BGBS 048: Jeff Harry | Rediscover Your Play | See Where Your Curiosity Goes
Jeff Harry is a positive psychology play speaker and founder of Rediscover Your Play, with a mission to work with businesses to address their deepest issues such as toxicity at work, creating an inclusive work environment, and dealing with office politics through the experience of play. Jeff explains that adults are limited by their expectation of results and calculations of the future. By encouraging play, Jeff crafts an environment where adults can live in the present moment, think outside the box, and in turn, take risks and tackle issues in a more resilient, positive way.
Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, the NFL, Amazon, and Facebook all depended on Jeff to help their staff infuse more play into their day. His work has been featured in the New York Times, SoulPancake, the SF Chronicle, and more. Beyond that, Jeff speaks internationally about how workplace issues can be solved through play and was selected by Engagedly as one of the Top 100 HR Influencers of 2020 for his organizational work on addressing toxicity in the workplace. Jeff encourages us to get bored, follow our curiosity, and remove the need to “should on ourselves” due to other people’s expectations. By doing so, Jeff helps us look within to ask, “What gets you in a place where you can hear you and no one else?”
In this episode, you’ll learn…
- Inspired by the movie Big, Jeff wrote letters to toy companies from 5th grade through high school with all his toy ideas until one responded and said that if he wanted to go into toy design, mechanical engineering is the way
- Once Jeff got his degree, he finally got the job of his dreams in the toy industry. And he hated it.
- Jeff banded with 7 other “nerdy guys” to build the largest children’s Lego STEM education company in the country, teaching about 100,000 kids a year.
- The Lego STEM company was so successful that companies began asking for adult workshops, so they started working from scratch to help companies play outside the box
- The first time Jeff wore his signature Lego bowtie, he was dared to wear it to a conference. The more he wore it, the more genuine people would be around him and more connections he would make
- In junior high, Jeff did everything he could to get into the “cool” pool party with his friends, only to lose his core of play in the process. It was then that he promised himself to never compromise who he truly was again
- According to a UCLA study, you will hear the word “no” 148,000 times by the time you are 18 years old
- Just do the things that feel good to you. You’ll know when you’re trying to “should” on yourself when it doesn’t feel right
- Jeff’s dad came to the US from St. Vincent as a doctor and his mom came from the Philippines to work as a nurse. They met in an operating room in Minnesota
- Jeff encourages us to ask our friends what value we bring to the friendship and when we seem most alive to begin defining a path for ourselves, rather than relying on what society deems as right or wrong
Youtube: Jeff Harry Plays
LinkedIn: Jeff Harry
How Do You Add Play To Grown-Up Life – Even Now – NY Times
A Play Experiment To Remind You Who You Are – Medium
How To Play Through These Uncertain Times – Medium
[20:14] I remember as I crossed that threshold, I felt such a wave of relief and I was expecting next to be so happy. But instead, as soon as I passed through, I felt like I left myself back there. I remember…just feeling like the loneliest I had ever felt in my life up until that point…and I remember making a pact with myself that day: I am not going to compromise who I am just to be cool or to people-please.
[28:04] It’s not that you shouldn’t dress up or you shouldn’t put your best foot forward if that is you. Yo, do you. But if you feel like you’re doing it just because you’re trying to impress others, and you don’t feel comfortable in that space, then why are you doing it?
[33:06] There are moments when you’re in a state of flow, where you’re creating something and it’s hitting on all cylinders, challenging intellectually, it’s challenging you creatively, and you feel alive, right? Like you just feel so excited about it. And that is what I mean by play. And that is what I want to help people rediscover.
[36:00] Just get bored and see what comes up, because you have to actually quiet down everyone else’s voice so you can start listening to that inner curiosity, that inner child, that’s gonna then whisper something to you like “start that podcast” or “write that blog”.
Jeff Harry 0:02
And often all of us getting out and it’s like, you know, like 90210 with that cool walk and, you know, throw in the towel over my like shoulder and, you know, and just act and so like dope because I’m, I’m finally going to get accepted as soon as I walked through this party. And I remember we were like, 10 feet away and feeling excited. And then I see a friend of mine run and I think Jeremy and a bunch of other people, and they weren’t being led into the party. And they happen to be black. And there was a scuffle as like, maybe seven feet away. And I remember someone saying to them, Bob, you get the fuck out of here. We are not letting any support. And man when I heard that I just froze.
Marc Gutman 1:03
Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Backstory podcast. we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big backstories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman, Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby got backstory we are playing. No, I’m not joking. And neither is today’s guest who is super serious about play. Today we are talking with Jeff Harry.
Jeff has built an entire business and life out of play. Jeff shows individuals and companies how to tap into their true selves to feel their happiest and most fulfilled ball by playing. Jeff has worked with Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, the NFL, Amazon, and Facebook, helping their staff to infuse more play into the day today. Hey, if you like and enjoy the show, please take a minute or two to rate and review us over Apple podcasts or Spotify, or the listening platform of your choice. These platforms use ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts, and ratings bring exposure which helps us to build an audience which then helps us to continue to produce this show. And if I may ask just one more favor. If you like the show, please recommend it to at least one other person. You may think well like it this week. That would make me happy. And who doesn’t like a happy Marc Gutman?
Jeff Harry is an international speaker who is presented at conferences such as inbound, South by Southwest and Australia’s pause fest showing audiences how major issues in the workplace can be solved using play. Jeff was selected by bamboo HR and engaged Lee as one of the top 100 Hr influencers of 2024. His organizational development work around dealing with toxic people in the workplace is playworks work has most recently been featured in The New York Times article, how do we add more play to our grown up life.
Even now, which we will link to in the show notes. He’s also been featured on AJ plus SoulPancake, the San Francisco Chronicle and CNN. And as you’ll hear in today’s episode, while we spend most of our time pretending to be important, serious grownups, it’s when we let go of that facade, and just play that the real magic happens. Fully embracing your own nerdy genius, whatever that is, gives you the power to make a difference and change lives. Jeff believes that we already have many of the answers we seek. And by simply unleashing our inner child, we can find our purpose and in turn, help to create a better world in this is his story.
