Category Archives: Play

The 250 hours you steal from your self every year

One hour a day, Monday to Friday, is five hours. Fifty weeks a year times five hours is two hundred fifty hours. What work-hour am I referring to? Lunch hour. Most workers I talk to say that they skip it. They grab some food and eat it at their desk in five minutes, never stopping from the fire hose of work aimed at them. Even if there’s no fire to put out that day, habit has formed and ‘that’s what you do’…that’s ‘what we alldo’. If you’re a salaried employee (hourly employees of course live by different rules) and this is your habit, I’m going to nudge you on this. Take your lunch hour. Use it to go for a walk, go for a run, ride your bicycle, use the company’s gym. Lay in the grass staring at the clouds rolling by. Return refreshed, re-energized and healthier. We need a minimum of one hour of physical activity to live longer, healthier lives. This hour is sitting there, ripe for the taking. How would you feel if you had exercised 250 more hours last year?  And what would the difference in your body and mind be if you did that your entire working life? Imagine you start work at twenty and work until you’re seventy – a likely scenario for many people. 250 hours x 50 years = 12,500 hours! You’d certainly be a master at exercising – that’s well over the 10,000-hour principle. And there’s tons of research on how much smarter we are at something when we’ve paused, taken a break and returned to it. It’s in your company’s best interest for you to take that time to replenish. Exercise is also the magic pill – making us happier, more energized, better looking and of course stronger and healthier. Many people today are living like they won’t live past retirement, reflected both in their diet and exercise habits. But you’re smarter than that, aren’t you?

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How It Happened One Night took four weeks to win five Oscars

The 1934 movie It Happened One Night didn’t have the smoothest of starts. Director Frank Capra got rejected by seven leading actresses of the day before Claudette Colbert agreed – on the condition that she get paid double her normal salary and it wrap in four weeks in time for her ski vacation at Sun Valley, Idaho. Her co-star Clark Gable showed up drunk and surly to the first preproduction meeting, calling the second-rate Columbia studio (he had been loaned from MGM as punishment), “Siberia” and yelling at studio workers, “Why ain’t you wearing parkas?” Four weeks to film! The average time for preproduction for a movie is 146 days. Then the actual shoot takes 106 days. This was a very tight boundary the director had to play in. Capra had a ball. They started filming the day after Claudette Colbert agreed to do it. Most shots were done on location outside because there wasn’t enough time to build many sets. Watching the movie now we see the outside shots are a big part of the charm. There is an authenticity to those scenes that is missing on set pieces. Everything was kept simple. Colbert had two dresses she wore the whole movie. Motel scenes in different states used the same set. Capra was flying fast and free. And eventually Gable came round to it and thoroughly enjoyed playing against type, reveling in being a carefree, prickly drunk of a newspaperman. The romantic comedy wrapped in time. It was released in the big theaters…and promptly sank out of sight a week later. But the movie hung around in smaller theaters. It generated word of mouth, and people returned again and again to re-watch it. The groundswell became a flood and carried it right into Oscar nomination-land, something unheard of for bargain basement Columbia pictures. The movie was nominated in all the major categories – best actor, best actress, best picture, best director, best screenplay. That year they won…with a clean sweep of all the five big categories. “The people discovered that movie,” Capra later said. If there’s no time for perfection, the spirit of play has room. The tighter the boundary (as I’ve learned from playing team building games with kids) the greater the chance for fun. This is the wisdom found in recognizing and smiling at limits.  And we intuitively recognize when we’re interacting with something and someone that’s alive. Meticulous perfection squashes that quixotic playfulness so essential to real vitality.  If you do what you do perfectly, people will admire you. If you do it imperfectly, people just might adore you instead.

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Fight present-bias

The Internet is present-biased. Search engines prioritize the most recent, not the most valuable.  What if you headed left when everyone else lemmings it (yes I just made up that verb) right?  What if you do any of the following (and make up your own): read old books, do old things, use hand tools, listen to records, make your own music, tend a plant, grow your food, hang out with an elder, play with a child, heat your house with wood, walk or bike somewhere instead of in your car…who knows what change you might catalyze?

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Nuke your notifications

Finding it hard to focus? Nuke your notifications. All of them. Get in there in settings on your computer and turn them all off. Then pick your phone and turn them all off too. For fun, each time you turn one off, you can say out loud, “nuke it!” It’s pretty satisfying. Too drastic? Nuke one a day and see if your life falls apart or not. Also notice if you get more of the work done that matters instead.

