Thou Shalt Not Have Fun in Elevators

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Willy Wonka’s glass elevator was an Adultitis Antidote. How many elevators can you say that about?

With all due respect to Aerosmith, elevators are not usually bastions of fun. They are awkward little boxes in which everyone stares blankly at the floor numbers, tightens the sphincter, and puts on their best grown-up face while staring straight ahead. It’s the equivalent of entering a walk-in closet with random strangers and closing the door.

But taking a page out of Mr. Wonka’s book is not that hard.

My friend Dan plays a game called Elevator Fight Club with his kids. When they are in an elevator together, after the doors close, they begin a fake boxing match with each other. The action stops as soon as the doors re-open. Dan has reported that it’s not uncommon for the fight to resume quietly even when someone else is with them. And of course, the first rule of Elevator Fight Club is that you do not talk about Elevator Fight Club, so I’ve already said too much.

twister-elevatorInnocent, a UK-based maker of fruit juices and smoothies, installed a Twister game in their elevator. How awesome is that? I suspect it is nearly impossible to walk into that elevator and not smile. Which is actually the genius of it. Full-blown human knots don’t have to result for an idea like this to reap benefits. Even if no one actually plays the game, just the fact that it’s there makes the company more buzz worthy, and a more fun place to work.

Some people report that they sometimes face the back of the elevator while everyone else is facing forward. I’ll admit that I’m not brave enough to try that, but I’m sure it makes Adultitis very uncomfortable.

Adultitis dominates certain locations in this world, and there is no doubt the elevator is one of them. If you ask me, it’s a perfect place for a full-on assault against this vile enemy.

What are YOUR favorite ways to have fun in an elevator?

Thou Shalt Not Sulk

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Corinne had just finished a long, hard day at work. She was looking forward to enjoying a juicy leftover hamburger from last night’s dinner, but when she opened the fridge, she discovered they were all gone. Fuming, she plopped into her recliner, wrapped herself in a blanket, crossed her arms, and settled in for a good sulk.

Corinne reported that she felt guilty for pouting, but the next day realized that her self-contained pity party wasn’t all bad.

She said, “It was a non-violent way to combat my tiredness and frustration, no yelling, no recriminations involved, and I eventually ended up calming down enough to find something else to eat anyway. Happy ending.”

Corinne’s story reminded me of the first time Kim and I were in Miami. One of the main things I wanted to do was experience South Beach. Three minutes in to the only opportunity we had to spend time there, it started to downpour. The weather forecast indicated it would stay that way all day. We had no choice but to postpone our beach fun for another time.

As Kim drove through the city, raindrops raced across the windshield taunting me, and I sat in the passenger seat sulking. Like Corinne, I felt guilty for doing so. I am the guy who makes a living fighting Adultitis, and here I was smack dab in the middle of an Adultitis-riddled pity party. I should be able to let this roll right off me, I thought. I am a hippocrite of the highest order, I thought.

Then, in that moment, I decided to be kind to myself. I gave myself permission to sulk. I gave myself permission to be disappointed, to feel the hurt, and to entertain the thought that the universe had conspired against me to send rain clouds and ruin my day. As I sat there fuming, I threw myself a most extravagant pity party.

And after about fifteen minutes, I started to feel better. I was ready to start thinking about all the good things we were able to do in Miami, and how in the grand scheme of things, this little thunderstorm was as small as it gets. In the end, the change of plans only ruined about fifteen minutes, instead of the whole day.

I am all for being optimistic and positive thinking (I’m a Cubs fan, for goodness sakes!). But life is meant to be lived and it’s meant to be felt. Sometimes the feelings are joy and elation, sometimes they are disappointment and grief, but they are all a part of being truly alive. Putting on a happy face to mask some sadness is not all that different than using drugs and alcohol to numb a deep pain. The problem is that those feelings never really go away, and in many cases, they bubble up later with devastating consequence.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to live in a world filled with Negative Nellies and Sulking Sams. But I think that it’s ok to experience the full spectrum of feeling alive, be it good, bad, or ugly. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself permission to be sad when you’re sad, hurt when you’re hurt, and disappointed when you’re disappointed. Those experience in the valley make the mountaintop moments all the more rich.

Sometimes a good sulk can be good for the soul.

Thou Shalt Not Let Thine Princess Dress Get Wet

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A half mile from our house, there is a row of lakefront homes. A small sliver of land between two of the behemoths serves as a public access point to the lake. Last week, an hour before the sun tucked itself in for the night, we pushed our strollers through the skinny green passageway to enjoy the pint-sized plot of beach that was ours.