Today, I am talking to someone who does something that I don’t believe I’ve ever had any experience with directly at least in my adult life, and we’ll talk about that. I’m so just intrigued and excited to get into this conversation. I am here with Jeff Harry, who is a positivity psychology play speaker. So Jeff, like I’m gonna ask you right off the bat, what is a positivity psychology play speaker besides being a mouthful,
Jeff Harry 4:53
Right? Um, knows. It’s a great question. First, thanks for having me. I’m the best The way in which I described positive psychology in plays I, I combined positive psychology and the idea of player the concept of play, to work with businesses to address some of their like deepest issues like dealing with toxicity at work, how to create an inclusive work environment, how to deal with office politics bs.
And we all do it through the mindset of positive psychology as well as the experience of play.
Marc Gutman 5:27
Very good. And so, you know, a question I typically lead off episodes with is something to the effect of, Jeff, when you were a young boy, when you were eight years old, did you always want to have a job in play? But I can’t really ask that because I’m assuming eight years old. Yes. That is exactly the job that you wanted.
Jeff Harry 5:50
Yeah, so so and I love that you pick the number eight because I think that’s when I saw the movie Big. And that was the catalyst for me. So I saw the movie big with Tom Hanks. And if you remember that movie, you know, he plays with toys for a living, he works for a toy company of all things. So you know, seeing the movie, I ran down to FAO Schwarz thinking if I just danced on the piano, a CEO would discover me and offer me a job. And that did not happen. So then I started writing toy companies in fifth grade on my word processor.
That’s how old I am. And I was spamming toy companies with letters before spamming was a thing, I would send like six letters at a time, that were like three or four pages long with all of my toy ideas, to any toy company that I could find the address to. And I just kept doing that all the way through high school until a company contacted me and was like, yeah, you need to stop sending these letters. And if you want to go into toy design, you should go into mechanical engineering, I did that which I probably should not have just listened to some random letter, but I did it. And then I went to school for it, graduated and then went into the toy industry. And I don’t know if you’ve ever had a moment where you get what you want. But I got into the toy industry. And I hated it. Like there was no play, there was no high fives there was no toys. They might as well have been selling microwaves.
And I was just like, What am I supposed to do with my life. And I was in New York and 911 just happen. So I was like questioning whether I should even be here. And I don’t want to die in a cubicle. And I remember leaving New York and heading to the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area living in Oakland. And I remember finding a job where you can teach kids engineering with Lego. And it was only seven nerdy guys at this job. And I just hung out with him. And we helped grow the largest Lego STEM education company like in the country. And we all did it by just playing and making it up as we went along. Like we would pick cities because they were fun.
We had no business plan. We pick fun people to hire. And we just weren’t just making it up via play. And because we were doing so well. And we were teaching like 100,000 kids a year, Silicon Valley started recognizing us and was like, hey, do you run things for adults like team building events? And we were like, of course we do. Even though we did it. We didn’t know we were doing we’re just making it up. So we just say yes to anything. And then I realized as where was running a lot of these workshops for adults, they would talk about creativity and collaboration and connection. But they weren’t playful environments. They weren’t like creating a playful place where people could take risks, and quote unquote, think outside the box. So I was like, you’re not tackling the big issues. So I created rediscover your play as a way to just like, yo, let’s go right at those hard issues. But let’s use play and positive psychology to do it.
Marc Gutman 9:02
Wow, that thank you for sharing that you went from eight all the way to, through through now to now it’s a time warp. And so we’re gonna, we’re gonna hold that we know where the story kind of leads. But I want to go back. I mean, you told me before we started recording that you’re in Chicago with your family. And is that where you grew up? I mean, was your life like, like big was it with Josh Baskin, were you, you know, rooting for the Cubs? And? And, yeah, I know the movie. I know the movie. Well, you know,
Jeff Harry 9:32
Well, I hated the cubs. I’m a White Sox fan, because I live in the south side, right? I live in the south suburbs of Chicago. And that’s where I grew up. But yes, I am like, my dad is from the Caribbean. small island off the coast of Barbados called St. Vincent. Only 100,000 people. You know, I think he was the first doctor to make it in the US off his Island. And then my mom is from the Philippines and came here. You know, when I A lot of us nurses were going to Vietnam. And then they met in an operating room. My mom doesn’t remember this. But they met an operating room because he was the attending physician in Minnesota, in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic, and she was the nurse on call. So that’s just how like they got here. And then yeah, I grew up in a really predominantly white generic suburb, you know, that had Chili’s and, you know, a Walmart and a bunch of other really boring places.
Marc Gutman 10:32
So what was it about toys? I mean, it seems like that you were enamored for what you’ve shared with me with toys at a young age. I mean, you stayed with it, you kept hammering all these companies with your your desire to get in the industry, and you actually went and, and fulfilled that vision? And to answer your question, yes, I would say my life has been marked through our various chapters with getting what I wanted, and what I dreamed of only to realize my dream was way cooler than the reality. And they didn’t match up and had to make a shift. So I feel you there. And I’d love to talk about that in a little bit. But kind of want to know, like, what about toys? Like, what was it about toys? And what kind of toys in particular were you drawn to?
Jeff Harry 11:13
I would, I mean, I think I was more drawn to play but what I think I loved about some of the toys that I played with, you know, the GI Joes. And again, I love to do was I love to combine all of my board games together.
Like Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, mousetrap, clue, monopoly, like all of them together, and I would set up this epic, you know, game for my sister and, and tying into like, what I now coin is my play values. The reason I love doing it, even though they hated playing that game, was that it was an experience for us. I love creating experiences for people. I love the creativity of it. And I love the connection. Like how do I build a memory from this? So like, that was the type of plays that I always wanted to do. So that kind of ties into even what I do now.
But I think, you know, and maybe this is a perfect time to share my most embarrassing story from my teenage years. Um, is, where do I start? Yeah, it was seventh grade. I think it was seventh grade, where so much of what I do now is shaped by what happened in seventh grade. And, and I don’t know if you remember, seventh grade was seventh grade. Good for you. I just want to just get an idea.
Marc Gutman 12:33
It was a mixed bag.
