Tag Archives: Play

Humus Perfume

At 21, I was given a gift. Calling to make plane reservation for my then-fiancé and me, I gave the ticket agent our names.

She began laughing and replied, “That’s so funny. Do you two travel together often?”

Punch line – my maiden name is Barber.

So, twenty-five years later, thanks to Northwest Airlines, I am Deidre B. Combs. The agent taught me that I clearly couldn’t hyphenate my name…that would not only be silly, but distracting. But, she also helped me realize that keeping my maiden name in my married mix would be a great symbolic gesture.

Not only, as one of four girls, was there no one to carry on my primary family name, but also, how can you take yourself too seriously when you have a last name like “Barber Combs”? The “B.” reminds me that our children could easily garner nicknames like “Scissors” and “Perm” and that I am a victim of the same game of Life that everyone else is playing. Honestly, just think about the likelihood of falling in love with someone whose name does that to yours? Like the Northwest agent, my name makes me giggle.

I adore the intricate connection between humor and humility. They come from the same root word of humus, or “earth.” Both humor and humility ground us; connect us to the planet and to each other. I find humor and sincere humility magnetizing. I like myself most when I am employing these two well; thus I wanted to keep that “B.” close at hand.

Watch in the attached TED video how really funny and humble connect.

Our son Cameron is a master in the sport of  humble humor — he’ll appropriately deny it. To prove my point, Exhibit A is a recent blog post from his travels in Brazil entitled “Bonbon Disaster.” Click here to read!

Observing my leadership students employing humility this week, I noticed that humor is usually always close by. For example, one young man on the MSU track team remarked how he is trying to make sense of why he gets scholarships for throwing hammers and weights in the air. “I can’t believe they give me money for that,” he explained with a wry smile. He had us all giggling as he thoughtfully considered the relevance of this pursuit and his future athletic goals. His humble assessment and humorous descriptions of his daily practices had us all captivated. By the end we were trying to convince him that his focus on excellence and discipline was leadership in action. He had us all cheering him on, although that didn’t appear to remotely be his intent.

Humility exposes our vulnerability, mostly to ourselves. We might think that we somehow need to have it all together, but our community usually sees through that façade. They know that we are flawed. We all were born, we are all clumsily trying to figure out how this world works, and we are all going to die. That you can’t overcome. Our community seems more interested in when we realize this truth.

Personally, I’m not as interested in following a leader who is perfect, but one who despite imperfections wants to give. Isn’t it strange, when our “ugly” bumps and bruises are exposed that others often find us at our most beautiful?

Kevin Connolly — Playing Well at the X Games

Have to let you all know that our friend Kevin Connolly just took 3rd place in mono ski at the X Games! To get a sense of what that means, click here for a short ESPN clip of the final run…This is not skiing for the faint of heart.DoubleTake -- A Memoir

I have to sing Kevin’s praises since he’s been playing well — by both making his mark and having a great time — this year. His recent book, Double Take: A Memoir published by Harper’s Studio was released last fall and he’s taken to the air waves to promote it. Here’s a fun clip of an interview with Today Show’s Meredith Veiria:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I can tell you that Kevin isn’t much for being considered “inspirational,” but he consistently reminds me to reach for the stars while maintaining a great sense of humor. We are cheering his win here in Bozeman and look forward to seeing where Kevin will next set his sights. Congratulations!

It’s Happening

This week I attended a lecture by the biochemist Trevor Douglas. Trevor is one of Montana State University’s rock stars who investigates how viruses could become mini-containers to bring targeted drug therapy directly to a cancer site. As his compatriot Dr. Mark Young once described to me, “Think of the outer casing of a virus cell like the candy coating of an M&M…” They are thus exploring how they might fill its center with appropriate material and deliver it to the perfect location.

Yet Dr. Douglas began his lecture to the University Honors program students not on the importance of nano materials, but on the value of play. Well, there’s nothing like having another sing from your hymnal…he had me captivated from beginning to end!

Trevor believes deeply in curiosity and play after studying with Fluxus artist Allan Kaprow. After listening to Trevor’s enthusiastic description of Kaprow’s philosophy and its influence on his work, I wanted to share a bit about it here.

Allan Kaprow (1927 – 2006) was a painter and teacher who is credited as an early pioneer of performance art. He created the idea of the “Happening” that he described as “A game, an adventure, a number of activities engaged in by participants for the sake of playing.” (Italics added for blog title emphasis!) Kaprow created some 200 “happenings” where volunteers and spectators are asked to actively participate in an experience.

For example, in 1967 Kaprow created the “Fluids” happening during which twenty identical ice block structures were created around Los Angeles.

Kaprow believed that “The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible.”

Was it art? Who knows, but what is clear from watching the video below and a Flickr slide show (click and view photos) of the 2008 recreation of this event, it is captivating, fun and calls us to pause and contemplate.

Kaprow, by blurring the lines and bringing play into the mix, pushes us to open our minds to see problems from a fresh perspective, just as Drs. Douglas and Young are modeling with the development of bio-inspired nano materials.

So, where might you create a more fluid boundary between what appears separate (i.e., art/life, pottery/bio chemistry, or, joy/chores)? How can you too introduce more participation and play?

Changing through Delight

Play is the exultation of the possible — Martin Buber

I’m guessing by now you’ve noticed that in “playing well at work and beyond”, I recommend embracing the “play” portion of that statement. When we do, life can become a game that rewards practice, detachment (“it’s only a game”) and most of all having fun.

Counting calories on stairs in Lisbon

Counting calories on stairs in Lisbon

Always looking for back up on my theories, I was thrilled to find Volkswagen’s website, thefuntheory.com. Here you can submit ideas on how to use fun to change people’s behavior for the better and win up to 2,500 Euro! “Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”

To combat rising obesity rates, Stockholm’s Odenplan subway station’s staircase was retrofitted with stairs resembling giant piano keys, which “play” to encourage travelers to take the stairs rather than ride the escalator:

And, to encourage park visitors to deposit their garbage in a bin, a sound system was installed within one trash receptacle to fascinate passersby:

So, how might you employ fun this week to create positive shifts in your organization, family and within yourself?

Thanking Your Opponents

The 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony occurred last Friday. That’s a point to which I wouldn’t have paid much attention — if you ever saw me try to play basketball you’d understand why — except that this year Michael Jordan showed up to model how to play well, this time off the court.

Jordan used many of the playing well techniques of which I have written here throughout his speech, but I have included just the last nine minutes below to highlight the skill of appreciating your enemies.

Jordan began his address by describing how others thankfully threw wood on his internal competitive fire with the challenges they presented. One of his first examples was the high school coach that cut him from the varsity team. He said, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

Jordan was clear, it was his adversaries that made him great. He reminds me of the martial artist who in her opening bow when stepping on the mat affirms, “Thank you for being my opponent. I know you have the capacity to hurt or destroy me. Teach me what I need to learn.” I appreciate that with both humor and humanness “MJ” presented that his opponents weren’t usually initially welcomed by him, but over the long haul he understood that they each were essential in his development.

Again, Jordan displays how the game might be played; this time it’s the larger game. He is setting a standard on expressing sincere gratitude and how we might confront our opposition, be it in the form of a loss, an illness, an uncomfortable situation or a difficult person. May we each see our challenges as just good kindling for our internal flames.