It wasn’t long before Lucy began wading in the water, delighted by the sand squishing between her toes. She was wearing last year’s Halloween costume — a pink and yellow princess dress — because, well…just because. The gentle waves kissed the bottom of her gown. I considered telling her to be careful not to ruin it, but reasoned that a little water never hurt anyone.

Meanwhile, Ben was outfitted in his Incredible Hulk costume — you know, just because —and was lying face-down in the sand like a big green turtle who had come in with the tide to build a nest. We’d be finding sand on him days later.

By the time I turned my attention back to Lucy, she was in lake water up to her armpits, sparkly princess dress and all! I stood there, in stunned silence, as the supercomputer in my brain whizzed through its vast database in search of some rule frowning upon the intermingling of lakes and princess dresses. The warm smile that beamed widely across her face suggested that perhaps this was yet another rule that doesn’t exist.

In that moment, Lucy was unquestionably living life as well as it can be lived.

Too often, we fall far short of this ideal. Why? Because we’re afraid of getting our princess dress wet.

Our “princess dress” is the carefully-curated version of ourself that we show off to others. It’s the way we look, speak, and act. It’s our degree and our job title, our home and hairstyle, our cars, clothes, and 401ks, all wrapped into one pretty package and tied with a bow that signifies that we are responsible, sophisticated, and successful.

In order to keep this princess dress looking good, we must live a life of restraint. No full-out running, no sitting on the ground, no eating messy things, and certainly no swimming in lakes.

We are given countless opportunities to dive headfirst in to the experience of life, but we are too afraid to mess up our hair, our clothes, or our reputation. Because running through puddles, making a mess, or doing something silly for sheer sake of fun sullies the dress we’ve worked so hard to preserve.

While settling for good enough, we miss the insanely great.

Guess what? After the dip in the lake, Lucy’s princess dress went into the washing machine and came out good as new.

Don’t settle for dipping your toes into this adventure called life. For best results, spend more of your time up to your armpits in awesome.

Don’t be afraid to get your princess dress wet.

Thou Shalt Repeat Airplane Safety Instructions as if Thy Were a Robot Low on Batteries

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Southwest Airlines doesn’t operate out of Madison. If it did, I’d be tempted to fly it, mostly because of their reputation for having Adultitis-free flight attendants. I don’t even know how accurate that reputation is anymore, but it was refreshing to get a taste of how I perceive it to be on a recent Delta flight.

We were greeted by an enthusiastic (but not annoyingly so) young man who said, “I’m Ryan and I’m your MC on this one hour and twenty minute flight of aviation excitement!”

Accustomed to airline announcements sounding like they’re being delivered by Charlie Brown’s teacher, my ears perked up. As he went though the standard list of safety regulations, he playfully called out some of the inherent ridiculousness: “Now for the tricky part. To fasten your already-fastened seat belts…”

He even included some audience participation. “I’m assisted today by Courtney, who was recently named flight attendant of the YEAR. Let’s have a round of applause for Courtney!” To which the entire flight broke out into applause for a woman who, judging by her reaction, had NOT in fact been named flight attendant of the year.

He finished his short but entertaining spiel by saying, “If there is anything we can do to make your dreams come true, please press the green call button and Courtney will most likely be able to assist you. I, on the other hand, am not capable of such things.”

Over the years, Southwest has emphasized fun by making it part of the company culture. In short, they give employees permission to have fun. Ryan from Delta reminded me that it is not a rule that everyone else has to go through the prescribed pre-flight announcements sounding like a cyborg on its last battery cell.

So what does this have to do with you non-flight attendants out there?

While it would be great for every company to be wise to the benefits of fun, keep in mind that not giving permission is not the same as prohibition. Whether you are a flight attendant or an accountant or an administrative assistant, fun might not be an expressed part of the job description. But that doesn’t mean it’s banned. (If it is, you might want to find a new job.)

If you have a sense of humor, don’t leave it at home. If you have boilerplate babble you have to repeat day in and day out, maybe you can take some cues from Ryan and add a little personality to the script. If you have some otherwise boring task that must be done, see if there is a way to intermingle some mirth.

Humor can make people more comfortable, more trusting, more forthcoming, and more amiable. If you think your clients, customers, students, or patients could be a little more of those things, don’t wait for permission to make work more fun.

Soar to new heights with some unexpected silliness.

Thou Shalt Determine a Thing’s Importance by How Easily it Can Be Measured

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How can you tell if the story you’re living is any good?

Before a speech I gave recently, the executive director of the organization that hired me was sharing the results of a survey they had commissioned to evaluate their effectiveness. By all accounts, this organization had met or exceeded all of their performance metrics. But as the leader admitted, “most performance metrics don’t tell a really good story.”

