Category Archives: Play

Why the Nationals should win the World Series

Why did I root for the Washington Nationals to win the World Series? I don’t follow baseball at all and haven’t in about forty years. And I have no ties to this team locationally. Here’s why. They celebrate well. Mini shark, group hugs, cheap sunglasses, home run dances (thirteen different ones can be found here). They know how to celebrate. One of the announcers observed that they’ve probably started working on these celebrations in training camp. I hope they did. Most work teams miss out on a celebration aspect. They act like work is a war, with no room for celebration – only for pushing harder.   What if work is actually a game? What if it was safe to celebrate successes along the way? What if today was safe enough to celebrate something, anything with your team?

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This isn’t music

“This isn’t music!” I said to myself in frustration. Clearing out file after file of song charts and show notes, I thought, “what a waste!”  All that time over the last decades I thought I was working on music. I wasn’t. I was ‘preparing to work on music’. Preparing for a future that is never going to come. Bag after bag into the recycling bin. I had to go through that process – preparing instead of doing, then finally purging. It’s what brought me here to this moment. And it’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things. But when a core realization – “this isn’t music, actually playing music is music!” – lands it’s vital to pay attention.  We can prepare for something until the end of our days, but the next, scary step is what actually makes our dreams come true – actually doing it. Time to make music.

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How many times a day does the average person check their phone?

Q: How many times a day does the average person check their phone? A: 85 times a day Experiment with airplane mode, leaving it in a drawer, in the car, at home, turning it off, do not disturb. There are lots of options to help you stop sabotaging yourself.  In a world of distraction, only focus is king.

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What sport does Peter Gabriel play?

When Peter Gabriel decided to record his fourth album, he rented out the Aschcombe House in rural England. The building was less than ideal.  “It was a typical sort of landlord situation because there was never any money spent on it; there was rain coming through, rats and dry rot. We had a serious outbreak. It’s a fascinating fungus actually, because once it catches and the temperature and the moisture are right, it reproduces at extraordinary speed and you get the spores almost like a mist, then these amazing mushroom shapes growing out of all parts of the house.”  This was a particularly intense album, with a heavy emphasis on rhythm, percussion and drums. Cymbals were once again banned from the album, creating a heavier sound. Shock the Monkey was the lone hit.  Any recording is extremely difficult. Doing so in these situations must have been doubly so. How did they recharge? They played. What did Peter and his bandmates play?  “The game – the obsession of that time – was croquet. There was a lawn at Ashcombe, which was pretty flat, and we’d set up either car lights or some vague attempt at nightlights so we could play at night as well as in the daytime. Whenever there was a break we’d get out there and this stayed with us on tour. We travelled with a mobile croquet set. I remember we set up in Newcastle on one foggy, winter night on a roundabout outside the hotel… it was quite a big roundabout and had a good game because it was floodlit.”   And true to Gabriel’s playful spirit, he ended the story with a joke.   “What’s great about croquet is that it’s a really vicious game and you can do horrible things to your opponents’ balls, if you’ll forgive the expression. So that would keep us very entertained.”  As Joni Mitchell once sang, “heart and humor and humility will help you bear your heavy load.”   What game could you play to help your difficult life?   And where can your sense of humor help you get through what’s hard? 

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Six Things to Say No That Will Make Your Next Meeting The Best One Yet

“I remember there were a couple of calls, but I ripped the phone out of the wall and threw it in the ravine.” – Daniel Lanois, producer of Peter Gabriel’s album So.  In both our Influencing Without Authority training and Speaking & Presentation Skills training teams learn how important focus is to get someone to be moved enough to change their mind.   Distractions need to be removed and ‘thrown in the ravine’.   In the next meeting you’re running make any of the following a rule. Each rule will help focus.  No phones No laptopsNo PowerpointNo handoutsNo chairsNo table Now try any of the above on your own. If some part of your day requires you to actually get something done, you need to focus. That means you rip out the distractions and throw them in the ravine.  PS: Influence Without Authority team development training is completely revamped. It’s shown proven results that lead to more effective influencing. Who do you want to influence? 

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The grass grows all by itself

While sitting here with nothing to do— Yet spring comes, and grass grows all by itself. -Zen Master So Sahn Feel like you’re spinning your wheels, like your stuck or trapped? The modern world’s solution is usually to try harder, to move faster. Of course, pushing ahead when you’re stuck usually means you’re getting yourself even more stuck. Think of Pooh with his head in the honey jar. It’s helpful to remember that spring always comes whether you’ve worked for it to happen or not. And the grass grows all by itself. If you’re stuck, do less.  Then keep doing less until, like So Sahn, you’re doing the most difficult work of all – sitting here with nothing to do.

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Bernard Malamud on what first drafts are for

“First drafts are for learning what your novel or story is about. Revision is working with that knowledge to enlarge and enhance an idea, to re-form it. D.H. Lawrence, for instance, did seven or eight drafts ofThe Rainbow. The first draft of a book is the most uncertain—where you need guts, the ability to accept the imperfect until it is better. Revision is one of the true pleasures of writing. ‘The men and things of today are wont to lie fairer and truer in tomorrow’s memory,’ Thoreau said.” – Bernard Malamud After the first step of a project or fulfilling a passion, there’s a pause. And you either go on or you don’t. You either persist or you don’t. You need two things to begin: gutsand the ability to accept the imperfect until it is better. The imperfect is where play lives. Failure is the only option here. After you’ve begun, you either keep going…or you don’t. Continuing after the first initial burst of inspiration can be a slog – joyless persistence.  Or not.  Malamud obviously loved the rewriting process. He called revision “one of the true pleasures of writing”.I believe him. He only published eight novels. He wrotenine novels – he burned the manuscript of his first book in 1948. His first published novel came out four years later – it’s called The Natural. You may have seen the Robert Redford movie adaptation. Passion sparks. Play welcomes the imperfect. And the joy that can be found in persistencelets us “enlarge and enhance an idea, to re-form it.” That certainly sounds like true pleasure.

