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The Power of Having Fun

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Fun is the key to success!

If you want to be successful, having fun is not an option. It's a necessity. By making fun a top priority—taking meaningful, enjoyable breaks each day, week, month, and year—you'll not only be happier but be more productive, too!

Using scientific evidence, real-world case studies, and a healthy dose of wit, bestselling author Dave Crenshaw shows that a regular respite is like a little oasis in your workday. It refreshes and reinvigorates, recharges your batteries—helping you accomplish more with less effort!

The Power of Having Fun coaches you through the five-step system thousands of leaders have utilized to boost productivity and propel their careers—all while feeling fantastic! Let Dave Crenshaw lower your stress, raise your results, and restore recess to your routine.

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23 Chapters

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1. Lost in the Desert


Consider the tales of two executives . . . well, three.

There was once a business owner. He was a young man growing a moderately successful business. He hired employees. He made the sales. He managed the managers. He processed the profits. And most of all, he hustled . . . hard.

So hard, in fact, that when he invited me to provide some productivity coaching, it was clear that he was on his last leg. He was dragging himself through roughly eighty work hours per week. When I first heard that number, my CEO-coach-Spidey-sense began tingling. Putting it bluntly, I’m of the belief that any person who works more than sixty hours per week just simply does not know how to manage time — regardless of how productive they believe they are.

We did a deep dive. We accounted for every lunch break, meeting, phone call, nook, and cranny. Was time management a problem? Of course. But deep within the recesses of this man’s schedule was a secret I was not expecting.

He was a paragon of the community. People flocked to him seeking guidance. He was well liked and had many important friends. His employees respected him. His competition feared him.


2. Building Your Oasis


Remember the two stories I began with? Let’s return to them to hear how they turned out. The envelope, please!

The young business owner was slumped in his chair, defeated by a natural 20 roll by his business coach wielding the +1 sword of truth.

“You’re going to make me stop playing Warcraft aren’t you?” he muttered in defeat.

“No, I’m not going to tell you to stop.” I then asked, “Is it necessary for you to play these games? Does taking a break to jump into the game help you have a clear mind for work?”

“Yeah, it does, actually.” “Then I’m not going to tell you to stop. I’m going to tell you to schedule it.”

After much discussion and some debate, we settled on five hours a week being a far more appropriate amount of time. This schedule allowed him to play in a focused way, slicing and dicing warlocks with ease. He scheduled one hour at the end of each day, before he went home. These virtual battles gave him the ability to clear his mind of the day’s real-life business battles. He could then focus his attention on enjoying his time with his family.


3. Your Fun Scorecard


When it comes to having fun, how are you doing?

This is sort of an odd question, isn’t it? Most people, if cornered by Katie Couric on the street, would respond by saying they are a “fun” person. However, I’m less interested in how fun or interesting or funny you are and more interested in how effective you are at having fun on a consistent basis. First, let’s examine the three distinct kinds of Oases that we want to measure.

You’ve likely heard of work-life balance, right? It’s all the rage these days! It’s the belief in a healthy relationship between hours spent in the workplace and hours spent outside work.

For this book, I’m more interested in your Oasis balance. This is the idea that you want to have a healthy amount of fun in three aspects of your life: personal, family, and work. Think of it as a three-legged stool, with all the legs evenly bearing the load of your massive Oasis strategy.

The Personal Oasis is all about you making time for yourself. Are you carving out enough time in your schedule to have some fun outside working hours and away from everyone else? When you’ve been thinking of having fun, if you’re thinking about “me time,” you’ve been viewing it in terms of the Personal Oasis. However, understanding it and living it are two different things. I’ll address assembling your Personal Oases in part two of this book.


4. The Five Stages


I remember watching Mary Poppins when I was a kid. Besides having the hots for Julie Andrews, I remember falling madly in love with the theme of the song “A Spoonful of Sugar.”* The big takeaway from that song is that any task can be made less dreadful if we make it fun. Whether it’s cleaning your room, training employees, or creating a two-hundred-page report, a spoonful of fun will make the task far more manageable.

So that’s what we’ll do . . . you and me in your office, before I open my umbrella and fly to some other business.

Think your situation is particularly tough? I’ll bet you I’ve had clients in far worse shape. And my guess? You’ll find yourself loving this process. They were skeptical, too, but once they got in the groove, not a single one of them said, “I hate this.” Instead, their response has been, “How have I lived my life for so long without doing this!”

Consider one coaching client I’ve been working with for many years now. When we began the coaching process, she was clocking close to sixty hours a week and barely keeping her head above water with the multiple-location school she owned. She was frustrated. She was tired. She wasn’t getting to where she wanted to go — plus she was ready to have another child. Being a mother was important to her, but she didn’t see how she would have the time.


