Will Rogers accomplished the impossible: he had fun talking about politics.
Even more unbelievable, people had fun listening.
Rogers amazed audiences with his lasso skills, a talent that placed him in the Guiness Book of World Records. He also toured the vaudeville circuits in America, Canada, and Europe, made 71 movies, wrote six books, traveled around the world three times, and became the second highest grossing movie star behind Shirley Temple. All while having fun talking about politics.
His talent made him a name.
His humor made him a legend.
Even during the decades of loss, pain, and hopelessness, when the country faced the horrors of World War I, the desperation of the Great Depression, and the contested era of Prohibition, Rogers found a way to make, create, and have fun…talking about politics.
He was, during some of the nation’s hardest times and with one of the most divisive subjects, having a ball. And enjoying skyrocketing success while doing it.
Did he know something we don’t?
Having fun is serious business
An estimated 40 million people opened their newspapers every morning to read Roger’s syndicated column. By 1935, his weekly radio broadcast dominated Sunday evenings.
The American public became addicted to the cowboy philosopher. Or at least hung on his every witty word. All because the man could, completely unintentionally, manipulate his listener’s brain.
And you thought his lasso tricks were impressive.
When we engage in exciting experiences and activities, our brains respond positively. Very positively. According to Dr. Martha Burns, a neuroscientist specializing in learning techniques, creating pleasure and enjoyment in learning is how we learn best. Having fun or being stimulated is when our brains release dopamine, a chemical that acts as a “save button”, says Burns.
With dopamine, we can recall what we’ve learned. Without it, we can’t. But there’s more.
Dopamine also activates the reward center of our brains, the specific regions in the brain that increase our motivation and interest in activities.
“…The more motivated and interested we are in an activity, the more dopamine is released and the better we remember it. The reward center helps us to stay focused and repeat activities that were reinforced through positive outcomes – whether it is finding and returning to a location where good things happened in our life or just remembering interesting information.”
When we have fun, we find our motivation and our memory. Sound like a good time to you?
Where’s the fun in that?
Fun isn’t the typical goal in adulthood. Accomplishment, achievement, success: these we pursue. Fun at work? Fun while working? Make sure your boss doesn’t catch you.
Having fun is often viewed as unproductive. Even an obstacle. Adults are to find motivation without it. Your brain, however, begs to differ. We need fun. Our childhood self understood this. We never needed to be told to have fun as children. Or even taught how. We knew it instinctively.
How not to have fun? That’s something we learned that, perhaps, we shouldn’t have.
Get this party started
Putting enjoyment back into our life, or simply increasing it, takes actual effort as an adult. We’ve worked so hard to remove it, it’s going to take work to plug it back in. But the work can be fun, too. Here are a few suggestions:
- Reward fun – You don’t have to have a foosball table in the break room to promote fun, although that’s not a bad idea. Instead, encourage your employees/staff to “have fun” with their ideas. Create an environment that gives your staff permission to come up with plans, ideas, strategy, and projects that are outside of what is typically done. Let them come to you with ways to improve their job and the company/ministry. Whenever possible, let them attempt to develop those ideas further and implement them.
- Lead the fun – If the leadership isn’t having fun, the company will follow. Those in leadership positions must set the tone. Bring your own fresh thoughts and ideas to the table. Exhibit your passion and exhilaration for your work, not just for reaching goals. And learn to laugh between 8 and 5. It doesn’t hinder productivity, it increases it.
- Find your fun – You knew how to bring play into nearly every area of your life and every moment of your day as a child. That’s still who you are. Spend some time reconnecting with that child inside. Pay attention to the things in life that truly excite and motivate you. That’s you having fun! As much as possible, whenever possible, thread those activities back into your life.
- Give yourself permission – As adults, we tend to look at fun as something only for children. In fact, even while working or being productive, we often feel guilty if we’re being paid or rewarded for doing activities we enjoy. Instead, give yourself permission to not only enjoy what you do but seek ways to do more of what you enjoy. Our best work is done when we’re having fun.
Fun should be part of our lives. In every aspect where it can be included. Not segregated into only certain times or certain moments. When you have fun doing what you do, people want to be around you. Instinctively, they want to have fun too.
Ask Will Rogers. He’ll tell you all about it in the most amusing way.