The Art of Little Things


We ordered a pizza last weekend from a local joint that we love. When the delivery driver pulled into our driveway, we were delighted to see that she had decorated her car for Halloween! Several large rubber spiders clung to her cobweb-laden Corolla, and when she came to the door, not only did she have a hot pizza, but she also pulled some fun stickers out of her pocket to give to the kids!

I guess you could say she was an over-delivery driver!

She didn’t need permission from her boss to do what she did. She didn’t even need much money. And I am certain that this wasn’t an official “initiative” handed down from above. Considering the big tip we gave her, I wondered why more delivery drivers don’t take more initiative like this.

Alas, some pizza delivery drivers are just pizza delivery drivers. But this pizza delivery driver was an artist.

No matter your station in life — but especially if you work for a big organization — it’s very easy to become paralyzed thinking, “I can’t change that,” or “I don’t have the power to do anything about this.” Although you may be right, a better strategy might be to focus instead on the things you can control. Even if they are very, very small.

You could bring in doughnuts to work for no reason.

You could start off each team meeting with a silly joke.

You could ask every customer you encounter today what their favorite movie is.

You could decorate your delivery vehicle for Halloween.

No, you may not have much pull to change the big stuff. Who cares? It’s the little things that have always made the biggest difference anyway.

You don’t need permission to be an Adultitis Fighter. You just need to decide that you will be.

How to Deal with Difficult, Adultitis-Ridden People


Since 94% of the population suffers from at least a mild form of Adultitis, odds are that anyone with a job has to work with someone infected with this vile disease. Maybe it’s a co-worker, or a client, or – gulp! – the boss. Sometimes the people I chat with after my speaking programs will confess to being married to someone with a full-blown case of Adultitis.

So the question, of course, is how do I fix someone who has it?

Unfortunately, the truth is…you don’t.

I am a professional speaker. Most speakers I know started their career with the hope of making a difference and changing lives. I certainly did.

If you do it long enough, you’ll likely to come across the uplifting statistic that informs you that your audience will probably forget almost everything you said the minute they walk out the door. Eventually you will realize that you do not have any ability whatsoever of changing someone’s life. Entertain, sure. Inspire, maybe. But change? That’s up to them, not you. (Newsflash: this little rule also applies to any husbands, wives, parents, and teachers who may be reading.)

It’s hard to not feel like you’re a professional exerciser of futility.

The thing is, the more quickly you accept this reality, the better speaker you become.

When you are not worried about the guy in the front row crossing his arms, or the lady who ducked out the back, or whether or not you will get a standing ovation, the more you will be able to focus on being your authentic, true self and allow your message to land where it will.

And THEN you might make some sort of difference for someone.

You may not make a living from being on stage, but the principle is the same. When dealing with people who have Adultitis, there is only so much you can do. This is it:

1) Do your best to be a good example. Take yourself lightly. Live your life cheerfully, with humor and joyful anticipation. In the best-case scenario, these people will see and be inspired by your approach to life and a little will rub off. Maybe they’ll even ask for your secret and then you can help them on the road to recovery.

2) If your example alone doesn’t make a dent, you should incorporate their office supplies or car keys into jell-o molds. (Just kidding.) (Not really.) Maybe you could try sending them flowers or a box of cookies. Maybe they just need someone to notice them and be kind to them.

3) If you’re still running into a brick wall of Adultitis, your only other option is to ignore them and do your best to limit your exposure to them. You don’t have to be mean about it; you just have to be intentional. Depending on your relationship, you might consider deleting them from your life. Harsh I know, but life is too short to have the joy sucked out of you by someone with a full-blown case of Adultitis.

4) “Woah, buddy,” you may be thinking. “That’s a little extreme. And it’s not exactly gonna work. This is my spouse you’re talking about,” or “I can’t exactly fire my idiot co-worker.” If extracting yourself from the situation is not an option, you should make a priority to surround yourself with people who are relatively Adultitis-free. These relationships will help bolster your energy levels, and serve as a forcefield from the Adultitis-ridden zombies in your life. (By the way, if you’re looking to connect with some other like-minded people who are the bees knees, join us for our next Facebook Party this Wednesday night!)

