Perfect in-flight fodder

Oct 21 2012 08:00
*Ian Mann

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 book.

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 pedicure?”

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 in situations.

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 best interest.

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 well.

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 those areas.

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

Practical:    High ----+ Low

 - Fin24

*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy.


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