The Fun Manifesto

Where fun is, is good – where fun isn't, is the problem.

Image of The Progress of Man reaching its peak in Fun!

The Progress of Man reaches its peak in Fun!

Fun is serious. Fun is fundamental. Fun is as real as your paycheck and as tangible as the taco you had for lunch, and fun can be as important in your life – or more so. Indeed, if fun is missing from your life – your whole life, especially your work – you're missing an essential ingredient for your best performance. I'll bet you already want more fun, but if you want to be more creative and innovative, if you want to perform better and have a better time while performing – you need more fun.

This manifesto is about paying real and serious attention to fun because it's important, and because that fundamental importance hasn't been widely recognized. It's not about turning your life into a funhouse where the party never ends. It's about making your life more productive and creative, about feeling better about getting out of bed because you're eager to see the results of the clever and fun stuff you started yesterday. It's about taking fun out of the small box we've kept it in so fun can make the rest of our lives more memorable.

More specifically, this manifesto is about fun that's both participatory and social. Relaxing on the beach with an umbrella drink and losing yourself in building the perfect kite are often described as fun, but we're talking about the fun that happens in a group that's doing something creative and challenging together. Sitting on the beach is relaxing fun – really, it's simply pleasure. And, while building the perfect kite may be fun, it's solo fun, also known as flow, a term defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his groundbreaking research in positive psychology. Flow is both important for, and similar to, the fun that's the focus of this manifesto, but it hasn't been neglected as much as its social counterpart.

What is this fun you speak of?

Since fun is used so broadly to describe many enjoyable activities, here's my definition:

Fun is the state you're in when you know you're having fun.

This may seem unsatisfying, but I haven't found a better one. In fact, I had to invent this one because the other definitions were so fuzzy and unspecific (seriously, there are books titled Ferret Fun and The Fun of Dying: Find Out What Really Happens Next!). Fun is subjective, so a subjective definition is both appropriate and consistent with my scholarly and empirical research on fun. People don't really know what fun is, but it's unmistakable. You know when you're having it, and when you're not. Period. The fact that we're exquisitely tuned fun detectors strongly supports the fundamental importance of fun in our lives. There must be a big evolutionary advantage to being highly sensitive to the amount of fun in our environment, or it wouldn't be so widespread and well developed.

What are we waiting for?

In our modern world, fun has been pushed to the margins. We've largely banished fun from the workplace, where it's considered frivolous, distracting, and even childish. Fun is a treat you're allowed to indulge in after the chores are done – otherwise it's screwing around. At the other extreme, fun is the mirage of fulfillment we chase with all the money, position, and toys we've accumulated in our desperate strivings at work, in school, and at home. But, despite our frantic efforts, we're usually too exhausted and stressed out to catch the mirage. We think fun is both frivolous and desirable, a luxury and a deep hunger – but we're on a starvation diet.

Despite its barren exile, most of us want fun. We want more fun. We want our lives to be fun. Many of our best memories are of fun, and it's what we hope for at the end of the workday, on the weekend or on vacation, and in our retirement. So why wait? How about right now?

These questions are especially poignant because we in the 'developed' world live in greater material, intellectual, and even spiritual plenty than at any time in human history. And yet, despite this wealth, wealth beyond the dreams of avarice of your grandparent's generation (and of many now walking the Earth), there are indications that we're no happier than the inhabitants of the worst slums of the 'third' world. Given all our advantages, why aren't we having more fun?

Continue with Part II ––>

Download a PDF version of The Fun Manifesto . . .

Listen to the audiobook version of The Fun Manifesto . . .

Read a draft chapter, Is Fun Just Another Fad?, from my book-in-progress, The Fun Paradox . . .

I'm now posting more new chapters on the Funshop Blog, help me refine it and get credit and prizes!

Learn more about how you can bring the power of fun to your work through Funshop . . .

But, most importantly, please go out and have fun!   and . . . why not now?