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Turning work into play

Just as this newsletter’s story talks about turning work into play, Beyond Comparison: Leading with Clarity and Confidence will teach you strategies that make the heaviness of “work” (things like social comparison, overwhelm, and lack of control) into lighter things characterized by “play” (confidence, engagement, and ability to let go).

STORY: Turning work into play

READ MORE: Check out Lego Foundations article on the neuroscience of play

BOOK STUFF: Book Club: I'm having a fangirl squeeeeeee moment. Brigid Shulte, author of our book for May & June -- Overwhelmed: Work, love and play when no one has the time -- has agreed to pop into Book Club!

PODCAST STUFF: NEW episode! The latest episode is live and I'm launching "Ask a Leadership Coach a Question" submit your questions, now.

GOING FURTHER: Check out next weeks Free Workshop, plus more on Collective Wisdom Circle and Heroine's Journey Leadership Retreat this fall


STORY: Turning work into play

I love podcasts. They’re my companions on car rides, while folding laundry, gardening, and doing dishes. My favorites touch on all my favorite things: neuroscience (Huberman Lab), leadership (Brené Brown has a new one out!!), D&D (Critical Role), and storytelling (Everything is Alive). 

But a year ago if you’d told me that I was going to release a podcast of my own, I would have said you were utterly nuts. 

It began with a simple suggestion from my coach, David Vox. Just as I got off the stage in Barcelona for a huge speaking event, just as I thought I could sit back and rest on my laurels, just as the champagne glasses were cleared and the confetti literally settled upon the floor, David said to me: “Irene, you need to start a podcast.” 

My initial reaction? Utter disbelief. Who was I to enter the realm of podcasting? The self-doubt crept in, fueled by the fear of comparison and the prospect of adding yet another item to my already overflowing to do list. Actually, let’s be honest, creating a podcast is more like a thousand to dos, none easy for a first timer like me. It felt like W-O-R-K, heavy, daunting, and awful. 

I shoved the idea aside into a dark corner of my mind and pretended it didn’t exist. 

Yet somehow I couldn’t forget about it. 

Every time I listened to my own favorite podcasts, I thought about it. Every time I heard from David, I thought about it. Every time I created goals for my future, I thought about it. 

It continued to feel like work until I shared my conundrum with a brilliant friend of mine who also happens to be an extraordinary executive coach, Christina Howard. She listened patiently as she always does and then said, “What’s the most fun thing in your life right now?”

The answer sprang to my mind immediately: a homebrew D&D-like adventure I was creating for my kids where they’d play cats who wanted to go to high school with their teenagers, but they day the kitties arrive at school, it happens to be the day Ferris Bueller took off. 

When I feel playful like that, several things happen in the brain. Threat centers like the amygdala quiet down. Reward centers like the nucleus accumbens light up. Learning centers like the hippocampus activate. And the person enters a flow state–that state of being that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says leaves time, space, and self behind–a state that silences brain areas like the insula that’s critical for being self-conscious and worried about what others might think. 

As I spoke about the game I was creating, I could feel all those things happening in my brain. I grew more relaxed. I felt joyful. I became less self-conscious. 

And into that playful brain state, Christina dropped another question, “How could you make a podcast feel like play?” 

Aha! All sorts of possibilities opened up in that moment but most importantly... 

Work became play. 

I drew inspiration from all the things that felt like play to me: movies, games, nature, baking, science. I envisioned a podcast that was more than just interviews or monologues–something that would be a playground of ideas where storytelling, science, and strategy converged. I decided to add soundscapes so that listeners could feel like they were being transported into the narrative. 

But the real breakthrough was my perception of work itself. How much of all the work we do could be reframed as play? Could heavy overwhelm be transformed into something lighter? Could impostor syndrome be reimagined as playing with bobble headed action figures? Could we transform work cultures into something full of joy, purpose, and connection?

As Stuart Brown so eloquently stated, “I would encourage you all to engage NOT in the work-play differential -- where you set aside time to play -- but where your life becomes infused minute by minute, hour by hour, with all kinds of play.”

And so, my podcast was born.

Listen if you want. But more importantly, bring to mind something that’s the most playful, fun, delightful thing in your life right now. Got it? Once you do, consider the question: “How could you make your work feel like play?” 

Read More

Of course folks at the Lego Foundation created the most accessible article about the neuroscience of play! But for the definitive work, check out Stuart Brown’s book Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul or check out his TED talk

And of course, please take a peek at the podcast if you haven’t already! You can find it on my website, Apple, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube and more. 

Podcast New podcast episode is out!

In this episode there’s a little less science but a WHOLE lot more story. In fact, the entire episode breaks down two different types of narrative arcs and applies that to the work of leadership. You may have heard of Joseph Campbells’ Hero’s Journey or Monomyth. But have you heard of the heroine’s journey? We’re going to be talking about Star Wars, Harry Potter, Rom-Coms, and a whole lot more.

My brilliant sister Brenda suggested that I create an "Ask a Leadership Coach a Question" episode, kinda like "Dear Abby" for leadership. So, if you have a question that you'd like me to answer on Leaders' Playground, send a short video or audio of your question to my email or as a text message. If it's fun, maybe I'll answer a question every episode from now on... who knows.

Book Club

We’re shifting dates around a bit in May and June because author Brigid Schulte, will be joining us to talk about the book we chose: Overwhelmed. She’s also going to share her ongoing work at the Better Life Lab and give a sneak peek at her new book coming out in the fall, Over Work: Transforming the Daily Grind in the Quest for a Better Life. Squeeeee!  Join in on the conversation with the author June 13 at 4pm but before then join us for May book club on Thursday May 23 at 4PM PST. If you are not yet receiving book club emails and calendars and would like to join us, email to be added.

Going Further

As a leader does your confidence ever suffer from comparing yourself to others? Do you ever look at all the overwhelming to dos and wonder how to get things under control? If so, join Tutti and I for a FREE online zoom workshop May 23rd at noon PST where we examine what’s happening and go beyond into comparison and control to seek confidence and clarity. Sign up here!

And we're still taking enrollments for the women's leadership retreat.

  • Are you an adventurous woman looking to rekindle the passion and purpose that drew you to your work?

  • Do you lead a team or collaborative project, but struggle with overwhelm when trying to get everything done?

  • Are you working your tail off for others and have no energy left for yourself or the things and people you love?

  • Would you love to connect deeply with other female leaders from a variety of disciplines?

  • Do you ever struggle with imposter syndrome or your own self-critical voices holding you back?

  • Does a weekend of unforgettable glamping, exploring, and reflection in stunning Mendocino, California sound way better than a conference?

If so, apply HERE to join us at Heroine's Journey Leadership Retreat Sept 13-16 2024.

Lastly, we are still accepting enrollment in The Collective Wisdom Leadership Circle. Each year, I hold space for one circle of eight exceptional, passionate, visionary leaders. We will sustain you, celebrate your wins, and fail forward with you so that you can thrive as a leader, not just survive. This curated group of experienced leaders will meet for 90 minutes on Zoom every other week for six months. If you are interested in joining the Collective Wisdom Circle, apply here, now!

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