Is it an ideal solution? No, but it’s reality.

You are only the ringmaster of your circus and your monkeys. Focus on the things you can control: your attitude, your actions, and the people you choose to spend most of your time with. Let go of the things you can’t.

Simple, although certainly not easy.

Striving for an Adultitis-free life will not always yield the results you’d like. You may not be able to make someone change, but it’s always possible to make a difference.

Don’t be surprised if the difference is in you.

Anticipate Edits


I recently had a conversation with a scientist about how scientists are kids who managed to grow up with their curiosity intact, and now get to play with even cooler toys.

She expressed frustration that for a scientist, the Adultitis often sets in when submitting one’s work for review to the scientific community. The paperwork alone can be a nightmare, but most often it’s the curse of common knowledge that’s the real culprit.

Sometimes new theories appear pretty “out there,” challenging the very foundation of the status quo. It’s tempting to label the authors of these theories as kooks, dismissing them out of hand. Certainly, there are times when crackpot theories really are crackpot theories. But it is awfully dangerous to allow dismissal to be our default reaction.

For instance, there once was a man named Iggy who put forth a theory that had the potential to save countless lives. But it flew in the face of the established scientific and medical opinions. The crazy thing is, when it was tested, it worked. Every time. The only problem was that Iggy couldn’t give a scientific reason as to WHY. So poor Iggy was labeled a crackpot and was eventually committed to an insane asylum at the age of 47 and died 14 days later, after being beaten by the guards.

So what was Iggy’s crazeballs idea? Just that it might be a good idea for doctors to wash their hands before working with patients.

Fortunately for Iggy, formally known as Ignaz Semmelweis, a small group of curious scientists experimented with the procedures that he proposed, and his theories finally gained widespread acceptance years after his death, partly thanks to Louis Pasteur’s scientific confirmation of germ theory.

Here’s another interesting tidbit:

“The so-called Semmelweis reflex — a metaphor for a certain type of human behaviour characterized by reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beliefs or paradigms — is named after Semmelweis, whose perfectly reasonable hand-washing suggestions were ridiculed and rejected by his contemporaries.”

It’s outrageous to think that scientists could be swayed by ridiculously irrational judgements and assumptions. After all, aren’t they supposed to be all about rational, systematic ways of acquiring knowledge?

But alas, scientists are still human, and we are all prone to this behavior. How many times have you prejudged someone, only to find that after getting to know them better, your initial appraisal was way off the mark? (most of my best friends fall into this category.)

We are taught in after-school specials that prejudice is bad, and if we catch ourselves doing it, we often feel guilty or ashamed. But my good friend Jessica Pettitt, who is a champion for social justice, reminded me that we shouldn’t feel guilty for making these judgements and assumptions, because we often make them for really good reasons. For example, to feel safe, or prepared.

What really matters is what we DO with these judgements and assumptions.

Jessica’s suggestion is this: “When you write that first story, print it as a draft, triple-spaced with extra wide margins. You do this because you’re anticipating edits.”

The scientists who originally branded Iggy a crackpot weren’t jerks for thinking that his ideas were weird. They were jerks because they didn’t leave enough room for edits to their original story about him. Which is a shame when you think about how many lives could have been saved.

Hopefully our actions will not lead to such life and death consequences, but it’s still worth remembering that not all kooks are kooks.

Anticipate edits.

Contrary to Popular Belief, You Are Not an Octopus


Today I’d like to talk about octopuses. Because it’s what we think we’re like when we multitask.

Yep, we imagine we’re like an octopus, one that’s holding a crayon with each arm, coloring eight different things simultaneously. Like a boss.

If only that were true.

If we are an octopus, we’re an octopus with only one arm, who colors one square inch of something, drops the crayon, picks up another, colors another square inch, drops that crayon, and on and on.

