We play often.
And we play hard.
words + photographs BRITTANY CURRY
How we play looks different during different seasons of life. It could be something simple and free, such as a card game after dinner or a kickball game in the front yard with neighbors on a hot summer evening. It could be a walk to visit the horses down the road, sitting on our back deck enjoying deep conversation and laughter with friends, or even watching our small flock of pet ducks play in their pool. It could be a dance party on our property with a real DJ, bright lights, lots of friends, and sometimes fireworks. Or it could be more elaborate and costly, such as traveling across the country, showing our kids one of our favorite places in the world and teaching them how to surf. The time we spend playing together produces more connection in our relationships, creates memories we will treasure for the rest of our lives and builds our creativity and imagination.
When we play hard, we lead better.
My husband, Brett, and I are both leaders in various organizations. Brett owns and runs a business with around 50 employees, while I lead a small non-profit with all volunteers. I coach cheerleading, and he coaches basketball. Together, we lead a small group in our home filled with families from our church, and we also lead our family of eight children.
In business, Brett has worked hard to create a culture of fun, a place where employees are celebrated and valued. He has a fun committee that plans monthly lunches and activities. Many days, toward the end of the work day, Nerf wars erupt in the office. Essential supplies include a hoverboard, Jumbo Jenga, Connect 4, and a ping pong table. Play is encouraged and vacation time is not limited. This policy has produced employees who work hard, are extremely productive, love their jobs and co-workers, and appreciate and honor their employers.
Incorporating play into our lives and choosing joy in the mundane makes our lives richer, our relationships deeper, and our organizations more successful.
In the non-profit I lead, a homeschool cooperative, we host a yearly planning retreat with our leadership team that involves a ton of work, but we also incorporate play into that time. It’s necessary for us to have a connection that unites our team. It makes us better leaders. We plan fun events for our members and provide opportunities for relationships to be deepened through games and laughter. We dressed up in Star Wars costumes on May 4, simple, but appreciated by the Star Wars fans in our organization, and it provided a reason to laugh for most members.
In coaching, we set aside time for our teams to have fun outside of practices and games. The teenagers like us more and follow our instructions better when we’ve built relationships with them through time spent playing. Kickball is one of our favorite games to play with our own teens, the kids we coach, and also our small group.
And with our family, play is something we try to add into each week. As I said before, it is often as simple as a game of cards or Twister (watching my giant-of-a-husband play Twister is very entertaining!), a walk, or an outdoor game of CrossNet or Kubb (you need this game in your life!)
But I would also suggest you set aside one or two weeks each year to vacation with your family. Where you go and what you do needs to fit in your budget, so it doesn’t cause undue stress. But there are plenty of affordable vacation destinations (or a staycation can be SUPER fun too. Be creative in planning this one!) Also, be intent on spending a couple of weekends away with just your spouse. The time spent resting and playing is so important to a healthy marriage, and if you have kids, they need to see you investing in your marriage and working together as a team.
Leading is hard work. It can be very rewarding, non-glamorous, inspiring, exhausting, empowering, thankless, joy-filled, lonely, and refreshing. In order to lead well, Brett and I have found play and rest to be absolutely necessary to prevent burn out but also in becoming leaders people enjoy being around (at least I think people enjoy being around us – they haven’t all run off yet).
Incorporating play into our lives and choosing joy in the mundane makes our lives richer, our relationships deeper, and our organizations more successful. BC