I grew up in a small town in New Jersey. Madison was maybe two miles long. I loved Christmas time on our dead end street. All of the neighbors would show up at the circle of grass at the end of our block, sing Christmas carols around a huge bonfire, consume too much sugar and throw snowballs. It was simple -- and safe.
In the summertime, a group of us hooligans would get up before sunrise, throw pebbles at the windows of our friends (or pull on strings deep sleep friends would tie on their fingers the night before and dangle out of their windows), jump on our bikes and ride to the local grade school's grassy hill to watch the sunrise. Why? Because we didn't have a care in the world.
It was innocent - it was fun.
And then we grew up.
Growing up is complicated. We enter the rat race, the road to some future success, yet we really have no idea where we are going.
We try to do well in school, get into the best college (that our parents can brag about), make money, get married, buy a house, start a family, go into debt, go on vacations (that we can brag about) and sock away for retirement.
What happened to Hide and Go Seek, putting on carnivals, dancing all night and running through the cemetery screaming "ghost!" What happened to us?
I used to do synchronized swimming. I was dressed as a lobster in a song called Cats and Rabbits. I loved it. I didn't care what anyone thought of me.
And then I did.
I'm not saying that this is bad - this growing up thing. I know we can't always just blow with the wind - but I do believe that as we dive into our career journeys, that we need to maintain a sense of joy in our work and personal lives in order to find true happiness throughout our time on earth.
I recently had a friend visit from Madison. A friend whom I have known since age 5 and who grew up on the next block. He and I sat at the bar at The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco for hours, reminiscing about our youth and the fun times we had.
Our first concert together at Madison Square Garden at only 13 years old, throwing the football in his front yard (his youngest brother ended up going pro), the fun parties and dances, becoming state champs in football and how the New York City Village Voice newspaper printed a picture of me on the foldout, staying out all night with friends just because...
Then we shifted to our work, our goals for the future and how we might pool our years of experience to do some projects together.
While both dimensions of our conversation were delightful; upon reflection, what meant the most to me was our history. The fact that we knew one another so well and that we could bounce around from personal to professional with ease.
Do you remember so and so?
Oh my gosh. I haven't heard that name in years.
Wel,l he ended up in jail after a police standoff.
And so and so? What happened to her?
She runs a school for boys and adopted two kids. I always had a crush on her.
I always had a crush on so and so.
So let's talk about how we're going to form an alliance with group X so that we can help more companies thrive.
And on it went, flowing seamlessly from memories and laughter into a few business deals to consider.
Connection - History - Flow
My friend and his brothers used to trick or treat around the neighborhood and then change masks and do it all over again. Mischief Night (the night before Halloween) was big in Jersey. It was when we got in a bit of innocent trouble, like ringing someone's doorbell and running or putting toilet paper all over a tree in front of someone's house that you had a crush on - or didn't. They had to guess.
When it comes to our work, I believe it is important to inject some carefree fun into our day. We were all kids and if we don't keep some of our childlike nature, we end up being old before our time - and unhappy.
In the book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by author Daniel Pink, we learn about research related to human motivation. In his book he talks about bringing fun into the workplace in order to improve the bottom line and engage employees; but we all don't work at companies like Apple, Google or Zappos.
If your place of employment is more boring than waiting for a web page to load with slow Wi-Fi, you might have to take matters into your own hands.
Here are a few things you can do to bring a little balance into your responsible adult work life.
-Join a volleyball or softball team after work.
-Learn to surf.
-Join Team in Training and run your first marathon.
-Learn to paint or cook or play an instrument.
-Join a book group.
What I'm trying to say is, seek out some fun.
Connecting with old friends, sharing laughter and memories is another way of injecting joy in your life. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Hangouts and other social media give us the opportunity to connect in an instant. Do it.
The next time you go into that Monday morning meeting, you just might have a new little jig in your step.
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