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Awkward in a hundred ways, clumsy in a thousand, still I go on

“Awkward in a hundred ways, clumsy in a thousand, still I go on.” -Chinese Zen master Yueh-shan  ? The word humility comes from the root of humus or earth. When we play close to the ground, when we screw up, when we fail we’re ‘brought down back to earth’.  The Zen teachers were good friends with failure. Failure was welcome in their homes. Imagine the puffed up presences dominating the news cycle admitting to being awkward or clumsy! This kind of lack of acceptance of being fundamentally human, and thus fundamentally imperfect shows the presence of a delicate ego that needs the constant bicycle pump of adulation to keep from landing. Much better to play our way through life, experimenting, failing, and learning. Like the baby animal taking its first steps or first flight, the awkardness and clumsiness is essential for success. It’s welcomed. It’s the necessary ingredient.  And when it’s welcomed, nothing can stop us. And still we can go on.

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Hermann Hesse on what he needs to be happy (Hint: twenty books may be needed)

“I would give my left hand if I could again be a poor, happy bachelor and own nothing but twenty books, a second pair of boots, and a box full of secretly composed poems.” – Hermann Hesse In 1919 at age 42 Hesse made that move. He went to Montagnola, a small village in the foothills of the southern Swiss Alps. He stayed there the rest of his life. It was here that he wrote all of his major works (in order of publication): Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, Journey to the Eastand The Glass Bead Game. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature for these works. When we are young, simplicity can happen without us even choosing it. When we are adults, it has to be chosen. It isn’t just given. The complexifier part of the brain (not yet scientifically proven, but I’d bet money we have one) keeps adding layers of interest and desires for accumulation and gathering. When were you happiest in your life? I’ll make another bet – it was when you were following a passion and had relatively little – little money, little possessions, little number of entanglements. It might have been when you were a kid, it might have been when you were a young adult. It might be right now.  For example, I was happiest as a kid out in nature, with a few books. Or listening to music on the radio. I was happiest as a young adult living out of a backpack, and then again studying music in college, so poor that I remember my friend Emily giving me a chocolate bar one afternoon. It was the first food I had eaten that day because I didn’t have money for food. Poor, but happy. I’m happiest as an adult once again out in nature, or with music in me. I don’t need much. The spirit of play needs the immediacy and focus of simplicity to thrive. And purpose needs the space that simplicity provides to slowly grow. And the internal force that quietly, relentlessly drives you to being at your best doesn’t love money, or stuff. It wants more from you – it wants you too to be happy.

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One man, one hundred years of joy

“If I live to be 103, then I will have skied 100 years.” – Klaus Obermeyer “My sentence was a thousand years of joy.” – Robert Bly How do we persist? What helps what we care about stick? It’s a question that I’ve lived with for it years now. Some observations: We persist at what we love.We find something special in the act of persisting, something that feeds us like no other.We don’t let the rest of life fill in and obscure a passion. Life is not often what you would call “easy”. We find our inspiration where we can. Klaus Obermeyer is a font of inspiration for us. For example, he’s turning 100 years old at the end of 2019 and is still skiing. And he’s smiling while he’s doing it.  Don’t ski? No problem, me neither after tearing ligaments in my leg (while skiing). Let these quotes wash over you and provide a foundation for you to play your particular passion. And to lay the groundwork of delight that will enable you to persist at what uniquely feeds you. (all italics mine)  “You apply the extension of energy in skiing… You love the mountain. You’re the center of your own universe. You’re given all these choices and opportunities—where to turn, how fast to go, how to enjoy it. You have a positive energy; you cannot fear or have negative energy.”  “It doesn’t matter which mountain it is or which run or what conditions there are. I do not discriminate between them. Some are longer; some are shorter… but they’re all fun! I just love skiing.” “I ski whenever it’s nice and you can see where you’re going,”  “The days you don’t ski, they don’t come back.” “I used to ski my age — 82 mph when I was 82 years old. Now I still enjoy skiing but don’t try to go that fast.” “At this point of my age, it’s easier to ski than it is to walk.”  “The beauty of nature in winter, it’s like a fairy tale. The other part is that you are connecting back with speed and zero-G and weightlessness. It gives you a natural high somehow. And to be able to enjoy that speed coming down after climbing the mountain is absolutely marvelous.” “Skiing has been my life. Everything that happened was because of skiing somehow.” I stumbled across 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer during my 40 Days to Change for Good‘first 50 years alive transitioning into last 50 years alive’ retreat. Born in 1919 in Germany, he moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1947. He formed the company that he still oversees today(!), Sport Obermeyer, in 1950.  Over the last seventy years, he has changed how we humans play outside in the winter. Here’s a partial list of his innovations: the first down parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him before he moved to America, the first waterproof-breathable fabrics, high alpine sunscreen, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses, double-lensed goggles, two pronged ski brakes, lined ski boots, turtlenecks with elasticized collars.  He’s also an inspiring guy – enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful, healthy, strong, fully alive. I began collecting what he had to say about how he has managed to enjoy ninety-nine years alive. Let Klaus inspire and guide you to be ‘happy from here to a hundred’. Note: Most of Klaus’s quotes are from his 99th birthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98thand 96thbirthday interviews, among other sources.

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