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The productivity of play

 

 

 

An unproductive premise

I know of a woman who wanted to take up gymnastics at the age of 26, but the instructor she consulted told her she was too old. She gave up because the instructor convinced her it would be a waste of time since the typical professional gymnast begins training in their early pre-teens and peaks by the time they’re 26.

At the heart of this instructor’s advice was an oft-repeated but rarely questioned assumption:

In order for a creative interest to be justifiably pursued, one must have a reasonable expectation that they will be able to perform well and/or translate their passion into an income generating profession.

Here’s my two cents:

That advice is 100% rubbish! There is simply no rational basis for accepting that  assumption as true. It completely flies in the face of the very thing which makes us human; the capacity to become vehicles of expression for divine imagination through our willingness to engage life playfully.

An interest doesn’t need to be able to pay your bills in order for it to be meaningful.

There is no reason for anyone to delay or deny themselves the opportunity to explore a passion simply because they don’t have an idea for how to turn that passion into a job, an award, or 15 minutes of fame.

In fact, people who actually do end up turning their passions into professions are usually the ones who had the courage to simply fool around with an activity that captured their sense of wonder without any indication of a forthcoming reward.

We’re so afraid of wasting our time on our “silly” interests, that we fail to do the very things that are designed to show us how interesting and creative we truly are.

One of the most practical things we can do is nurture those aspects of ourselves which don’t derive their value from practical concerns.

We had it right when we were children

Jesus once said “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of heaven isn’t just about living forever in paradise when we die. The kingdom of heaven is about experiencing an eternal quality of life while we’re still breathing here on Earth. It is a mode of being in which we experience ourselves as conduits of creative energy flowing  through us from a higher state.

But we must be like children if we wish to enter this state.

Of all the things which seem to frighten children, the one they never cower away from is the invitation to play. Children are willing to use their imaginations without concern for the lack of practicality characterizing their games.

By the time the average child is a teenager, however, it becomes a matter of course to prepare himself beforehand with carefully laid out reasons for why every decision he makes is logical, practical, or at least cool. In a world where so many people feel the need to justify themselves constantly, it is easy to see how so many adults gradually become alienated from their child-like sense of wonder. 

The productivity of play

Play takes us into a space where our reasons and justifications simply don’t matter. It has no respect or regard for our compulsive need to impress one another. It forces us to own up to our hearts by doing something simply because we find it thrilling to do. Play activates our faith by requiring us to step in a direction that carries no guarantees.

When we play, we’re able to unearth our soul’s treasures and discover portions of ourselves that are never called upon by our professional lives and daily routines.

All productivity begins with the willingness to be “unproductive”. In order for one to succeed, he must be sufficiently inspired to act. In order for one to be sufficiently inspired to act, he must be fueled by a vision which energizes him. In order to have an energizing vision, he must first take the time to playfully imagine.

Work hard, but play harder. Your productivity depends on it.

T.K. Coleman

You’re not too old

There’s no age limit on bliss

You may be too old to audition for American Idol, but you’re not too old to sing.

You may be too old to old to become a 16-year old olympic figure skater, but you’re not to old to love figure skating.

You may be too old to become a child prodigy pianist, but you’re not too old to learn piano.

You may be too old to get on the “Dumbo the elephant” ride at Disneyland, but you’re not too old to have fun.

You may be too old to relive your childhood, but you’re not too old to recapture your sense of wonder.

You’re not too old. You’re not too old to learn how to read. You’re not to old to write a book. You’re not too old to find your soul mate. You’re not too old to become a parent. You’re not too old to begin living an inspired life. You’re not too old. Period!

Too old to be impressive?

Part of the fear of being too old to try something new is really the fear of being so old that nobody will find it impressive when you actually get around to doing it.

When dealing with children, it’s common courtesy to praise every effort they make to be creative. If a child shows us a bunch of crappy looking crayon scribbles on a half-torn page, we gasp and say “Picasso!” It’s our way of  building their confidence and self-esteem. But by the time you’re an adult, we lose time for such patronage. When you’re an adult, it’s time to put up or shut up. If someone tells you that you have a lot of potential when you’re 30, that’s an insult.

If you’re 8 years old and you can play classical piano, we’re doing the best we can to get you on a televised talent show. If you’re 16, it’s still pretty interesting. If you’re 32, then you SHOULD be good. If you’re 50 or older, there are probably people half your age who are twice as good.

Depressing? Well, only if you use depressing standards like this to determine the value of your pursuits in life.

Being impressive isn’t the same as making an impression

Are you doing what you do, because there’s someone you’re trying to impress?

If so, let me save you some valuable time. There is a high likelihood that the people closest to you will be the ones who are least impressed by what you do. NBA Hall of famer, Michael Jordan, said his children’s favorite basketball player was B.J. Armstrong. A close friend of mine, Jazz musician Shawn “Thunder” Wallace, frequently says “an expert is someone who lives 500 miles away.” Jesus said “a prophet is rarely accepted in his home town.”

