Work is Play

The energy we approach our activities stays with the activity and with us long after it's been created.  If we enter into work with an energy of dread, the work is harder and may not be our best. If we enter in with an energy of fun and play, it's usually our best work and we are deeply satisfied with the result.  JJ and Melissa explore how to notice when we are in each state, and discuss ways to be more aware in the moment to stay more playful.

July 20, 2021
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness Journey podcast. This little banner is about a car ride long and features your hosts JJ Parker. And Melissa Albert's JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years.

JJ Parker  0:18  
I had the best week, Melissa, hi. Oh, fun.

Melissa Albers  0:23  
I couldn't get a hold of you no matter what practically. You were playing? No,

JJ Parker  0:27  
I was. I was. Yep. I was totally playing the whole week. I wasn't actually working at all. Right? It was awesome. Well, so what we're doing this week is me and my work colleague, Amber, who is our creative director. We took the week off from our normal job, right? Normally, like, I'm in leadership meetings, I'm heavily involved in product and marketing, right. Working on all that stuff for for the company. Amber's working on design and marketing and things to support the product, our sales team. So we took a break from our day to day work activities, and worked on something else. We call the innovation week. Yeah, I liked that. And I don't do. And all we did was play, play around. And what we decided to play with was another, like business concept. Mm hmm. Right. So in the span of four days, we created a logo, we created a brand guide, we created a website mock up, we did a paper prototype of the software. So for those who don't know what that is, like, we literally like drew an app out on paper, like, like a whole bunch of pieces of paper of every single screen, right? And then we made a mock up of what that software would actually look like. When built, like not hand drawn, but high. We call a high fidelity, but like really nice, polished looking version. So we produced all of that in four days, which was an amazing amount of output.

Melissa Albers  2:29  
Yes. It's an amazing amount of hours. So now, if people are reading between the lines, two things are emerging. One, your play, you weren't playing you were really, really heads down. But it was fun. Yeah. And yes. And two, you have just given the secret sauce about how you make software.

JJ Parker  2:46  
No, yeah, right. Right. You just follow that playbook? It's super easy.

Melissa Albers  2:52  
Yeah. In four days.

JJ Parker  2:55  
Well, so the key is like, what what I thought was awesome. About this week is like what your your I said, we were playing around, and it felt like we were playing because the thing we did this week, it had like it had no expectation of a deliverable. Like we didn't, we didn't say like, Hey, we have to get through X amount of work, right? It didn't have any, like specifications or requirements or business, like didn't have anything around it. Right? It had no constraints around it. It only had the constraint of time, like we wanted to get it done this week. And are we just wanted to spend the week doing something actually, I didn't that was on Fridays, we just want to spend a week doing something. So we didn't even really have

Melissa Albers  3:46  
Yeah, expectations. You didn't Yeah, there's no expectations around

JJ Parker  3:49  
the site. And so, in that environment, she and I produced, like, an amazing amount of work. Well, let's

Melissa Albers  4:01  
put this in. Like, if you were to start it from start, if you were to do what you just described in a normal place in a normal environment, with normal people working on it with just all the regular stuff. How long would that have taken?

JJ Parker  4:16  
It would have? That's a that's a fairly good question. But, you know, it would have taken probably two months. Yep. If we were doing all of our regular run rate work. Plus, if we were here, if we were kind of like doing the thing where we had other people involved, and we were trying to follow the process, and we were like, making sure we are checking in with everybody. Yeah. And we're kind of like doing more what I would consider like the social norms of how to act in a company. Yeah. Um, it would have been way slower, and it would have been fun, because I really frankly, you know, like, have you ever designed a logo? Or had somebody design a logo? For you?

Melissa Albers  5:09  
Yes, we've done that.

JJ Parker  5:11  
I know you and I've done that. Have Have you ever done it? When there's like, eight or 10? people's opinion in the room about suddenly logo? Yeah, it's the worst,

Melissa Albers  5:21  
it's the worst. There's a whole bunch of stuff that's like that. Now, by the way, you're starting to sound very, very much around the don't do things in teams. And that's not what you mean at all.

