The Most Important Thing to Have at Work

I’ve been asked to pitch some ideas for an intracompany newsletter at my job today. The point of it being two-fold:

  1. To increase better communication between colleagues and management
  2. To make work fun

They don’t know it, but I’ve gone over and beyond with a Power Point presentation all set up and everything. In honor of Michael Scott, I even thought about throwing out candy bars during the pitch.

But it got me thinking a lot about having fun at work.

Why is that such a big deal and is it that important?

Speaking to a buddy of mine, I asked him the question I ask almost everyone I come in contact with: “What do you want out of life?” His answer: “I want to have fun at work. I want to sit back and laugh with my friends while we get work done.”

When we’re kids we naturally gravitate toward anything that’s bright, colorful, or even has the potential to be fun or funny.  Then we go through a phase where we back off from that sort of stuff for appearance’s sake. But once we’ve been in the dark long enough, as adults we crave what we fought so hard to obtain as kids.

We want the fun back.

We browse YouTube for hours looking for the next big laugh.

Fun and humor stimulate us. Back when I was the director of some after school programs, our best and most successful ideas came out of just gabbing and cracking jokes. Ed Catmull, in his brilliant and flawless book, Creativity, Inc. says the same thing about his team of power brains making all those Pixar movies.

Fun begets passion. When there’s no fun, there’s no passion. Passion drives ideas. Passion almost always benefits the bottom line. 

If you’re the owner of a company, imagine if all of your employees had passion on the clock. How much better would your customers be treated? How much could your business grow because of that?

I love the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Like, even though we can’t own it since there’s kids in the house, that movie is on my list of top five favorites. Why? Because those dudes be havin’ FUN! Sure, they broke the law and got busted, but I don’t think they ever looked back and regretted the fun they had.

wows-dwarfI also don’t think it’s a coincidence that my favorite band is Fun..

So, I challenge you to put together a list of ideas for your team at work, or for your manager, and present this simple yet beautiful idea of fun. If you can’t do that, start cracking jokes at company meetings, shake things up. Wear a funny hat to work or pull some pranks. Some work environments might not like it, so know the rules and don’t get yourself fired (and if you’re in that sort of situation, get out of there already), but find little things you can do to brighten up your day. Because when you’re happy, others will be happy, too. Happiness is contagious.

Here’s a little something I did at work not too long ago. My little addition to the janitor’s sign was taken down after like, a minute, but I did see the guy after me walk out smiling.

Now, start aiming for a good time. Life is short (and it’s even shorter if you die of a heart attack because work is so stressful and boring).

December Isn’t the Only Time We Lie to Our Kids

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Christmas. The time of discounts and icy roads and beautiful…lies.

For us storytellers and pathological liars, December is the time of year where we have a free pass to lie to our families.

We can lie to our spouses. “I’m going out to fill the car up.” But we’re really hopping over to Target to pick up some gifts. (Or, if you’re me, browsing the DVD section to see what’s on sale.)

“What’s in that bag?” asks your spouse. “Oh, some bars of soap and warm socks.”

And the most popular: “If you’re good, Santa will come bearing gifts.” (Or, as he’s called in our house by our toddlers, “Ho, ho, ho will come bearing gifts.”)

It’s a timeless debate. Should we lie to our kids about Santa? Will they trust us when it comes to anything else? Will they start believing they can sprout wings and fly and jump off the roof? 

I’m no parenting expert, but here’s my take on it:

I lied to my kids when I read them Peter Pan. Every time I put in Wreck-It Ralph because the movie suggests that video game characters exist outside of our control and have feelings and lead lives when the game consoles shut down. I have never once said, “Kids, this is make-believe and Wreck-it Ralph and Fix-it Felix don’t really exist.”

I’ve never once said to them, “People can’t really fly,” or “toys don’t really come to life.” Instead, I buy them Woody and Buzz dolls with built-in voice boxes that suggest that they’re real.

I’ve also asked them every morning this month, “Did you hear any elves running around the house last night? Where do you think he’s hiding today?” You know what I’m talking about.

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I don’t think telling your kids that Santa is coming is a bad thing. If I did, then I have no business letting them read books about talking dinosaurs. I don’t think any of us suffered any psychological trauma having been told about Santa when we were younger. In fact, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we didn’t honestly believe Santa was real even when our dads dressed up and we were encouraged to leave cookies and milk on the fireplace mantel.

Otherwise, why did we so blindly accept the truth about electricity but we bogged our parents down with hundreds of Santa questions? We never had solid proof. It was mists of teasing. We can recall the smirks our parents threw at each other when they said the Santas at the malls were just his helpers. We can recall how their answers to our endless questions were nonchalant like, “Eh, he just kinda shimmies down those chimney. I don’t know, the reindeer have pixie dust. Um, Santa’s probably a thousand years old.”