Jeff Harry 12:36
Right? Like most people don’t like junior high, like they’re just not enjoying junior high. And I remember sixth grade was like, super fun. It was playful. But I remember seventh grade. And I remember the first day of school. And all I wanted to do was play Foursquare, right? Because like Foursquare was like my game man. Like, you know, everyone’s in there. You know, you compete, you get kicked out, and then you just get back in line. And I was so obsessed with Foursquare, that I remember walking down the hall, you know, to recess, or maybe it was lunch, and I was literally singing the song. I’m gonna play some Foursquare, gonna play some Foursquare. And I was so like, aim to get out there. And I remember going out first day recess, and like, nobody in seventh grade is playing. Like, no one’s hanging out. And everyone was, was there before. So like, I remember running up to like, Matt, in, you know, Jimmy and just being like, yo, you want to play some Foursquare? And they’re like, no. And they’re all like hanging out just talking. Like, why is everyone talking? And then I remember Matt saying something to be like, hey, do you know that Ryan is dating Samantha? And you know, and mark is dating Julie?
And I’m like, so do they want to play Foursquare? Like, I’m just trying to get an idea of like, Why no one’s over there. And can we start playing right? And they’re like, No, dude. Like, no, like, they’re going out. And I remember being like that, what did he say? like Mark, Mark was going to first base with Julie. And I was like, What does that even mean? Like, you know, like, look over to the baseball field and like, No, dude, like they’re kissing. That was like, I don’t understand what’s happening. Why is no one playing. And then I realized, like, a little bit later on, like, there was a new game that everyone was playing that I did not know which was being cool. And apparently there was a vote of like, Who’s cool and who’s not cool over the summer and, and there was no mail in ballots, so I never got a chance to chime in. So like the cool people had already been ranked, and I was like, really low on the totem pole, and I was like, This is wack. And I was like, Well, I’m just gonna keep going to play Foursquare. But every day we’ll go out there. We know a buddy there. So Like this is frickin Bs, man. Um, and then I remember I was like, fine, I just want to belong, right?
Fine. I won’t play I just want to belong. So remember going up to, like Matt and being like, what do I need to do? Like, what do I need to do to be cool? He’s like, you got to start, you know, like, daily. Um, how’s that supposed to date? And he goes, Well, you know, you know, everyone, everyone that’s cool has banks. And I was like, What are you talking about? It’s like an all of the top ranked dudes literally had those like, bangs from you remember the 90s, where like, they flicked them out of their hair, right. And I’m a black, Filipino dude with a shoot fro at the time. And I’m like, I can’t grow bangs. But I remember stealing my sister’s Vidal Sassoon moves. And like putting all this mousse in my hair, and shoving it down to create this frozen bang, just so I could get accepted. And that moves would dry up by fifth period. And I didn’t know that this is what happens. And when that happens, the bang turns from like a bang to like this raccoons. But that’s just like coming out of my forehead. And I’m like, trying to talk to ladies like Hello, ladies. And they’re like, oh, Grace, you know, and I’m like, this is just Bs, like, this being cool thing is BS. I hate it.
But I needed to be accepted, right? So I constantly do all these things. And then I remember, late in the year, everyone was always being asked to go to parties. And I never got invited, right. And then there was this last party of the year. And it was like, the pool party of the century, for this junior high. And everyone that anyone’s gonna be there. And I was like, Oh, can I go? And remember Matt being like, you know, it’s invite only and I’m like, What is that even mean?
So like, you have to get invited by someone that’s already accepted, right? So I remember begging all these people, you know, can I come to the pool party with you? And they’re like, now, now, like, you’re not ranked high enough, or whatever. And they remember going up to Antonio, and Joey via Gomez, and being like, I go to the party, like, Can you bring me to the party. And they were like, maybe. And then I remember, basically being at their beck and call, you know, folding their triangle notes and handing them off to like their girlfriends and buying their lunches and doing whatever I could to, like, just get accepted by them.
And then after two weeks, you know, I’m in the car with them going to the party, and I’m so amped, and like, like, I’m literally singing the same song of like, going on, go to the party, going into the party, go into the party, and I’m so like, excited. And then I remember as parking 20 feet from the party, and awesome, all of us getting out. And it’s like, you know, like 90210 with that cool walk. And, you know, I’m throwing the towel over my like shoulder and, you know, and just acting so like dope because I’m, I’m finally going to get accepted as soon as I walked through this party. And I remember we were like, 10 feet away and feeling excited. And then I see a friend of mine run and I think Jeremy and a bunch of other people, and they weren’t being led into the party. And they happen to be black. And there was a scuffle. As I’m like, maybe seven feet away. And I remember someone saying to them, like, fuck you get the fuck out of here.
We are not letting any party. And man when I heard that, I just froze. Because the like, I’m black. Like, am I like, like, are they gonna let me in. And I just like, I felt as if like water had like, rushed up to my knees and just like, froze, and I couldn’t move. And I’m like five feet away from like, the entrance. And remember Antonio, looking at me and being like, Yo, dude, like, come on. You know, it’s no big deal. And I’m like, No, it is a big deal, dude, like they’re gonna let you in, but they’re not gonna let me and I don’t even know where I am. I don’t even know how to get home. And I remember getting up to the front. And, you know, the people that were blocking the party looked at Antonio and then looked at Joey, both were Latino and then looked at me, and they were like, is he with you? You know? Like, is he black? And Antonio’s like, nice Latino. And I remember thinking like, Don’t say anything, like don’t say anything and you get it. You get in if you don’t say anything. And I remember them just like nonchalantly, like, given a head nod of like, Alright, go ahead. And it was like nothing to them. But for me, it was like it was everything, like being accepted was everything. And I remember as I crossed that threshold, like, I felt such a first a wave of relief. And I was expecting next to be like, so happy.
