One day I was playing with some kids. Tough stuff like jumping, running, doing somersaults, throwing stuff. For some reasons, kids think that I’m a good playmate for this kind of things.
Anyway, we were playing and having fun when one of them threw something at me. He hit me quite heavily on the chest. Because I’m an adult, it was just a bit painful, but it could be worst if he targeted one of the other kids. So, I told him that what he just did wasn’t fun at all, that it was painful and I didn’t want to play in that way.
I can still see his puzzle eyes staring at me, trying to find a sense in what had just happened. His curious mind was combining information and creating new connections.
I admit, for a moment I envied him, his not knowing, his curiosity, his need to experience the world first-hand to find meaning and discover the boundaries. With all our knowledge we know, or we think we know, the outcome of an action before trying. Even if we never did it before. And those expectations set boundaries from the very beginning.
What would happen if you go into something with the innocent curiosity of children? Are you able to set aside all your knowledge and jump fully into the experience?
The last workshop that I co-facilitate was held inside a gorgeous farm. The whole area was a delight for the senses; the blooming cherry trees, the peacock welcoming us in the morning, the shiny green of the spring all over the fields.
The area is quite vast, so to have lunch we had to walk for about 10 minutes from the building where we were working to the restaurant. Midway on the walk, we passed by a vegetable garden where an old man was working. When he saw us, the old man stops what he was doing, and he asked us if we knew how to smell a plant. We were late for lunch, but earlier, at the beginning of the workshop, we made a commitment among ourselves to slow down.
So we stop and, like a group of curious kids, we naturally spread around him. We learned that to sense the scent of a plant the secret is being kind and loving.
But we learn a lot more than that.
Mario, that was his name, told us a personal story of how he discovered love holding his one years old niece in his arms.
It was a magical moment for him and for us.
And it happened because we intentionally slowed down and left space for the unexpected.
Every story needs someone willing to listen. We all have extraordinary stories to share but too often there is nobody there to listen to us.
Our life is to busy. There is always something we have to do and somewhere we have to be.
When we slow down, we can create space to welcome the stories of others.
And discover extraordinary people.
Last night was the last one of probably the most important traditional celebration in Valencia; las Fallas. It’s a week full of music, colors, people, dancing, folklore, and firecrackers. For the duration of the celebration, the city is filled with beautiful monuments, called “Falles” made of cardboard, wood, and polystyrene.
You can find some photos online, they are unique pieces of art. Some of them took a whole year to be built.
The closing act of this week is called the “Cremà” (Valencian for “burning”).
During the last night, all the “falla” monuments are set on fire. They are all wholly burnt.
The first time I experienced this celebration, I was surprised. What is the point in dedicating so much effort to something and then burn it down in one night?
Now I know that things don’t have a meaning on themselves. We give meaning to them. What really matters is not the object, it is the relationship that we have with that object. Through the “cremà” people in Valencia fill with meaning the monument they create.
It’s an excellent reminder to myself of the importance of anchor anything I do to a meaning.
A few weeks ago I had an inspiring conversation about playfulness with my dear friend Luca. While we were reflecting on what “being playful” means to us, we realised that in playing, like in every human experience, there are both form and essence.
Because the form is the only visible one and the easier to model, we usually focus on it. It is what most of the companies did years ago when “gamification” became one of the main buzzwords in the digital industry. I did it too.
My feeling is that the “gamification” approach didn’t deliver the expected impact because it was all about form. We were trying to apply the typical visible elements of games to other areas. But the essence wasn’t there. We were just asking people with a business mindset to use a playful form.
What could happen if we do the reverse? If we infuse a playful mindset into other forms?
For Luca and I, a playful mindset or attitude is about being always curious, making everything experiential, seeing everything as an opportunity to learn and discover, focusing on the act of playing more than on the outcome, having fun together.
What about you? What is the essence of playing for you?
And what would happen if you infuse that essence in your work?