International speaker and founder of Rediscover Your Play Jeff Harry explains how adopting a child-like mindset and embracing play at work can help you overcome challenges and find fulfillment.
Guest: Jeff Harry of Rediscover Your Play
Website: Rediscover Your Play
LinkedIn: Jeff Harry
YouTube: Jeff Harry Plays
How often do you allow yourself to play? To say yes over and over again while keeping your inner critic at bay? Think back to when you were a child, found fun in everything and had an insatiable curiosity. What would that feel like today?
Jeff Harry shows individuals and companies how to tap into their true selves, to feel their happiest and most fulfilled – all by playing. Jeff has worked with Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, the NFL, Amazon, and Facebook, helping their staff to infuse more play into the day-to-day.
Jeff is an international speaker who has presented at conferences such as INBOUND, SXSW, and Australia’s Pausefest, showing audiences how major issues in the workplace can be solved using play. Jeff was selected by BambooHR and Engagedly as one of the Top 100 HR Influencers of 2020 for his organisational development work around dealing with toxic people in the workplace. His play work has most recently been featured in the NY Times article: How Do We Add More Play To Our Grown-Up Life – Even Now. He has also been featured on AJ+, SoulPancake, the SF Chronicle, and CNN.
While we spend most of our time pretending to be important, serious grownups, it’s when we let go of that facade and just play that the real magic happens. Fully embracing your own nerdy genius – whatever that is – gives you the power to make a difference and change lives. Jeff believes that we already have many of the answers we seek, and by simply unleashing our inner child, we can find our purpose and, in turn, help to create a better world.
Listen in to learn how you can find your “zone of genius” by embracing your weird and being brave enough to try something new in uncertain times.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [1:38] How to use the concept of play to practice having hard conversations in a way that creates a safe place for everybody.
- [2:34] How a movie about toys in his childhood set the trajectory of Jeff’s career and led him to Rediscover your Play.
- [5:19] The benefits of allowing yourself to be in flow at work and when solving a problem.
- [6:56] Jeff explains how he trains people to feel how to be that toxic person in the office and then practice how to deal with them.
- [9:34] The process of learning how to address your inner self that allows you to deal with a toxic person and eventually change the dynamic of the organisation.
- [12:36] How to find your “zone of genius” by embracing your weird and curiosity.
- [16:25] How COVID times have enabled people to rediscover that they are their own expert.
- [17:33] The process of adopting a childlike mindset by being open to saying yes over and over again.
- [21:18] How your friends can help you work out what puts you into a state of “flow”.
- [25:34] How to prime your mind to look for positivity and opportunity with a play-oriented mindset.
- [29:36] Why your brain is designed to emphasise negative bias and how to catch those negative thoughts.
- [31:25] The techniques to identify your inner critic, name it, disassociate with it and then embrace your inner superhero.
- [35:02] The many ways you can embrace your play and figure how to play even in uncertain times.
- [37:12] Being willing to let your nonsense come through and embrace play.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Gay Hendricks
- Simon Sinek
- Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, Randy Pausch
- Gwen Gordon
- Marsha Shandur
- Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware
- The Nomadic Network
- Location Indie
- “I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own b*******.”, Elizabeth Gilbert
- Kyle Cease’s Kylego Exercise
- Jeff’s exercises:
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 66: Overcoming challenges and finding your flow...through play! - with Jeff Harry of Rediscover Your Play
Jeremy Cline 0:00
When was the last time that you allowed yourself to think like a child? Now that might seem like a really strange question to ask, but hear me out on this. When you're a child, your thoughts are unconstrained by adulthood, by the experiences of growing up by the responsibilities that you gain as you get older. You have the freedom to think, hmm, I wonder what would happen if I did that, and maybe have the opportunity to go ahead and do it without worrying about how it might impact on your adult responsibilities. Sometimes connecting with that inner child really is the way to help you work through a problem. And that's what we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline. And this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:52
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. And if this episode doesn't help you beat Sunday evening blues. I don't know what will. My guest this week is Jeff Harry of Rediscover Your Play. And Jeff's job is to get grownups to play. Jeff, welcome to the podcast.
Jeff Harry 1:11
Hey, thanks so much for having me.
Jeremy Cline 1:12
I can already feel some people in my audience rolling their eyes, possibly shaking their heads, as I say that you get grownups to play. And they're probably thinking about some terrible corporate away day that they've been on where they had to do some cringe worthy getting to know you exercise possibly involving silly hats. So let's put their minds at rest before they switch off. What do you mean by play and getting adults to play in the context of what you do?