 It is frequently reported by successful people that the individuals who love their work the most are people who emerge from unexpected places. If your prime motivation is to impress someone you know, you may be setting yourself up for an uphill climb.

Fortunately, the options don’t stop there.

Happiness never gets old

What if we stopped evaluating the value of our lives, accomplishments, and interests by how impressed someone else is?

What about good old fashioned joy?

Are you too old to be happy?

At what age does feeling good cease to matter?

What if you made joy your motivating factor in the interests you pursue?

I believe the fear of being too old falls away when we center our priorities around personal satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment.

If the thought of learning a new language, traveling abroad, making a career change, taking voice lessons, or anything else feels exciting to you, then there’s nothing to lose and your entire soul to gain. Nobody needs to be impressed with you in order for you to follow your highest excitement. But here’s the paradoxical aspect of it all: When you dare to pursue your bliss even when the world says you’re too old, you will always make an impression on others. 

There’s never been a happy, enthusiastic, and inspired older person who struck the world as boring. The boring ones, young and old, are always to be found in the same area: sitting on the sidelines with their excuses as they yearningly watch those adventurous souls who dare to do what their hearts demand of them.

At least that’s my two cents,

T.K. Coleman

Don’t hesitate. Initiate!

What are you waiting on?

 
Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Ecclesiastes 11:4

Are there any unfulfilled desires for creative self-expression in your life?

Is there any adventurous activity you’ve always wanted to try, but have continually failed to get started?

There can be many reasons why we hesitate to take chances on our creative impulses, but one of the most powerful reasons of all is the assumption that there is such a thing as an ideal set of conditions for creating. Once these conditions are in place, we presuppose, we’ll have the permission and freedom to do what we really want to do.

The present moment never needs permission from a future moment

The truth of the matter is that we always have something we can be doing to propel our lives forward. We may not have all the money we think we need, but there are always some action steps we could take that don’t require money. “Sure!” the skeptic may say. “But what happens when I get done with those action steps and then I arrive at the point where I need the money?”

My two cents: The best pathway to the answers you need is action taken upon the answers you already have. When you act on what you do know, you attract more information and inspiration to act on. You may feel you need 3 extra hours a day to work on a goal you have, while in reality you only have 15 minutes a day that you can spend towards it. If you take an all or nothing approach and do nothing simply because “it’s not enough”, your vision never gets off the ground. But if you start where you are and “despise not the day of small beginnings”, you’ll inevitably find yourself amazed by the way in which assistance comes your way and synchronous events unfold.

The man who spoke to empty audiences

As a child, I grew up listening to a very prominent speaker whose audiences were always packed with people hungry to feed off of his inspirational and insightful words. I had always assumed that his crowd of followers were with him from the very beginning until I heard him tell his story. When he first “felt the calling” to speak,  he used all the money from his corporate job to finance the purchase of a small, run down, gutted out liquor store in an inner city. After getting the place cleaned up, he posted a sign on the doors announcing dates & times when he’d be speaking. For the first several dozen times he showed up, absolutely no one was present.

Although he considered just packing up and going home many of those times. he decided to speak to an empty audience every session. Eventually, people started to get curious about this eccentric man who talked to empty audiences and the audience gradually trickled in as they discovered great value in his thoughts. Since then, he’s never spoken to an empty audience again.

Now is the time to become legendary

The ultimate goal in life is not to gain a following or become famous. The real goal is to deliberately design a lifestyle in which you are deriving great fulfillment through loving service to the world, by using your creatives gifts in a personally satisfying way. This isn’t about being famous. It’s about having a legacy. But having a legacy, whether it involves being famous or not, requires us to  abandon any strategy that demands we wait on perfect conditions.

The perfect conditions are always a response to the faith we have in ourselves.

Everything you need to be the person you were born to be will be there, as soon as you choose to show up first.

The best part of it all? It’s much easier than it sounds. Once you get started, it only gets easier to keep going.

Don’t hesitate. Initiate!

At least that’s my two cents.

Cheers,

T.K. Coleman

When “keeping it real” goes wrong! Pt. 2

In my last post, I began a discussion on anger. If you’d like to check it out, click here. This posts is a continuation of that theme. I hope you enjoy. Cheers 🙂 -T.K. Coleman

What motivates our responses to anger?

 

People who get themselves into trouble, by doing things they later regret because of an angry reaction, often defend themselves by saying things like;

“I’m not Mother Theresa! I don’t have the ability to just flip the switch and be all nice to people when they tick me off!”

Part of the reason why people feel this way lies in the fact that we’re rarely coached on how to deal with anger in a way that’s intrinsically motivated. Guilt and a sense of moral duty head the list of reasons why we’re told we should handle anger responsibly. We’re taught to be the bigger person because it’s the right thing to do.

So, when we lose our cool and blow up at people, we feel guilty and wish we had a nicer, more Mother Theresa like, personality. But in the real world where we must deal with pricks while striving to keep up with an incessant stream of societal demands, the morally superior path just doesn’t seem to offer the same practical advantages as less “enlightened” responses to conflict.

