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Play to Your Strengths

I have a mentor, someone I really look up to and who has been very successful in business. When we talked recently, however, she discussed many areas she sees with great growth potential – and I’m very grateful for her advice. 

What I struggle with, however, is that those things currently identified with six-figure part time work aren’t things I’m really crazy about. When I saw this article on Inc.com I was again reminded – play to your strengths and you’ll never work a day in your life.

I’m currently finding I am gravitating back to what I thought was a hobby – graphic design – in taking complex statistics and making them a lot more relatable in info graphics. When I’m doing it during work time, I feel guilty, like I’m playing and not working. For those of you under the age of 25 – you may not relate. I really value this in the younger generations – their ability to do what is rewarding today instead of putting their nose to the grindstone in hopes of doing what they want at age 65.

So for those of us over 35 – if you feel guilty doing something worthwhile (not sure how many rewarding jobs there are playing video games or stalking people on FB) while at work – that is probably because it comes easily to you as a talent. And that is exactly what we should be pursuing because we can bring a lot more value with less effort and all parties involved win!

Happy Thursday. 

What Is Your Play Personality?

As adults, we can make playing around sophisticated. Just because you weren’t the class clown doesn’t mean you are doomed to be the party pooper – play comes in a variety of personalities.

by Pete Ferguson

Yesterday I discussed why active play is important for keeping your brain energized, unlike the Sea Squirt who devours its brain by surrendering to a passive life.

Constant exploration and fun is not necessarily “wasting” time. Play stimulates our brain, inspires creative thought, and creates a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

So what is your play personality? You may have one that you gravitate to more than others, but hopefully you have a combination of several.

In Stuart Brown’s book Play, his research helped define the following categorizations of play:

  • The Joker – Always revolving around some kind of “nonsense,”we likely all began life as a Joker. Baby talk and laughing babies make little to no sense, but help develop communication skills. If you were the class clown or remember who was, much of what a class clown does has little other purpose but to make others laugh. I can remember little about third grade, but I remember Phillip well and how he always was quick with a joke – verbal or practical.
  • The Kinesthete – If you need to move to think, this category applies to you. Athletes, dancers, and hand talkers all play through movement. After watching the often bratty and overly serious Summer Olympic gymnasts, however, not all movement looks like playing! If like me you have to be moving to have fun, remember to keep it light.
  • The Explorer – I was relieved to learn this is play, because it means I spend more time in play than originally thought. If you have to know what’s behind a closed door, or what’s going on in different parts of the world, this is one of your play personalities.  It also applies to exploring emotions, meeting new people, and experiencing art, music, dance, and other mediums.
  • The Competitor – If you play to win and enjoy the thrill of dominating the game, this is one of your personalities. Competitors like to be the “top dog” and measure success by keeping score through points, money, or perks.
  • The Director – If you like to be the one in the know when it comes to planning a party, organizing the office, or otherwise being “in charge,” you are likely playing the part of the director. Hopefully you are the instigator of fun. But this one has a dark side, if you are manipulative and are only happy when you are in charge, it’s time to lighten up a bit.
  • The Collector – If your house is filled with collections and family vacations are planned to add to said collections, this is you. The thrill of play for the collector is to have the best and most interesting collection of objects. In a healthy state, collecting is a double dose of fun because enjoyment is had in collecting and displaying objects.
  • The Artist/Creator – The curiosity to create, disassemble and reassemble, and organize fall under this category. There are a vast number of ways in which artists create, recreate, impersonate, and otherwise explore how to share experiences through different mediums, aspects, and perspectives. Also a double dose of play, most artists enjoy the creation and the sharing of their creativity.
  • The Storyteller – “For the storyteller, the imagination is the key to the kingdom of play.” (p70) Everyone involved in a theatrical play or movie production aides in the telling of the story.

Learn: Did you rediscover any forgotten play personalities, or were you reminded of what you’d like to do more of each week?

Act: Get moving, creating, joking. It just dawned on me today the word use “practical” in a practical joke … having fun and engaging in play is the practicality.