JJ Parker  5:33  
That's not what I mean. It just, oh, all I'm kind of saying is that, um, and sometimes, you know, a lot of times you just simply you have to write you have to work in groups, you have to work in teams. And, and like, I'm not, I'm definitely not saying teams are are a bad thing. But what I'm reflecting on is just like, just like, think, to me the whole week for me. Yeah, it just felt like I was like, in my backyard playing with my friend. Yeah. As like, as like a kindergarten kid. Right. Right. It felt childlike. It felt childlike this week, it felt like, I'm just in the sandbox. Amariah just playing, you know, building stuff, not, you know, trying stuff, knocking it over blowing it up trying it again, like, like, we made a bunch of logos. Most of them sucked, right? Doesn't matter. Throw him away, move on. Right? It's very much like, like, build quick, you know, yeah, just like delete throwaway quick,

Melissa Albers  6:37  
like, well, you're focusing on that part. And I guess what I'm hearing is like, what we're really talking about is this idea that when we are in the Space of Creation, when we're being in our sole sweet spot, I don't know what else to call it. I would just say when we're not in our heads about putting all these rules and policies around us, which is kind of the human condition, we're always doing that, right. We're like, Yeah, how do we stay in order? How do we do what we're supposed to do air quotes, there's a lot more rigidity, if there's a lot more rigidity, that's how we normally will operate. And I think what you're saying, is this, this idea that what is it like to operate? Without that? What is it like to operate with a different set of standards? Like, what is it like to allow yourself the freedom and flexibility to not just be in your head, but to be in your, your, your whole you your authentic, emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, where you all those are in alignment, but there's, you're not putting forth a bunch of expectation in that alignment? You're allowing the flow?

JJ Parker  7:49  
Yep, yep. Yeah, yesterday, when you and I had lunch, you walked into the conference room, and I had all this stuff hung up on the wall, right? Like, like, my whole, like, body of work, printed out, hung up all over the place, like a crazy person. And what do you say to her like, oh, like, this is what you do? Or something like that, right?

Melissa Albers  8:11  
Yeah. I said, Yeah, I said something like, oh, I recognize where you are or something like that. Yeah, cuz I can. Yeah, no,

JJ Parker  8:18  
that was just like, I was just in surrounded by Yeah. By a week's work.

Melissa Albers  8:25  
Yeah. Anyway, and so. And, and you're also rocking out to Stevie Wonder.

JJ Parker  8:31  
Oh, yeah. So weird.

Melissa Albers  8:37  
is fun. It's really fun.

JJ Parker  8:40  
Well, I like this idea. Like, I like doing this. I like this. I like, I like going into these play modes. Yeah. Especially at work. Yeah. Yeah. Because for me, kind of like, from, like you said, like, a creative perspective, from an artistic perspective. Like, I believe, like, it's good for you. Right? It's good to reset. It's good to explore, and get into that mindset. And the thing that I always reminded about, after I come out of one of these little play sessions, I guess, is why am I not in that mode all of the time? If if what I just went on for 10 minutes about was how I was like, super creative, super productive. Everything fell awesome. I'm on this like, euphoric high about all of the work I did. Why is that? Not every single week? Right? What is about what is happening with my sort of regular mindset? Yeah, that isn't allowing me to be in this great mode all the time. Why does it have to be a special event?

Melissa Albers  9:49  
I for me, yeah, it's a great question. And for me, I would go so far as to say, being in that space of expansion and Just where you're letting your heart guide you, you're letting all these other things influence you for fun, your mind is not as engaged, it's engaged in the creation piece, but your mind is not engaged in the, in the shut things off, if it gets to Acts shut things down, if it's not, if everybody else is gonna think it's a certain way, or you get worried about what other people are gonna think or say, or you start thinking you're not good enough with something or you start again, like, that's the, to me, that's our brain going to this place of strong judgment. And, and and I think that's our normal mode of operation. I think that the normal mode of operation, and what you and I talk about all the time is to is to have it not be the normal mode of operation. Mm hmm. And that, that and that, and then not being in that state, is that highly creative? Like go with the flow? And it sounds very kitschy to say it that way. But it really is that to me, it's like, wow, that's so cool. Like, what if we just allow that space and have fun and go as guided like, inside of you when you feel good? Just keep following that breadcrumb trail. But we don't do that normally. I don't know. Yeah.

