Articles

The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun
by Michael Bungay Stanier

Are you having fun?

For many of us, work is not a fun experience.

It's tolerable. It might be exciting at times. And it pays the bills (or some of them at least).

But it's not fun.

I could show you statistics and studies that demonstrate how having fun helps "the bottom line". I could tell you stories about leading organizations that work hard to build fun into their corporate culture.

But you already know in your heart that it's important to have fun at work. Not necessarily to improve the bottom line, but simply because you spend so much of your life there.

Great Work? Or Good Work?

By fun, I'm not talking about bringing in balloons to work or hanging up signs that say "you don't have to be crazy to work here ... but it helps." I'm talking about connecting to work that's important and fantastic – and then letting nothing get in your way to do it.

One way to consider this is to divide everything you do at work into these three categories: Bad Work, Good Work and Great Work.

Bad Work is obvious: it's the stuff that, if you stopped to think about it, you'd wonder why you were wasting your life. Interminable meetings that have no discernable point. Paperwork that exists only for its own sake. I'm sure examples of Bad Work come to mind.

Good Work, on the other hand, is a comfortable place to be. You're doing work that uses your skills, gets stuff done, gets you recognition, pays you a wage. You know what you're doing and it is probably something of a routine. So it's not that you're having a bad time. It's just that when you're asked by people what you do, it feels like you're trying to convince yourself as much as them that this is great. In short, in a year's time, you won't remember the Good Work that you're doing today.

Great Work, however, isn't comfortable. It is a place of inspiration, where suddenly all your past makes sense ("A-ha! That's why I did that, learned that, experienced that").

It brings both exhilaration and terror because you often have no idea how to do what needs to be done - and are only a little fazed by that, because you are certain that this is truly what needs to be done. Great Work is where there's flow. It's a place that honours your skills, your passion and your experience.

The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun

The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun can guide you to doing more Great Work and having more fun in your life. Make these principles part of what you do and how you do it, and you'll feel better. You'll stop wasting time and energy, and start doing the things that really matter to you.

As you read through the Eight Principles, find the one that most resonates with you right now. At the end of the article, there's a process to help you get going on having more fun in your work and in your life.

1. Stop hiding who you really are
"Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of someone else."
Judy Garland, actress
2. Start being intensely selfish
"When you come right down to it, all you have is yourself.
All the rest is nothing."
Pablo Picasso, artist
3. Stop following the rules
"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun."
Katharine Hepburn, actress
Start scaring yourself
"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold.
Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful."
Ernest Shackleton, explorer
4. Stop taking it all so damn seriously
"Do not take life too seriously. You will not get out of it alive."
Elbert Hubbard, publisher
5. Start getting rid of the crap
"Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification."
Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, civil rights leader
6. Stop being busy
"We're lost, but we are making good time."
Yogi Berra, baseball philosopher
7. Start something
"When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done."
Lou Holtz, sports coach
Get going on the stuff that matters

Don't let this moment slip by. One of the Eight Principles has hit home, made you think "I could do with some of that."

Turn intent into action. Write down an action that you could take, that would help you do more Great Work and have more fun. (According to the American Society of Training & Development, it's just 40% likely you'll do what you've just written down)

Now tell someone your going to do it - and by when. (That's jumped the likelihood of completion to 65%).

And now tell them you'll report back to them that you've done, and by when (And that's taken the likelihood to 95%).

Michael Bungay Stanier is the Principal of Box of Crayons, a company that enables organizations to do more Great Work. He is the author of the best selling self-coaching program, Get Unstuck & Get Going. Michael is also the 2006 Canadian Coach of the Year and was a Rhodes Scholar.

© Michael Bungay Stanier 2005-2006