Think about it. You knew something was up. Our parents had a bigger reaction to the weather than to some world-traveler breaking into the house to leave mysterious boxes under the tree. I mean, those presents could have been bombs, or crazy sex toys.

But we also remember the feeling of magic and sentiment we felt when our parents were “in on it” with us. For one month out of the year our parents chose to believe what we wished was real.

What stands out to me the most about the Santa story is the themes of innocence and safety. The Santa story makes strangers friendly, the unknown pleasing and pleasant, and elves not so creepy. It also fights against pop-culture and film theories claiming red is a good and comforting color.

In short, the Santa story sets things right. I don’t swear to my kids that Santa is real, and I don’t make them sign some contract binding them to be good for Santa’s sake. But I’m not going hide them from any image of Santa and insist that he’s not real. Instead Sarabeth and I take a neutral stand. If they choose to believe in Santa, then who are we to stop them? I’m not going to rob them of that magic I felt growing up. They’re smart kids. I know deep down they don’t really believe the elf hops down off the shelf on his own every night, and they know that the reindeer at the zoo aren’t going to just up and fly away.

We all have chosen a side in this great December debate. I’ve chosen my side because I can’t stop the world from being dark and terrible, so I’m going to fill them with as much talking fish and wardrobe magic and Santa lore that I can.

In Anticipation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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I was warm for Star Wars growing up. I hadn’t been introduced to the far away galaxy until I was in middle school when theaters around the world re-released the original trilogy in anticipation of the newer films.

I liked them, but I never really loved them. In fact, I always thought, even in middle school, that all the humans were really bad actors, except of course, for Han Solo (queue any songs about a possible man-crush).

Don’t get me wrong. I liked Star Wars. A lot. I just never got around to reading the endless spin-off novels or collected the C-3PO Pez dispensers or dress up as a storm trooper and go to comic cons (I did get the soundtrack, though).

But then my whole mindset was changed nearly a year ago with the release of The Force Awakens. That movie made me a die-hard Star Wars fan. That movie was like the answer to an impossible riddle. It was like the mayonnaise on my sandwich, the ice in my tea on a hot day, it was enough to make me join the fictitious resistance, as it were.

And now, judging by the trailers and poster of the newest (albeit unofficial) Star Wars installment, we’re in for another treat this year.

Personally, I love that the Star Wars universe is bringing in lead female protagonists. That’s because I have a daughter and I’m glad she can now be emotionally invested in the movies for upcoming family Star Wars nights. Rey is a great role model for my little girl as I’m sure Jyn will be just as kick-ass.

rogue-one-jyn-ersa-geared-up

And can we please give a huge applause to Disney for getting the galactic saga back on track with the original 70’s look? I swear the first second I saw they were doing that last year, that got me hyped up just like the Cars 3 trailer took me  (and the rest of the wordl) from eh to HOLY CRAP FREAKIN’ YES I CAN’T WAIT!!!

(Seriously, whoever’s doing the marketing at Disney/Pixar/Lucas Films needs to run for president because they clearly know how to do their job extremely well.)

So who’s excited about this unofficial Star Wars installment? What are you most excited about? Who loved The Force Awakens as much as I did? Also, to address a small point of contention between almost every couple in America, what’s a good age to start showing Star Wars to your kids?

Twenty-Seven Ways You Can Die

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love hearing a good sob story. Like stories about when you found out Santa isn’t real, or pathetic reasons you got fired from your job. Or how you found out that everyone will die. Here’s my story.

I was maybe six or so. I remember my family and I took a trip to some historical park. I don’t remember where. Over the years I’ve accepted that we drove up from Southern California to Washington State. I don’t remember that trip if it ever happened, but I remember being behind the backseat of whatever station wagon we were driving through whatever historical park we were visiting.

The following moment was so surreal that all else faded from memory.

I just remember my mom, dad, and sister were in the car. And maybe my grandparents.

The historical park (or wherever we were)  had several bronze statues of historical figures. You know, those eleven-foot statues set up on brick cylinders? I remember looking up at one of them (probably of Thomas Jefferson, or some colonial figure because he had the ruffles and the tricorne hat) and wondering how a statue is made.

I was curious enough to ask about it in the back of the car. “How do they make those statues?” I asked. “Who are they?”

“They’re of famous people who’ve died,” came the response from the front.

Now, before I go any further, I need to explain the difference between what parents say and what children hear. Observe:

Parent says: “Don’t touch that glass doll.” Child hears: “Touch any other glass doll.”