Jeff Harry 1:39
So I define play as any joyful act where you are fully present in the moment, where you don't have anxiety about the future and you don't have regrets about the past and you're basically falling in love with the process. And you almost forget about time. And the key part of it is that you let go of results. So when I'm working with organisations, a lot of the time it isn't that we're doing team building events so that people can feel connected, and then just like have a Kumbaya moment, a lot of times, we're tackling really challenging issues like toxicity at work, racism at work, dealing with your inner critic, or office politics, but we actually use the concept of play to practice how to have a hard conversation in a way that creates a safe space for everybody.
Jeremy Cline 2:29
Okay, so before we get into that a bit more, I'd love you to tell me how you got into this area.
Jeff Harry 2:34
Sure. You remember the movie Big with Tom Hanks back in the day?
Jeremy Cline 2:39
I do. I loved that film.
Jeff Harry 2:40
Yeah. So I saw that and that changed my life in many ways. So I saw that when I was in third or fourth grade. And he played with toys for a living, he was dancing on a piano, he met the CEO, the guy offered him a job and he got to just play with toys, and he got paid for it. So as soon as I saw that movie, I was like, that is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life. So I started writing toy companies in fifth grade, and I just didn't stop. I kept doing it all the way through high school, a toy company finally wrote me back and told me to go into mechanical engineering, which I shouldn't have taken that advice, but whatever - I go to Tufts in Boston, and I graduate and I started working for toy companies. And I was thinking this is going to be my dream. And it was the worst, it was the worst job ever. Because there was no play. There were no kids running around, there were no toys for us to play with. And it felt like we might as well be selling microwaves or pillows, because it really didn't matter what we were selling because there was just no joy in it. So I remember having my quarterlife crisis leaving that, and then moving to the Bay Area, California, San Francisco Oakland area, and I remember finding a job where there was only seven people there and they were only paying $150 a week. And what you did was you taught kids engineering with Lego and I joined this organisation and it was only seven people at the time. And then I helped grow it into one of the largest Lego inspired STEM organisations in the country - it went from 7 to 400 people, 100,000 kids a year we would teach. And while we were doing that, we were in Silicon Valley. So a lot of Silicon Valley companies like Facebook, Adobe, Google all started recognising us and being like, hey, do you do these team building events, those Kumbaya ones. And we were like, yeah, sure - even though we didn't, we just made it up as we went along. And while I was running these Kumbaya events, I realised we're not really getting to the crux of the issue of a lot of these companies, because they want to talk about creativity, collaboration and innovation, but they don't want to play. It's such an unsafe environment for you to be comfortable enough to take risks. Its just lip service. Unless we're willing to really dive in and play and create an environment where you feel comfortable falling into flow and being able to take a leap and say something that might look stupid, you can't really be innovative. So that's why I created Rediscover Your Play.
Jeremy Cline 5:10
What's the philosophy if you like, or even the science behind using play or flow as you've described it to help with these sorts of particular issues or problems?
Jeff Harry 5:20
Sure, I study a lot of positive psychology, and there's a guy, coined as the doctor of flow, a Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, who would speak about flow as your ability where the difficulty of a task meets your skill level. So not only do you love what it does, but it almost also challenges you at your fullest potential. And you know you're in flow, because you'll forget about time, you're hitting your zone of genius, as Gay Hendricks would talk about. Your synapses are firing, and what happens also to your mind is you start to see all of the other opportunities in front of you, and everything slows down. And if you think of most adults, most adults are so fixed on one result that you actually ignore all of the other possibilities and opportunities that are in front of you. So allowing yourself to be in flow, especially at work, especially when you're trying to solve a problem is crucial to actually figuring out what is the best solution. And when you are too fixated on just one particular result - they say expectations are the thief of joy - having that fixed mindset focus on that one result separates you from all the other opportunities that you could have.
Jeremy Cline 6:37
You mentioned some of the applications of this in the workplace dealing with difficult toxic situations opens, can you expand on what this sort of approach can help with? Is it just workplaces? It's something that can help you on a kind of a personal finding yourself kind of level as well? How else can it help?