Ideally, it would be great to do as Jesus advised and “love your enemies”, but a nice punch in the face or a few choice words may seem to get the point across more readily. This feeling is understandable, but I believe there’s more to the picture.

Trying to be positive will only drive you mad

My advice to people is this;

Don’t focus on being positive or morally good. Just be selfish. Focus on getting what you want. Go back and reconsider your options. Then choose the one(s) that will actually take you there. Don’t make changes in life because you think it’s evil to be negative. Make changes because you’re no longer interested in self-sabotaging the joy you’ve always wanted to feel.
 

One of the most overlooked qualities of optimists and happy people is the fact that they are among some of the most selfish people in the world. I don’t mean selfish in the sense of being snobbish, but selfish in the sense of being inwardly motivated by their own desire to procure as much personal pleasure as possible. Because of their unwavering focus on their goals and personal health,  they’re often able to overlook and move past the typical disturbances that distract lesser focused people.

We can learn a significant lesson from such people:

Negative energy directed at another person usually results in positive energy being directed away from what you really want.
 
“A battle against anything or anyone is a battle against you!”*

Do you love and respect yourself enough to keep it cool?

Who really loses when you shout obscenities at the person who cut you off on the highway if you carry that anger in your body for half the work day?

Who really loses when you “tear someone a new one” and spend half the day reliving the emotions of your argument even though the actual altercation is long gone?

What’s going on with your health at that time?

What happened to that book, creative project, resume, or business plan you’ve always wanted to work on as you simmer in anger at someone else?  What’s going on with that as you moan and groan over something that happened 5 hours ago?

What price will you have to pay 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years from now for acting out impulsively on anger? Is that price really worth paying? Is that what you really want?

Keeping it cool isn’t about pleasing God, making your mother proud, or impressing your therapist. Keeping it cool is really about keeping it real with your dreams, passions, and desires. It’s about loving yourself enough to not allow your positive creative energy to be wasted and consumed by your prolonged contempt of another person.

I’m not done with this topic. In my next post, I’d like to address the practical side of dealing with  anger just a bit more by painting a broader picture of what it means to keep it real. Then, I’d like to offer some suggestions on how to process these very powerful feelings in a healthy stress-relieving way.

That’s my two cents for the day. I look forward to exploring this topic further with you. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to share.

Create a great day,

T.K. Coleman

* A quote by Esther Hicks

When “keeping it real” goes wrong!

There are moments in life when people successfully get under our skin and “make” us feel angry.

I put the word “make” in quotes because in actuality, no one can make us angry without our consent. We are the ones who choose to take others seriously. We are the ones who decide to assign meaning and value to the words other people say and the actions they perform. At anytime, we can do the work necessary to alter our perceptions and change our beliefs, thereby liberating ourselves from anger.

Regardless of our personal responsibility, however, there are certainly moments when people seem to make us angry. What can we do in moments like this? How do we get through the day when dealing with someone who pushes all the right buttons and makes us feel as if steam is rising up through our heads?

Our own worst enemy

Usually when we find ourselves in the presence of a provocative person, we’re keenly aware of some simple action we could take to alleviate the situation and move on. In some cases, however, we choose to opt for a path that only escalates the tension.

A common example:

When someone cuts us off on the highway, we could just choose to give way, leave them alone, and be thankful that we were alert enough to make a smart driving decision that ensured our safety. But instead, we find ourselves honking the horn relentlessly, while shouting or signaling obscenities to a driver we probably wont change and will likely never encounter again.

Not all of us struggle with road rage, but the theme is common to a variety of scenarios. We’re going through life minding our own business. Someone does something we don’t approve of and, although we praise the idea of being the bigger person in theory, it feels far more gratifying in the moment to protest, insult, have the last word, or give that individual a piece of our minds in some shape or fashion.

When keeping it real goes wrong

The comedian, David Chapelle, once did a segment on his hourly sketch show titled “When keeping it real goes wrong.”

This segment involved someone who was the victim of some minor slight directed at him by an insensitive party. At the precise moment of the offense, the victim would be faced with a dilemma: Do they choose to let things slide and “keep it cool” or do they “keep it real” by retaliating? Of course, with this being a comedy sketch, the victim would always choose to keep it real.

Unfortunately, there was usually some factor at play that the victim could not have anticipated; Perhaps the person they lashed back at was a 3rd degree black belt in martial arts who was out looking for a good fight or something else of that sort. Whatever the particulars, it suffices to say that it always ended in a humiliating manner for the person who kept it real.

This sketch provides a humorous, yet poignant, illustration of how being the bigger person may not only be the noble way of dealing with anger inducing people, but also the practical and safe way as well.

In my next post, I’ll elucidate this point and make a case for why certain socially acceptable and seemingly instinctive responses to anger may not be as harmless as we suppose. I’ll then provide my two cents on how to maintain control and be the bigger person when you feel your buttons are being pushed.

I’m looking forward to sharing with you.

Cheers,

T.K. Coleman

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