Research tells us that the human brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. What we’re doing when we THINK we’re multitasking, is switching very quickly between two or more tasks. Which, studies also show, can temporarily reduce our IQ more than losing a night’s sleep or smoking marijuana.

Perhaps you already knew this. And yet we persist, all in the quest to get more done. Because life is happening so fast, it feels like we have to multitask just to keep up with everything.

Back in the day, it may have taken an entire hour for a woman to shell enough peas for her family’s dinner, while sitting on her rocking chair on the front porch. And yet she had time to soak in the smells of the lilac bush, engage in a meaningful conversation with a neighbor, and offer up some silent prayers for her friends and family.

Our ancestors could never dream about the technology we now take for granted. No question it makes us more productive. We can grab a can of peas from the pantry, pop the lid, and dump them into a bowl, in less time than it takes to say “Little House on The Prairie.”

The question is, what are we doing with all the extra time? More times than not, we are less like the old woman on the porch, and more like the headless chicken running around that her husband just drafted for dinner.

I am inspired by the idea of “slow parenting,” which I first heard about in an article from the Boston Globe by Jaci Conry.

“Loosely, slow parenting means no more rushing around physically and metaphorically, no more racing kids from soccer to violin to art class. Slow parenting cherishes quality over quantity, being in the moment, and making meaningful connections with your family.”

In the article, clinical psychologist John Duffy suggests that “parents just take time to watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack. Take a moment to drink them in. Remember and remind yourself how remarkable your children are. That pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in the pace.”

I know I don’t do that nearly enough, but I am going to be doing it more. In fact, I think it’s a great recipe for more than just parenting. Perhaps there should be slow friendshipping, slow spousing, slow managing, and slow working as well.

We all want our lives to feel less fast. But there is no magic iPhone app or productivity hack that will magically make it so. No, the power to slow down is ours alone. We have to make a choice.

Quit pretending to be an octopus.

Turn your phone off during dinner. (Don’t just put in your purse or pocket.)

Dedicate 15 minutes a day to pray, meditate, or practice yoga.

Spend some time on the floor with your kid just doing what they want to do.

Actually use your vacation days, instead of saving them up for cash.

Or, buy some fresh peapods, and spend an hour shelling them on your front porch.

Do You Need to Be a Workaholic to Be Great?


Is it possible to be great and well-balanced at the same time?

By great, I mean championship quality. Among the best in the world.

And by well-balanced, I don’t mean that you’re never stressed, or are able to fit everything in, and be all things to all people. What I mean is that you don’t have to be singularly focused on being great.

People like Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) and James Cameron (director of Titanic and Avatar) are undeniably great. But if you dig into their stories, they certainly weren’t balanced. Neither would ever be considered for a “Father of the Year” award. Cameron has been quoted as saying, “Anybody can be a father or husband. There are only five people in the world who can do what I do, and I’m going for that.”

I want to be a great artist, author, and speaker. But I don’t want to sacrifice everything else to achieve it. Kim and I decided a few years ago that if we ended up impacted millions of people in a positive way, but our kids turned out to be a-holes (or grow up to regard us as a-holes), we failed.

So many examples seem to indicate that in order to be among the best in the world at what you do, balance has to be thrown out the window.

And so I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that my commitment to my family would likely limit the impact I’d make on the world.

Then I read a Sports Illustrated article about Steve Kerr, the head coach of the recently-crowned NBA champion Golden State Warriors. I’m a Bulls fan, and have fond memories of Steve’s playing days in Chicago, so I was happy to see him win. The story gave me hope that perhaps greatness and balance were not mutually exclusive. An excerpt:

He is in a profession that does not normally lend itself to perspective, or balance. The sketch of the modern coach borders on caricature: watching Synergy cutups until his eyes bleed, writing notes until his fingers ache, falling asleep on the office floor and wearing the same tracksuit the next day.

Kerr hikes Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in Oakland. He surfs Pipes Beach in San Diego. He grills carne asada for his daughter, Maddy, and her volleyball teammates at Cal. For a week every summer he flies to a buddy’s ranch in Baja California and stays in cheap motels near Scorpion Bay. Or he throws up a tent on the sand. “What’s your ZFL level?” you can ask him, and he’ll reply with a smile, “Pretty high.” ZFL is one of his pet acronyms: Zest For Life.