Parent says: “If you pull on the Christmas tree it will fall over and kill you.” Child hears: “If you pull on the Christmas tree it’s going to make a mess and there might be blood!”

So when my parents said that those statues were of famous people who died, I heard, “When you die, you get turned into a statue.”

Immediately I imagined being encased in an iron cast for all eternity. Then I asked the next fatal question: “How did they die?”

The answer: “Some got sick, some got old, some died in wars.”

(At this point, I need to remind you that I didn’t know yet that death was inevitable. I thought those were just really unlucky bastards who struck out big time. Like, don’t go to war, duh. Go to the doctor, duh.)

Then I said, “That’s sad.” I didn’t mean it was sad that they died. I meant that it was sad that they were encased in an iron shell, tormented by eternal stillness and stiff muscles for all eternity like Han Solo.

Then someone said: “It’ll happen to everyone sooner or later.”

At this point, the violins I was hearing were interrupted with a scratchy record and my eyes popped open. “What?” I asked.

“Well, everyone dies.” I wished adults really did sound like the Peanuts grown-ups so I didn’t have to hear that.

“Everyone?”

“Everyone.”

“You mean, you’re doing to die, Dad?”

“Yup.”

“And you, Mom?”

“Yup.”

I asked everyone by name if they were going to die. And then I asked the inevitable: “Am going to die?”

“Someday. But not for a long, long time.”

I didn’t care that it wasn’t going to be for a long time. All I cared about was that one day I was going to be turned into one of those statues, helpless as I watched people walk past in droves pointing at me, birds pooping on me, being left out in the cold every night.

So the violins started back up in my head and I burst out in tears. That’s pretty much all I remember from that whole trip.

You know what I did next?

After my family told me everything would be okay and that people don’t turn into statues when they die (unless you’re in Narnia), I then started counting all the possible ways people could die.

Sickness. Old age. Getting hit by a car. Flying into a window (because my knowledge of death was limited to dogs, squirrels, and birds apparently). I also included drowning and holding your breath too long for the fun of it and stubbing your toe so bad that you die.

I came up with about twenty-seven ways a person could die. And these were twenty-seven things I tried to avoid doing from then on out.

You know what I should have done instead? I should have thought about all the different ways to live.

Twenty-seven years later I guess I still have time to change my thinking. You know, before I turn into a statue. So here’s my new list:

Ways to Live:

How I Met Your … Friends?

howimetyourmother2

So I’ve been watching How I Met Your Mother for the first time ever. I’m halfway through season 4, and I love the show. Where has it been all my life? Oh, just right there on my TV but I never bothered to give it a try until Netflix decided to be awesome.

I grew up on Friends, and other than The Fresh Prince, that was my go-to show. (I actually secretly call it The Ross and Chandler Show since I seriously cannot get enough of those two. I mean, Ross getting a spray-on tan – classic.)

maxresdefaultIn many ways the shows are identical. You’ve got the group of friends nearly divided equally between guys and girls. Two side characters get hitched. One of the guys is a playboy who can land any girl he wants (and does). And then you’ve got the main guy on each show (face it, everything revolves around Ross as much as it does Ted), who wants nothing more than to settle down, but just can’t seem to find the time or woman to do it with (which is ironic, because there’s really not many guys like that, so you’d think the girls would flock all over them). There’s Central Perk vs. MacLaren’s; New York/New York (see what I did there?); the guys can’t fight; it’s all about sex; always guaranteed a good time (see what I did there, too?).

The biggest difference I see in the two shows is that the storytelling strengths are there in How I Met Your Mother as the endless laugh-out-loud moments overflow from Friends.

So unless Mother tanks next season (which most shows do around season 5, except for Friends, which held a fairly level streak through all ten seasons), I’m going to be forced to decide which show is better.

That’s like having to choose vanilla or chocolate. Or an eggnog frappuccino or a gingerbread frappuccino (I don’t like hot drinks).

It’ll be like having to choose a favorite child.

So! I want to hear from you all. Am I in for a good time for the duration of Mother, or should I brace for a crash-landing like so many beloved sitcoms tend to succumb to?

It seems to me the writers must have had the ending in mind when they wrote the pilot. Something to do with a yellow umbrella? So do me a favor and let me know what I’m in for, whether that be in the form of hyping or warning.

A Politically Incorrect Thanksgiving Poem

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This Thanksgiving falls sixteen days after the presidential nomination.

Some rejoice the results while others bemoan the abomination.

 

Verbal shots will be taken and friends will fall prey

to the slander and abuse that will take place on this day.