JJ Parker  11:17  
Yeah. Well, I like if, if work, this idea like that we have, like Work is work. And it somehow has this, like, we don't want to do it. But we have to do it because, you know, make money and feed the kids and whatever. Yeah. And play is something separate. You know, I just don't really like that. I think work should be play. I think that if you can get into a state where, like, more of your every day is in this play. And I think it's a mindset thing. Yeah, I don't. I don't, I don't think it's anything particularly constructed by a work environment, right? Like, no, it's not like just because maybe you go to an office, and there are some rules and things that doesn't mean you can't be in a playful mindset the whole time. It's like we're creating, like you said, we're creating the energy that is like, it's something different. Yeah. Then that, Nick, you then play like that. That is something more serious somehow, right? Like, yeah, like we we wear different clothes, or we get all dressed up. But we have put ourselves in this other more serious mood where everything is way heavier, and everything's way more important than it actually is.

Melissa Albers  12:42  
Yes. Oh, my gosh, that's so good. Yeah, I agree. Yeah,

JJ Parker  12:47  
that's a stressful. It's not like a hippie, a stressful man. Like, don't want to go to work, get stressed out. You may wear a suit and tie every day.

Melissa Albers  12:57  
Yeah. You don't even own it. You own a tie?

JJ Parker  13:01  
I don't think so.

Melissa Albers  13:03  
I think you're right, though, I think what we're really talking about is mindset. And I think and what we're talking about too, is how we validate ourself. Mm hmm. I really believe it has to do with how we validate ourselves, meaning, if we set forth standards for ourselves, that that for ourselves that aren't really ours, we're in a box, you start thinking, like what you just described, like, I have to dress a certain way, or I'm out of the box of normality, and people are gonna judge me, or I have to have a certain way of acting. Otherwise, people aren't going to feel like I'm, quote, normal or like them. And I have a certain way of doing my job. If I try to do my job other than that way, it's not going to be good, because people will think I'm trying to showboat and I'm trying to do this, or I'm trying to do that. So it's again, it's like all these mind games that we play with ourselves about what we think normal is, and it's like, this is our adventure. We get to be on this planet for such a short time. And and I just love this idea of who cares? Like, does it really matter? Like the things that we're talking about? Like, even in your creation week, like had it flopped? Had this week flopped? Right? It didn't, but had it? Who cares? You know, like, is it really gonna mean the whole world stops on its axis? No, there's very little.

JJ Parker  14:39  
Well, I'm actually even in the context of judging if it flopped or not. Who knows? We maybe we won't use any of the work we made this week. Who knows? Right? And if we if it if we didn't actually produce anything good, it would still be a success because I'm having this wonderful story about it. Yeah. And it had this wonderful feeling about it right. It feels

Melissa Albers  14:59  
good. There it is, you had this wonderful feeling about it exactly.

JJ Parker  15:03  
But I like where you're going to, with this idea because like, really, life is play, right? Like, like, how many times where we're talking about work and my little experience, but the idea that you get yourself into a mindset for your day to day, like your entire life that like that life isn't that serious, right? Life can be play, like life should be your little sandbox. And you should just run around like a kindergartener all the time, and express the way you want to and try things and fail things and not have so many expectations about anything.

Melissa Albers  15:47  
Yeah, I think too, it's like when we're in partnership with people in a close partnership, whether it be a spousal relationship, or whether it be coworker or business partner, I think it's so normal to seek guidance and approval from the people around us. And, you know, that's the self awareness journey right there, where we talk about really needing that external validation from others to feel good. And there's no such thing like, you will never ever feel good if you seek that validation all the time. So if that's true, which I believe it is, what can we do to go into that space of, I just want to do what feels good for me. You know, like, I just want to do what feels good to me, because I know when I'm in that space, I am really creating well, and it's so much fun. Like, it's so fun to just do what I feel like, even if you have a list of things to do at home, right? It's like, I don't really want to do this, or this or this. But this thing I really like doing this thing, this thing, like makes me feel good. Like it's really fun. And I'm going to do that, like you just follow the breadcrumbs. And I feel like your energy and everything opens up, like all the possibilities of everything open up for us, when we enter into it, and it really does become fun and even things that are, quote, work. They don't feel like work.