But instead, as soon as I pass through, I felt like I left myself back there. And I remember, there were like, 15 people at the party, and everyone’s talking. And it was just so silent for me. And I felt such shame and guilt. And it was this pool party. And I remember like, going into the pool, because I wanted to play and no one’s playing. And I remember just sinking down in there. And just feeling like the loneliest I had ever felt in my life up until that point. And I was like, is this it, like, Did I give it all up for this, and I remember making a pact with myself, like that day, like, I am not going to like compromise who I am, just to be cool, or to people, please. And I remember freshman year, then going into my basement, and making a weird games that I would play by myself just hanging out there. And after a while, some of my friends heard, like, you know, I was just hanging out in my basement, and it was a place where you don’t get judged, and you can, you don’t have to be cool there.
And they would start coming over. And we would just make up ridiculous games. And I just created like, a safe space for us to just be like, our nerdy selves. Um, and what’s ironic is like, that’s what I do. Now, I do the exact same thing. But for adults, um, but it all stemmed from that experience.
Marc Gutman 21:52
Wow. And thank you for sharing that and getting, you know, authentic and, and real on that, on that relive of that story. Jeff, like, why did you call that? Why do you call that your most embarrassing story? Like, I didn’t hear embarrassment and that story?
Jeff Harry 22:10
Well, I think I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed multiple times, I was embarrassed first, to be who I am, right. And then I was embarrassed. When I finally became, quote, unquote, cool, because I was embarrassed with who I became. Right? So like, I wasn’t happy in either of those places. So it finally came down to me being like, alone, that’s sitting in my basement, where I that embarrassment, like left me because I wasn’t trying to please someone else. I, you know, wasn’t ashamed of myself anymore. And I could actually just be my nerdy mate.
Marc Gutman 22:53
And so what did you get from play back then? And how does that relate to how I play? How do we see and interact with play today?
Jeff Harry 23:04
Yeah, so I define play as any joyful act, where you’re fully present in the moment where there really is no purpose to the play, you know, you are letting go of results. And you don’t have an anxiety about the future, you don’t have any like regrets about the past, you were just fully in the moment, almost like in a state of flow, as a lot of adults like to refer to play as, and there’s something powerful there. Because when you think of your best memories, their play moments, there are moments when you’re playing, you know, they’re not when you’re documenting stuff on Instagram, um, and the opposite of play is depression, as Dr. Stuart Brown says, and if you think of like the world that doesn’t have play, it is a world that doesn’t have innovation, it doesn’t have creativity, it doesn’t have humor. And it’s just like, especially during these uncertain times, especially during COVID times, like, so many people are.
So many adults are fixated on results all the time, which really is like I see results and expectations is like the thief of joy. And because they’re so fixated on what 2020 was supposed to be so many people were disappointed with twit 2020 was or what it is. And the more resilient you are, the more play oriented you are, the more you’re able to roll with it. You know, the more you’re able to be like, okay, that didn’t happen, but that’s not a big deal. I can figure this out, right? And embracing that playful, childlike spirit is what is going to help us actually get through the rest of 2020.
Marc Gutman 24:44
So Jeff, I noticed and thank you for talking about play there. I noticed that both today you came to the interview, wearing a bow tie that almost looks like bit like a spinner. And in your headshot you have it like Tell me about that. What is that?
Jeff Harry 25:00
So what this is zero clip it owns as you can see it, it’s a Lego bow tie. And I used to wear it when I was working for that educational Lego organization. But I started wearing it as an experiment. Almost a dare from my colleague, Lisa at the time, was like, yeah, Gary to wear that at a conference. And I was like, Yeah, I am gonna wear it at a conference. And I remember wearing it because I felt like everyone at a con at conferences, has a facade, you know, like a professional veneer of like, this is who I am, what do I do for a living bla bla bla, you know, I’m not sure I’m a serious adult. So I was like, trying to mock that and being like, well, I’m gonna wear a costume to it, my costumes gonna be this stupid Lego bow, tie my clip it on to anything, t shirts, sweaters, whatever, it doesn’t really matter. But that’s going to be how I dress up. And I remember the conferences being so much more enjoyable.
Because for some weird reason, because I’m wearing this nerdy artifact, and I would attract other nerdy people, and they didn’t feel like they had to be their professional selves around me. And we can talk about nerdy things like Game of Thrones and Avengers, and why they love the Lego and anything else, you know. And I was just like, Oh, dude, I should just wear this all the time. And the more I wore it, like on airplanes and other places, just I, I realized, like, I was able to connect more with people, because then they would be willing to share stories about themselves, because they felt more comfortable being around me, because they realized I was playing. So why can they not just also play?
Marc Gutman 26:35
Yeah, what’s wrong with being professional being an adult? And I sense in your value system, that that is something that you like, you’re like, hey, that that’s, that’s the wrong way to be.
Jeff Harry 26:45
I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, because I don’t like to think of things as right or wrong, you know, it’s just like, Hey, you do you boo, boo, you know, like, like, but What I don’t like is being inauthentic. And I don’t like that we are always told how we’re supposed to show up. Like, this is the right way to show up. This is the wrong way to show up. You shouldn’t do this, you should not do that. You know, like we’ve been, you know, I say this a lot in a lot of interviews is, you know, the reason why a lot of adults don’t play is because of 148,000. Nose, like, there’s been studies that found that we hear the word no 148,000 times by the time, we’re 18 years of age. On top of that, we get shut down all the time by adults and our parents and everyone else. And then we go to school where they tell you to ask they have you asked for permission, you have to raise your hand all the time. And then you look at media and social media that’s always telling you you’re not enough.
So all of that is happening. And then anytime you want to be yourself, you’re told you’re being Miss too mischievious or being too much, that it’s such a rebellious act for us to just be ourselves to just be our weird, nerdy self. So when I when I refer to as professional, it’s not that like you shouldn’t dress up, you shouldn’t like should put your best foot forward. If that is you. Yo, do you. But if you feel like you’re doing it just because you’re trying to impress others, and you don’t feel comfortable in that space, then why are you doing it? like who are you trying to impress? And and by trying to impress people that you might not care about in like a year? Like, how’s that working out for you? Does that bring you happiness? And I’ve found that it has
Marc Gutman 28:36
This episode brought to you by Wildstory. Wait, isn’t that your company? It is. And without the generous support of Wildstory, this show would not be possible. A brand isn’t a logo or a tagline, or even your product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product service or company. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Wildstory helps progressive founders and savvy marketers build purpose driven brands that connect their business goals with the customers they want to serve. So that both the business and the customer needs are met. This results in crazy, happy, loyal customers that purchase again and again. And this is great for business. If that sounds like something you and your team might want to learn more about, reach out @ www.wildstory.com and we’d be happy to tell you more. Now back to our show.