After games, even losses, he doesn’t dive immediately into video on the plane. He cracks open a book, or plays Scrabble on his computer, while slow slipping a Modelo Especial. Only then does he queue up the video. Don’t get it wrong. None of this means he cares any less than his Belichickian brethren. He once broke a racket over his head during a tennis match. He practiced scribbling last summer so he could jot sets faster at timeouts. He drew 8 technical fouls this season despite losing just 15 games.

Kerr needs his books, his Counting Crows songs, his driving range swings at Tilden Park Golf Course to shield himself from the same competitive grease fire that consumes them all.

I love that: “to shield himself from the same competitive grease fire that consumes them all.”

Kerr is a direct contrast to Tom Thibodeau, former head coach of the Bulls. Thibodeau is well-known for having absolutely no life outside of basketball. He drives his players hard and himself harder, often sleeping in his office to watch game film. He is widely regarded as a great coach, but I wonder if his lack of balance actually hinders him from greater success.

It seems almost heretical to consider, but I’m beginning to wonder if Steve Jobs would have been even more successful had he paid a little bit more attention to things outside of Apple. Indeed, studies show that at a certain point, working more hours is a waste of time, based on the loss of productivity.

Look, I don’t really know any of these people. But I do know that we often worship the accomplishments of the super successful, while conveniently ignoring the trail of health problems and broken relationships left in their wake.

I have struggled to find examples of people who have achieved true greatness and maintained a true sense of balance. I used to think it was because they didn’t exist.

The success and story of Steve Kerr gives me hope.

#notarule: winning at business and life by breaking rules that don’t exist


“Blessed are the rule breakers. They shalt inherit the Future. We have always admired the great renegades of business, brave souls who dared to deny the status quo, defy the odds, and pioneer a new normal. Nicolas Tesla. Richard Branson. Tony Stark. One thing all great titans of industry have in common is this: they were able to identify rules that don’t exist and had the courage to break them. Of course, there are plenty of rules that DO exist. If you commit fraud or neglect to pay taxes, I hope you look good in an orange jumpsuit. But the rules that DON’T exist greatly outnumber the ones that do. History is filled with examples of those who profited greatly by dispensing with so-called ‘rules.’”

This is an excerpt of my new ChangeThis manifesto that talks about the rules that don’t exist and specifically delves into how to get good at noticing these so-called rules and how to muster up the courage to actually break them.

It’s a quick read and free to download, please feel free to share it with friends, family, co-workers, bosses and sworn enemies (which may not be mutually exclusive.)

Undercover Alias: Why You Might Want a New Name


Whenever I get a coffee at Starbucks, and they ask me for my name, I always tell them “Jason.”

While this is completely honest, it’s also completely devoid of fun.

The next time you buy a coffee or put your name in at a restaurant, use a fake name as your alias. It could be a normal sounding name, the name of a fictional character, or something completely unusual like Cantaloupe or Melmac. Just make sure it’s fake!

Of course, you can do this with friends, too. At a conference I was speaking at recently (howdy OAEYC peeps!), two female attendees decided to make the random names that were printed on the side of their Coke can their aliases for the day. “Hilda” and “Kenneth” had a great time with this bit of silliness.

As usual, the simple things are the best ways to add a bit of whimsy to your day. They can make long days go faster, turn annoying customers into afterthoughts, or create memories that last years and years.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Han Solo needs to go get some coffee.

How to Have Fun at Work with No Budget


One of the topics that came up during our most recent live hangout over on Facebook was how to fight Adultitis at work on shoestring budget. As always, there were a bunch of great ideas shared, and I thought it was worth corralling them into one handy post. Enjoy!