Share: Whether you like to journal for yourself or talk with others, find more ways to explore your play personalities and develop in areas you may not be as comfortable in. Share your art, dance, writing, and creations with others.

Stop Eating Your Brain!

“Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents … When we stop playing, we start dying.” ~ Stuart Brown, MD, “Play.” (pages 49 & 73)

by Pete Ferguson

The Sea Squirt is the coach potato of the sea, sitting in a stream of nutrients with no activity until it literally devours its own primitive cerebral ganglia “brain.”

As a “tadpole,” however, the Sea Squirt’s tiny brain is active as it seeks out nutrients, moving about, exploring and growing.

As the Sea Squirt develops into an adult, it attaches permanently to a rock or a boat’s hull or pilings where the passing current will provide enough nutrients to survive.

Don’t Be a Sea Squirt

I’ve had those times in life when I found a job that supplied just enough to get by. The goal was to exist, get paid, eat, sleep, wake up and exist another day. The weekend was a quick reprieve, and then back to the grindstone.

Hopefully this does not describe your current position, if it does, it is time to detach from the hull of someone else’s boat and get moving!

Follow Your Passion in Life

Author and mentor Dan Miller will never retire in the traditional sense, because there is nothing to retire from. He has found the intersection of play and work and his life’s ambition is to help others do the same.

Dan lives on a 10 acre “Gentleman’s Farm” in Franklin, Tennessee. He writes and career coaches out of a converted barn which has been christened “The Sanctuary.”

Throughout the week, Dan will have many hours devoted to reading, writing, consulting and podcasting. But he will also have many hours of “play” hanging out with his granddaughters, exploring his property, moving wood chips about with his tractor and going to lunch regularly with people who just need to talk about their frustrations in feeling “stuck” in their current career.

Many of Dan’s activities would be considered wasting time in a corporate setting. But Dan has described how some of his best ideas have developed while on the tractor or watching the animals walk through his property. And the measuring stick for his ideas is a large one – in his podcasts he often references a product needing to generate a million dollars or more.

Forget the “c-suite” corner office, Dan’s Sanctuary is the ultimate office and has allowed him to changes the lives of countless others.

Play More – Live Longer

Play is the key to longevity and enjoyment in life. On pages 72 & 73 of Stuart Brown’s book “Play:”

A study done in Okinawa, Japan, by the National Geographic Society revealed that engaging in activities like playing with young children was as important as diet and exercise in fostering the Okinawans’ legendary longevity … When we stop playing, we stop developing, and when that happens, the laws of entropy take over – things fall apart … When we stop playing, we start dying.”

Tomorrow I’ll breakdown the various states of play, and hopefully – like me – you will be surprised at what is considered play and give yourself permission to engage in a lot more play!

Learn: Are you currently spending the majority of your time enjoying what you do? If not, what would you describe as your perfect day (after the sleeping all day, reading and doing “nothing” gets boring on a vacation, what do you like to “do?”)

Act: Get out and play today, even if that means 10 minutes on a break walking outside and watching birds fly, pigeons peck at the park, or just taking a brisk walk.

Share: If you are not living your ultimate desires – most of us are not yet – who is? Talk to that person, read about them, find out how they made the transition.

Commit: Commit now that you are not going to just sit in a nursing home and veg the remainder of your days when you “retire” (i.e. Give Up) at the end of your corporate existence!

Photo Credits:

Book Credits:

Time to Play – It’s Friday!

Playing is something you can’t really plan or anticipate. It is something you just do and in so doing, you lose yourself for a few moments and unlock creativity.

by Pete Ferguson

I’m currently reading “Play” by Stuart Brown. It’s a brilliant book about the importance of being completely irresponsible and having a bit of fun.

Play is one of those things which cannot easily be diagramed, graphed, or measured.

Because the brilliance of play is that if you are doing it right, you should have very little self- awareness.

You are just being. Human being.

And you are having fun that isn’t measured by scientific devices, metrics, personal improvement plans, or any other really boring crap.