Jeff Harry 6:57
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. First, I'll address the toxic situation. So many companies, even in this virtual space usually has one toxic person in the workplace, right. And there's this brilliant jerk syndrome, where you keep somebody that is toxic, because maybe they bring in a lot of business, you know, maybe they've been there for a really long period of time. And Simon Sinek, he was interviewing the Navy SEALs, and he was talking about the brilliant jerk syndrome. And they talked about how regardless of how fit, how smart, how much of a superhero one person was, as part of the Navy SEALs, it was all about the team rather than the brilliant jerk and having that brilliant jerk that star might take away from the whole team. So you have to ask yourself as an employer, do you have that individual? What is that individual doing, not only to the other employees, but how is it affecting the actual team. And SHRM, which is the American HR organisation recently did a study where in the last five years, $232 billion has been lost due to turnover just because of a toxic person - only because of a toxic person. And that's only companies that are willing to admit that they have one. So what we do in our workshop, my colleague, Gary Ware and I, is we actually run an experience where you feel what it's like to be that toxic person. You feel what it's like to have that power into to control. And then we also put you in an experience where you practice actually having a conversation with that person. And what's interesting in work is a lot of times, unlike in sports, in sports, they practice all week long for the game, right? They build up to get to the game, they even have a pre-season of practice. But at work, there's no practice. You're never allowed to practice. You're like, well, let's practice this conversation, maybe practice this presentation over and over again. But you really don't practice conversation. And that's what we do. A lot of times, it's like, how do I have this hard conversation with this person where maybe they don't realise they're toxic? Maybe they don't realise when they cut someone off that causes no one else to share? So how do I have that conversation with that person? And if I'm willing to practice it enough in this safe environment, then I'll have the bravery to actually go up to that person and have that conversation.
Jeremy Cline 9:26
And just to take this to its conclusion, where does this end? What happens once you've been through this work with whoever it is who's got to have this difficult conversation?
Jeff Harry 9:35
It's interesting, right? There's different experiences. Some people pointed out this person is toxic, and they're like, Oh, I didn't realise that I did that. I'm sorry. And then they check themselves. Other times, they're like, I don't really care. I don't care what you have to say. And then we practice with them how to go up to their boss and be like, hey, do you want this individual as part of the team because they might be causing this level of turnover? They don't represent the values of the organisation and the mission of the organisation. And then you have to see whether your boss is going to check that person over time. A lot of times these conversations take six months, a year, because you're not just all of a sudden going to say this, and then everything changes. But if you do this, in addition to have strategies with your colleagues, where you're like, Listen, this toxic guy, Chad - we'll use the word Chad - is taking up 80% of the meeting. He's talking all the time. So you work with your colleagues, and you're like, Listen, I will get your back, you get my back. And we are going to take up space in these meetings and take up more time in the meetings and set boundaries so Chad can't address, can't take up the meeting anymore. And then the other part of it, and this is probably the hardest one, is we talked about the inner critic, the inner toxic person. Because you have a mean voice also in your head, and I run a whole workshop just on the inner critic, where the reason why you're getting triggered by that toxic individual is because part of you might believe that, part of you might believe you're not smart enough to be there, part of you might believe that you're an imposter that you don't deserve your job. So if you're able to address that within yourself and set that boundary, the next time Chad is super rude to you and says something, you'd be like Chad, that's super rude. Don't ever speak to me that way. And once you say that to him, not only are you setting a boundary for him, but then you're showing all of the other employees, look, you can stand up to this guy, and then they're like, man, I will stand up to Chad, and then everyone starts standing up to Chad, and then Chad can't act that way anymore. And then Chad has a choice, does he stay at this job and change his behaviour? Or does he leave and then it changes the dynamic of the organisation. So when you're able to address your own inner critic, it actually helps others to address theirs.
Jeremy Cline 11:52
I'd like to turn this round now to looking at the individual and helping the individual. A lot of people who listen to this podcast are going to be in a place where work is a bit you know, okay - and it's not like you're describing this flow, this kind of getting into the zone of genius, this 'I could do this all day even if no one was paying me'. Before we talk about maybe some things that people can do to help them with that, to rediscover their play, what can people expect if they go through a process at the end of this? So starting at the endpoint, what's the result? What might people have written down or in their head, which is then going to help them to take action?