I give out really specific pretend awards for some of the mundane things people do (The “you answered 100 calls today without biting someone’s head off” award.) I just find fun clip art and make them specific to the things people do that go unnoticed or are so routine we forget to acknowledge them. My team posts those up instead of the real awards they get from our big office. (via Melissa LeFever)

We had a fancy hat day for our monthly meeting. Next month it was shoes. (via Carla Saunders)

This week we just started taking turns hiding Marty the penguin. I started him off in the frozen waffles for morning snack! (via Karen Spicher Zakin)

How about a dessert trade at lunch – ala the old days of “I’ll give you two cookies for half your candy bar.” (via Jenna Regis)

When someone goes on leave for a week or more we try and do something to their desk. Some favorites were growing grass out of an old keyboard and hiding theirs; converting an old wheely chair to have a bike seat; and making a fake person to work at their desk including a suit and wig (everyone kept coming up and talking to the fake person and didn’t realize until they got close that it was fake). Oh, and convincing co workers that our label maker was voice-activated. (via Carla Saunders)

I make popcorn. (via Robert Bradford)

Paper airplanes! Divide up in teams, who can make it go farthest? Or who can come up with the most interesting “paint job?” (via Minette Sternke)

I once put paper mustaches in the break room with a camera. We had a lot of silly pictures after lunch that day! We posted them at work. They received lots of laughs! (via Jennifer De Stefano)

Have an idea you’d like to add to this list? Leave a comment below!

Does Your Workplace Have an Awesome Room?


There is an Awesome Room in the offices of the Corporate Training & Economic Development department at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. It’s more of a cubicle than a room, but still. It was the first time I ever thought happy things about a cubicle.

dean-stewartIt was created as part of a renovation that took place last year. Dean Stewart, the dean of the department, wanted to get everyone involved in the process. And so the team was empowered to come up with names for some of the extra common areas and conference rooms around the office. And so Awesome Room was born.

twins-boardI spoke at a Business Success Summit at the college last week, and evidence of fun and collaboration is everywhere. There is the Twins Board, a humble bulletin board that contains photos of people who inadvertently came to work to wearing something similar to a co-worker. And the lobby is adored with art that was created by the entire team, with assistance of the nearby Artisan Center. The bright, welcoming collages even contain tiny black and white photos of the eyes, noses, and mouths of the individuals who participated.


It was clear to me that Dean was a true Champion of Childhood. What was also clear was the sense of loyalty, community, and fun that was shared amongst the staff. We chatted a bit about how too many leaders assume that interjecting a little fun into the workplace is liable to threaten productivity and reduce standards. Dean was adamant that a sense of fun actually improves productivity, and he’s 100% right.

It reminds me of the old line, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

We don’t need to replace elevators with slides or install foosball tables into our offices to instill a sense of fun into the workplace. (Not that I’m opposed to such measures.) The reality is that even tiny things can go a long way. Oftentimes it starts at the top, with wise leaders like Dean who get that taking your work seriously and taking yourself seriously are two completely different things. But Adultitis also fears the things that bubble up from the bottom of an organization, too, because those things can be just as effective and powerfully viral.

A first step might be deciding where exactly your Awesome Room is located.

Do you have any fun nooks and crannies where you work?

A Champion of Childhood is someone instilled with the soaring spirit of childhood who rallies against rules that don’t exist while engaging in ruthless, senseless acts of silliness that undermine the slavery of Adultitis and its unadventurous version of adulthood. We like shining a light upon the most remarkable among us, holding them up as a dazzling example of what we should strive for in this epic battle against Adultitis. See more here.

Country Club Chef Serves Slice of Childhood with a Side of Awesomesauce


It can be easy to think of country clubs as the sort of places where Adultitis might like to hang out. Granted, it’s not a windowless cube farm, but it can invite a particular strain of Adultitis that implores us to take ourselves a little too seriously and make sure we don’t get our princess dress wet.

But Chef Brian at the Rockford Country Club is a Champion of Childhood who’s keeping Adultitis on its toes. In celebration of back to school season, Brian created a menu that put some epicurean twists on old childhood favorites, a “culinary homage to cafeteria classics.” Here are some of the things he came up with:

  • A beautiful, creamy, scratch-made grilled cheese & tomato soup with a grilled cheese crouton.
  • A salad with bacon, pistachios and cranberry Jell-O croutons. (Yup, you read that right: Jell-O croutons!)
  • Thai PB and J pork chop with jasmine rice and vegetable spring roll.
  • Lobster mac & cheese. (Eat it, Kraft.)
  • “Fish sticks” featuring Chilean sea bass, coated in a crunchy Goldfish cacker crust and cooked to perfection.
  • A gourmet take on the classic TV dinner featuring homemade meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes, with peas and carrots, and a scratch-made brownie.

It sounds delicious to us! We need to convince Chef Brian to create the menu for our next Escape Adulthood Summit!

There are many places that might be more prone to Adultitis than others. But whether you work in a cafeteria, a country club, or the Chrysler Building, there is always room for delighting people with a little childhood fun. Kudos to this creative chef for serving up a delicious example!

What is your favorite example of a business that did a great job of incorporating the sprit of childhood into the mix?

A Champion of Childhood is someone instilled with the soaring spirit of childhood who rallies against rules that don’t exist while engaging in ruthless, senseless acts of silliness that undermine the slavery of Adultitis and its unadventurous version of adulthood. We like shining a light upon the most remarkable among us, holding them up as a dazzling example of what we should strive for in this epic battle against Adultitis. See more here.

Thou Shalt Not Have Fun in Elevators


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


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 Wait for Permission from Your Boss Before Doing Something Awesome


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.

YouTube Preview Image

Office Staff Uses Tiny Spoons and Ugly Wrap to Upend Traditional Luncheon


An organization I spoke to last year traditionally celebrates the holidays with a luncheon and gift exchange. Pretty typical stuff.

The only problem is that Adultitis LOVES typical. Typical is only a hop, skip and a jump away from a rut, and as Ellen Glasgow says, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.”

Fortunately, after hearing one of my programs on Curing Adultitis, Janet Mincks and her team decided to go in a different direction with their holiday party.

It has been 4 months since you spoke to us at our All Staff Professional Development Day. What an impact you have made…We decided to throw away the traditional luncheon routine and make it not only interesting but fun. We exchanged names, however the gift was a small $10.00 gift, but needed to be “Ugly Wrapped”. The presentation of the gifts ranged from a collection of scrap wrapping paper, bubble wrap, and my favorite, a coffee container with small deer antlers on the top as a bow with dryer sheets tied to it. Our lunch included soup and salad, but everyone was only given tiny small delicatessen spoons, and skewers for their salads. The group couldn’t believe that we carried this “Adultitis” (theme) that far.


Nicely done, Janet! (I must say that I too have quite an admiration of that antler-adorned coffee container!) Thanks for showing us that there is no rule that says your holiday party has to look the same every year.

Unless you want it to be a guest of honor, that is.

A Champion of Childhood is someone instilled with the soaring spirit of childhood who rallies against rules that don’t exist while engaging in ruthless, senseless acts of silliness that undermine the slavery of Adultitis and its unadventurous version of adulthood. We like shining a light upon the most remarkable among us, holding them up as a dazzling example of what we should strive for in this epic battle against Adultitis. See more here.

Poor Monday


Monday wishes he was Wednesday. He has giant posters of Saturday on his bedroom wall. Everybody turns the other way when they see Monday walking down the hall.

Poor Monday.

I used to suffer from a condition known as Sunday Night Dread, that sinking feeling you get when the freedom of the weekend is gasping its last breath. I used to think Monday was the worst.

And then I realized that Monday is just a patsy.

It’s convenient to throw Monday under the bus when we’re unhappy about how our story is going. I propose that we quit picking on Monday and try a different tack. Here are a few options.

1) Change your job.
LIfe is too short to be stuck in a job you hate, or even one you only kind of like. Find one that makes you excited to get up in the morning, eager to share your gifts and tackle the challenges in front of you. Of course, this is not something you can magically wave a magic wand to achieve. It’s not recommended to up and quit a crappy job without a plan, for in almost all cases, a crappy job is better than no job. What you CAN do is make a plan. Figure out what might be a better fit, and start taking baby steps to get there. It might involve taking some night classes. Or getting up an hour early to send out resumes. Or building that website for your new part-time business. The Mondays in your immediate future may not be too appealing, but at least you’ll know you’re not resigned to a lifetime of them.

