstein.

    By the way, I have sent you a mail. Have you received ?
    — sajal

    • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 25, 2009, 10:36 am

      HI Sajal,
      Yay!!…we both have a similar favorite author 🙂
      I smiled all through your comment..cause i also had the odd habit of mistaken identity between Twain and Einstein….talking about thinking alike 😉
      So glad you stopped by and shared your thoughts here. Thank you 🙂
      Am just going to check my email. Will reply to you in the morning.Its late night here now 🙂

  • Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord November 25, 2009, 9:55 am

    Humor is what got me through my corporate job when things got rough. We could always find something to laugh about. I love looking at things with humorous eyes, too — seeing the comedy in daily living.

    Oddly, I’ve never read anything by Mark Twain (can you believe that?!), but Zeenat, I think you’ve inspired me, so many thanks, and what a wonderful guest post on a fantastic blog!

    • Josh Hanagarne November 25, 2009, 9:57 am

      Megan, my favorite Twain writing of all time is a short piece called “The literary offenses of James Fenimore Cooper.” I beg you, on my knees, tears in my eyes, to start there. It’s the greatest thing ever.

    • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 25, 2009, 10:51 am

      HI Megan my joyful Angel,
      So nice to see your smiley face here 🙂
      Corporate jobs are such a bummer…My hubby is in one. Thankfully he can vent away with me, so he is all fresh the next day, but it isnt easy….Humor and being able to take things lightly is what gets you through the day.
      I’m so glad you have been inspired to read Twains work. And yes take Josh’s suggestions amidst is tears 😉 and start from “The literary offenses of James Fenimore Cooper.”
      Thank you so much for stopping by to have a read 🙂
      Lots of love.

  • Michele | aka Raw Juice Girl November 25, 2009, 10:31 pm

    Hey, Z! So nice to see you here!! 😀

    What this means is that they will be quick to impose their ways of life on you, and many of them will try to control you. Your goal should be to make sure this does not happen. <— AMEN to that! LOL

    Seriously, I loved reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when I was a kid. Didn’t every child read that book? Tell me they did! (*sigh* I know they didn’t…)

    It’s sad to think so many young people don’t enjoy reading and have missed Mark Twain’s wisdom!!

    And, Josh, thanks for having Z stop by and share her knowledge with us!