What a Wonderful World

New-Year-CourageEver since I can remember, I have approached each new year like Indiana Jones the Temple of Doom. For me, a new year is a paradoxical praline, a seductive chocolatey shell of adventure and challenge filled with a soft centre of unease flavoured with dread. And the only way to deal with dodgy chocolate? Run it off of course.

What I think about when I am running

As I set out from my doorstep, one foot pounding in front of the other, I thought about the gratitude I feel for my family. Of the freedom to do what will hopefully enable me to do my life’s work for long enough to make a difference.

And that’s when I remember one of the most useful lessons I learned in 2018: to welcome my Fear whenever, wherever and however it shows up. Then give it a hug.

And then I remember a curious riddle and answer I once saw while splashing about in a hotel swimming pool far away from home, spelt out in mini turquoise and white tiles: “What is the shortest distance between two people? A smile.”

Three Magical Words

And before you know it, instead of my usual greeting of “Good Morning!”, I find myself uttering a heart-felt wish out loud to each and every passerby: “Happy New Year!” First to a young couple out jogging together. Then to an elderly lady walking her cockapoo. And then to a family of father, mother and their grownup son. And then to an elderly man who seemed deep in thought.

In reply to my gift of a wish of “Happy New Year!”, that elderly gentleman said with deep sincerity, “I hope you make lots of money!” To which I reply with a challenge and a smile, “May be happiness!”

And that’s all it took, a simple wish of “Happy New Year!” from one human being to another to light up our faces and keep our hearts warm.

That’s when I remember what is probably the most beautiful song in the world: “What a Wonderful World” performed by Louis Armstrong. And my running adventure this morning was just like he sang, “I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do / They’re really saying I love you.”

And I’m reminded, “I hear babies crying, I watch them grow / They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know.”

What a wonderful world indeed. Happy New Year!

Happy 1st Birthday!

Share-PlayThe School of Play turns one today! And as though by magic, it falls on April Fools’ Day.

Dare to Dream Greatly

The School of Play began as one of my most ambitious dreams to date. It goes like this:

One day, when my little girl is all grown up, just before she sets foot on her starship, ready for yet another intergalactic mission to make new friends and facilitate intergalactic peace, she turns around and kisses me on the cheek. “Mama,” she says, “I love doing what I do every day with my friends knowing that we’re creating a better world.”

And that’s when I know we’ve together created a world where everyone can thrive by turning their dreams into a reality. Just imagine what such a world would be like!

The Power of a Wish

Like all powerful wishes, The School of Play came to life in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. Many people would tell me, “Are you sure you want to include the word ‘play’ in the name of your school? People might not take it seriously”. While others would simply roll their eyes with disapproval and disgust at the thought of adults having fun, not just at home but at work, too.

And that’s when I knew I was onto something important. Every time I’ve had a truly weird and wonderful idea, I’d experienced such negative reactions. That was, until I moved out of the naysayers’ sphere of influence and went in search for others who were courageous, nurturing and generous enough to let other people’s ideas live.

Tatoo

Carpe Annum

The first year of running the school has turned me into an entrepreneur, a product manager, a web designer, an accountant and a philanthropist and much more besides. That’s not to say that I’m an expert in all those roles, but rather I now get to practice whole-heartedly things like Lean and Agile principles and practices and put them to the test on my life’s purpose: to promote happier adulthood through lifelong play.

Gratitude and Friendship

And so it is with great gratitude and joy (not to mention relief), that I find myself celebrating The School’s first birthday with global playmakers in a world playground created by play visionary Mathias Poulsen with the purpose of creating a more playful society for greater good for all.

Lovely to have met up with my old friend Carsten Ruseng and many thanks to Flick Hardingham and Ben Ross for showing me the magic doorway to the world of play!

Party

Want to Play?

As part of The School’s birthday treat, we’ve launched the next 1-day play adventure, “From Strangers to Ourselves: Exploring Our Identity and Relationships“. We hope you’ll join us!

We’re also developing a programme on play intelligence – so watch this space!

Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a playful 2017! With much love from the beautiful town of Aarhus, Denmark.

From Carpe Diem to Carpe Annum

hygge-hugs

Each new year warrants at least a glance in the rear view mirror and, for me, what leaps into focus is the Secret Santa present I was given during Christmas dinner hosted by my friend Debs.

I’d been daydreaming about taking The School of Play to Scandinavia for a while now so imagine my delight when I was given “The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the Happiest Country” by Helen Russell. The next thing you know, I’m practicing hygge, pronounced “hooga” loosely translated as “coziness”, by treating myself to a guilt-free Danish pastry on the way to work.

What more liberating way to start one’s day than with a sugary hug on a cold winter morning? A great antidote to the chronic zombiism to which many of my fellow commuters seem to have succumbed given the way they barge their fellow human beings out of the way in order to get a seat on the train or tube so that they can stay asleep for longer.

What’s more, fuelled by the comforting combo of cinammon and sugar, I’ve dared to experiment with living Danishly by trusting those around me more. According to Denmark’s ‘happiness economist’ Christian Bjoernskov what Danes really care about is trust: “In Denmark, we trust not only family and friends, but also the man or woman on the street – and this makes a big difference to our lives and happiness levels.” When asked “Do you think most people can be trusted?” More than 70 percent of Danes say: “Yes.” The average of the rest of Europe is just over a third.

There’s more. Research shows that intelligent people are more likely to trust others (http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/14/intelligent-people-more-likely-to-trust-others/67092.html) – possibly because they are better judges of character, a form of interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences according to Dr Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

By setting myself the challenge and chance to be my authentic self, I’m re-discovering firsthand that trust engenders a sense of belonging and with it well-being that I’d only hitherto experienced back in my childhood days. And being congruent is so much more fun than wasting time and effort pretending to be something we’re not.

So where has practicing hygge got me so far? A special invitation to Denmark to present at Counterplay in March, a conference that summons the most playful community from around the world organised by fellow playmaker Mathias Poulsen. I’ll even be flying into Billund where The School of Play will warm up with a day out at Legoland on 29 March 2017 to rediscover many of the things we learned as children but have since forgotten… including trusting that strangers are simply friends you’ve not met yet. I hope you’ll join me and come out to play!

Watch this space for more fun and games… Meanwhile, wishing you a playful 2017! Here’s to happier adulthood through lifelong play!