Jeff Harry 12:37
Yeah, that's a great question. I'm actually doing a workshop for a biotech company tomorrow and it's all about finding your flow. At the end of it what I want people to walk away with is some ideas on how to follow their curiosity, like the way in which you felt like when you were a kid, and you woke up in the morning, and you were excited to run down the stairs and just play. And I think just to backtrack a little bit and understand where play disappeared for many people, because there was a moment when you went to the playground and that was the last time you went to the playground as a kid. And I think a lot of times people beat themselves up for being 'I don't play enough and I don't know why I don't play enough'. There's so many reasons why you don't. And the best way in which I describe it is the 40,000 no's. By the time you are in your teenage years, you probably have heard the word 'no' approximately 40,000 times according to research. You might have heard the word 'yes', maybe 7-8000 times, depending on your family. And if you want to change your kid's life, think about saying more yes's, than no's. Randy Pausch, who did the last lecture talked about that all the time. He was an MIT professor. And they were like, how did you become such a genius and do all these really cool things in your life - because he was dying of cancer and did this last lecture - and he said my parents said yes, they let me draw on the walls. They let me do all these things, they just gave me the freedom. So going back, you've already heard 40,000 no's by the time you're a teen. Also, you go to school where you're told to raise your hand all the time, you're told that you have to ask permission, you're 'should on' all the time - so you're 'should on' by your teachers, you 'should on' by your parents, you're 'should on' by random adults, 'You should do this', and 'You should do that', and 'This is what you should do when you grow up'. So you keep hearing all of this, all this around society. So it's such a rebellious act for you to actually play because everyone is telling you 'Stop being too much. You're being too mischievious'. People are always telling you that. You starting your podcast or someone making a blog or doing a video or doing something crazy like wearing a costume not on Halloween. Just doing weird things. Being yourself is such a rebellious act and a revolutionary act because everyone's telling you to be normal the whole time, which is so boring. What a boring life to just be straight normal. And you know you have normal conversations when you are bored as you're having the conversation with the other person, and you're asking a question, like, what do you do for a living and you don't really care, or how's the weather? I challenge people to embrace their weird, to embrace their curiosity, to find that zone of genius so that when they wake up, they're like, ooh, I wonder what it would be like to do this? And a lot of times, it isn't this screaming loud voice that's telling you what to do. It's usually this really quiet whisper, this inner child, curious whisper that's like, make that video, contact that person you've been scared to contact when you really want to. Do that thing you're scared but also excited to do, like going skydiving or writing your first novel or whatever the thing that you want to do. And then actually being brave enough and by brave, I don't mean like not having fear - the actual definition of brave or the old definition of brave is to embrace the fear and walk with it - you're scared, but you're willing to be vulnerable. Your bravery, also someone raising their hand and being like, I don't know, I don't know what I'm going to do next. And especially in these uncertain times, a willingness to just try something new is a form of play.
Jeremy Cline 16:13
For the benefit of anyone who's listening to this in a couple of years time when Jeff talks about uncertain times that's because we are still living through the covid 19 pandemic and at the moment, no one knows how that's gonna pan out. I mean, it's just, it's crazy at the moment lockdowns, up and down. Who knows?
Jeff Harry 16:28
Yeah, and I think something also that's valid to say is - or at least my belief - is that no one ever knows what they're doing. In my opinion, I feel like everyone's making it up as they go along, including myself, right? So if this advice resonates with you awesome. If it doesn't, then feel free to ignore it. But I think these covid times have lifted the veil on everyone that claimed they were an expert - they were like, this is what you must do. And it just has shown that you are the expert of your own life. You don't have to listen to all the 'shoulds' and listen to what other people have to say. You should be spending more time really getting quiet and then listening to yourself.
Jeremy Cline 16:30
I'd love to dig into that aspect a bit further. Because there's going to be some people who resonate with this. And maybe they've got as far as recognising that what they're doing at the moment isn't what they're curious about, isn't where their flow is - but they're struggling to work out maybe what is their flow, what is their curiosity, what is the whisper in the back of their head? So where can someone start to identify these things?
Jeff Harry 17:35
I think the first place to start, I always quote my play mentor, Gwen Gordon, who talked about how people can't play until they are able to soothe themselves, right, they're able to calm themselves down. And she pointed out something that was really interesting to me - you learn how to soothe and calm yourself by the person that took care of you the most. If they had issues with calming themselves down or dealing with anxiety, then it's gonna be very hard for you to do it. So you first have to recognise, how do I calm myself? Do I know? How do I know how to soothe myself? Do I know how to relax? Is that taking showers? Is that going on a walk? What is the thing that I can do where I'm able to quiet my mind in many ways. Because if you think about it, when you take a shower, that's when you have a lot of really great ideas. You're not thinking about anything else, you're covered in the warm water. 'Oh, I love this idea! Oh, what if I did this!' So that's the whole point of first identifying how to soothe and calm yourself before you play, because you can't play otherwise. You can't play in an anxiety ridden, frustrated ridden state. After that, then it's about getting bored. And what I mean by bored is not scrolling on social media, not binge watching Netflix. Literally sitting or walking or doing something where you're not inundated by all this information, because you will first have to recognise that I think people in the 1950s received the same amount of information in a year that we receive in a day. So we're getting bombarded by all this stuff, all these ads, all this social media, all this messaging around how you're not enough, you're never gonna be enough, and you need to buy this one product, and then that will make you better, or make you happier. So if you can shut that off, then you can actually get bored. If you think about it, when you were a kid. That's when you had your best ideas. That's also when you had your most dangerous ideas. 'What do I want to do? What if I just jump off of this cliff right now? I'll just jump off over this puddle'. And then you land in it. You're like, wow, that was a bad idea. But yeah, that's part of it. It's just getting bored. And then once you get bored, then that inner curiosity starts to bubble up and starts to whisper to you and it's just like, hey, let's do this. And you're like, I don't know if we should do that. 'No, just come out. Just try. It's no big deal. Just try it.' And then you try it. And you just see how that feels, whatever that is. It's not this loud, passionate voice, it's just this small, curious voice. And once you follow that, then something else will pop up. 'Oh, well, that was kind of fun. Let's do this now'. And you just start building off of your curiosity, almost like when you travel, and you're willing to say yes. Oh, well, let me hop on this moped with this random stranger. Oh, you're going to a deserted island? I'll go to this deserted island with you. And then you go to the deserted island. And that's where there's this huge party, and that's where you find someone that you fall in love with. It's because you're open to saying yes, over and over again, that you start to have this playful, child-like mindset. And you start to see the world as a world of opportunity
Jeremy Cline 20:48
To explore a bit further putting this into practice and maybe breaking it down a little bit. Let's take an example of, say, a late 30s, early 40s lawyer, busy working pretty hard, they've got wife, family, mortgage, all that sort of thing. Weekends are usually taken up with personal admin or childcare or whatever it might be. First of all, how best can this person kind of create the space for themselves to start this line of thinking, to get bored?