5. Stage One: Your Permission to Play


For a moment, imagine that you’re nine years old. Your teacher is lecturing about the importance of long division or vowels. You’re waiting for the hour hand on the clock to reach 2. You may still have a tough time reading analog clocks, but you know that the 2 means recess time. The time arrives, and, like a Tasmanian devil, you recklessly shove your school supplies into your desk and run out the door. For a solid fifteen to twenty minutes, you play foursquare, tag, follow the leader, make-believe, and — the mother of all recess games — kickball.

Different countries use different words: recess, break, interval, playtime, free period, morning tea. Whatever you call it, the result and the meaning are the same: a necessary break for children from the rigors of schoolwork. The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly emphasized that children need to have downtime between cognitive challenges. Even the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has weighed in, recognizing the right for children to play as an essential part of their well-being.


6. Stage Two: Discovering Your Fun


Are you a list maker? Some people are masters at creating lists — they live for it. I dabble, but I don’t delve. For instance, I occasionally play around with my list of top-five movie actors (Cumberbatch and DiCaprio are usually near the top). Or sometimes it’s my favorite Coca-Cola Freestyle concoctions (Vanilla Sprite + Fanta Lime = key lime — try it, you won’t be sorry). And, of course, there is my top-five song list for Jazzercise (“She’s a Maniac” beats “Vogue” by a nose).

Pretty much all of us are familiar with the idea of the play-list. Whether it’s Netflix or iTunes, we love filling up those lists with films and tunes that tickle our fancy. Building this list in advance makes it easy for us to sit down, relax, and enjoy at a moment’s notice. However, listening to music or watching Netflix all day often fails to leave us feeling fulfilled.

Others, to bridge that gap of fulfillment, have created a bucket list — the semimorbid idea of listing things you’ll do before you kick the bucket. Usually, these ideas range from the relatively mundane (visit Lichtenstein) to the downright dangerous (participate in the Running of the Bulls) to the just plain weird (go to a live taping of The Price Is Right dressed as Guy Fieri). However, the concept can sometimes leave people feeling that they’re falling short. Why? Because they don’t have enough money — or time — to complete these amazing activities, and often they get lost in the shuffle of living in the real world.


7. Stage Three: Scheduling Your Oases


Have you got your Personal Oasis list? Great. The next step is to establish a schedule. In particular, we want to establish a pattern of recurring Oases that you will enjoy, regardless of what might be happening in work or in life.

Oases come first. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are the first thing you do in the day. In fact, many of my clients enjoy their Personal Oases near the end of each day. “Come first” means they are scheduled as a top priority. You reserve time in your calendar for Oases, and everything else needs to fit around them.

To get a feel for how this works, let’s find the smallest, least expensive thing you put on your Oasis List from the last chapter. Look in the Daily column and find something easy, like five minutes of shadow boxing each day.

Scheduling time for this requires that you have a calendar you use regularly. Whether it’s paper or digital doesn’t matter. When in doubt, go digital; it will make this process easier for you in the long run.


8. Stage Four: Protecting Your Oases


Wouldn’t it be perfect if everything went according to the schedule you created? That by virtue of putting something on your calendar, it just happened and nothing got in the way? Wouldn’t it be nice if life, work, and the kids just rolled over and accepted that having an Oasis is a top priority?

Yeah, good luck.

What we need is a just-in-case scenario that protects you from having these time slots tampered with — because they will get disrupted. Count on it.

However, we can inoculate you against these disruptions. Think about what a vaccination does. I, anticipating a lot of exposure to the world of bacteria and disease, preempt infection by getting a shot. And, just like that, I don’t have to worry about smallpox pretty much ever. Because science.

You can do much the same thing for your day by crafting a few personalized inoculations against the top-five critters that will fight against you enjoying these Oases.

Are you just too busy? People are continually in a state of perpetual motion. They work so hard, their minds constantly churning over all the work they need to do, that they find it hard to stop and take a break. I exposed this problem in my book The Myth of Multitasking, where I talk about how switching rapidly back and forth between tasks causes people to make more mistakes. People take longer to get things done, and their stress levels increase. Being busy intensifies multi-tasking, which is really just rapid switch-tasking in disguise. If you constantly condition yourself to be in a state of busyness, implementing the Culture of WIN can sometimes be a real shock to the system.


9. Stage Five: Enjoying Your Oases


From a psychological standpoint, I find the enjoyment part of an Oasis most fascinating. Why? Because many people just plain don’t feel it.