And so tell me a little bit about this idea of play. I mean, I feel like it’s one of those words that you can say it and I’m not sure that the schema that the the image that everybody has in their head always matches you know, and I think that we that might be one of the challenges and I feel like that happens like around the word story. I was building a business For a long time around the word story, and you know, that can mean different things, you know, 10 people come up and say, I want you to help me tell my story. And that can mean 10 different things. And you know, it’s like, it’s just like this word that we all think we know. But in reality, we haven’t all agreed on, kind of like when I say horse, and we’re all like, like, I’m like, right? Okay, I get that. So what is play? If you could dive into it a little bit? Like, how do we do it? And like, why is it so difficult? Like, what why are we challenged in this thing called play, which seemingly should be natural and easy?
Jeff Harry 30:34
Well, part of the reason part of it is the 148,000 nose, and part of it is being told that we’re supposed to show up to the world a certain way, you know, that they’re adults are very results focused. Because we really want to always be telegraphing what’s going to happen next, so we don’t get disappointed. And that actually puts us in a really bad situation where we can suffer from depression and anxiety, because we’re trying to control everything. And play is much more resilient.
It’s like it’s purposeless. And you know, you’re at play, because everyone’s play is different. Like I said earlier, it’s like any joyful act, where you’re fully present in the moment. So when you’re at play, you forget about time, like, what are the things you do where you forget about time, where you’re just so fully involved, that you’re like, oh, man, I didn’t even realize I was doing that, you know, that could be this podcast, it could be making videos, it could be writing, it could be, you know, whatever. The thing is, that just brings you a lot of joy and satisfaction. And I think a lot of times people think, well, I you know, I don’t play you know, I stopped playing. There was a moment when I went to the playground in the night and never went back to the playground. And I challenged that I remember I was coaching someone once though, was a lawyer. And she was like, Yeah, I don’t play. And I was like, Well, what do you do? Like, what do you do in law, and she’s like, Oh, I help people that hate each other to come to an agreement.
And I’m like, that could be your play.
Like, if you really enjoy it, and you like the puzzle, problem-solving part of it, like explore that, right? But I think, let me know, you felt this way with story. But when I would mention play to a lot of companies, they would recoil. They’d be like, Oh, gross, like I don’t, we don’t need to play, we need results. We need profitability, we need blah, blah. But when you reference it as flow, right, which is also a state of play. And you know, Dr. Chick said, me, Hi, this positive psychologist has this flowchart, literally called a flowchart where the state of flow is when the difficulty of the task meets your skill level perfectly, you know, and when the difficulty of the task is really high, but you don’t have a lot of skill, you have a lot of anxiety, like when you first start a job, and you’re like, Oh, my gosh, I don’t know what I’m doing. But when you have a lot of skill, and the task isn’t that hard, then you’re bored, like when you’ve been at a job for way too long, or you’ve been binge-watching Netflix for way too long, and it’s not bringing you joy anymore.
But there are moments when you’re in a state of flow, where you’re creating something and you’re like, it’s hitting on all cylinders, you know, challenging intellectually, it’s challenging you creatively, and you feel alive, right? Like you just feel so like excited about it. And that is what I mean by play. And that is what I want to help people rediscover.
Marc Gutman 33:33
Yeah, and I love that idea. I mean, I can totally relate and resonate with this idea that we’re super results focused and it always has to have an outcome and I think that was always kind of the trouble when we were talking story a lot of times it was like, What tangible result will this will this have and I can’t promise you always know a lot of things are like, you know, in that in that space, where it’s like talking about you’re going to connect better you’re gonna relate better you’re going to all these different things to help people locate themselves.
I think now people are seeing it more clearly that a brand story is an asset and something that drives revenue but but prior to that, it was it was challenging, and I think it also again, you know, using just that qualifier, brandstory helps a little bit when talking about it. But you know, when I think about this idea of play, like how, how do we do it like give me give me an example of what you know, you might do and you know, what kind of team that you might work with in the business world, if you will, and how you let them other than saying go play, like, like, how does it like how does it work?
Jeff Harry 34:42
Right? So when I’m when I’m trying to answer the question for individuals is different from organizations. Alright, so when I’m answering for individuals, we first have to start with the idea of soothing or calming, so my play mentor Gwen Gordon talks about how You can’t play until you’re calm, or until you’ve soothed yourself in some way, if you have a lot of anxiety, you know, or anger or frustration or something like that you can’t really play. And she talks about how you learn how to soothe and calm yourself from the person that that took care of you the most, you’re the person that nurtured you the most. So you might be adopting a lot of the anxiety that they had, and a lot of that trauma.
So you first have to identify how do I calm and soothe myself, if you think of when you have your best ideas, it’s like when you’re in the shower, or when you’re walking, or when in some state where you’re like, Oh, this just feels really nice. And then ideas just start popping up. So identify for that for yourself, how do you soothe and calm yourself. And then after that, then I challenge people to get bored, which is ironic as a played person, but it’s just like, it’s time to get bored, which means you got to shut out all of that noise. So hop off your social media for a couple hours, hop off binge watching Netflix for a few hours, and just get bored, like, and see what comes up, because you have to actually quiet down everyone else’s voice. So you can start listening to like that inner curiosity, that inner child, that’s gonna then whisper something to you, like start type podcast, you know, write that blog, like, reach out to that person you’ve always wanted to reach out to, but you’re super scared.
Like, it doesn’t even matter what the thing is, as long as you’re following that curiosity, because once you follow that, it leads to something else, which leads to something else, which leads to something else, like just even thinking about your podcast, when you first started it to now where it is so many, you know, so many, you know, years later, like, look at how it just is evolved, right? And even Steve Jobs talks about this, and I don’t like I was quoting that guy, because he was super mean to a lot of people. But you know, it’s never linear on the way back, right? So why are we trying to plan everything out in a linear fashion going forward? When it’s just like this jagged craziness? You know, when you look backwards? Like, why are we not following our curiosity more, right?