JJ Parker  17:11  
Yeah. So what you're suggesting is, I should only do the things around my house that are fun. No. Which means I'm definitely not doing the dishes anymore. No, no, Amber's not cleaning. I

Melissa Albers  17:25  
did not say that.

JJ Parker  17:28  
I couldn't do any of that stuff anymore. Thank you for your help. Well, the thing about chores is, like, there there's two. There's two times when I like there's two kinds of chores I do. Like sometimes I really don't like doing them. I just have to do them. Right. And other times, like I really like cleaning the house. Yeah. Like I get in the mood. Yeah. Whoa, that's a psych this is super enjoyable. I really like it. Yeah. Even though it's work, and it's just, you know, vacuuming and cleaning toilets. Yeah, you get it's still enjoyable. It's enjoyable. So again, that's like a mindset thing, right is a mindset of like going into the TAs saying like, this is gonna be horrible. I don't want to do this like, yeah. Right. And try to avoid it, you know, until the sink is overflowing, right? Yeah, just start you know, this, start running the water and feel the warm water wash over your hands, and then just go dish by dish. And then yeah, sometimes it just becomes actually really enjoyable. I think

Melissa Albers  18:42  
what you are talking about is mindset, though mindset and the energy that we put behind that a lot of times we will convince ourselves that everything has to be hard. I've seen that a lot in the workplace to like with people on coaching, where they'll be naturally really good at something, but they have, they feel like they have to work so hard to make it look and be good. And and then it is hard, then everything becomes harder. But when we just lean in and enjoy the experiences and that mindset says is more curious. It's like, that's what you're really talking about, like that fun versus, you know, play versus work. Is the axis of that the being curious. And you know, is the access of that? What do you think is like some of the key things that we can think about or feel as it relates to leaving that mindset of work and going to play? Okay, that's an interesting thing to think about.

JJ Parker  19:41  
Yeah, I like I like the I like thinking about words and how we use Yeah, words, because I think they really shape thinking and we don't really realize it, but you just said the word curious. And at work, I use the phrase all the time. I wonder you do pick up because it that is a curious stance. Right? And it's, it allows people to release judgment on the thing they're going to say, exactly. Like I say to somebody like, hey, Melissa, I wonder if we could blah, blah, blah. And then it frees you up to just be like, huh, yeah, I don't know, maybe here like just some ideas start going, yeah. You loosen the mooring. But if you loosen it, yeah. But if you go to it and say we need to, or have when it gets tighter, right? You're putting people in a tighter position. Yeah. So I think being really intentional around even though I like the language to get less serious and more playful and more curious. Yeah. Is it's a subtle shift. But it's one that's really impactful. You've helped

Melissa Albers  21:01  
me a lot with that, too, you know, JJ, because a lot of times when we're in creation mode, like you do, you create all the time and you just love it, you you're very artistic in so many ways. For me, I have this, like, in my mom, you know, as an artist, she's an absolutely amazing can create anything, kind of art person. So I always feel a lot more like concrete sequential, like for me, the act of thinking completely, freely, has been much harder for me. And then, So that part's hard for me. So in the mode mode of creating something, if I land on something that I feel is greater creation than I I am capable of typically making. Now see, there's a judgment, but that's been my thinking pattern. My thinking pattern says, I'm not really very creative. If I am creative, I can only get to a certain point. And oh, my gosh, if this point is bigger than I've ever had before, don't mess with it. Don't mess with it. Go just go. What if it stops? And your perspective is 100%, the opposite your perspective is we as creatures, human beings, we will never stop creating? Well, and you're that's the that's, that is truth. Like with the capital T. That's the truth. So it's these little mind games. So I think that we get in a habit of making that causes some rigidity, and it's not fun anymore. And being able to come back to that, that fun, and be able to come back to that. Oh, my gosh, we did create this. And oh, you know, like, remember when we created this last thing that was so cool. And there's so much more here for us. Like that whole pattern of thinking right there expanded into all of our lives. Like, is that would be so amazing when it?