Feel what? Happiness, joy, elation — that whatever they’re doing is pleasurable. There is a shocking epidemic of emotional numbness, especially when it comes to enjoying the simplest pleasures in life.

In candid, private conversations that I have with my coaching clients, I find more and more people wondering whether they are able to feel emotions at all. I even had a client wonder out loud whether he was a sociopath. He isn’t, in case you’re wondering. But because he felt so numb, to him, it felt like a legitimate question.

Why do so many of us feel that we’re not connecting emotionally to what is happening around us? Some people face a psychological smattering of unique challenges; I’ll mention mine later in this chapter.

However, in my experience of working with executives around the world, I find most of us feel this way as the result of cultural conditioning. Our world is in constant motion, with us continually jumping back and forth between email and the phone. We are perpetually connected online. The news is hardwired to promote that which grabs attention, and negative always outsells the positive in that department. We are increasingly looking for a payout via the social-media, peer-approval vending machine. FoMO, or the fear of missing out, has become a primary motivator in so many lives.


10. Stage One: Family Permission


While we’ve discussed finding little nuggets of joy in your personal life, we’ve yet to discover that balance for the people in your family. Having fun with your family has five stages, just as your Personal Oases do. Yet how you apply this process to your family is a bit different.

Remember, when I say family, I mean the most flexible definition possible. For the sake of clarity, family can include your traditional family — if you’re close to them — as well as best friends, parents, siblings, boyfriends/girlfriends, the grandparents you never forget to visit on weekends, your party-animal roommates, and even your trusted dog Sparky.*

Let’s get right down to it. If these people care about you, they want to see you and spend time with you. Being with you is a strength to them and vice versa. You must make time for these people. Not just for you. Not just for your work. But for them. Yes, you’re doing work to make money, which is important for taking care of necessities — for you and those that you love. Yet, after you’ve satisfied the physiological rung in Maslow’s proverbial hierarchy of needs, what they really want is you.


11. Stage Two: Discovering Family Fun


On one occasion, I found myself speaking in a special location: Tanzania, in the city of Dar es Salaam. One might be tempted to refer to this place as an actual oasis. There was something surreal about working a room and speaking as the waves crashed along the shore of Coco Beach, with the ocean breeze wafting into the room.

My seminar to local business leaders covered what we’ve been discussing: taking more time with family members and enjoying these moments with the people we love. The day after the event, I managed to get some feedback from a few of the attendees. One story stayed with me.

Apparently, one attendee went back home to his wife and told her something along the lines of “This guy from America had a great idea. He said we should schedule daily, weekly, and monthly time for just you and me. What do you want to do?”

After she got over the initial shock, the man’s wife didn’t need more than a second to think about it. She replied, “Once a month, let’s sleep under the stars.”


12. Stage Three: Scheduling Family Oases


This is a moment of commitment. Are you ready?

Let’s schedule your Family Oases.

We want to set up these

Family Oases to happen at a time that works easily for both you and the other family members involved. Also, we’ll want to allow for extra room in your schedule so that you don’t feel rushed. This shouldn’t feel like a chore to be checked off your to-do list. After all, what good is an Oasis if it is only a mirage?

Let’s begin with the easiest possible thing that you can schedule: the daily Family Oasis with your significant other.

Find a time to chat with your closest loved one. In the conversation, schedule a brief, recurring daily Family Oasis for the two of you to enjoy together.

It’s likely that you’ll experience what many of my clients have reported — that this act of setting up time for an Oasis brought them closer to their loved one . . . even before they did anything!

Let’s move on to the next step and create a weekly win. Remember, if you have a weekly Oasis, like watching Monday night WWE Raw (I won’t judge), you don’t need to have a daily Oasis on Mondays. Let’s not double-dip the chip!


13. Stage Four: Protecting Family Oases


When it comes to protecting the Family Oasis, many of the same tactics we used to protect the Personal Oasis still apply. If you want an in-depth review, you may want to reread chapter 10. However, here is a quick recap to jog your memory:

1. Not enough time? Schedule buffer time in your day for when your schedule gets hectic.

2. Feeling guilty? Encourage others to schedule Oases, and remember that performance depends on these Oases!

3. Not feeling up to it? Leave free “buffer” time before, psych yourself up by remembering the value, and just do it!

4. Difficult vacation hassles? Book your trip in advance and establish time both before and after the vacation to get caught up on everything.

5. Too costly? Establish a budget, limited to 50 percent of what you can afford, and set up a savings account for the bigger monthly and yearly Oases.