As for like, at companies, it really depends on what their pain point is, if they’re dealing with toxic people at work, you know, my friend, Gary ware, and I put them through experiential play workshops, where they try to have a hard conversation with that toxic person, like they do it over and over again. Because a lot of times, we don’t even know how to practice having hard conversations, just like we don’t know how to practice telling our own story. We don’t have practice having like having a difficult crucial conversation with someone, right? Like, or dealing with our inner critic, we don’t know how to how to dress that mean voice in her head. So we practice that in the workshop, and actually almost embody that inner critic, and then address it directly. Mine is garga Mel, and then I’m like, Thank you, garga. Mel, for your super rude comments.
I don’t need them right now. I appreciate it. But you need to sit in the back of the car. I’m driving right now. So like, I put them through a lot of experiential play, and create a safe space so they can kind of like start to figure out who am I and how do I want to show up for work?
Marc Gutman 38:13
Yeah, and maybe I’m a little bit confused. Because like, when you were using that example of having a crucial conversation. That didn’t sound like play to me, that sounded like kind of like sounded like tough. That sounded like work. So maybe it was kind of like back it up a little bit. And like, explain to me like how how this play thing kind of actually works? And people people experience it in order to move forward in?
Jeff Harry 38:38
Yeah, sure. Sure. So in the in, I’ll go through the dealing with toxic people workshop, right. So when we when people first arrived to the workshop, we are like, you know, people are people are pissed. Some people are angry, like I’ve seen, like, we did it in Australia. And, you know, people were, you know, in tears at one point, and they were laughing at one point, because at the end of the day, what a lot of people bonded on was the fact that they weren’t alone. Right? Like, just in regards to toxic people.
I think it costs like $223 billion in the last five years for Fortune 500 companies, of people just leaving because someone’s super toxic. So when they first walk into the room, you know, we go, Hey, we’re gonna be you know, messing around, we’re gonna be playing a lot. So what we want you to do right now is we want you to envision that inner a hole, that inner toxic person, and we want you to embody that person and we want you to interact with each other as that person as that, as I refer to Chad, you know, and people start doing it and they see how absurd it is, as they’re saying it to each other and moving around the room. But they’re starting to like feel Oh, and then we ask them afterwards. What was it like to be that ale?
What was it like to be that toxic person? some people love it. Other people absolutely hate it. And then we run them through a lot of other things. Role Playing where they either are that person, or they’re talking to that person. And, and it’s a lot of roleplay. And a lot of times, at first, it is hard. And things can be hard. And they can also be playful. And sometimes they’re not always fun at the time. But they’re, we’re diving into something much more deep rooted. And by practicing and being like, oh, man, you know, going off to Chad, you know, at work and being like, hey, Chad, when you’re at that meeting, and you cut off, Samantha, um, you not only did you did it feel really rude for her. So she didn’t feel like sharing. But it also communicated to all of us that you didn’t want to hear what we had to say, you know, and you practice saying that, because you Chad might not know that they’re a toxic person, and you’re practicing having that conversation. And we do it multiple times where it feels a little awkward, you start to get comfortable with it. And then you have the bravery potentially, to go back out there and actually have a real conversation with your chat, right. And that’s what we’re trying to do is a lot of times, it’s not always like, Oh, this is gonna be fun and joyful, but it’s just like, let’s get to serious issues.
But let’s do it in a role-playing way, where you actually embody what it feels like. So you don’t, so it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be because I think a lot of times we build it up in our head that this is gonna be really hard. And then you try it and you realize it’s not that hard.
Marc Gutman 41:29
Poor Chad, always has to be Chad. Always has to be Chad. Chad, if you’re out there, I believe in you, man. I know you’re a good guy at heart. Like don’t don’t listen to what Jeff is saying. So I love this idea of listening to your curiosity, like like following that, how do you know that that little voice you hear? Is curiosity versus something else? How do you know it’s not a gremlin? How do you know it’s not? You know, that little voice that’s telling you, you know, who you should be? Like, how do you know that’s the right little voice to listen to? I feel like we have all these like little little voices in us, right? That come up,
Jeff Harry 42:09
Right? There’s so many voices, right. And I can dive in the whole inner critic stuff in a moment if you want. But I’m someone I was at a winery once and someone’s and I was like, you know, I don’t know anything about wine. And the wine guy was like, you know, if you drink the wine, you like it, you keep drinking it, if you don’t like it, you stop drinking again. And that’s really the same thing with curiosity. You know, if you follow this curious thing, and it’s just like, Hey, you know, make this video and you and you kind of like it and you’re like, Oh, that’s kind of fun. I think I’m gonna continue to do that. And if you don’t like it, then you’re like, Ah, I’m not interested anymore. You know.
And that’s kind of how kids are, when they’re at the playground, they go play something with someone, they don’t even introduce themselves formally, they just start playing. And then when they’re done playing tag, then they’re like, Yeah, I don’t want to play anymore. And it’s the exact same way. Just do the things that feel good, that feel good to you. You know, you’ll know what that it’s, it’s not you and that you’re trying to should on yourself, when it just doesn’t feel right. When in just feel like when you can ask yourself, who am I trying to please right now? And then you’re like, Oh, I’m trying to please my boss, sir. Oh, I’m trying to please, this friend of mine, you know, or I’m trying to please somebody, instead of trying to focus on what I want and what my needs are. So that’s how I would be able to tell people how to decipher it.
Marc Gutman 43:33
Yeah, and I think there’s this thing, like, you know, and like that you brought up the podcast at one point as an example. Because Yeah, I mean, that is like, kind of, for me, the right example of curiosity, and following my curiosity and play, and that it was an experiment, I didn’t really know where it was going to go. And, and that gave me a lot of freedom. You know, sometimes I would think, though, that by not planting my flag by not declaring, I’m going to make this a big thing.
