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.

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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.

Mustache Straws Make Everything Better

I don’t know what it is about mustaches, but they’re quite the trend. The best I can tell, fake ones are still more popular than the real ones (with apologies to Mr. Tom Selleck.)

You may remember a post a few months back in which I suggested the idea of having a mustache cookout. This week I’m sharing another mustache-related project because it’s fun and funny, and a ridiculously easy way to upset Adultitis. Which pretty much covers our M. O. around here. [Read more…]

We’re Waiting for Your Revolution

Last year, 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…]

You Can’t Have it All. So Choose What You Want Wisely.

Does the more time you spend with your family lessen the impact you can have through your career?

Since becoming a father, that is a question I have struggled mightily with. [Read more…]

How to Do What You Love and Create a New Future

Many people I talk to have an inkling of some kind of dream business they’d love to start. A cute yarn store. An interior design consultancy. A little coffee shop. It’s often deep in the back of their mind, buried by things like fear and doubt. Something’s holding them back: Lack of funds. Uncertainty about what steps to take. Or the comfort of a job that already pays the bills and provides benefits, even if it’s one they dislike so much that they’d rather punch kittens for a living. [Read more…]

Stage a Peep De Resistance

Imagine the look of surprise you’ll see when someone in your home or office, on a mission to secure a cup of coffee, walks into a room entrenched with dozens — hundreds! — of Peeps, poised for an ambush!

The idea of staging a Peep De Resistance, shared with us by K&J Nation member Brit Neyrinck, was not in our 20 Unconventional Things You Can Make with Peeps post, but it should have been.

And if this is not already part of your Easter tradition, it should be.

This article gives you all the tips you need, including these great gems: [Read more…]

An Easy Peasy Way to Make Your Emails More Fun

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Email can be overwhelming and a HUGE source of Adultitis. Try this simple tip to infuse some fun into your email. Your recipients will enjoy it as much as you will!

Want the whole list? Email me at and I’ll send it to you!

De-Stressing Your Job Search: Interview with Jenny Foss

Most people wouldn’t put “job searching” and “fun” in the same sentence (although I just did. Huzzah!) Somehow, Jenny Foss, aka “Job Jenny,” has a knack for not only making your job search more fun, but way more effective as well. She can help you not just find A job, but THE job. [Read more…]

12 Little Ways to Wear Fun at Work

During a recent trip to Disney World, Jason and I noticed something very interesting. Almost every single adult we saw was wearing a fun shirt of some kind. Superhero logos, cartoon characters, witty phrases, sports paraphernalia and of course, Disney shirts (those darn gift shops get ya every time). You name it, fun shirts were everywhere. It was awesome!

It does make sense, come to think of it. [Read more…]

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