For as long as men and women have walked upright, there has been some sort of commerce. Trading food, pelts, gold, goods for services, etc. Throughout it all, there is one common element that has secretly remained unchanged: there are no rules.
You may think there are rules, but look at our current reality as an example:
Tomorrow, I could buy a domain, put up a website, and sell a product or service—all without asking a single person for permission.
Even more interesting (to me, at least) is that I could sell whatever* I want to whomever I want. Used cereal boxes? Yep. A subscription service about the mating habits of chameleons? Sure. Snow? It’s been done. If you can dream it up, you can sell it, and no one can tell you no.
*Of course, I can’t sell drugs or anything that’s illegal. Stay with me here, and try not to poke a hole in this theory just because there are also no rules about criticism.
Another great non-rule about starting a business right now? You could make $100,000 tomorrow. It would be incredibly difficult to do, but the ability for that to happen is 100% possible. 50 years ago? Good luck.
But if there are no rules, why aren’t more of us having fun with our businesses?
I bet you can count on your fingers and toes the number of people you know who hate their jobs. You might even be one of them.
Why do we resign ourselves to doing work all the time that doesn’t bring us joy and happiness? Why do we subscribe to “rules” that don’t exist about how to work and live?
I’m not trying to paint a picture where everyone in society has a job they love. I know that’s only going to lead to people saying, “Who’s going to clean our toilets?” and “Do you think all the trash men/women have fun disposing of your garbage?” So let’s not go down that road (for now).
Let’s go down the road of making time and space for fun in our work. Time and space for making your own rules.
I don’t mean a corporate trip to Legoland to do team building and synergistic yoga exercises (…everyone get into downward-facing-demand-chain-economic-reporting). I mean allotting time for projects that have no immediate tangible benefit. Doing things that are a bit outlandish and may even veer into bizarre/crazy/what-the-hell-were-we-thinking spectrum.
Beautiful things happen when you stop following the rules.
Amazing discoveries are made when you’re willing to have some fun without limitations (revenue projections, legalese, etc). If every decision you make has to involve the bottom dollar, then I truly feel sorry for the way you run your business.
Fun In Business Has Unintended Outcomes
You know what people talk about? They talk about things being done differently. They talk about the weird things that pique their interest. They talk about memorable things. Not a single person goes and tells their friends about the amazing time they had doing downward-facing dog poses with the accounting team.
Trying to have fun can spur ideas.
Trying to have fun can land you press and attention.
Trying to have fun can do more for personal and team morale than any raise, bonus, or product launch.
I read an article recently by Ali Mese titled I can’t tell you why your business is growing. There was one point that stuck out for me:
“No matter how strong the temptation to obsess about conversions or short-term hacks, we need to understand that what lies behind sustainable growth is our ability to delight our customers with our dedication to extreme value creation.”
I strongly believe that adding a little fun here and there can (and will) delight your customers. Even if whatever fun thing you create isn’t something they can buy or have.
It’s nearly impossible to measure the ROI of fun. But not everything in business needs a measurable ROI.
What are some ways you can have fun with your business?
Make one day of the work week about exploration and play: Encourage your employees (or just yourself) to spend one day of the work week having fun and creating for the sake of creation.
Fun doesn’t need an ROI. Fun just needs to be fun!
Show and tell goes a long way: My friend Paul Jarvis and I set out to create a silly product in 24-hours called Emojibombs. By most people’s measurement that project was a failure (it didn’t make money and we shut it down fairly quickly thereafter). But, we saw it as a success because we got to engage our audience for a couple days, show them every stop of the process, and people still remember that project.
Build a tool or website that you’d enjoy: Similar to the Emojibombs example, build a tool or website that you’d love. Maybe it’s a how-to guide on DIY’ing your own saddle for corgis? Sounds super silly, but if you love dogs, you may make something that other dog owners would enjoy and share. You could also make something helpful, just remember to keep it fun!
Travel: As obvious as it sounds, there’s so much fun and discovery to be had by getting out of your comfort zone and routines. You don’t have to go somewhere extravagant either, odds are you have something fun and unique to check out just a few miles from where you currently sit.
Films some videos or a podcast: Creating content can be incredibly fun, especially when there are no business objectives behind it. Just create for creation sake and follow one of your passions. Don’t measure anything. Don’t look at the analytics. Just. Have. Fun.
Share your fun!
I would imagine most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t have fun for fear of what people will think.
What if I alienate a customer who thinks we don’t take our business seriously?
What if we show that we’re having fun and a big client thinks we just goof off all day?
What if YOU drew a line in the sand and were okay with embracing fun instead of working a few extra hours to try to make extra money?
In our current no-rules-in-business society, you get a badge of honor for working hard and hustling. What if instead of another honor badge, you went for some colorful flair (fun!)?
I’m up for having more fun and not worrying about it increasing my revenue. Are you ready to join me?