It also kind of gave me like, one foot in and one foot out, you know, it kind of gave me this, like, defensibility. And I think, you know, when I heard you talk, it’s like, yeah, like, even when I think about and put myself in this in this situation, it’s like, yeah, I’m gonna make that video, but really, I’m doing it because I want to put it on YouTube. And I want people to like me, and you know, I want some sort of, to your point result and the problem being and YouTube’s a great example, I love I love shooting videos. I, I love the idea of being a YouTube, or, but I’m not, right, like, I mean, it was really hard for me to, like, accept that, like, I don’t like to edit. And you know, YouTube’s just not a channel where I can show up regularly and create content even though I do put some stuff up there from time to time. But it was really hard for me it’s really hard for me to kind of like admit that it was hard for me to say, look at this as like, hey, it’s a cool experiment or it’s a cool frame of play that opened up a door or that’s like this point in my journey that’s now pivoting to someplace else.
You know, I’m really personally struggled with this like, you know, am I Am I curious? Or am I wishy washy? And so like, how do you, you know, respond to people that struggle with that, like, is this curiosity? And is to your point? Is this just the way it’s nonlinear? And it should be or am I just like, all over the place, and I gotta, like, be a little more, you know, have a little bit more direction.
Jeff Harry 45:19
Um, I don’t know when I hear the wishy washy and this is just my take on it, but it’s just like, I hear this, like a should voice in that, right? Like, maybe you are wishy washy, sometimes. Maybe you are curious, sometimes, like,
Who knows? Right? Like, you’ll you’ll figure it out by just experimenting more like I, if this is interesting, I make a lot of tic Tock videos, right? Like, I’m really fascinated by that app. Because there’s a lot of play in there. There’s a lot of people that are not taking them seriously in it. But even I, you know, we’ll make a video, put it out there. And then like, Man, that was super fun to make. And then there’s a part of me that goes back and just like, how many views how many views that again, Oh, my gosh, I didn’t get that many views. And then I get like, there’s a part of me that’s like, it’s super disappointed. But I remember as I was mad as I make more content, and I’m just putting it out there. And I didn’t let go of it. Because like, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s popular or not popular, because I’ve had things that have gotten blown up and like 40,000 people watch it. And
I’m like, Man, that’s not even something I liked. I didn’t even like as much making that video that video was like, man, how can be wrong like this other video. And then I realized like, that the arts, like people’s opinion of your art or your creation, almost is none of your business. Which is ironic, right? It’s just like, just create the stuff and put it out there, Jeff. And when I do that, then it’s just so much more fun. Because I have to keep reminding myself, why am Why did I start making these in the first place? Oh, because I just enjoyed the creation, right? And then like a month dolla, like you put it out there and then it gets swept away. Like you you work on this design for so long. And then the wind blows it away. Because it was never about you. It was about just the creative process.
And knowing when I make a fun TikTok video to start my day, if it Prime’s my day to see everything in a very playful way. And then my friend Deseret told me this, which I really loved. Where, where when something good happens at the beginning of my day, ask yourself how can it get any better than this? Like, how can this situation get any better than this? with curiosity? And when I start my day with a tick tock video, and I’ll just describe today, right? Like, you know, I started my day I made this video. Oh, this is awesome. How can it get any better than this? Oh, sweet. I have this really cool podcast with these people from England. How can it get any better than this? Now I’m talking to you on your podcasts? How can it get any better than this? I get to see my girlfriend later on.
How can I get him better than this? And I’m positively stacking and priming myself to look for positive patterns throughout the day. And then that makes a good day. But usually when someone focuses on having a bad day, it’s because they’re focusing on one moment in time. And thoughts usually lasts between nine seconds and 90 seconds. So they’re just running that bad moment in their head over and over and over again. And then looking for other bad moments. But you can get out of that by simply being curious and asking yourself the right questions.
Marc Gutman 48:26
I want to be clear that after this podcast, it gets no better than this. Yeah. This is it. Jeff like this is like just I mean, I know you’re you’re curious, but like this is the little voice inside of you telling you. No, but it doesn’t it doesn’t this is this
Jeff Harry 48:41
The sultry Gutman voice is the best thing I’m gonna get today.
Marc Gutman 48:45
Well just enjoy it. Just enjoy it and know I mean, sometimes it knows to know it’s this is as good as it gets. So, Jeff, how is it addition to being curious how else can we flex this play muscle? And like how do we know we’re doing it? Right? Like how do we know we’re…
Jeff Harry 49:03
There is no right. So it’s it’s letting go of the idea of right and wrong. Because like during COVID times, and I put this out so much like nobody knows what they’re doing. No one ever has ever known what they’re doing. They’re just making it up as they go along. And then and then people will make like webinars or courses that are like, this is what you should do. And you should do it this way. And maybe that will work. Maybe it won’t maybe p90x is not going to get you on fit. You know, it’s it’s like it’s just one way and it’s their way.
But you have your own way, right? And listening to so many people preaching about what we should have done or what we should do during the pandemic like this is how you should start your business. This is how you should pivot during the pandemic. And I’m like, wait, were you around in 1918 I’m just trying to get an idea of who was around running a business in 1918 during the last pandemic Because if you weren’t, then shut up, like, like, stop acting like you know what you’re talking about? Because none of us do. We’re all simply making it up as we go along, right. But you know, a play experiment that I put out to a lot of people that I really enjoy doing with a lot of my clients is, you know, try this right?
Reach out to your friends, like maybe three or four of them, and ask them these two questions. I’m like, What value do I bring to your life? Because I think a lot of people don’t know why people are friends with them. Like, I don’t know, what do I do for you? Why are we friends? Why don’t you continue to hang out with me, which is really important to hear. Because a lot of times you don’t know what you do for people, and you get to hear all that love back. So what value do I bring to your life? And then second, I asked them, like, whenever you see me most alive, or another way to ask it is like, when have you seen the most playful, most joyful, most present, you know, most happy. And they’ll remind you and be like, man, when you were traveling, you felt that way. Or man, when you were like making that podcast, or when you make your videos, you seem so happy. And it’s an and listening to multiple different people’s perspectives on it and writing all that down. And looking at that, and being curious about what’s on the page. Because all your friends are going to tell you totally different things, you’ll start to see patterns and be like, Oh, man, that is what I’m most alive. Oh, man. That is the value I bring to people’s lives. I never even realized that. And then follow that just follow that guideposts and see where that takes you. And I’m telling you, it’s gonna take you to a really cool dope ass place.