JJ Parker  22:52  
Yeah, yeah. Let's talk like, let's talk about, we talked about, you're creating your own reality. Mm hmm. Right. Or your own experience? Like, yeah, in the world. Yeah. So. So why wouldn't we want that experience to be? Yeah, much more playful and curious and adventurous. Yeah. Fan. Rigid.

Melissa Albers  23:15  
You know why I think I think that we naturally go to the place of more rigidity, because of fear. Yeah, fear of not being good enough. Fear of not having enough. Fear. Yeah. And that fear gets us down. And we think we must have to work really hard to get out of this fear place in order to create something nice to have this nice house, to have a good relationship, to have this neat job. To have this cool art project, we must have to work awfully hard and prove ourselves. And that's not true at all.

JJ Parker  23:51  
But that yeah, what happens? What happens between you being like a five year old in your backyard, on amazing, imaginary adventures, to you being like, like an adult with a house and kids and a job that feels like you're, you know, like, feels trapped? And with expectations and pressure and responsibility and stress and all these things around it? Like what happens between those two points? Why? Why do we let that happen?

Melissa Albers  24:26  
I don't know. But we catch that. Okay. So I have to just tell you as far

JJ Parker  24:31  
as salva in this podcast, wrap it up? I

Melissa Albers  24:35  
was just gonna give you this visual as you were talking because I was like a huge tomboy when I was little. And we lived in northern Minnesota. And there was this tree house. It wasn't a house. It was not a house. It was the scariest structure that was nailed together with odd odd pieces found in backyards. And, and it was about eight levels. So you started out The face of this tree, and you went through trap doors and these rickety platforms and we as a as a neighbor group created this extremely cool and dangerous tree forts and and you're right, like even just like thinking about it now I think, Oh, I'm so glad we didn't die.

JJ Parker  25:24  
Well, I think that's like an awesome metaphor for life. Right? Like, like you didn't die. The the fear the adult fear that you have is that the thing you made is unstable it's unsafe, you're gonna hurt yourself, right? But so many times that's does that that's like a false is false that's not a real risk, right? Or if that is a risk, the actual consequence of that risk. Yeah, is is not real high. Exactly. Yeah. Like, yep. I really like to think about separating, you know, like the word risk, you have to separate that into two parts. It's like, likelihood, and consequence. Right. So some people will say something as risky was like, Okay, what's the likelihood that it'll happen? I like what's a consequence of the bad thing? Oh, that's interest. Because if the likelihood is low, and the consequence is low, it's not that risky, right? To me, like if the likelihood is low, and the consequence is super high. For me, personally, that's not that risky. I'll engage in that all all the time. But if the likelihood is high, and the consequence is high, I'm probably not getting engaged to that. Right. Exactly. But anyway, these are all the the idea that life is a rickety treehouse.

Melissa Albers  26:55  
Exactly, that you just

JJ Parker  26:57  
get to build and it's not perfect. And there's nail sticking out of it. And parts of it. Partly, you know, you know, not to really go to the edge of the seventh level, because it's not real stable over there. Yeah. That's true. There's a good it's good. Like, I think we should be much more in a like, life is our own rickety treehouse. Yeah. Then it is like a structure built to code. Yeah. By master carpenters.

Melissa Albers  27:24  
Yeah, exactly. And the rickety Treehouse was built with little parts and pieces that we found along the way. So you're right. That's, that's a beautiful metaphor, right? It's just, yeah, I think this conversation is really a cool one, because it just reminds us that everything that we're experiencing in our lives is our own design. You know, every single thing that we're experiencing is based on the lens in which we are looking, looking through, like, do we think that this is hard? Do we think that this is fun? If we take on an attitude of fear? What does that look like versus taking on an attitude of curiosity in anything could be house cleaning, could be relationships, could be jobs, could be anything, this is our adventure.

JJ Parker  28:10  
Alright, adventure.

Melissa Albers  28:12  
We hope that you've enjoyed today's episode. Our mission is to help people become happier and more effective by gaining insight into their own thoughts and feelings. We'd love your support. First, share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Second, leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast safe. This helps others discover the podcast so we can reach more people. And third, sign up for our newsletter at the self awareness journey.com. This will help us communicate better with you and build our community. Thank you so much for joining us in the self awareness journey. We'll see you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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