Jeff Harry 21:21
I think there's two things First, you really do need to schedule play time, just like you schedule, anything else. And maybe at first, it could even just be like five to 10 minutes, where you're willing to just think about random stuff in the world. When was the last time you daydreamed? When was the last time you sat in the grass with your kids, and just looked up to the sky? Think about opportunities where you could actually show your kids how you use the play as a kid. Then I also do this thing where I run into my Your Future Is Where Your Fun Is workshop with my colleague, where we actually ask people what is it that you loved to do as a kid? What was your favourite thing to do? And hers was playing sardines, and sardines is reverse hide and seek, you should definitely play it sometime. And it's where one person hides. And then if you find that person, you also hide with that person until everyone is hiding in this one corner, and there's like 10 people in the corner. And then the last person is looking for that person. Harder to do during social distancing, but you know, you get it - you can still socially distance and play this game. And I was like, what is it that you love about this play? And she goes, Well, I love the creative acts aspect of it. I love the connection aspect. And I love the part about taking risks. So it has creativity, connection, and there's taking risks and all of that. So you take those play values of what you loved to do as a kid. And then you ask yourself, what is it that I would love to do now that has those same elements? So you try to follow that. Now, let's say you can't figure that out. Then you reach out to your friends. I challenge you to ask your friends these two questions. And if anything, these two questions are going to remind you about who you are, and they're going to also make you feel really good. And the first question I ask my friends is like, What value do I bring to your life? Why are we friends? How do I help you? And you'll be amazed to hear what is reflected back at you? Oh, wow, I didn't even realise I do that for you. And then the second question I asked them is when was the last time you saw me truly playful, like truly present, truly alive? And they'll remind you. And you're like, Oh, yeah, it was when I was travelling. Oh, yeah, it was when I was randomly riding a bike and then I raced these random kids up this hill. They'll remind you of these times when you've actually been playing. And this ties into what you were saying earlier about the lawyer. I remember once working with a lawyer, and I asked her, do you play? And she goes, No, I don't think I play that much. And I go, what do you do for a living? And she goes, I get people that hate each other to come to some agreement. And she was telling me, she got really excited. And I was like, that's your play. Do you forget about time? Do you really enjoy it? Are you fully challenged? That is your play. So there's many ways in which you might already be playing, but you're not giving yourself credit for.
Jeremy Cline 24:19
So you've got someone who goes through this exercise, and I'll bet there's a lot of people who are going to be terrified the concept of asking their friends these quite potentially quite personal questions. That's a big roadblock. Although I have done something similar myself and it was terrifying but the feedback was fantastic so yeah, it's absolutely worth doing. How do you unstick yourself from your current position to be able to start exploring that? And I think this perhaps goes back to kind of what you feel your obligations are as an adult. But if you've got the obligations of being a parent, the obligations of being a homeowner, the obligations of whatever it might be, and you want to push against what you're doing, which satisfies those obligations, but doesn't satisfy them in a way which satisfies you. So how do you begin to get to the place where you can still fulfil these obligations, but in a way which better satisfies you? I think it's a long way around saying if you feel stuck in a career, but you can't see a way out because you've got bills to pay, how would you start to apply this process without getting absolutely paranoid that you're going to quit your job and go bankrupt?