You can apply these same tools to protect your Family Oases. There are also a couple of unique issues when it comes to having fun with loved ones. See if you’ve run into these obstacles before:


14. Stage Five: Enjoying Family Oases


Just as we did when we learned about acknowledging our Personal Oasis, let’s acknowledge the Oases we share with loved ones. While dopamine helps us increase our desire to succeed every time we experience it, oxytocin and a variety of other chemicals have a role in creating a bond between us and others.

Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” It facilitates bonding between people, such as a parent to a child or a spouse to a spouse. For most people, it doesn’t take hours of hugging or even person-to-person interaction to generate a feeling of closeness. A study by Grewen, Anderson, Girdler, and Light, published in Behavioral Medicine, found that brief contact with a supportive partner reduces the stress associated with difficult tasks and may even have cardiovascular benefits.

Just a little time, attention, and effort. Slow down. Take it in.

By making time to absorb and enjoy fun moments with others, we are not only improving performance but also creating a stronger neurological bond with those we care about most. As I discussed previously, when we have that stronger bond, it improves our quality of life as well as our performance at work.


15. Mixing Fun and Business


Are you unhappy with your job? Do you feel like your manager doesn’t respect you? Do you feel like the CEO has no clue about what’s going on at your level in the company? If so, you’re not alone.

So many workers imagine the “perfect” work environment and strictly affix their notion of happiness to that ideal. They make the pinnacle of happiness and well-being contingent upon how well their current job lines up with the model that they’ve created in their mind.

A recent Gallup survey found that only about one-third of US employees consider themselves engaged at work. This means that about two-thirds could care less — or are even hostile — about the work they’re doing and the company they’re working for. It’s even worse outside the United States, with over 80 percent of employees in the disengaged category. Yet companies with highly engaged workforces outperform competitors by 147 percent.

Each year, Fortune magazine enlists the aid of the Great Place to Work Institute to compile the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list. Companies covet and seek membership in this rare group. Talk about a recruiting boost! For all employees who work for the companies on the list, the phrase “this is a fun place to work” most highly correlated among all survey statements with this phrase: “Taking everything into account, I consider this a great place to work.”


16. The Executive Level


The tippy top of the organization chart is often referred to as C-level, because of the C you find in CEO, CFO, CIO, or CAO — chief awesomeness officer — or whatever hip water-cooler acronym is currently in style. That C stands for chief because you’re the head honcho. The big cheese. The alpha.

However, for our exercise, C is for culture, and that’s good enough for me. Your perspective at the top of the organization chart is pivotal to the culture of your business.

A business is the mirror of its leadership. Your personality will be reflected in the company culture, for good or for bad.

Let’s suppose that, just occasionally, you allow yourself to work one hundred plus hours per week. Your employees, who begin to see that as the standard, will begin to mimic your behavior. Before long, they will be burned out and maybe even begin looking for work elsewhere. You’ll be without employees. You’ll go from C-level to below sea level. Time to turn this ship around!


17. The Management Level


Okay, managers. Question time!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every executive in your company read this book and agreed with it? That would be fantastic, right? Being a manager would be so much easier.

Some companies are more flexible and open when it comes to this stuff. Yet for most, the life of middle management is a realm of limited control. Painful yet true.

For the purpose of this chapter, let’s assume the worst-case scenario. Let’s imagine that you, as a manager, are essentially on an island when it comes to this Oasis stuff. The C-level execs haven’t gotten their hands on this book yet — let alone read it and agreed with it. No employees who work under you have any idea about the Culture of WIN or Oases or any of this cool stuff. You’re the only person in your company who has read this book.

What is your next move? Do you even have a move to make? You should. Per the Kelly Global Workforce Index, 63 percent of employees claim their managers have a direct influence on their job satisfaction. Additionally, 74 percent feel less loyalty toward their employer than a year ago. If you take a moment to read between those two lines, there are a couple of hidden messages:


18. The Employee Level


As the song goes, “One is the loneliest number.” Sometimes you’re flying solo, a lone wolf. Whether you are in a company of ten or a company of tens of thousands, sometimes you just can’t get managers, C-level executives, or anyone else on board. Maybe you’re the only person who bought The Power of Having Fun, let alone the only person who bought into the message.

Remember, you are in control. Even if both your management and C-level executives combined were against this policy 100 percent, you could still have fun and be refreshed. Even if you’re flipping burgers and dunking fries at minimum wage, you still control your destiny. Like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, you have the power.*

Let’s take a look at what you can do with all that power.

First, creating your Oases outside work hours is always in play. Always.

Worst-case scenario: You’re working two jobs with little time to spare. You could still create a daily Personal Oasis of just five minutes to sit still, take some deep breaths, and listen to that favorite song of yours at full blast. That’s your Oasis, and no one can take it from you. Don’t let them. Your long-term livelihood depends upon it.


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