She’s right, you know. Things like income, expenses, and profit margins can give us a handy snapshot of the health and growth of an organization. But they do not tell the whole story. In fact, they can be a rather poor reflection of happiness delivered or lives changed.

After all, who can accurately measure how profoundly a soul has been moved? Or the precise generational impact of a tool that empowers an individual to lift themselves out of poverty? It’s much easier to calculate the things that are easily measured — like last quarter’s profits — and assume everything else takes care of itself. At best, this technique only provides part of the story. At worst, it can lead us down some bad roads.

Even more dangerous is when we measure our lives in the same way. Just like in business, our personal lives have a set of standard metrics that make for easy guideposts, not just to chart our own progress, but to compare ourselves with others.

Here are a few:

How much money do you make? How many Facebook friends do you have? How many square feet make up your home? What is it worth? What titles do you have or awards have you won? How many degrees have you earned? How many letters are after your name? How many hours do you work? How big is your office? How expensive is your car? What is your kids’ GPA? How many extracurricular activities are they involved in? How much money does that cost you? What about their tuition? How many boards do you serve on?

The answers to each of those questions are easily calculated. Many of us spend the majority of our time monitoring those stats while assuming that our efforts spent to increase them will result in a corresponding uptick in the quality of our story.

Not so fast. Just because something can be measured doesn’t make it important.

Try these questions on for size:

How interesting is your life? How adventurous is it? How fulfilled are you? How much of a difference are you making? How loved do you feel? How excited are you to start each day? How happy are you? How content?

That last group of questions is awfully hard to quantify. But they have a lot more to do with the awesomeness of your story than the size of your paycheck, your home, or your kids tuition bill.

Thou Shalt Wait for Permission from Your Boss Before Doing Something Awesome

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Did you know that Steven Spielberg was actually going to use stop-motion to animate the dinosaurs for his film Jurassic Park? It was a no-brainer, especially since he had Phil Tippett, the master puppeteer who was responsible for bringing many of the Star Wars creatures to life. But then some rebels at Industrial Light & Magic who lived by the motto “Always question the established system” did some covert experimenting and the results ended up changing Jurassic Park — and movies — forever.

“I love the term ‘you will never.’ If I had listened to ‘you will never,’ the T-Rex never would have been built.” —Steve “Spaz” Williams

This neat short film tells the story.

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Thou Shalt Tear Here

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I totally opened this from the other side and my Horsey Sauce came out just fine, so…#notarule.

Thou Shalt Be Excited When School’s Out for Summer

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What’s a sadder reflection on our modern educational system: the fact that “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper is the de facto theme for students everywhere this time of year, or the fact that almost no one stops to consider that maybe it’s a problem that so many people feel this way about school?

I wonder… is “Thou shalt be excited when school’s out for the summer” a rule that doesn’t need to exist?

I’ll admit, the first day of summer vacation for me was always gloriously delicious. It meant freedom. But freedom from what, exactly?

  • Freedom from being told what to do all day long.
  • Freedom from having to jump through hoops for other people.
  • Freedom from having to spend most of the day memorizing facts and being lectured to about things I had no interest in whatsoever.
  • Freedom from the pressure of having to measure up to the artificial standards of coolness as decided on by a consensus of my immature peers.
  • Freedom from tests and book reports and homework!

What if you reimagined school so that every day felt like the first day of summer vacation?

  • Freedom to finally spend most of my day on projects you are interested in.
  • Freedom to spend a whole day (or week!) on a project if you wanted to.
  • Freedom to spend more time outside in nature.
  • Freedom to spend more time around (and be friends with) people of different ages and backgrounds.
  • Freedom to be yourself and not worry about what’s “cool” or not.
  • Freedom to do nothing once in a while.

That, my friends, is called homeschooling.

For me, it’s weird to think of taking a break from learning. The truth is that kids are learning every day, whether they are in school or not. So am I. So are you. But I get it. For kids, school is associated with learning. That’s why we’re sent, to learn stuff. So naturally, if school stinks, so must learning.

Maybe I’m alone, but I think it’s sad that the surge of freedom associated with the first day of summer vacation is such a common feeling in our society.

One of the things that excites me most about our homeschooling adventure — especially with the interest-based approach we are taking — is the chance to make Mr. Cooper’s rock standard sound like a song from another planet to my kids.

Now that would really rock.

Photo by Geoff Llerena

A Nine-Year-Old Declares the One Good Thing About Being an Adult

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[This is a guest post by Champion of Childhood award winner Matt Haas (and his daughter Amelia.)]

