Serious Business Fun

Leonie Dawson has so much fun with work! She is a hippy, new-agey, spiritual, serious business person in charge of a network of other serious business women across the globe.

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You can access it here: Business Goddess

Doesn’t that look fun? I mean, she’s playful, and still smart. She can be herself, in all her colorful glory, and still make money.

Part of play is being oneself. Everyone has their own play personality. Dr. Stuart Brown lists 8 personalities in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul:

  1. The Joker (silliness, nonsense, practical jokes, telling jokes)
  2. The Kinesthete (people who move to think, athletes, dancers, etc)
  3. The Explorer (physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual exploration)
  4. The Competitor (playing to win, keeping score)
  5. The Director (planning and executing events)
  6. The Collector (gathering an interesting bunch of stuff)
  7. The Artist/Creator (joy in making things)
  8. The Storyteller (imagination and performance)

Clearly Leonie Dawson is at least partly an artist, also probably a director, and possibly an explorer and storyteller too. I am part creator, part storyteller, part kinesthete, part explorer. I don’t like competition. What are you?

I’ve been enjoying Leonie’s playful personal expression since I first discovered her workbook a couple years ago. I’ve been using her workbook since – it’s a great planning tool and a source of inspiration.

Full disclosure: I recently became an affiliate for Leonie, so now any time anyone buys her stuff through me (like from this link for her biz academy) I get a cut of the profits. I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t think she is an awesome example of being herself while being in business – and I find her approach quirky and fun and accessible.  I hope you do too, not because I get some cash, but because I want everyone to find their way to be playful and fun and serious and professional. All at the same time.


Cost of No Play

Fifty years ago a man named Charles Whitman killed more than 30 people before being killed himself. The reason he snapped? No play. No play in his childhood, no chance to try  out different responses, or let his aggression out through play.

Rats that smell a cat run and hide. This is self-protective, and appropriate. But the rats that aren’t allowed to play when they are young never come back out again, and starve to death. They never learned to manage risk through play.

Children who get more recess do better in school. Body play helps stimulate the cerebellum and create more neural connections. Object play helps strengthen the frontal lobe, where executive function lives, and increases metaphorical thinking. Playing in one’s preferred way increases the intrinsic motivation to keep going, and develops a person’s engagement and persistence in the face of adversity.

I had the great good fortune to hear Dr. Stuart Brown speak yesterday at the First Annual Bay Area Play Symposium. He has been studying play extensively for many years, and has proven the scientific backing to support more play. He is now in his 80’s and looks a couple decades younger. He wrote the book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, and is the founder of the National Institute for Play.

 Play helps people develop trust, belonging, safety, and rapport. When there is time to play, people are more effective and efficient at their jobs, and work together better because of the bonds they built during play.
What are you doing to bring play into your life today? Into your community? Your workplace? Your home? Scientific fact: we all need more play.

Why creativity takes courage


We as a social species like to belong to the group. There is safety in belonging. There is security in knowing who is in my clique and who is out. We tend to dress like the people with whom we feel we belong. We tend to agree with what they say, since disagreeing means risking being thrown out of the group. Even the idea of being thrown out can give us a visceral fear, like a punch in the gut, real terror we might not survive.

There is a deep satisfaction and comfort in mirroring other people and being mirrored. Being too much out of phase with the people around us makes us deeply uncomfortable. We often don’t know why we’re uncomfortable, which gives our fertile imaginations a chance to make stuff up. What we make up is usually dire – we will lose our jobs, that person must be a terrorist, we will lose our homes, we will die.

So we hire people who are like us, and we are comfortable on a team with people who are like us, and we all prefer to think in a similar enough way that we can be familiar with each other. And then – we need a creative idea.

How much courage does it take to voluntarily stand up and give an idea that’s never been done before? How much more courage to offer a brand new sprout of an idea, one that hasn’t grown yet and is vulnerable to squishing? Even people who practice creativity in their daily lives might hesitate before risking humiliation, exile, and death.

This is why we need facilitators who bring in toys. We need our normal to be shaken up to allow for new to grow. We need a chance to see that our MSU (Making Stuff Up) is incorrect and no one wants us to die or even feel embarrassed. We need a chance to play around and see what happens without being judged or feeling like we are being judged. This is why we need play.

Are You Creative Or Not? (Hint – yes you are!)

“Many people believe only two kinds of people exist in this world – those who are creative and those who are not. … They believe creative people simply walk around and are suddenly struck by creative ideas much like a bright flash of light.” – Dave Burgess, Teach Like A Pirate

Do you think that’s true? Do you think that if you don’t have random fantastic ideas fly into your head you aren’t creative? Balderdash! (I’ve always wanted to use that word.) Poppycock! (And that one.) Creativity is a process, not a set of DNA that you have or don’t have.

What is the creative process? I’m so glad you asked! Dave Burgess says it well: “It is the process of consistently asking the right questions…and then actively seek(ing) the answers.”

What are the right type of questions? Open-ended questions that make your brain stretch. Want to make your meeting more fun? You could ask yourself, “What is the best place to hold this meeting?” (It may or may not be in a meeting room.) “How many ways can I think of to get us outside and/or moving around?” “What would keep people involved and engaged?”

My husband, when I told him about this, said that when he comes up with creative ideas, it’s usually because he’s trying to cram together two unrelated ideas.

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These shirt designs were for a Betabrand contest. He thought about typical shirt designs, like plaid, and stripes, and then asked himself what he could put into those designs that would make them funny, or different? Thus – bacon plaid, asparagus stripes, and tangled cord plaid! (If you’d like to vote for them, and maybe get them made into shirts, please visit (If you’d like to see more of his art, please visit or

My point here is that creativity comes from engaging with an idea and asking yourself questions – and then giving yourself time to come up with answers. Some answers will come right away, and some take longer to percolate. Those bright flashes of light will only show up if you are actively searching for them. And everyone is capable of searching for them! Start asking yourself questions, and get your brain ready to grab those answers! The more you practice, the easier it will get.

I will end with a few questions you can ask – please add more!

*What can I make with these three ingredients?

*How can I turn this project into a contest?

*What would be a good mnemonic to help people remember this information?


Worst Boss Ever!

I did a team building workshop with St. Mary’s College staff last week, and people were able to express a lot with the models they built. These models all show the worst boss these people had. Can you tell from the pictures what made them so bad?




Can you tell whose worst boss peered over the cubicle divider to watch her work? Can you tell who was too scatter-brained? Can you tell who wore too many hats? So much can be expressed with just a few LEGO® bricks!

I mentioned last week that a model can hold your story, so you don’t have to hold on to what you want to say in your head. This frees you up to listen to what other people are saying, and to make creative connections between ideas. Can you see from these pictures how well they hold ideas? I will never mistake that creeper boss on the top for anything other than someone peering over the wall at me. I don’t need to keep that boss’s name in my head, or remember anything else about him, that image will remind me of what I wanted to say.

Interestingly, sometimes models help people tell even richer stories. The scatterbrained boss could have just been scatterbrained, but this boss was credited with being colorful and exciting, as well as being tarred with being unpredictable and full of empty promises. Sometimes having a lot of detail in a model can give you more of a skeleton to hang your story on, so your story gets richer in the telling than you expected it to be when you built the model. This is helped by not rehearsing in our heads what we will say, but letting it come to us in the moment while we are explaining what we built.

So much creativity and fun comes out of these workshops, as well as a greater understanding of who you are working with and what they need. Everyone feels better understood and appreciated and heard. What team can you think of that could use some better communication? Who do you want to build as your worst boss? Come play!