Want To Be Less Obsolete? Go Play

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression -Brian Sutton-Smith
Adults are just obsolete children. — Dr Seuss

The other day, I beat my girlfriend, Ava at Gin Rummy 7 times in a row!

Our tournament started a few months ago in the Galapagos Islands. Warm ocean water, friendly sea lions, and no WiFi (gasp!). So, when it’d get too hot, we’d find shade and play cards.

We traveled for 3 months and learned that we had to mix adventure and relaxation with real PLAY.

It wasn’t just cards. We’d go bowling. Find water slides. Only speak to each other in foreign accents. Anything to stay playful. Anything to be silly.

When I play, time becomes invisible. I forget about goals and lists. I become a human being. Not just a human doing.

Sometimes I forget to play.

I know when it happens because I wake up the next day and feel heavy. Like my soul gained weight in all the wrong places. I watch my shadow pace around, it seems anxious…

I read about an elementary school teacher from Boston who moved to Finland to teach. At first, she didn’t understand why all the kids there had so few behavioral issues compared to students in America.

The only real difference she found was that, in Finland, kids get 2 hours of recess each day. Every 45 minutes in a classroom is followed by 15 minutes of play.

That’s it. More time for kids to be kids. More time for beings to be.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a school bell that reminds them to take recess. My boss doesn’t walk over to my desk every hour and say, “Put down your work and get outside! Jonny’s at the tetherball court and he’s telling everyone you can’t beat him!”

So, how do you remember to play? What makes time invisible for you? Do you have a recess bell in your life?

Luckily, I have Ava. She makes me get off the couch and go dancing. She’s my recess bell.

Even though she won’t play me in Gin Rummy anymore…

Dr. Seuss said, “Adults are just obsolete children.”

Every day, I wake up and try to become less-obsolete. I look for new ways to play. New ways to use my imagination. New ways to keep my soul light.

Here are a few ways:

Laugh More

Laughter is orgasm for the soul. Do it often, even if you’re by yourself (I think I read that on a fortune cookie).

Laughing releases dopamine, our happy chemicals. It filters our vision with optimism. The whole world seems nicer when you’re laughing.

If you aren’t laughing enough, try watching a few minutes of stand up comedy on youtube each day. If that doesn’t work, stand in front of a mirror and see how silly you look (that always works for me).

Stop Competing With Robots

In the game of productivity, you’ll always lose. Because of robots, our skill level in “getting things done” is obsolete. “Organization, optimization, output, output, output!” We already have apps for that.

Here’s what YOU can do better than robots: Create meaningful experiences. Feel joy. Have flaws. Say, “I love you too.”

How many times a day can you make yourself stop doing and just be? Those are the metrics we should be measuring.

Play Games

Invite people over for game night. Make outrageous bets with them. Game night is always more memorable than dinner and drinks and talks about how “we’ve been so busy lately!


Go make something. Anything. Paint a picture, write a poem, draw mustaches on celebrities in magazines.

People like to say, “Remove expectations when you make art.”

I say, “Expect it to suck.”

Tell yourself, “I’m going to write the worst short story anyone has ever read.”

It’s ok because when we create we get our brains moving in new directions. It pushes the real problems we’re facing out of focus. Our subconscious still works on these problems and is more effective in doing so when our conscious brains aren’t in the way.

Stay Interested

Don’t be complacent in what makes you excited for life. Remember, what got you here won’t get you there. Most people wait until things are going horribly wrong before they reinvent themselves, but life is always a moving target.

We need to constantly seek out new hobbies, new curiosity, and new ways of thinking. Playtime = Renewed interest in life.

Look, I get it: We need to practice, we need to focus, we need to get to work. But it won’t mean anything unless we remember to PLAY.

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Originally published at coreymccomb.com on July 18, 2017.