2) Change your attitude.
There is no perfect job. Even though I don’t dread Mondays anymore, not every part of my job is peachy keen. But I focus on the good stuff, which far outweighs the bad stuff. If you are honestly in a job that is a good fit for you and that you actually enjoy — but still dislike Mondays — perhaps you can try on a new perspective. List out all of the things you love about your job and focus on those instead of the negatives.

If you’re bored with your current job, maybe it’s time to initiate a new project that excites you. It will give you a new spark and sense of purpose (and will probably impress your boss.)

Getting your story to the point where Mondays don’t suck is not easy. But it is doable. It just takes a bit of honesty, a plan, some hard work, and maybe a new attitude, all of which are things you can do, starting today.

Monday has been bullied enough, don’t you think?

How to Win the War Against Adultitis at Work


We are in a war against Adultitis.

And putting googly eyes on inanimate objects, decorating your cube for Halloween, and making ugly cakes for co-workers are some of the weapons we have on our side.

Too bad some people prefer keeping them locked away.

I spoke at a conference for 9-1-1 dispatchers recently. Afterwards, a woman told me about what a drag it is working at her dispatch center. “It didn’t used to be that way,” she said sadly. “We used to keep toys at our work stations and had a lot of fun decorating our offices for every holiday. But our new boss doesn’t allow it. He thinks we should be more serious. It’s really affected the morale of our whole team, and even officers who stop in ask where our decorations went.”

Stories like this make me sad and angry all at once. Stories like this remind me why burnout is so rampant in today’s workforce. It is possible to LOVE what you do but DISLIKE where you work, and burnout happens when people work in an environment with low job satisfaction and a feeling of powerlessness.

Burnout can be easily resolved.

But it requires leaders who see the power in bringing fun in to the workplace and are smart enough to understand that having a little fun in no way diminishes the seriousness in which one takes his or her responsibility.

I can’t imagine many more serious occupations than a 9-1-1 dispatcher. On a regular basis, they hear screams of terror and horrible tales of human suffering. And with great professionalism and compassion, they listen and they offer help. To think that anyone can survive — let alone thrive — in an environment like this without a little fun and humor is just plain idiotic.

I’ll admit, sometimes I feel inadequate for suggesting some of the ideas that I do in my talks. They are as silly as they are simple. I imagine the people with crossed arms wondering, “Who paid this guy to tell us THIS?”

Too many leaders see something like decorating an office as a frivolous waste of time. Even if they acknowledge a morale problem, they refuse to believe that such simple solutions can be be effective. And that’s where they’re wrong. We human beings worship complexity, but the truth is that the simplest solutions are often the ones that work best.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

The benefits of humor do seem too good to be true. And yet conversations like the one I had with that 9-1-1 dispatcher leave me ever more convinced that if we really want to win this serious war against Adultitis, we need to get serious about having fun.

Your turn: What’s your favorite way to have fun at work?

Butter On One Side


So Kim asked Lucy if she wanted to help her make grilled cheese sandwiches. Convinced it would be like frosting a cake, Lucy signed on. Kim gave her a butter knife and told her to make sure she just buttered one side.

And this was the result.

One of my favorite things about hanging around kids is being regularly reminded that there are always new ways to look at things. When confronted with old problems that demand new solutions, our first step might be to develop a new way of seeing.

Every Company Needs a Swing Table


If I had an extra $11,000 sitting around, I’d totally want this Swing Table designed by Duffy London. The video is simple and contains hardly any motion at all, but it somehow ratchets up the “I want that” factor to 11.

