Do It Well, Make It Fun by Ron Culberson
THE subtitle is Success in life, death, and almost
everything in between.
If you are looking for something light and cheerful for the
flight home, this may just be the ticket. The author is a humourist and
motivational speaker who will remind you of things you already know, and who
has probably phrased them more succinctly than you might have.
The central message of this book is the need to do what you
have chosen to do extremely well (hardly a new idea), and to make whatever you
do fun. Culberson has a keen sense of humour which runs riot throughout the
As is the tradition with motivational self-help books, the
author’s life gets plenty of space, but Culberson’s stories differ in very
important ways – they are completely lacking in self-aggrandisement and are all
humorously told. More particularly, he sounds like so many people you know
rather than an icon you are being encouraged to emulate.
The book opens with a description of a motorcycle accident
that could have been much more serious were it not for his cautious riding and
some skill, but nevertheless resulted in him requiring stitches to his face. As
the physician’s assistant was scrubbing his chin with sterile saline, said to
her: “After the facial, do you think I could get a cucumber wrap and a
The motorcycle incident led to him needing to change a
flight for which the airline wanted to charge him $1 000, a little expensive
for clicking on two buttons. On the advice of his travel agent, he went to the
airline office and told the attendant that he had received his facial injury
from the turbulence on the last flight and wanted a refund.
After looking at him in the horror reserved for finding
“heroin and a pipe bomb in (his) carry-on bag” he explained his real request, a
flight change, which was happily done for only $75.
The story is “a perfect example of doing things well and a
having fun. I used my motorcycle skills to avoid death or dismemberment” and
then made the unpleasant emergency room experience as “fun as it could possibly
be”. Ditto for the ticket change.
To do things well and have fun, the reader is provided with
a three-step process for the execution element and three for the fun element
for each topic in the book.
Culberson trained as a social worker and worked in a hospice
before becoming a writer and speaker. There he observed people deal with the
most serious situations people face well, with dignity and grace.
As a humourist, he is always on the lookout for the comedy
Personal success in every arena of our lives, he asserts, is
a result of combining the two – dealing with life well and having fun. “I
believe it is THE secret to life.”
In the section entitled NOW Is Where It’s At, he makes the
point that we reminisce about the past, even regretting some parts, and we look
with anticipation at the future and even worrying about it. All the while, the
present is right there waiting to be noticed.
This is hardly a new idea and has been dealt with in depth
by people like Eckhart Tolle, but it is worth being reminded of.
To introduce the idea of having character (not being one),
he repeats the Steve Martin stand-up routine where he extols the virtues of the
phrase, “I forgot.”
“If you get arrested for armed robbery you can always tell
the judge that you forgot armed robbery was illegal.” While a little too close
to home these day, it does remind one that bad values are not really in one’s
It was a UCLA basketball coach who said: “Your character is
who you really are, while your reputation is simply what others think you are.”
Culberson recommends formalising a set of values (not a new idea,) but
including in them “fun values like laughter, humour, play, vacation,
triple-layer chocolate cake” and the celebration of decisions made and executed
In relation to our careers, most of us think we are better
than we are and that many others need improvement. He writes: “if I may be so
bold, I am going to suggest that we are not as good at our jobs or lives as
we think we are,” and we need work on
Quoting his graduate professors, Culberson reports: “Just
when you think you know it all is when you need to go back to school.”
Self-improvement is not only good for us, but also for those
around us. If we are better managers, we make it better for our staff. If we
are better parents, our children benefit.
The final section is entitled All work and no play is, well,
work. This has two dimensions, the first being the need to have fun at the work
you do and the second to cultivate hobbies to enrich, enjoy and relax.
If it is not possible to find fun in what you do, you should
be actively looking for a place where you can enjoy what you do, he suggests.
Southwest Airlines, the mecca of those who love fun at work,
is the only company given more than a passing mention. It provides proof that
one can construct a workplace where fun is central to the culture, and where
real issues such as being hugely profitable and attending to safety and
passenger relations can coexist superbly.
Well worth a read on the flight back home. I enjoyed the
book for the humour and the light prod you get from the various messages.
Readability: Light +---- Serious
Insights: High ---+- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership