I was shoveling my driveway recently from the February snow storms when a neighborhood jogger ran past and asked, “Are we having fun yet?”, a saying coined by cartoonist Bill Griffith in the late 1970s for his comic strip character Zippy the Pinhead. I was more than surprised to look up and see a crazy man running down the street in his spandex outfit; but once I recovered, my response was a quick smile and a simple, “Yes.”
A few days later I was roaming through my book shelf and found some ten-year-old notes from a talk by motivational speaker and author Harvey Mackay, while he was leading an American Marketing Association meeting in Pittsburgh. There were just 10 lines on the sheet — the distillation of a morning-long program. They obviously were significant because I realized I had incorporated many of them into my everyday business practices.
Near the bottom of the list was one sentence with a star before it: “Put some fun and creativity into your life and your business!”
Not many business gurus talk about fun in the workplace. Steven Covey, famous for his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, admonishes that there are four basic needs of every individual: to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. The four L’s. I’ve been meaning to write Covey a letter and suggest that a good fifth L would be to laugh.
Laughing comes with having fun. Stone-faced Covey didn’t seem to acknowledge that having fun can lead to being more creative and profitable.
When I had a mid-life career shift and joined an advertising agency, I was suddenly thrown into brainstorming meetings for client ads. Our creative skills were put to task to come up with ways to communicate the clients’ unique selling points in memorable ways. There was a great synergy in sitting around a table shooting ideas into the air. We laughed a lot and, as a result, put out some great work.
The ad agency was such a refreshing change from my previous position that my friends would casually remark to new acquaintances, “Don’t ask him what he does.” For those who were willing to chance it, I replied, “I’M AN ADVERTISING MAN. And they even PAY me to do it.”
Needless to say I was having fun.
The years have rolled by and I’ve worked at times among a more sober bunch. At one point I recognized our corporate culture as being too serious for a creative team. The laughs needed to be more frequent, so I started working on it. The staff looked at me oddly when I told them to have a joke ready to start the staff meeting. We had a few laughs over it and over the joke, too.
At another point, we even instituted the position of Fun Officer, who was responsible for planning employee activities. One of the perks was her “fun” budget, a minor expense compared to the value we received in staff teambuilding.
So here’s the question, “Are you having fun yet?” Because if you aren’t, your work will be mediocre and marginal. Your message will be functional but lifeless. And hardly memorable, which doesn’t satisfy our needs as marketers.
I recently sent a congratulatory email to a client who had just been promoted to a new branding role in his company. His one-statement reply was “Thanks. It might be fun, too.”
With that attitude, I know he’s going to do a great job.
Harvey Mackay’s challenge to “put some fun and creativity into your life and your business” is one that requires a conscious choice. When you look for ways to do it, you’ll find them.
Continue the blog and share how adding some fun in your job or workplace has produced a better ad, a more memorable trade show, a superior employee outing, or some other positive outcome.