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It’s Thanksgiving Week Here In The U.S.
That means if you’re not planning the turkey or cooking the turkey then you’re certainly thinking about eating the turkey – or whatever favorite Thanksgiving treat you eat enough of to put you into a weekend-long food coma.
It’s one of my favorite holidays because basically it’s sanctioned gluttony without the hassle of buying gifts or attending tinsel-hung parties.
It also means a four-day weekend, which is really a seven-day weekend considering the lead-up mostly revolves around thinking about the weekend.
It’s in that spirit that I write this post today – for taxed brains and distracted folks everywhere, who love the lessons and insights of a good marketing post but who wouldn’t mind the occasional bit of fun.
It’s also part of my Word Carnival – a monthly group blogging event where business owners get together to write on the same topic and then promote and share the heck out of each other. And this month the topic centers on “behind the scenes”.
So rather than give you a lesson in my marketing processes, social media management plans or how I segment email lists (we’ll save those for January after the hangovers have worn off), today I’d like to share a little fun behind the scenes because when we’re down in the trenches of business and marketing it can be very easy to forget that there is such a thing.
Today’s fun comes courtesy of my office shelves, desks and drawers because I’d like to share some of the stuff I keep around me to inspire the fun.
And in case you were worried, there will be a business lesson in here somewhere, too. So you can keep reading, relax and call it productive!
The Case For Fun: Because You Are More Than The Sum Of Your Social Networks
If you use social media then you’ve probably been reprimanded at least once – whether by a boss or colleague or just yourself – to stop “wasting time” there. Sure, we use social media to market but we also use it to check out pictures of cute cats and cool cocktails, to check up on third grade friends and to prove to everyone else that we really are having a good time shoveling snow.
But even in its most fun state, social media is still work. Let’s face it – if you run a business you never really stop marketing, so everything you say and do online is open for scrutiny.
That’s why it’s so important to put the computer and smart phone down and interact with the actual world around you – the world that reminds you of who you are and not who your online avatar is.
Here’s who I am: a total geek who, at 45 years old, still loves coloring books.
And that’s why if you come into my office you will find magic markers, crayons and colored pencils, drawers full of notepapers and notebooks and yes, coloring books.
A couple of months ago my mom bought me a little random gift. She does that a lot because she’s an awesome mom. Earrings, yummy food, collectibles. But this time she bought me a box of markers and coloring pages. Because she knows that’s how I roll.
So: how do you roll? What unique just-you thing do you do for no other reason than because it’s fun? Because it brings you joy? And are you doing enough of it? Are you surrounding yourself with the things you love or reminders of them so that the next time you’re in the weeds of work and business you’ll remember it’s not the only thing that defines you?
Fun Feeds Creativity
Not only do I write for this blog but I write for clients across industries from car washes to consumer products. Writing is one of my favorite things to do but it’s still work. It takes a lot of thinking, sometimes research and of course creativity.
A lot of what I call “writing” is really “sitting and thinking about what to write” or “obsessively spinning synonyms through my head until I hit on the perfect word.”
And one of the worst things I can do is try to be creative.
That may sound counterintuitive but think about the last time someone asked you who that movie star was in that one movie… you know, she was wearing a green dress? And the answer is right on the tip of our tongue… you can practically see it… but the harder you think the farther it slips until you forget completely. Until… you wake up at 4AM and suddenly the answer is there.
Through whatever oddity of the human brain, it seems that the more we focus the less we see.
Inspiration comes in unexpected ways at unplanned times. Part of our jobs as smart business people is to create an environment where inspiration can take root so when it does bloom we can feed and nourish it.
And the way I do that is with a little fun.
Our office used to be pretty utilitarian. We had file folders and cabinets, project boards and supply trays. Everything was organized, useful and completely boring.
I found myself in a constant state of “stuck”. Then one day, after realizing that we were spending more time working anywhere but in our office, Ralph and I decided to add a bit of fun. We painted one wall red. We built a Tardis closet door. We hung some cool artwork.
And I went on a bit of a kitsch spree. Among other things, I now have a line of tiny glass animals sitting on top of my shelf where a boring file folder used to be. The animals come courtesy of my dad, who also buys me plenty of gifts and is just as awesome as my mom.
All of those things conspire very well to make me happy.
So now when I’m feeling stuck I can fill my brain with the inspiration around me instead of wracking it for an answer that will only continue to elude me.
How about you? What are you doing to fill your space and head with fun? Are you giving yourself permission to stop thinking and just be so that ideas and imagination can take root?
All Work And No Play Makes Business Relationships Dull
You know that relationships are an important component of business and that success is about more than just your ability to write a really clever ad or design a fantastic website.
But you can’t build a meaningful relationship on business alone. Relationships are about people – whole people – and that means the things you like and dislike, the things you enjoy, care about and even steer clear of. And of course about fun.
Fun gets a bad rap for being frivolous but it’s also the foundation for some of the best relationships. Think about the clients you enjoy most. I bet there is some component of fun.
I’ve shared drinks and meals with clients, jokes and cat photos. The more fun, the stronger the relationship.
More than a few people are in the loop when it comes to my obsession with Oreos and cupcakes. Even more can tell you that my favorite drink is a mojito.
If you’ve been around reading this blog for a little while, you may also be familiar with my Hello Kitty collection. It’s made an appearance in blogs, in emails and on interviews and it welcomes guests to our office whenever they arrive. One of my favorite things to do is to “discover” Hello Kitty causing all manner of mischief and then snap an Instagram, add a caption and share.
You may think that something so silly has no bearing on whether or not I’ll close business or make money but it does. It catalyzes a relationship that goes beyond the transaction at hand and it makes connections with people on a human level that leads to more and better business.
One minute someone notices Hello Kitty, the next we’re talking about what they cook for their families on Thanksgiving and five minutes later we’ve got a business deal.
Ok, maybe not five minutes later… sure, a connection can happen in an instant but it often takes longer than that to build the kind of depth and trust that leads to business. The point is that you need a foundation, and what better way to build one than with fun? We seek it. We remember it. We share it. If you can tap into that you’ve got a win on your hands.
Your turn: how are you sharing the fun with your prospects, colleagues, clients and competitors? Are you letting them into other spaces in your life beyond their signature on a check? Get to know the whole person in front of you and you’ll not only do better business but enjoy it more, too.
Whether you’re breaking this week for Thanksgiving or working all the way through, I want you to think about how you can put some fun into your business.
And before you enter your food coma, let’s have some fun together and share your thoughts with me in the comments. Tell me something about YOU that would be fun to know!
This post is part of November’s Word Carnival. This month’s topic gives you a peek into the inner workings of other small businesses. If you ever wanted to peek behind the curtain and find out what’s going on behind the scenes, this is for you. Find out what little inspirations, daily reminders, hidden dangers and even gems await. Read all the Carnie posts here.