You are just having fun.

But the book is written by an MD who’s passion it is to get people to play. So for the analytical types, he has added to other research to “define” play – or rather to identify its characteristics – and the benefits of play. On page 19, you will find the following:

  • Anticipation – curiosity, anxiety, uncertainty, risk – but not so much to overwhelm the fun
  • Surprise – discover, new sensation or idea
  • Pleasure – a result of the surprise
  • Understanding – finding a new perspective or knowledge or feeling about something previously mundane … “I never knew I could have soo much fun doing …”
  • Strength – Having overcome an adrenaline rush, you are ready to do it again, or proud that you got through it
  • Poise – “grace, contentment, composure, and a sense of balance in life”

I’m learning how important play really is. Many criminals and other bad folks were deprived of it early in age.

It allows us to open our minds, see new possibilities, and better understand life around us.

It is unexpected.

That’s why it is fun.

You can’t over think it.

You just have to do it.

When I get home from my business trip this evening, I think a spontaneous (for them, I have an evil plan) round of scaring the children is in order, followed by pillow fight and chasing Miles about the house.

Go get your Play on!

Credits:

Wee, Fun! Creativity Lives Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Miles, at 18 months, has yet to equate danger with fun.

by Pete Ferguson

Last night we were at Applebees for dinner, seated in a booth.

My two-year-old son, Miles, grasped his chubby little hands on the table with his feet pressed firmly up against the back of the bench and would take a few steps up to poise himself in a plank position, and then release his feet.

Each time, he would climb his feet up a little higher until they were well above his head. As he would release his feet and gravity would take over, he would say, “wee, fun!” and look at us with eyes wide open and eyebrows flying at full mast.

As a parent, I sat quietly trying not to think about the dental work required if his hands released before his feet, or the crying that would ensue if he got hurt somehow. But as I admired his courage and “not knowing better” to have so much entertainment and fun for free, I restrained from wanting to interject and ruin the “wee, fun!”

I wrote a great bit about this in the morning today, and then something happened which caused all my efforts to disappear. But I try to always look at life as a continual lesson and the lesson today is “wee, fun!”

We have a new VP at work who came and talked to our group and talked about how he likes to get people outside of their comfort zone and see what creativity arises. I love this approach. As children, we didn’t have to do much at all to become very creative. But as adults we have to learn new perspectives to daily occurrences to try and unlearn the rigidity of rules, processes, and prose to find new and creative ways to approach problems.

Abbie, my eight-year-old, mixes Groucho Marx with Harry Potter for her own “fun committee”

The other epiphany I had before the crash this morning was that in Corporate America, we actually have to assemble a group of people for a “fun committee,” because otherwise I guess the fear is that we do not know how to have fun without a committee and the accompanying meetings, formalities, approvals, and process!

I have five children, who have cousins and friends over often. I have come home to find a dozen or so children running about. I haven’t seen them congregate in a formal “fun committee.”

Ever.

However, as the summer wears on, they will likely begin to approach us with the proclamation that boredom has set in and they need encouragement and outside input. Ironic that then the parents become the “fun committee!”

What are you doing to put yourself a bit out of ease? Crack open your creativity with a bit of fun.

Learn: I dare you to do something you’ve always wanted to do! Walk up to a perfect stranger, talk to the person next to you on the plane, pick up a skate board. I recently was at a top resort and asked to meet the security manager and was given a full tour of the property. Very cool.

Act: I have recently made friends with a couple who have a variety of successful businesses and they introduced me to the concept of setting an immediate deadline – Monday by 5:30 pm. I’ve learned to only have a lunch date on a Tuesday as talking about something on Friday only gives you the weekend. What are you going to do by Monday at 5 pm? I’m keeping mine a secret for now.

Share: Once you have your “Monday by 5:30 pm,” write it down and start telling anyone who will listen. This will commit you further and also crowdsource your resources.

I have to work on my Monday by 5:30 pm tomorrow morning, so I’ll talk to you again on Monday! Have a great weekend.