Who Took the Fun Out of the Workplace?

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Workplace engagement and employee satisfaction are strongly linked to a business’ productivity, however employee engagement in the U.S. has consistently been shown to be dismal at best and stagnant in 2015. In her latest article at FunHappyEnjoy.com, Susan Sherbert – upcoming Indigo River author, humor columnist, and entrepreneur – demonstrates how happiness has been sucked from the workplace, and what businesses can do to get it back.

 

Susan aims to help readers foster happiness in the workplace, naturally tapping into raw worker creativity and passion. Making positive changes and creating events just for the sake of increasing productivity does little to inspire tired, grouchy employees. They will only participate out of force or love of money, completely missing the essence.

 

“Imagine how powerful people, and our workforce, could be if we were [as] fearless, creative, imaginative, and passionate about what we do [as children]!”

 

According to Susan, businesses miss the point on fun in two big ways:

 

1. Fun is not funny: The corporate world confuses fun with being funny. While laughter has several positive qualities, not everyone has the same sense of humor and many businesses are cautious lest they offend anyone. Happiness, however, is about the smiles, not the laughter – it is about engagement, participation, and common bonds. In a business sense, team building and teamwork.

 

2. Businesses prefer entertainment: Businesses also confuse fun for entertainment. Fun is active and requires energy and engagement, entertainment is passive. Corporate presentations can be educational and even entertaining, but they are rarely fun. Employees should be asked to show how they would do it, rather than have the company show them how.

 

The solution, according to Susan, is embracing childlike thinking for happiness both in your private and professional life. For many employers, the concepts of happiness and fun are not lost on them; rather, they are restrained by “conventional” adult thinking. Taking to a younger mindset helps remove unnecessary concern and opens up one’s ability to express their real joy and creativity regardless of rejection or scrutiny. As Susan points out, “Imagine how powerful people, and our workforce, could be if we were [as] fearless, creative, imaginative, and passionate about what we do [as children]!

 

Susan is the author of the “Have Fun, Be Happy, Enjoy Life” blog and the upcoming “A White Hat and Rose Colored Glasses,” over 50 books in the “Corny Joke” series, a humor columnist, and the writer of a Sliver Award-winning newsletter for over twelve years. Additionally, she has been a business owner and entrepreneur for the past fourteen years. Susan seeks to help both businesses and individuals find a balance between living in the grown-up world and still thinking like a wide-eyed child through her writing, events, and seminars. For more from Susan visit FunHappyEnjoy.com or @SusanSherbert on Twitter.

Stumbling Upon Greatness…

Occasionally, in our lives, we are fortunate enough to stumble upon greatness. The problem is, I don’t think we always recognize greatness during our initial encounter.
Maybe we get too wrapped up in our own problems, our own visions or our own lives.
Maybe we’d rather not acknowledge that greatness is sitting right in front of us – especially when we want to be the ones who are great.
Or maybe we are not even sure what greatness truly looks like.
I’m not even sure I knew until I met a man named Jim Ebert. It wasn’t Jim’s Paul Bunyan-sized body that made him great. It was something else that has affected me deeply, to the core. It has opened my eyes and my heart and I believe I will be ready the next time I stumble upon greatness again.
And you too can find “it” here, in a tribute I wrote to my friend for Rock and Ice’s online magazine this past summer.
I’ve been thinking of you, Jim. I miss you.

The Book World – One in a Million?

I always tell my authors that having a clear vision established is essential for meaningful writing. In my last post, I mentioned the three questions that must be asked to help clarify this vision:
 

1. Who is reading it?
2. Why are they reading it?
3. How will they change or how will they feel when they are finished reading?
 

This approach is equally important in both the editing and marketing of books as well. A book about bananas whose primary readership is 8 to 12-year-old children will have a very different feel and flow than a book about bananas whose primary readership is pre-med college students. So how do we know what tone or approach is going to lead to a marketable book?
 

Large book publishers can look back at the thousands of new titles they have published over the previous months and see which ones grabbed the attention of the market. Smaller publishers may try to learn from their own analysis of amazon.com sales rankings, Barnes & Noble best-seller lists, etc.
 

