A reminder to have fun
What words come to mind when you think "business"? I'm guessing fun is not one of those words.
Society teaches to take life seriously and that fun is for kids. As we get older school is about tests and grades, not ranked by how much you smile or laugh. We see serious leaders modelled in front of us so we start to think that’s what we need to do to keep moving up. But what if that wasn’t the only recipe for success?
Fact: My best ideas never come from sitting behind a computer. They come from moving and disconnecting. It was in the middle of a Zumba class that I got the idea for this post. And the idea for my newsletter picks.
A lesson in fun.
I know you already have pre-conceived notions when I say Zumba, but let me tell you about it. I've been taking this class for 2.5 years now. My teacher Pierre is amazing, and not just because he wears crotch pants. While he may be a professional dancer, he does not expect us to be at his level. What he does expect is for us to have a good time.
It's often when we take ourselves too seriously that we lose sight of what we're actually setting out to do. When we’re fixated on what we think we’re “supposed” to be doing we’re overthinking it.
In Pierre's Zumba class is a regular reminder to me to have fun. For that hour I have a big ole grin on my face. Then I look over at the middle aged man a few people over who's smiling just as wide as me, and throwing in an extra spin here and there. He is in it! I love it.
The principle of Zumba is that the music is the driver. The teacher doesn't speak, but may clap or use a few hand motions to signal the next move. (There's a really interesting episode about the founder of Zumba on the podcast How I Built This.) I think that's part of the magic of this class. We're able to have so much fun with very minimal effort that results in an awesome workout. Fun does not have to be complicated. It should be easy.
I'm not the only one who is a regular in Pierre's classes. Years and four gym locations later, there's a core group of at least a third of the class that has followed him where he's gone. Yes, there are other Zumba classes, but we show up for him. Even if the choreography and songs change, we know what we're getting. We go because it’s fun, and it’s why we keep going back. In business, when you have fun, that’s also why your clients will keep going back.
From Oprah, to Michelle Obama, Marie Forleo, and Brené Brown, I'd argue these ladies know how to have fun with the work they do. Let's face it, fun is contagious.
So why don't we talk about fun and play more in the context of business? In Brené Brown's 2010 book The Gifts of Imperfection, she examined play as a critical requirement for wholehearted living. To understand it she looked to the research of Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. One of the properties of play is that it is purposeless; “we play for the sake of play.” In times of stress play is often the first thing to go, as we “don’t have time for it,” but as Brown points out, “it can bring back excitement and newness to our job….in the long run work does not work without play.” (Note: it also needs rest, but that’s another post.)
Maybe if we talked about play and having fun in business we'd do it more. And I'm not talking about Instagram's facade of fun and having the perfect life. I'm talking about actual, authentic fun. The stuff that fulfils us from the inside.
How to have more fun.
I regularly ponder how to have more fun in the work I do. I'm as much a rule breaker as I am a rule follower. It's when I break the rules and get out of my head that I have the most fun. Fun has also yielded some of the biggest returns.
Last year when diving back into blogging I put a link to free 30-minute calls with me at the end of a post (a nice reward for those who read). Much to my surprise, people actually jumped at this occasion. So much so that I added a few more. It was seriously one of the best things I had ever done for my business, and it brought me so much joy.
On the calls we talked about everything and anything, and it was just as much a treat for me as it was for my blog readers. My only goal out of this endeavor was to connect with people and use it to work on being a better listener. One call even turned into two of my biggest corporate projects, as well as a lead for a coaching client (who ended up booking my 3-month package!).
If anything is true about life, it's hard to predict. My attitude is we may as well have some fun with it and see where it takes us.
Recently I did a photoshoot with a photographer friend. She asked me what I wanted at first and I didn't have a great answer. My first response was stuff I'd seen before. One idea was inspired by an Instagram sponsored post I saw! Then I realized, this is what I've seen all over, I need to take it my own way. Bring in more color and pattern, and fun.
The result? Amazing photos! Not only did I have fun, but so did the photographer, and it totally came through in the results. It also reflects my business and direction I want to go. I didn't fall into the trap of trying to be someone else. Having fun is about owning who I am.
Sometimes I forget to that one of the reasons people hire me is because of the joy, energy, and fun I bring. Then a corporate luxury client called me back to facilitate a second round of workshops. My head went straight to something “standard” until on the call they mentioned, “We loved how you brought your gnome last time. It would be great if you could do something like that again.” Day made! Having fun is something that can set us apart too.
Remember, if you want to have fun in business, get into the arena. It’s far more fun than watching from the sidelines. Own who you are.
I want to know: How have you let fun and play into your work world? How has it paid off? Has it ever backfired? Leave a response in the comments!
Here are some more resources on the importance of play: