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The Pleasure Principle


Swing and miss. “Strike two!” cried the umpire. I threw one more pitch. He swung hard, but the ball just dribbled right back to the pitchers mound. I picked it up and gently tossed it to the first baseman for the out.

The batter’s team captain stepped out and screamed, “Darrell, you’ve got to get over your fear of this guy!”

I had completely shut down the best hitter on the best team in the league. It was the most fun I’d had in weeks.
This was slow-pitch recreational softball for the over-thirty crowd and I was totally into it. I spent hours tossing balls in my driveway. I set up an area with a pitcher’s rubber and home plate laid out to the exact dimensions of those on the playing field. After I mastered the two standard softball pitches, I developed two of my own.

What motivates me to play softball or for that matter my friends to play golf and tennis?

That’s easy... it’s fun!

Pleasure is very motivating. It’s what keeps us going.

We are never too tired for those pursuits that we enjoy; we always seem to find time and energy for them. It comes to us easily.

If only we could find that kind of relaxed energy for work!

What is it that you can’t wait to do every day? Make changes! If you can’t change your job, change your work environment.Sigmund Freud described that driving creative spirit as the Pleasure Principle. But, he also spoke of a contrasting principle called the Death Instinct that put the brakes on our desire. That theory has been disproved, however, it’s still very true that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” And no only dull. Where happiness is absent, health is often absent too.

I look forward to work every day. My father encouraged me to find a job I enjoyed so that I would never “work” a day in my life. In her book Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood, Marsha Sinetar tells us to do the same thing.

But what should you do if you’re not happy in your work?

Employees who enjoy their work are more productive.

People frequently turn down better paying jobs to stay with one that is fun.

There are many ways to make your workplace more fun.

Authors Dave Hemsath and Leslie Yerkes offer us 301 Ways To Have Fun At Work.

Every company is different so it will be up to you to discover what you can do to make your place of business more fun.

But, if you want to motivate your staff, I always say, “Give them something to laugh about!”



We rarely hit where we do not aim

By Robert Wilson

I love this quote by Gandalf the Gray from the Lord of the Rings: “When we despair we cease to choose well. We give in to short cuts.”

It reminds me of the dot com bubble that burst in March of 2000 and caused the stock market to crash. In those heady days of “irrational exuberance,” as Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan called them, it seemed everyone was motivated by the dreams of easy money. It was all about taking a short cut.

Several start-ups approached me to help them promote their new internet businesses in exchange for stock options. I looked at a couple of cobbled together companies that were little more than a guy with a website and the hopes of mining some venture capital. The idea was to generate web page hits with a clever name or gimmick, sell a ton of stock at the initial public offering, then retire a millionaire. I decided to stick with those willing to pay in cash.

After the burst, I read about a man who repossessed the cars of former internet millionaires and frequently found losing lottery tickets in the cars – the former car owners were acting out of despair and looking for short cuts back to the elusive wealth that had slipped from their grasp.
When we encounter adversity, we attempt to go back to where we enjoyed success in the past even when it is counter-productive to our current goal.

In my seminars on innovation I send a volunteer from the audience out of the room. The audience chooses a simple action they want the volunteer to perform (like jumping up and down on their left foot).

The volunteer must guess the action, the audience helps by saying “yes” when the volunteer does anything that comes close to the desired action. They can’t say “no” or give other hints. Once the volunteer performs the desired action, the audience applauds.

But when the second volunteer reaches the desired action, the audience says nothing, and gives no applause.

The volunteer repeats actions that did elicit a “yes.” The audience remains silent. The volunteer goes further back to find a previous successful action. Eventually, new behaviour is initiated in the hopes of regaining a “yes.” The volunteer realizes success can only be found by moving forward.

Henry David Thoreau observed, “We rarely hit where we do not aim.” And it’s hard to hit a target facing the wrong way.

Posted: Jul 2, 2010

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