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#145 – The Art of Play in Work, Life, and Storytelling
How to leverage a powerful tool for storytelling and navigating life
Ugh. Sorry I’m a day late. I blame substack’s stupid system that defaults to PM 🤦🏾♀️ (and myself for not double checking when I so proudly scheduled it). So instead of early I am late this week. Onward. This is Adventures in Storytelling your weekly note with resources, insights, and actionable tools for better communication through storytelling. Enjoy.
The idea of play and the act itself feature prominently in my work. Both as the co-founder of Re-Work and as a storyteller, creator, and communications consultant. It was an essential part of how I healed from burnout and how I approach my creative work. At Re-Work we have a framework for building a healthier relationship with work and productivity and play is a key step.
Because play is a powerful tool for storytelling AND navigating life.
Play is this magical act that when engaged with can make huge shifts in your life and work. It is the portal to neuroplasticity according to podcast host and ophthalmology professor, Andrew Huberman. Meaning, when you play, even as adults, you are strengthening your capacity to create new neural pathways in your brain. To change. To think differently. And that capacity is something that will make your work and your ability to share stories so much better.
And play and storytelling are closely linked. As Stuart Brown puts it, “Storytelling has the capacity to produce a sense of timelessness, pleasure, and altered state of vicarious involvement that identifies narrative and storytelling with states of play.” He defines play as time spent without purpose. That means there are no hard and fast rules to how you choose to play, just that you don’t attach a purpose (lose weight, learn, be productive, etc.) to it beyond enjoyment.
According to Huberman, it also needs to be low stakes, allow you to explore possibility, and demand focus without being stressful for it to be the type of play that helps you change your brain. Play is also key to creativity and innovation—you can’t have either without it in any meaningful way.
Esther Perel describes play as, “the infinite testing ground for creativity,” which is a beautiful truth we can all learn from. So as you think about how you share your story and how you spend a good portion of your life (working), I’d encourage you to think about how you can make it a bit more playful and consider what may grow out of that. How you might commit to play more, to exploring possibility, evolving your story, and changing how you engage with work?
So why am I telling you all about play and some of the researchers exploring it? Because I think play is essential to life and good storytelling, to making stories; yet it is something many of us as adults let go of a long time ago. To be serious, and to be responsible, and to be “adult.” And, as a result, we’ve gotten less creative, less adaptive, and more set in our ways. Less able to look at the world and shape it in new ways while also reshaping and re-imagining our businesses, careers, lives, and stories. Seriously, when was the last time you played? For yourself, just for the fun of it?
I have a challenge for you. How can you bring a sense of playfulness into your work? How can you make your next effort in storytelling more playful? These are the questions I want you to challenge yourself with.
A Story Well Told – Come Play with Me!
If you happen to be in Toronto next week, you can come explore play in person. I’m facilitating a workshop on play and creativity as part of the Re-Work 2023 workshop series. Through it we help participants develop a more sustainable (and healthy) relationship with work. It’s an afternoon workshop next Thursday the 17th at the Ace Hotel in Toronto. Because tapping into play can be hard at first—it took me MONTHS to figure it out and I still consider myself a play novice. Tickets are available on a sliding scale to make it as accessible as possible. This is going to be a fun one so I’ll hope you’ll join. We’ll have storytellers, dive deep into play and creativity, and begin to reshape how we think about our work and careers through the power of play.
I’ve also written a little bit about the beauty of play and its essential role in storytelling in the past. You can read some of those posts below.
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