Marc Gutman 51:47
Yeah, I know, there’s so much gold and nuggets in there. And all I can think of is that perhaps p90x and muscle confusion isn’t going to work for me. Like I thought that worked for everybody. You know, I thought like I thought like, I mean, I’ve never done it. But like, I figured that, like, if I did it, I would be ripped in like Beachbody. And now like maybe like, you know, there’s a reason I’m not doing that. Because it’s not for everybody. It’s not for my Thank you, Jeff Harry, you just you just let the p90x monkey off my back.
Jeff Harry 52:17
Right. And let me remind me reminds me of something else that I talked about a lot, right, which is affluent deadness, right. So I know, a lot of millionaires like I know a lot of people that you would consider successful, you know, whether like famous or whatever the thing is, and a lot of them are not that happy. Like, I know people that have enough money, they could travel the world 10 times over, they can buy whatever they want.
And they have a deadness to them.
Not everyone, but a lot of people that are in this Echelon that we and many people are striving for. And they’re either worried about losing all their money, or they’re comparing themselves to somebody else. So they’re like, Oh, I’m not as I don’t, I don’t have as many riches or I’m not as famous, or I don’t have as many followers as this other person. Right? Or they’re just straight, like, bored. But not in the curious, bored, but bored in the sense of like, Oh, I thought it was supposed to be more fun when I got here. And then they post on Instagram, that they’re like, living these amazing lives, and everyone should be like them, but when in the background, you know, it’s coming from a place of insecurity. So they’re selling this lie of like how amazing this life is, with all this effluence when they’re not happy, and then there’s always people striving to get there only to get disappointed when they get there as well.
So why are we pitching this as the successful right way to do it? Like it’s just all bs to me. And instead, instead of being affluent, like, like, affluent, you know, monetarily. Why can’t you be affluent, like socially or in an impactful way, or able to like build huge, like, really real connections are able to share your story in a way that’s compelling that other people want to share? Because that that is like makes you alive? That is the type of like affluence I would want to reach out to one where you feel most alive and you feel most like yourself.
Marc Gutman 54:24
So what if we have trouble getting bored? You know, like, I think of myself, I’m like, restless, I’m anxious. Like, I don’t know if like just walking away from my phone and sitting in a park is always gonna do it for me, like, how do we get more bored?
Jeff Harry 54:37
That’s a good question.
And the reason why I say bored is because if you think about when you were a kid, your best ideas came when you were bored, right? but also your most dangerous ideas came when you were bored. Right?
So I think it and bored can also be referred to as calm, right?
So it could be something as simple as like what we said earlier, like taking a shower. You have a ton of ideas when you take a shower, do a have a bubble bath, or go on a walk or you know, or you know, sometimes I do brainstorming sessions with my friend Lauren. But we do it over mimosas and then come up with a bunch of crazy ideas that way. You know, I’ve told people, you know, to do a play, experiment with their friends, where they get them all on zoom. And you’re like, you know what, I’m not playing enough. And then we all you know, have a bunch of Moses, and we just start brainstorming all these ways in which we use the play as friends. And what we can do now in these COVID times, right, like, I was, I was coaching someone that was like, well, I love to travel, and I can’t travel right now. And we were like, Well, then let’s play with it. Let’s play with the idea of like, how can you travel?
What is it that you loved about travel? and she goes, I love meeting new people. I love meeting new people from other countries. I love those conversations. So she started looking for all of these nomadic networks and camp indies and all these travel places. And then found all these other people that also love to travel but live in other countries. And now she has all these new relationships with people. And she feels like traveling. And by just simply hanging out with them and has places to stay when she can fly again. That’s all by her getting a little bored, a little calm and then being like, oh, let me follow this curiosity and see where it takes me. So like, that’s where I would challenge people to just be like, again, you don’t have to do it the right way. But just what comes what suits you? What, what what gets you in a place where you can hear you, and no one else.
Marc Gutman 56:43
Hear you, And no one else. I like that. So Jeff, is we come to the end of our time here. Thank you so much. We’ll make sure to link to everything. Jeff Harry in the show notes. While you were talking. I was looking at your Tick Tock. Yes. There’s a lot of play there. Jeff Harry plays on Tick tock, and probably all other handles, but we’ll make sure to get those linked appropriately. In the shownotes. Jeff, when you think back to that awkward eight year old boy and maybe that teenager with the bangs that were plastered against his face, or even that that boy that had to give up a sense of himself and go into that party just to be included? If you ran into that, that version of yourself today, what do you think that younger version would say?
Jeff Harry 57:34
Would say to me?
Marc Gutman 57:35
I’m sorry, you say if he saw you today? Like what would he think?
Jeff Harry 57:40
He’d be like, that’s badass dude. He’d be like, Oh, I don’t need to try? Like, Oh, it was like, I had all the answers the whole time? Like, ah, wow, that that takes the load off me. Let me put down the moose.
You know, like, let me let me stop word the zeek ever reaches in jerboas. Because I realized like, Oh, I don’t need to actually try so hard. You know, like, I feel. I feel there’s such pressure to try so hard to be some perfect version of yourself. When like, you have all the answers you need are ready. And you just really need to play enough in order to figure them out.
Marc Gutman 58:33
And that is Jeff Harry. Positivity psychology play speaker. Yep, it’s still a mouthful. I’m all about the play. And Jeff really got me thinking about this idea of where our best memories come from. And I agree. My best memories are when I’m in a state of play, when I’m not looking for any particular result. And it’s long been a wild story core value that’s posted, read on our website. Play for a living, followed by the words. The world of business is a much better place with humor, smiles and belly-aching laughter. we approach our jobs in mission with a sense of playful humor. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to poke fun at yourself.
If you can’t poke fun at yourself, poke fun at us. We can take it with a smile. A big thank you to Jeff Harry. stay curious, keep playing. get bored. Sounds like a recipe for success to me. Well, that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. A lot big stories and I cannot lie. You other storytellers can deny.