Play Big! Hint: It’s Not About Producing Results

Through Play:

  1. Rediscover your “joie de vivre” (exuberance for your life!)
  2. Discover your natural enthusiasm and wonderment
  3. Create your passion for what you love
  4. Produce results in life from your passion and natural expression

From a very young age, we are taught to succeed and not to fail–to be a winner and not a loser. For most of us, that’s how we live our life: attempting to be a success and avoiding at all costs to be a failure. This view is set sometimes as early as 5 or 6 years old and as late as our early teen years. The view becomes more and more in the background as we grow older, but the underlying “truth” doesn’t really change.

Success and failure can have many different faces. It could be about being smart and doing well in school. It could be about acting properly/nice and following the rules. It could be about having a career where you make a lot of money. It could be about having big houses, nice cars, the perfect marriage, and well behaved children. And, it could be any combinations of such things. Life becomes about “more and better” versus “not enough”–it is all about survival and mitigating risk.

When we were very young, it was all about playing. The simple act of playing just for playing sake rather than to win or not to lose. It was a time to explore and discover the world; a time to fully express our joy for life; a time to use our imagination. We could imagine being an astronaut, exploring the galaxy in our cardboard spaceship; or a dancer, dancing to our own ballet creation; or an artist, creating masterpieces of mud pies or wet sand; or a pirate explorer, discovering new land and carving up the seas for our taking; or a scientist, discovering a cure for “honkis of the konkis” that has been plaguing mankind since the dawn of history.

As we grow older, we learn from our parents, our teachers, the society, and even our friends that we must grow up and live a proper life and do the right things. We must compete and do well in school and sports. We should do well to become an expert in life–doctor, lawyer, engineer, or CEO of a big corporation… All to become successful so that we can get the money, the mate, the house in the right neighborhood so that don’t have to work so hard later in life.

We lose sight of playing for playing sake and slowly the games we play are all about the outcomes and results instead. The games we play in life become smaller and smaller as we feel safer to do the things that we know we will succeed at or not fail at. No matter the success in life, we are mostly left dissatisfied in our experience of life with only short bursts of happiness and contentment in this context of winning and losing.

It is in the discovering again playing for playing sake that we become free. We are free from the burden we put on ourselves to be successful (really, avoiding failure). Some of us rediscover our passion from our younger days, such as learning to play music, or going back to school to study science or philosophy, or take drawing or painting, or writing the great American novel, or take up marathon running, or learning a martial arts. Failure becomes a non-issue as we welcome it to forge and develop us further.

With the freedom to play big, we get to choose to be who we want to be in that game. We are no longer at the mercy of the circumstances of life and we can be much bigger than our base needs for survival.

When I am playing big, I get to fully express who I really am and who I choose to be. It is like practicing painting or drawing techniques not just for mastery of the techniques, but to be able to fully express myself in my drawing or painting. Or in the case of Aikido, I am practicing not only to master the techniques but my self-expression of who I am as a warrior for peace and love. In this context I get to discover and develop continually who I am as a possibility I declared vs someone who is defined by my past history and the circumstances surrounding me.

Are you playing the survival and mitigate risk game only?

Where in your life have you given up on playing for playing sake?

What if you can just play big in life? How would your life be impacted and how would it impact others in your life?

Enjoy your Day and See You On The Mat!

Thanh Huynh
Leadership, Executive and Life Coach – San Jose, CA – San Francisco Bay Area

If you would like to chat with me about how I can help you move forward in your leadership and life, please email meat

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