What would happen if EVERY company had a conference table like this? (Not just the cool, trendy web companies with vowels missing in their names.) I have a hunch that levels of fun, morale, and groundbreaking ideas would skyrocket, while employee turnover, conflict, and lawsuits would plummet. Think about it: picture two parties at odds with one another, on a seemingly inevitable path to meet one another in a courtroom. Sit them down at the Swing Table for an hour, where it’s impossible to stay angry for that long. Eventually they stop taking themselves so seriously, become aware of the ridiculousness of their circumstance, and hash out their differences amiably.

And then go out for ice cream together.

Seems far-fetched, but I’m not so sure. Here’s the real question: how can you create your own Swing Table to test the theory? (If “Swing Table” means “some whimsical object or environment that demands all who come in contact with it to drop their guard, quit taking themselves so seriously, and invite their inner child to come play?”)

You can most certainly come up with something for less than $11,000, with results that could be just as priceless.

The Power of Bam

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Yep, it’s official. We need more “Bams” in the world.

I don’t care whether you work at Wal-Mart or on Wall Street, you are viral. More than ever, little things are big deals.

In the fight against Adultitis, you can either be part of the problem or part of the solution.

Which do you choose?

Children’s Hospital Hires Spiderman to Fight Grime


It seems ridiculous at first. What if we dressed our delivery drivers like the Flash? Or the crowd control team at the stadium as Stormtroopers? Or our window washers as…Spiderman?

That’s exactly what John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital did a few months ago. [Read more…]

Small Rebellion #6: The Ugly Treat Initiative


According to the Interwebs, the first week of April is Laugh at Work Week. If there’s one thing work could use more of, it’s laughter.

Inspired by our most recent Champion of Childhood award winners who made an epic ugly cake for a co-worker, we are introducing a new Small Rebellion and we’d love to have you join us! It’s called The Ugly Treat Initiative, and the instructions are very simple:

Step 1) Make a delicious dessert that also happens to be really, really UGLY.
Step 2) Bring it to work to share.
Step 3) Enjoy laughter and improved morale with your colleagues. (And possibly be awarded a primo parking spot for a month.)
Step 4) Share your stories and pictures online with the hashtag #smallrebellion6

You can tackle the mission when it’s most convenient, any time during the week. You can make cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, strudels…anything, really. Just make sure it’s sweet and tasty. And butt ugly.

The only other requirement is the sharing part, even if it’s not an official place of employment. Eating an ugly cake alone does not generate much laughter. And please, share this Small Rebellion with friends, families, and mortal enemies. The more the merrier!

Need some inspiration? Try here, here and here.

Sendoff of Co-Worker Gets Ugly


Kathleen Molland, Jeanette Raab, and Susan Withey were at a speaking program I did in Williston, North Dakota. I told the Ugly Cookie story. Then these three took it to a whole new level. Here’s what happened, in the words of Kathleen: [Read more…]

Play is Napalm for Great Ideas


Wes Naman is a professional photographer. Like many professionals, he was a little burned out with the “professional” side of his work and needed a break.

So he grabbed some Scotch tape and got silly.

With the help of some open-minded friends, he used lots and lots of tape to wrench their faces into ridiculous positions. Then he asked them to try and remove the tape using only their facial muscles. It resulted in 33 photographs like the ones pictured above.

Which led to the project becoming a viral sensation, the attention of the Scotch brand itself, and an unlimited supply of rolls of tape for future projects. Perhaps a sweet advertising campaign is next.

Where do the best ideas come from?

Oftentimes, they come from play. I don’t care if you’re in a so-called “creative” field or not, the willingness to let go, be silly, and experiment with no expectation of outcome is like napalm for good ideas.

If you’re on the hunt for the next big thing, the idea that changes everything, or a solution to your most vexing problem, maybe you need to stop pressing so hard. Maybe you need a break.

Maybe you need to be a little less serious. And. Just. Play.

Hey Congress. Legislate This.

I couldn’t agree more.

Imagine these being installed in airports.

Imagine these being installed in the offices of all law firms and insurance companies.

Imagine these being installed in every single government building, especially the ones in Washington, D.C.

I dare say that these could bring peace to the Middle East.

Get on it, Congress.

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