I just added a link to my white paper on Do it Well. Make it Fun. The link is on the home page. Plus, you can read it below. It’s long, but well worth it!
Life is short.
In a relative, big picture kind of way.
So, we must make the most of the short time we have in this world. Whether you’ve just begun your career or you’ve been at it for decades, there is always time to change the way you approach your work (and your life for that matter). Abraham Lincoln said, “It’s not about the days in your life, but the life in your days.” Apparently under his stoic appearance was a party animal.
Richness. Success. Responsibility. They’re all about making the most of your days not matter how many days you have left in your life. That’s the foundational principle of “Do it Well. Make it Fun.” The idea that excellence plus fun equal a valuable and valued existence.
I spent a decade in hospice care (as an employee, not a patient). I began that work as a 25-year old social worker and eventually moved into a senior leadership position. I couldn’t have asked for a better job to begin my professional career. Hospice taught me to value life. Hospice taught me that time is limited. And hospice taught me that we don’t want to have regrets when we get to the end of our lives. In fact, I had a button displayed in my office that read, “Live each day as if it were your last. Because one day, you’ll be right.”
I love that concept. It combines a sacred truth with a bit of humor for a profound concept worth paying attention to. Because, you just never know. You never know what tomorrow will bring. So why not prepare for the unknown by making the most of the known – today? Eckhart Tolle, in his book The Power of Now, refers to it as paying attention to the “now” because now is all we have.
Do it Well, Make it Fun refers to the now. It suggests that in everything we do (like right now), if we do it well while making the experience, or the process, more fun, we will achieve even more. It begins with excellence but it’s more than that. It’s also about joy, or en-joy-ment. It’s recapturing the childhood sense of fun and wonder that many of us lost after entering into the bitter, cynical, depths of adulthood. We shouldn’t have listened to those who admonished us to just grow up and act like an adult. Instead, we should have grown up and had fun.
If we want to add more life to our days, then we need to find both the best and the funnest in who we are. It’s not rocket surgery.
Do it Well. Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a classic – and one of my favorite books. Right beside it, on my bookshelf, is The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. Both books explain how to become a better person. And since the books sold billions of copies, it seems that most of us have a desire to be better. But knowing how and what to improve is often a stumbling block to doing things well.
I tend to be self aware – sometimes to a fault. I adopted this skill during graduate school when I was being trained as a therapist. In addition to learning about different therapeutic techniques, I was constantly reminded that my own “issues” were obstacles to objectively helping someone else with their emotional and psychological problems. Time and time again I was asked to determine the motives for my own behaviors as a way to make sure my issues didn’t interfere with my work. Of course the down side of that today is that I’m continually asking myself, “How do I feel about this? How do I feel about that?”
Nonetheless, being self aware is the first step to excellence. You cannot improve something if you’re not aware that it needs improvement. Unfortunately, most people are not as self aware as they need to be. Even if we are aware, we have blind spots that prevent us from seeing our true selves.
I had a supervisor who had serious blind spots. She was forever saying things out loud that were better left in her head. Her comments hurt and offended others creating a work environment that was unhealthy. When I suggested that she could improve her communication skills, she looked at me as if I really didn’t know what I was talking about. She felt her communication skills were fine and did not see the need to change them. So, she had two problems. Not only did she have poor communication skills, but she had no ability to recognize it. Eventually, she was fired. I can’t help but wonder if she ever saw the relationship between her inability to improve and her firing. Somehow I doubt it.
To do things well, we must constantly seek insightful feedback and look objectively at the things we do to determine where we need to improve. Do we show up on time? Do we follow through? Do we thank others? Do we put the toilet seat down? Look at the areas in your life and work that are not going as well as you wish and explore ways to improve them. If you constantly seek to do things well, you will live a rich life and what’s more, you will enrich the lives of those around you. That’s the power of excellence.
Make it Fun. I’ve been studying the benefits of humor and laughter for more than 20 years. And while there is a difference between humor and fun, I believe humor is one of the most effective ways of having fun. According to Webster, fun is defined as “that which provides amusement and enjoyment.” Humor, on the other hand, is defined as “the quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous.” It’s also defined as “something designed to be amusing.” So, amusement is the common thread.
But why is fun important?
Life contains joy and tragedy. To appreciate one, you have to appreciate the other. Those who do not have the ability to experience tragedy cannot truly experience joy. And vice versa. Joy, fun, humor, and enjoyment are all necessary for a rich and balanced life.
And when combined with excellence, humor creates an approachability and an effectiveness that is extraordinary. If you’ve ever had a boss that was really good at what he or she did but was fun to be around as well, you would do anything for them. You wanted to work for that person and you wanted to come to work. That’s the power of fun and excellence. The integrity is there but so is the joy.
Southwest Airlines has cracked this excellence-fun code by running a profitable and successful company in which people want to work. The culture is fun but does not sacrifice the success of the organization to achieve the fun.
I was on a Southwest flight one day when the plane landed roughly. The pilot came on the intercom and said, “I’m really sorry about that landing folks but it wasn’t my fault. And it wasn’t the co-pilots fault. It was the asphalt.”
The passengers were cracking up and we very relaxed after the comic relief.
The perfect icing on the excellence cake is a bit of fun.
Everything is Process. Everything we do is a process. Every process has steps. Every step can be improved and can be more fun. It’s that simple and does not need to be more complicated.
For instance, pick a process. Go ahead. Any process.
How about Driver’s Ed? Remember how the manual took you through the steps for starting the car? It went something like this:
Put your seat belt on.
Check your mirrors.
Put your foot on the brake.
Put the key in the ignition.
Turn the key.
Push on the accelerator.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Today, we do these things automatically and don’t realize that we’re going through each step of the process. But if you want to ultimately do things well and make them fun, you must break down the processes in your life and work into steps. And then analyze the steps for possible changes.
In a recent training session, I took the group through the experience of making a boring, routine process more enjoyable. They chose the task of walking the dog. As we outlined the different steps to the process, we got to the step of securing a “poop bag” to clean up after the dog. Then we discussed ways to make the different steps more fun. My favorite idea was putting a picture of someone you don’t like on the poop bag. Then, the disgusting process of cleaning up seems much more enjoyable. That’s how you take one step in a process you don’t enjoy and turn the entire process into something more tolerable.
Everything in life is a process. If you do every process well while making it more fun, I truly believe you will add life to your days.