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Try it out

Try it out. Whatever you’re curious about, whatever theory you’ve read about or listened to that resonates, whatever idea that comes to you about getting beyond a fear. Thinking about something you care about is great. So is being excited about it. And being scared is normal. But nothing beats direct experience, actual experimentation. This is what play looks like. Start with low stakes, small areas to keep concern and worry at bay. Try it out. There’s no way around it, only through it.

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Arrive alive

A peer asked me before a meeting the following week what goal I wanted to achieve between now and then. First thought, best thought: “arrive alive.” It’s a busy time. Lots going on, lots of traveling. Just showing up to things can be a triumph. And breathing is an amazingly wonderful thing I want to keep doing as long as they’ll let me. But it also means metaphorically “alive”. This is deeper. Real life takes so much out of us it’s easier to deaden and put away our vitality. Nope. I want to arrive alive. To whatever I show up for, let me be fully alive. In a world of going through the motions, if you want to be the difference-maker, arrive alive. It may freak some people out. And it will also light up someone who needs to be reminded of what it means to truly be alive.

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What’s it like in today’s chrysalis?

After a monarch caterpillar is done eating it forms a J shape on the bottom of a leaf and creates a green chrysalis. Inside this pupa, the caterpillar dissolves into a pile of goo. That pile of goo then takes 9 to 14 days to become a butterfly. When we enter a hero’s journey, we descend into the unknown. Who knows what we will transform into? All we know is it feels like being a pile of goo. And sometimes we notice that something is changing and growing, but often it just feels gooey and scary. It’s also where the work happens. It’s where we actually transform. We need all the stages to complete a journey but the action part happens in the unknown part. As a reminder, the outcome of the rest of today is unknown. As is every day for the rest of our lives. Each day is a chrysalis.

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What happens after consumption ends?

When I was really interested in jazz improvisation a few years ago, I bought dozens of instructional books. Every time I bought one I felt happy. I consumed (“ate”) a few of them but most of them collect dust on my shelves. Lately I’ve been learning and playing Willie Nelson songs – far away from esoteric scale fingerings. In the past year I’ve been voraciously reading modern business books (for lack of a better term). I now notice that urge tailing off. I don’t know what’s next. I’m now in the chrysalis with that knowledge. But I have an idea of the future and it relates to the keyboard on my laptop. People love their tablets. I prefer my laptop. Why? It’s hard to generate on a tablet. It’s easy to consume. It’s clearly built for consumption. I want to generate. I’m generating these words right now…on my laptop. After we stop trying to fill an unfillable hole comes a disquieting emptiness. And emptiness is what we need to fly.

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Take a stand in the middle of the chrysalis

“I stood in this unsheltered place, ‘til I could see the face behind the face.” – Peter Gabriel Caterpillars enter the darkness and the shelter of the chrysalis. When we enter the unknown as humans it usually feels quite a bit more unsheltered than that. I don’t know if caterpillars get scared. But I know we do when we try to make a change. When we’re scared the antidote is bravery. When the outcome is unknown, bravery is required. When we want to make a change, bravery is required. We can literally ‘take a stand’ for bravery. Imagine all that is unknown, uncertain, scary, anything swirling around producing a queasy feeling. Imagine yourself standing strong and brave in the middle of it all. The process into the unknown and unpleasant is necessary. It’s the only way forward. Literally stand in place for 30 minutes….just kidding…30 seconds. Stand in your unsheltered place, in the eye of the storm until, like Peter Gabriel wrote, you can see the face behind the face.”

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When do Americans love to suffer?

A student once asked Tulku Urgyen Rimpoche what was interesting about Americans. He replied, “The people in America love to suffer before the suffering comes.” According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, 40% of our thoughts are about the future, 12% are thoughts of doubt and 10% are worries about our health. The amygdala in the brain is always scanning for potential threats. It’s just trying to keep us safe. But the unfortunate result is that we anticipate future suffering. We ‘suffer before the suffering’. Are you suffering, really suffering right now? If so, it’s something to welcome in. If you feel bad but nothing bad is actually happening, it may just be anticipatory suffering. That’s not necessary or helpful. It may be more helpful to notice what’s actually happening right now. And wait to experience the inevitable future suffering only once it has actually arrived. (Thanks to Joseph Jastrab for passing along the quote)

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