Jeff Harry 25:38
Right. I think a lot of times we operate in extremes. And they talk about a lot about this and positive psychology, that people think of the worst scenario instead of challenging themselves to explore either what could possibly happen with the best scenario, or what's happening with the most likely scenario. We're not asking you to quit your job. We're not asking you to absolve yourself of all obligations. But I would challenge someone and my friend, William Brown talks a lot about this with identity. What are your various identities you have? Maybe you're a parent, maybe your husband, maybe a brother, or sister, or a caretaker. You have all these obligations, so you have a lot that you have to do. But also look at your entire day, and really look at how much of your day is bought into obligations and which obligations do you actually have to do. There are certain things like obviously feeding your children, feeding yourself, taking care of your loved ones - those are obviously most important, and doing your job. But there's also a lot of time where you are just in this 'meh' state. And that's usually when you're binge watching Netflix, that's usually when you're on social media. And there reason why you're doing that is because you're trying to cope, you're trying to numb yourself. I got to go to happy hour because my job sucks so much. So I get why you're doing that. But if you're willing to take that extra time, it might not be that much time, but take that extra time and use that just begin to explore your curiosities, to begin to explore what it would be like to feel more fulfilled, more happy, and just see where that might take you. Or let's do a different experiment. Maybe you don't have time for any of that. Let's just reframe the day. So a lot of people talk about how they have bad days. Well, actually, many studies have found that your thoughts last between 9 seconds and 90 seconds. So when you have a bad day, it's not that you had a bad day - you had a bad moment. And then you played that bad moment, 1000 times throughout the day. And while you did that, you also looked for other bad moments throughout your day. So you primed yourself to look for negativity. Well, let me challenge you. Take a day when you wake up and look for something good to happen. When something good happens - my friend Desiree taught me this - ask yourself when something good happens, how can it get any better than this? And you don't ask that from a state of wanting, like 'I need something to be better than this'. But more of a curious state like, oh, wow, how could it get any better than this? I'm doing this podcast with Jeremy. Oh, wow. How could it get any better than this? Oh, I get to connect with my friends later and we're brainstorming some a bunch of play ideas. How can it get any better than this? Oh, then I get to see my girlfriend, how can it get any better than this? And you start to expand and stack your positive experiences, and you keep asking that question, how can it get any better than this? And you're priming your mind to look for positivity, you're priming your mind to look for opportunity. And you know, you felt this when you had a 'good day', because you say yes, and be open and grateful. And just simply starting with that, even if you don't have time to first play, just owning that playful play-oriented mindset will change your day.
Jeremy Cline 29:02
I think that's an absolutely inspired suggestion. And the thoughts for 9 to 90 seconds, but then the bad days replaying that I mean, that is just so true. And I don't know if there's something about the way we seem to be wired that we focus more on the negative. Especially if you're a blogger or a podcaster and you get 10 five star reviews, and then you get the one no star review. And that's the one which you kind of think everyone hates me, everyone hates me. Even though it's one out of 10 or 11, or whatever it is. We become drawn to focusing on that.
Jeff Harry 29:37
Can I comment on that for just a moment?
Jeremy Cline 29:39
Yeah, yeah, please do.
Jeff Harry 29:40
Our brains are designed for that. Our brains are designed to have a negativity bias. So we shouldn't be beating ourselves up for it. Why do we have a negativity bias? Because as everyone knows, our brains are designed to keep us alive and way back when, in the prehistoric time, your brain was trying to protect you from threats. Now we don't have those threats. But our brain still is designed in that way to look for the threat. So again, it's a challenge to recognise that and then be like, okay, thank you inner critic for recognising that zero review, and then being like, I see that, but I'm not going to let you drive the vehicle, I'm not going to let my inner critic drive the vehicle with fear, I'm going to put you in the back seat, because right now I'm going to appreciate the fact that I got five good reviews. So just know your brain is designed that way. And all you need to do is just catch it whenever it's being negative. And you'll know it's being negative, because all of a sudden, you'll start feeling bad about yourself, and you'll be like, Why do I feel so bad. And what I like to do is start writing down those thoughts on a piece of paper, or what I do is sometimes I text my friends my negative thoughts - and I name it Gargamel, Gargamel is my evil inner critic - and I start texting those negative thoughts to my friends. And once I write them down, it's so obvious that they're thoughts from when I was in third grade. And then I realise that's not me anymore, and I'm able to let that go.
Jeremy Cline 29:43
I was going to ask you about techniques for bringing out the positive and cancelling out the negative. And it sounds to me like one simple technique is effectively, what you've described which is journaling. So you just you write stuff down, you wrote down the negative and the positive.
