I’ve been working a lot lately. I shouldn’t complain, not in the current economic climate, but the late nights, back-to-back meetings and constant phone calls can be overwhelming. My oldest sons have also taken on a lot since school began a few months ago. Shemer is in fourth grade and now writes reports and studies for tests as wasn’t previously required. Maytav started first grade and has moved from the less formal curriculum of kindergarten to reading, writing and math. Both boys have a long school day including secular and Jewish studies.
I decided we needed a break so I took the kids out of school and headed to Tel Aviv for a fun day out.
We enjoyed the last days of mild weather with plans to walk on the boardwalk along the Tel Aviv port and then to head to the Yarkon Park. You never know what you’ll discover or who you’ll meet when being spontaneous.
Along the boardwalk we saw a crowd gathered at one of the many upscale cafes. As we approached, we saw television cameras as well. My children pushed through the crowd and I followed until we found ourselves standing right next to Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who was sitting at an outdoor table having lunch. Campaigning ahead of the upcoming national elections which take place February 10, Ms Livni is seeking the office of Israel’s Prime Minister. The Foreign Minister turned to my boys and engaged them in a lengthy conversation explaining that just as we had recently had mayoral elections in Jerusalem, we will soon have national elections and she is running to be the head of Israel’s government.
A bit in shock at the intimate contact we were afforded to someone so high on the international stage, we continued on our fun day to get ice cream cones and to explore Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park. Along the Yarkon river, we saw bikers and joggers on trails; boaters cruising under us as we crossed bridges; a small animal zoo where the boys fed turkeys, roosters and deer and then Maytav could not resist rolling down some of the large grassy hills.
Heading home, I thought about the day and how this year my kids have seen the President, the Mayor and the Foreign Minister (who may be the next Prime Minister) and not from afar. They have spoken with them and shaken hands with them. Such exposure! It was certainly worth pulling them out of school not only for the opportunity we happened upon to meet Tzipi Livni, but for a day of fun away from the day-to-day routine.
I don’t want fun to be reserved only for the weekends, for vacations or for special days, but to be a part of my daily routine in everything I do. Work will be more productive, my family and I will be happier and in general the quality of my life will be improved. This reminds me of something Shemer asked about a year ago. He described one of his teachers as being a good teacher because she made learning fun and he asked why can’t the other teachers be fun? It’s a good question. The kids learn more and have a good time. What happened along the way into adulthood that fun became something separate from the rest of my life? Why are we taught to separate school or work from playtime – shouldn’t they be integrated. Can’t we make work more fun?!
As these thoughts started peculating in my head, a colleague of mine told me that his father, Bernie DeKoven, was coming to visit for a few months. Bernie is looking for people who want to have more fun in their lives, he told me. Bernie is a fun guy and has made fun his career. He has written books and curriculum, he has invented award-winning games for Ideal Toy Company, Children’s Television Workshop, CBS Software and Mattel Toys and he has consulted with businesses. He was co-director of the New Games Foundation and some of you may remember Playday on the Parkway, a community games event involving hundreds of thousands of celebrants for the Philadelphia Bicentennial which he designed and orchestrated. So Bernie and I are now talking about ways to bring fun into the workplace. It usually involves food, games and/or toys.
I tried a couple of minor experiments:
At a recent meeting I sat with three of my client’s staff members and at the end I announced, “I’d like to finish with a game.” They looked at me like I was crazy. I explained that we would each say something we learned and finish by asking a question. We weren’t to relate to each other’s questions – just leave them out there. It turned out to be an excellent way to summarize the meeting and understand how much we all had learned since our questions were much more sophisticated than when we had first sat down together. It was also fun.
Since I am not the only one who has been working hard at my office, I decided to spread the fun around. I brought in breakfast for the office: Bagels, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes and orange juice. It may not seem like much, but it changed the whole mood of the day. It was a nicer place to be, people were in a good mood and while we were still over-worked, we had smiles on our faces.
I encourage you to check out http://www.deepfun.com to see how you can add more fun in your life. And the next time you see one of Israel’s leaders on TV, look for my kids. They just might be there.