 

No longer will just the blood of turkeys be spilled

but those of our family and friends as our bellies are filled.

 

Instead of giving thanks around the table this year

Americans one and all will incite loathing and fear.

 

“You tree-hugging liberal skank,” some will abhor.

And on the table’s opposite: “You racist republican whore.”

 

They’ll start off as groans and hard-to-hear mumbles

as the potatoes boil they’ll become audible grumbles.

 

Eye-rolls will turn into daggers shot hard

as all await the first to play the dreaded Trump card.

 

The stuffing will be dished with fingers stiff and pointing

mocking the cabinet Trump is appointing.

 

But let’s not forget those who voted for a party third

They’ll be blending in while cutting and also flipping the bird.

 

Whispers will give way to talk then raise to loud shouting

and the expletives will become part of the verbal spouting.

 

“You voted for that blood-spilling, lying bitch?”

“Do you not value me as a woman, or do you have a brain-glitch?”

 

On it will go no one having the time of their lives

“Pass me the garlic, the onions, and chives!”

 

Phones will be passed in lieu of toasty gravy,

sharing videos of Hillary bashing the NAVY.

 

More videos: Hillary bowing toward Mecca!

More videos: Trump groping my friend Miss Rebecca!

 

Trump has too much hair! Hillary’s eyebrows too bushy!

Hillary’s just reaching for power! Trumps grabbing…well, he’s pushy.

 

Some will say, “Throw Hillary in jail!”

Others say it’s to Trump we should heil.

 

Hillary loves terrorists! Trump loves Putin!

(My face is bloating, do these yams have gluten?)

 

All the while there’s a corpse on our table who had a shot at more life

But today’s president did not pardon this bird from the knife.

 

I ask you, how is that fair and how do we fare?

We still bicker and fight though we still get to breathe air.

 

So when you look at that turkey and slice its gullet

think back to a time of Game Boys and mullets.

 

When you were a kid at the Thanksgiving table,

the peace was so nice it was almost a fable.

 

Don’t judge your gay neighbors or steal your uncle’s guns.

Just laugh with your friends and have fun

(and don’t forget to grab some buns).

 

Happy Thanksgiving Americans one and all.

This Thanksgiving There Will Be Blood

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This Thanksgiving falls sixteen days after the presidential nomination.

Some rejoice the results while others bemoan the abomination.

 

Verbal shots will be taken and friends will fall prey

to the slander and abuse that will take place on this day.

 

No longer will just the blood of turkeys be spilled

but those of our family and friends as our bellies are filled.

 

Instead of giving thanks around the table this year

Americans one and all will incite loathing and fear.

 

“You tree-hugging liberal skank,” some will abhor.

And on the table’s opposite: “You racist republican whore.”

 

They’ll start off as groans and hard-to-hear mumbles

as the potatoes boil they’ll become audible grumbles.

 

Eye-rolls will turn into daggers shot hard

as all await the first to play the dreaded Trump card.

 

The stuffing will be dished with fingers stiff and pointing

mocking the cabinet Trump is appointing.

 

But let’s not forget those who voted for a party third

They’ll be blending in while cutting and also flipping the bird.

 

Whispers will give way to talk then raise to loud shouting

and the expletives will become part of the verbal spouting.

 

“You voted for that blood-spilling, lying bitch?”

“Do you not value me as a woman, or do you have a brain-glitch?”

 

On it will go no one having the time of their lives

“Pass me the garlic, the onions, and chives!”

 

Phones will be passed in lieu of toasty gravy,

sharing videos of Hillary bashing the NAVY.

 

More videos: Hillary bowing toward Mecca!

More videos: Trump groping my friend Miss Rebecca!

 

Trump has too much hair! Hillary’s eyebrows too bushy!

Hillary’s just reaching for power! Trumps grabbing…well, he’s pushy.

 

Some will say, “Throw Hillary in jail!”

Others say it’s to Trump we should heil.

 

Hillary loves terrorists! Trump loves Putin!

(My face is bloating, do these yams have gluten?)

 

All the while there’s a corpse on our table who had a shot at more life

But today’s president did not pardon this bird from the knife.

 

I ask you, how is that fair and how do we fare?

We still bicker and fight though we still get to breathe air.

 

So when you look at that turkey and slice its gullet

think back to a time of Game Boys and mullets.

 

When you were a kid at the Thanksgiving table,

the peace was so nice it was almost a fable.

 

Don’t judge your gay neighbors or steal your uncle’s guns.

Just laugh with your friends and have fun

(and don’t forget to grab some buns).

 

Happy Thanksgiving Americans one and all.