But the reality is, the publishing industry is rapidly evolving right before our eyes in almost every conceivable aspect. This means that our learning methods need to evolve as well.
 

The better small publishers and self-published authors out there understand that they should no longer be taking the lead from the big boy houses in NYC. Staying flexible and modern in the new world of books means paying attention to what the little guys are doing.
 

I don’t want to know how a large, publicly-traded 9-figure corporation is getting its books sold. I want to know how that independent author down the street sold 250,000 copies of his book about the wonderful world of masking tape.
 

Staying ahead of the curve has two critical components, as far as I can see:
 

1. Observation of changes in the book-selling market
2. Putting new strategies into action quickly

I do something on a weekly or bi-weekly basis that I recommend to every author, independent marketer or small publishing company. I set aside specific time during my week that has only one goal: learn something new and critical about what people are reading or how they are buying.
 

Today I came across a great story of an author who has sold over 1 million copies of his ebooks. You may not believe that selling a million copies of your book is a reasonable goal (c’mon, don’t be so pessimistic!); but this is a perfect example of somebody observing the changes in the book world and finding new strategies to match.

What Makes a Book Great?

What Makes a Book Great

There are two questions that I get asked all the time that seem to be a set up for disappointment:

 

1. What makes a book great?

 

2. What are your favorite books?

 

I always get the feeling that I am expected to give some sort of profound answer to the first question. Whenever someone asks me, they take a deep breath before they ask the question, add a dramatic pause between “book” and “great” and then lean in, waiting for their mind to be blown. Each and every time, I also take a deep breath, stare off thoughtfully into the distance and try to think of some poetic way to capture the essence of “great writing” …but each and every time, my answer is the same: feeling.

 

The greatness of a book has as much to do with the person reading it as it does the person who did the writing. A great book is one that gives its reader a memorable and personal experience. A reader who enjoys literary classics may get a stronger “feeling” while reading James Joyce than they do while reading J.K Rowling. A child curling up in bed might get a stronger “feeling” when they are read Goodnight Moon than when they are read Wuthering Heights (although both might help them go to sleep).

 

This is why it is so important to understand our audience when we write. Whether it is a book, a short story or column in the newspaper it helps to have these three questions answered:
 

1. Who is reading it?
2. Why are they reading it?
3. How have they changed or how do they feel when they are finished?

 

My favorite books are those that have left me with the most memorable and significant feelings for the time period in my life. I have read many “great” books but these seem to stand out from the rest:

 

1. Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
2. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
3. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
4. Something Upstairs by Avi
5. Maniac MaGee by Jerry Spinelli
6. Night by Elie Weisel
7. The Dead (from “Dubliners”) by James Joyce
8. Escape from the Antarctic by Earnest Shackleton
9. Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
10. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (controversy and all)

Identity Crisis! (Publishing in the Digital Age)

Who am I?

Hmmm…

This is a question that has plagued me for years. I have literally traveled the world in search of answers. I mean, I’m pretty sure I exist (at least according to Descartes basic standards). In social settings it seems like my existence is defined by whether or not I work. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was 30sec deep in conversation, with someone I just met, without being asked, “So, uh…what do you do?”

What do I do? You mean right now? On the weekends? In the bathroom? I guess I do a lot of things.

Most days I breathe and I blink quite a bit. This is hardly ever the dirt people are looking for. Obviously they want to know about my professional life; but why is this knowledge so important?
In the ultra-competitive Western world, I think knowing what someone “does” for a living helps us to understand some aspect of their role in the society around them. Philosophically, I wish we could ask each other more poignant and meaningful questions – but I understand why we ask each other, “What do you do?”
What’s funny to me, however, is that while we are willing to associate a critical portion of our PERSONAL identity to what we “do”, we often work for (or run) companies that have difficulty answering this very same question.
What is our company’s role in its industry? Are we important or even relevant? Writers, editors, and especially book publishers should be asking themselves this question.

I went as far as asking myself this question in public, in front of a group of seasoned writers. . . yikes!