The Chief Operating Officer at Dolphin Bay, Thinus Ferreira, hands me a book called ‘The Power of Fun’ by Catherine Price.
“Hmmm, is he trying to tell me something?” I wonder. “Do I have start swotting up on how to have a laugh?”
But this wasn’t his message (I hope). The Dolphin Bay team realised at the start of the year that we need to make sure we’re all having enough fun in our lives to keep a sense of perspective and enjoyment at work. We operate in trying circumstances, after all, and the challenges aren’t letting up. Instead, they’re metastasizing into little monsters, as viruses tend to do.
How can we best cope? By making sure there’s a little time for lightheartedness, we reckoned.
At Dolphin Bay, we don’t do things half-heartedly. We tend to find out all we can about a subject, plumbing its depth to master the topic. So here we go, taking fun seriously. And that, I trust – enjoying all the contradictions – was Thinus’s motivation when he bought that book.
“Do I have start swotting up on how to enjoy myself?”
Our kids’ play deficit
I started pondering the idea of a story about fun when I spotted a LinkedIn post by the futurist Bronwyn William recently, talking about the “play deficit” we’re forcing onto our children. Parents are filling children’s time with “adult-directed and supervised, ‘constructive’… activities, rather than giving them time to play as, well, a child should!”
This decline in play runs parallel to a disturbing rise in childhood anxiety, depression and other mental unwellness, Bronwyn wrote. Meanwhile, many children experience institutionalised schooling as a life sentence – as most of us probably did, too. “How can we expect to instill creativity and self-direction in our children if we leave them no time to formulate it?” asked Bronwyn.
And creativity will be one of the traits our children need most as they grow up, to navigate our uncertain times.
It’s a trait that “goes through the roof” when we’re having fun, writes Catherine in her book.
No predetermined outcome
When we’re having fun, we’re living in the moment, responding spontaneously to whatever comes our way, she observes. “Our usual judgmental tendencies… are temporarily silenced and we’re responding in a spirit of responsiveness and playfulness.
“We have more courage to try new things. We have more ideas…”
She quotes another book, called Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World, in which author David Epstein observes that “an enthusiastic, even childish, playful streak is a recurrent theme” for success.
Bingo! If we want our businesses to be the best they can and to endure, we need to nurture our playful inner child! It’s a win-win, if ever there was one.
Here’s how (yes, there are instructions – who would have thought!)
Different things make different people feel playful and we all need to find our fun factors. It might be imagination; absurdity; silliness; creative activities; games; spontaneity; having control – or losing it!
You might have most fun in community, big groups, small groups, anonymously, or alone. To get into the flow, you might find physicality, nature, music, risk-taking, performance or a host of other contexts or qualities the most useful.
For those of us who still feel at a loss, Catherine drills into every description. Physicality, for example, might mean dancing or sports. You get the picture. The point is to make sure that you carve out time for, and then actually do, the things that spark your own particular (and even peculiar) fun factors.
When we have more fun, we are more fun. And fun people have a better life. What’s not to like?
Things aren’t always smooth. Sometimes even fun takes grit. Catherine had always wanted to row. She started, but at some point, she fell off the boat – hardly pleasant. But she climbed back on and stuck through the valleys of the experience to keep finding the peaks. And find them she did.
Yes, even fun takes commitment.
At the same time, don’t try too hard. Just hold in mind the possibility of having fun and carve out time for activities that encapsulate it for you. It’s not the activity that contains the fun; believe it or not, you do.
Fun, essentially, is inside you.
Recognising the signs
Us adults aren’t used to playing. How do we know when we’re having fun so that we can do it again next time, even better than before? Joking. There’s no need to improve, and worrying about it will hardly help.
But if you’re feeling really at sea with this topic, Catherine advises you to watch out for certain signs: laughing; a feeling of letting go; losing track of time; a positive boost in energy; feeling totally yourself. If any of these are present, you’re probably feeling some combination of playfulness, connection, and flow, the three umbrella characteristics of fun.
She asked her five-year-old daughter what fun felt like. “Happy and excited,” the little girl said.
There you go.
Wealth can be ‘fake fun’
Wealth and material possessions are not fun in themselves (seriously, it’s true). Don’t work so hard, toiling into the wee hours to give your family the comforts you think they need, that you lose your sense of fun in the process.
They won’t thank you for it. They need your sense of fun more than the gear.
Anyway, being surrounded by too much stuff is fake fun, just like digital media. Watch out for fake fun that leaves you dependent on it and robs your joy. At one point, Catherine realised she was feeding her baby while scrolling through her phone messages.
She caught herself up. The baby was looking at her! She could have been soaking up her child’s satisfied expression! What on earth was she doing? She put the device down.
Of course, we all already know most of the things we’re saying in this story. But like with the deepest truths in life, we need to be reminded, especially in times of stress.
And at least we know there is a route towards fun, even if we forget about it for long periods. Point is, we can train ourselves to have more fun. When we do so, we are more fun. And fun people attract good colleagues, better friends, and even romantic partners.
And even if none of that works out, you’ll be better company to yourself. It’ll be a better life.
What’s not to like?
We hope you enjoyed reading this story. We’ve had a lot of fun exploring it! This is why we’ve decided to add a section to the Dolphin Bay Brief called “Our Fun,” to accompany the other weighty categories like “Our industry” and “Our economy.”
Keen to contribute some light-hearted ideas or stories? Let us know.
We’d enjoy hearing from you.