Jeff Harry 31:29
Well, I'll even go a step further. My friend Marsha Shandur taught me this. There's power in naming your inner critic or your inner beast or mean voice. So I run a workshop Playing With Your Inner Critic, where as a group we write down what our mean voice says, then we identify what that mean voice or inner critic sounds like. Then we actually think about what it looks like. Because usually, it's like someone from high school. Or maybe it's a combination of your parents, or your aunt, or someone from your first job you ever had, or some bully when you were in third grade, but it's always somebody. Mine's Gargamel. And once I write down the thoughts, once I name what it looks like and what it sounds like, and then once I name it - that's the key part, you name it - then you're able to be like, oh, Chad is talking to me right now. It's not me. It's Chad. Oh, it's Gargamel. And you're able to disassociate it from yourself, you recognise, oh, it's just me - my scared third grade self. And then once you're able to identify that, then you're able to identify what I refer to as your inner superhero, or what some people refer to as your inner cheerleader. It's a separate voice that's like, You got this, you can do this. Come on, let's take a risk. And you've known that voice when you feel confident, and someone is literally whispering to you, 'You've got this, I trust you, you're confident enough to do this, you've done this before you can do it again'. Then you start to recognise that voice, and recognise that that is a separate voice. And then you're starting to be able to see where these are coming from and just be more aware. Awareness is everything, especially in positive psychology. Because once you're able to identify that, then you're able to let go of that inner critic being you just thinking you're crappy and then realising Oh, that's just me when I was a kid.
Jeremy Cline 33:30
Where did the name Gargamel come from out of interest?
Jeff Harry 33:32
Ah, from the Smurfs, I don't know if you remember the Smurfs from the 1980s, but Gargamel would always steal the Smurfs. So he would just always come in and be like, I'm gonna steal you. And what he would do is he would take away the fun. He would take all the fun away. And that is what your inner critic does. When you're so focused on results, and you have to have this certain result - like a groomzilla or bridezilla - I must have this result, or I'm not gonna be happy, it takes away all the fun, because then you're so fixated on getting this one item that you miss out on all the other opportunities. Think of someone that's just obsessed about their wedding. If they're so fixated on one way it has to go, they miss out on the fact that they're surrounded by all their loved ones, that there's all these opportunities for new connections to happen and all these new memories that could possibly occur. And if you think about it, your best moments in your life are play moments. I can get into the regrets of the dying in a moment, but if you're so fixated on being 'my wedding has to happen this way' or 'my job has to happen this way', or 'my day has to happen this way,' you ignore all of the adventures that could possibly happen.
Jeremy Cline 34:45
I'd just like to bring this back round to finding your own flow. And when you've been through this process of asking your friends when you were last really happy playing, you've identified things from your own childhood that brought you happiness - how would you go about applying that to the adult world?
Jeff Harry 35:06
So after you took the risk - because I know it's a hard risk just to simply be vulnerable enough to ask your friends - and you've also gotten bored and you figured out Oh, what possible curiosities do I have here? You now have a list of all these really cool things you could possibly do. What has the most energy around it? What is the item that's most exciting to you? And let me just circle that one item. And then you ask your friends or your family or even your kids, Hey, can you help me do more of this? I used to love to explore as a kid. I used to love just wandering around. Could you take your kid and go walking and just explore and see your city or your town or your suburb in a new way? I had a friend who loves to travel, that is her play. She can't travel right now. Instead of like beating herself up she goes, What is the thing that I love most about travelling? Oh, what I love most is meeting new people, especially meeting new people from other countries. So she found networking places like Nomadic Network and Location Indie, places where other people love to travel, found Facebook groups for people who love to travel and share their stories about travel. And now she's on zoom calls with random people that she loves to connect with, and not only is she feeling some of that travel play, but she's also building connections with people that when she can travel again, she can actually go visit them directly. So there are so many ways in which you can embrace your play and figure out a way in which to still play even during these crazy times, if you're just open to following your curiosity.
Jeremy Cline 36:51
Jeff, we have covered a huge amount of stuff. I really wasn't expecting to cover such a diverse range of topics. So let's close with a question from Tim Ferriss. Something he often asks his guests, if you had a metaphorical billboard on which you could put a non commercial expression or picture or something that is going to be seen by millions or billions of people connected with all this, what would you put on that billboard.
Jeff Harry 37:16
There's so many different things that blow through, but I think I'd grab the quote from Elizabeth Gilbert. I've never seen anyone go through personal transformation that hasn't got tired of their own BS. And the reason why I say that is I make a lot of really stupid videos, that's what I do for my play. That's actually how I start most of my days, I prime my day by making these ridiculous videos just for myself just because they're entertaining. But there was a time when I wouldn't, because I was too scared. I would be like, what are people gonna think, I have to look at myself. And I kept telling myself this is BS, right? And I would tell myself, I don't have time. And then covid hit and I had to be in quarantine. We're all stuck in the house. And I was challenged on my own lies. And I was like, Well, now I have all the time in the world. No excuses now. And I had to get over that. And once I was able to get over that, it became one of my favourite ways to play. And now when I start my day making a ridiculous video, playing to start my day, it actually frames the day in such a way that I start seeing every opportunity like this podcast as play. So I would challenge people to think about what is their own BS that they are dealing with and they're tired of dealing with and are they willing to finally let that go so they can play?