I just finished reading the latest installment of the Escape Adulthood newsletter and it reminded me of a conversation I had recently with my nine-year-old daughter, Amelia.

We were driving home from school and she was lamenting that she “never wanted to grow up.” As a newly appointed Champion of Childhood, it was my duty to take a deeper dive on that comment and try and find a possible antidote to this dreaded disease. What did she know that we didn’t, and could it shine some light on this and maybe, just maybe, give us some sage advice to minimize the affliction? So I asked her to tell me why being a grown up is so bad. And I quote:

  1. Because you’re too big to do anything fun like kids rides and stuff.
  2. You look old and not like a kid.
  3. You have to stay home alone.
  4. You have to pay bills and taxes.
  5. You have to go shopping.
  6. You don’t like kids shows on TV anymore.
  7. You don’t like kids music anymore.
  8. You have to get a job.
  9. You have to clean the house.

The one and apparently only good thing about being an adult is……

  1. You get to have kids of your own, have a family and make all the rules!

So from the mouths of babes comes the answer to all that we seek. As “adults” we have the power to make all the rules, yet many of us fail to use the very power we are granted with age. Instead of making the right rules, like dance like no one is watching and the towel baths rule, we decide games are dangerous!

So tonight when you go home, stop whatever you are doing and watch your kids and they will help you decide what rules you really need to keep, and what ones you need to break! See you at the arcade!

Thy Father & Daughter Dance Must Take Place On Thine Actual Wedding Day

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When Lucy was a newborn, I used to dance with her in our apartment to a song called Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman. I’d support her little head with my hand while doing spins around the living room, as if it were a grand ballroom, absorbing as much of that newborn baby smell as I could. The song served as a wonderful reminder about how fast time flies, and that it won’t be long before I’ll be dancing with her on her wedding day.

We still dance to it once in a while. Damn thing makes me cry every time.

And then I came across this story, which also makes me cry. Rachel Wolf’s father is dying of pancreatic cancer. She couldn’t bear the thought of not having the opportunity to dance with him at her wedding. The fact that she’s not even engaged didn’t deter Rachel. So she bought a wedding dress, rented a limo, and invited family, friends, and her father to a nearby park for the special dance.

And what song did they dance to? You guessed it: Cinderella.

Here’s the video, along with a head’s up: grab a tissue.

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This story is reminiscent of the folks who moved up Christmas for a kid I knew who was dying of leukemia. Who says Christmas can’t be celebrated in September? Who says you can’t make your own adjustments to the “normal” wedding traditions?

This is it, guys. The daily stuff of life that happens unnoticed while we worry about the future and busily check things off to-do lists are the magical moments we’ll look back on with fondness. THESE are the good old days. Don’t miss them while you’re busy making other plans.

And don’t let any so-called rules keep you from creating scenes made for fairy tales.

Does this remind you of any scene-making small rebellions you’ve instigated or witnessed? Share them in the comments!

Hat tip to Donald Miller.

Thy Laundromat Shalt Be Boring and Unappealing

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“There’s nothing about a washing machine which says it has to stand in an unpleasant space.” — Ruud Belmans, Creative Director of Pinkeye

He’s right, you know. Washing machines may come with bulky instruction manuals written in seven different languages, but there has never been one printed with a rule stating that it should stand in an unpleasant space. Rules that don’t exist are EVERYWHERE, but they are so ingrained in us that we don’t even consider the benefits of breaking them.

The Belgians who dreamed up Wasbar did when they set out to design a new kind of laundromat. [Read more…]

Lucy Was Here

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Let it be known that my daughter Lucy was in an antique store called Whimsy in Carpenteria, California. As you can see here, it’s official.

Just like Oprah, Cher, and Madonna, one name is sufficient.

I love how she writes her name, with the backwards “c.” I’m really considering telling her to keep it that way, forever. It would make a killer logo.

And serve as a perpetual reminder to break the rules that need breaking.

Boy Suspended from School for Dressing Up Like…Fruit

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In the Adults Are Ruining Everything department, a kid got suspended for running around the field dressed as a banana during halftime of a high school football game.

My hero is reporter Pat Collins, who dresses up like a bunch of grapes for the interview. His best line:

“When you think about it, you might see their point. It starts with a banana, then all of a sudden you have an apple or an orange and maybe a grape and before you know it, you have FRUIT SALAD at the schools! We can’t have that.”

Hat tip to Mindy

Freedom I Can Wear

i-am-dressed-upFor years, Jason has been teasing me about my wardrobe around the house. I am the Mismatch Queen. “Homeless” is how he puts it, and I laugh — we both do. I DO HAVE matching comfy clothes. My mother-in-law faithfully supplies her three daughter-in-laws with cute new pj’s every Christmas Eve. (Thanks, Linda!)

