Minimum Viable Play

What's your Work-Play balance?

The difference between play and real-life is consequences.

"Play is all fun and games, but this is the real world. You can't play your way through life."
Concerns like this often pop up when I discuss the concept of play.

Most people I meet are quick to dismiss play as frivolous. And even when there is a desire to play, it is crushed by the fear of consequence. Everything that you heard as a child comes back to haunt you.

If you 'waste' your time playing, you'll fail!

Does it not pain you to find the most child-like and enjoyable state of mind and body out of your reach? Every time you convince yourself to return to that state of innocence, your mind and body are quick to place obstacles in your path. Let's not forget social mockery. Who wouldn't balk at the idea of a full-grown adult engaging in silly, irreverent play?

The fear of becoming irresponsible reigns you in, as you dare to attempt the inane. People around you are all moving in the opposite direction - towards ambition, accomplishment, and advancement. And, you believe that play takes you in the opposite direction of work.

If you had to submit a report at work, you wouldn't consider playing around with color, styles, formats, or presentation. Playing it safe is the only play you know.

"If you put it that way..."

Work-Play Balance

Yes, I am putting it that way because that's the way you're likely to be living it. What you call a work-life balance is a ratio of time spent at home vs the office. It doesn't factor attention and involvement. You could be out of the office, but thinking of a work-related problem.

Work is a part of life, and as is sometimes painfully obvious, a major part of life. So when you replace the phrase work-life balance with work-play balance, you'll realize the situation is more depressing than you thought.

For we've let the spirit of play atrophy, both in body and in mind. I don't want to rub salt in your wounds, but if you don't believe me, let's see you match a 6-year old in enthusiasm and energy. I thought as much… (I'm trying not to enjoy this as much).

Ok, I'll stop playing the sadist. And offer you the salve you've been seeking. It's quite simple. Just one word. Curiosity.

Curiosity is play in thought
Play is curiosity in action

No 90-day blueprint to become a child, again.
Or a 12-step method to harness your inner child.
Perhaps a 5-week course is what you need.

A child doesn't need a methodology to play. He doesn't need to be taught 'the game'. She will break the ice with her partner and initiate interaction without a facilitator intervening. No human-centric perfectly designed toy is needed to feel playful.

Simply because of that one single word that encapsulates the spirit of play. Curiosity.

But if you must insist, here are a couple of prompts to get you started.

What are you curious about?
What aren't you curious about?

Your first list is a measure of your curiosity.
Your second list, a measure of your cynicism.

Log this ratio regularly. Measure the change over time. If and when in doubt, imagine what a 6-year old version of you would have in his/her list? That should set things in perspective.

Here's my current curiosity list:

  • wobble boards & vestibular challenges

  • mind map meets memory palace

  • reward and punishment

  • inanity and insanity

  • my death notes*

  • affection and addiction

The greater my curiosity, the weaker my fear - of consequences, of making choices, of taking action. That doesn't mean I make silly or even stupid mistakes and that may result in disaster or even death. It is vital though to ensure minimum viable play in life, as we live it.

And life is lived one day at a time. So stay tuned for the next letter on how to plan your minimum viable play every single day. Until then, stay curious and share so you'll have more playmates to go bananas with.

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p.s. if you still want the 90-day blueprint, 12-step process, and 5-week course, slide into my DMs… 🤫 and don’t tell anyone else!