Jeremy Cline 38:45
You've mentioned various people and resources. Do you have one maybe that sticks out that you can recommend to the listeners as something to look out for, just something that can get them started on this?
Jeff Harry 38:56
There's a comedian that turned into like a self help guru that's still kind of hilarious, named Kyle Cease, and he does an experiment, this mind experiment called Kylego, which is really interesting. He was a comedian and an actor and when he would go to acting gigs, he would never get any of the acting gigs. And one day, he was hanging out with his friend Diego - and that's why they call it Kylego - and what they did was they described the tryout as if it already happened. They would describe today, oh, I had the greatest day. And they would describe it as if it already happened, as if it was real. And he did that, and because of doing that he primed his mind to see the opportunity or the performance as it already happening. So he started getting all these gigs. So I challenge people to explore Kylego in their day or Kylego in their month, or heck, even their year and describing to someone as if like, Hey, you wouldn't have believed what happened this week. And if you just start listing all the fun things that you did that week and just see after you do that, whether some of those things actually happen. Because what from a positive psychology standpoint, what happens is we're always looking for patterns. And if you've already described a really cool thing that's happened, even though it hasn't happened yet, if you describe it, then you're able to start looking for it throughout the week. And then you might even have one of your best weeks ever.
Jeremy Cline 40:22
It's a slightly odd take on journaling which is a practice I keep on talking about. I've never actually started it. I keep on thinking, yeah, I really must do that along with meditation. I really like that. Where can people find you? Where's the best way to get ahold of you and get in touch?
Jeff Harry 40:38
Sure, so they can find me at rediscoveryourplay.com and then you can find me at my handle jeffharryplays, and I'm on TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.
Jeremy Cline 40:57
I think you're the first guest I've had who's been on TikTok. So well done on that distinction.
Jeff Harry 41:01
Jeremy Cline 41:04
Jeff, so much to take from this, this has been absolutely awesome. And I think we're going to have to follow up on some of this stuff at some point as well in the future. So thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.
Jeff Harry 41:13
Thanks so much for having me. This was awesome.
Jeremy Cline 41:14
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Jeff Harry. Well we could do with more of that positivity in the world. If there were more people with that much positive outlook, then the world would just be so much a happier place. There is so much stuff to work through from that episode and there's no way I can do justice to everything Jeff said in a short outro. So I'll just pick up on a couple of points that really stuck out for me. One was Jeff saying how we're never really allowed to practice at work, we're kind of encouraged to get on and do it. And that's in stark contrast to certainly sports people where they will spend hours and hours and days and days practising before the big match, the time when their work actually matters. And I guess it's the same for orchestras or choirs or people in the artistic space - they will do loads and loads of practice so they've got it perfect, absolutely down to pat when it comes to that all important performance. How much opportunity do you have to practice what you do at work? Probably not very much. You go to work, and you're expected just to do and get on with it without the opportunity necessarily for being able to make mistakes in a safe environment or in a way which doesn't necessarily impact on the nature of your work or your business. The other thing I wanted to mention was the exercise that Jeff mentioned, the exercise of going out to your friends and asking them about you, asking them so what is it you come to me for help with? Or could you describe a time when you last saw me in a state of joyfulness where I was really enjoying what I was doing? It is really scary going out and asking your friends questions like this and leaving yourself open and vulnerable to them. But chances are, they're going to help you out. And they're gonna appreciate the fact that you asked them the question, and the feedback you get will be absolutely fantastic. It's actually something that I've done in the past. And those of you who've signed up for my find career happiness exercises, go to the website and click on the tab Find Career Happiness, you'll know that there was a bonus exercise in that where basically, I suggest to you that you go out and ask your friends some questions about you, about your superpowers. That's what I did and yeah, the feedback is absolutely fantastic, its invaluable. It really helps you work out what you're good at and find your place. After we spoke, Jeff sent me some of the exercises which he recommends for the people that he guides and he teaches and I will link to those in the show notes for this episode. And you'll find those at changeworklife.com/66. So we're well into December, the holiday season is fast approaching. It really has been the most extraordinary of years. Who knows how things like global pandemics are gonna pan out in 2021. But it's certainly the time of year where you might start thinking about well, what can I be doing next year? What are my goals? What in my career or job am I struggling with that I'd like to address in 2021? And if you've got ideas or topics that you'd like me to cover next year, or if you've got particular struggles that you'd like me to see if I can get someone on to interview to address those particular struggles, then let me know. If you go to the website changeworklife.com/contact there's a form there. Fill it in, I read every single message I receive. So do please let me know what you'd like to see on the podcast next year. In the meantime, there's going to be another great episode coming up next week and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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