And yet, when I enter my closet to “get cozy” (as Lucy puts it), I walk away looking like I am colorblind.

Why? I’m not sure.

But, I’ve come to the conclusion recently that “why” is the wrong question. [Read more…]

We’re Waiting for Your Revolution

Last year, Amazon.com sold more ebooks than printed books. It’s been a fascinating rise, ushered forth by the iPad and Kindle. Even more fascinating is seeing how the industry is reacting to it. In many ways, ebooks are upsetting the apple cart, and people with businesses geared toward the old way of doing things are not happy about it.

So it was with great interest that I read an article in Mental Floss magazine about the advent of paperback books, and their similar assault on the status quo. In 1939, Robert de Graff introduced softcover books to America, offering them for just 25¢, while many hardcover books were selling for over $2. Even though some European publishers had success selling softcovers, New York publishers didn’t think the cheap, flimsy books would translate to the American market.

They were wrong. [Read more…]

Thou Shalt Not Have Breakfast for Dinner


Somewhere along the line, certain foods got regulated to certain meal times. In many countries, it’s become widely accepted that some foods are for breakfast only.

Eggs. Pancakes. Orange juice. Waffles. Froot Loops.

Eat them at other times of day and you’re either a college student, a truck driver, or weird. [Read more…]

Mom and Daughter Celebrate May Day a Little Late


I have fond memories from childhood of May Day. We’d cut some of our beautiful irises and gently put them in homemade construction paper cones along with some candy and run giddily over to our neighbor Lois’ house to surprise her. The best part was ringing the doorbell and running away. When else can you do this?! [Read more…]

Steve Jobs: Breaker of the Rules That Don’t Exist


Who said computers were too complicated for regular folks?

Who said an electronic device can’t be powerful and beautiful?

Who said no one would pay for digital music?

Who said Grandma couldn’t make her own movies?

Who said a single person couldn’t change the world? [Read more…]

Thou Shalt Always Remove Thy Nametag Immediately After An Event


You’ve been there. You’ve attended a conference, a retreat, a networking meeting or some other event that required you to wear a nametag. And then, hours after the event is over, you look down in horror to find that you are STILL wearing it. It clings to your shirt, mocking you like a group of middle schoolers laughing at your generic bargain buy shoes from KMart.

Doh!

You shamefully reflect back to calculate how many people must have seen you wearing your idiocy on your shirt, but count yourself fortunate that you didn’t have to undergo death by embarrassment from someone actually pointing out the faux pas to your face. [Read more…]

Thou Shalt Wait 30 Minutes to Swim After Eating


No doubt you’ve heard the cautionary tale.

If you jump into a lake or swimming pool immediately after eating, there is a very high probability that you will cramp up and drown or get sucked into the pool filter or get eaten by lake sharks. Or something equally terrible. [Read more…]

The Lesson of Lucy’s Doughnut

This is what a doughnut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles looks like when my daughter Lucy is done eating it.

I’ve never seen an adult eat a doughnut like this.

Clearly, she doesn’t know the proper way to eat a doughnut. Yet. One more thing we’re gonna have to teach her, I thought as I snapped this photo.

Funny thing, though. [Read more…]

Thou Shalt Not Eat Dessert First

Pretend that you are five. And it’s dinner time.

Now, if I were to ask you, “Would you like to have dessert first tonight?”, what would your reaction be?

Kind of a no-brainer, right? You’d probably wonder if it was some sort of trick question because the answer would be so freaking obvious:

YES! [Read more…]

Thy Shalt Work First; Play Later (After the Work is Done.)

Bob Keeshan, also known as Captain Kangaroo, said, “Play is the work of children.”

Most adults I know use play time as a reward for getting work done. Play becomes an incentive. It’s like a carrot. It works well for racehorses, and often works well for humans as well. For many, to play before the work is done often brings a great deal of guilt. Sound familiar? [Read more…]

Thou Shalt Not Dream Too Big

During my speaking programs, I often give the audience a chance to complete an Adultitis intake. They are asked to answer a series of multiple choice questions about themselves in order to determine what stage of Adultitis they currently have (yes, there are multiple stages!). On a question that deals with dreams, the statement most people self-identity with goes like this:

“I do have dreams, but I try to keep them realistic.”

No one likes to admit they don’t have dreams. But no one likes to be called a fool, either. Or worse yet, a failure. After all, the bigger you dream, the more likely you are to fail. [Read more…]

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