Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success

Reading time: 5 minutes

We all grew up in cultures that taught us to be serious about life and what we wanted to achieve in it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t survive either literally or figuratively, or both.

If we wanted to achieve anything in life, we had to work hard. And to underline this seriousness and determination, we learned to complain and surround whatever we wanted or had to do with drama.

Somehow, the opinion of having fun being in the way of achieving anything in life seemed to have established as being true in many human minds.

But interestingly enough, the opposite is the fact. And thanks to globalization and due to the internet growing connectedness on our planet, we have become more and more aware of the fact that having fun is not impeding success, but instead leading to it.

That is easier to see in the entertainment industry. When talking about fun, I love quoting Heidi Klum, a German-American supermodel and television personality, and one of the four judges on America’s Got Talent (AGT) between 2013 and early 2019.

After the results show of the AGT 2017 finals, a reporter asked Heidi what advice she would give to the winner, Darcy Lynn, a twelve-year-old ventriloquist. Without hesitating, Heidi answered, “Always to have fun. If you don’t have fun, it shows in your performance. That is always the key number one.”

But also in other areas, including the most technical and business ones, the experience of fun sets you on the path toward success.

“Fun is an extraordinarily valuable tool to address serious business pursuits like marketing, productivity enhancement, innovation, customer engagement, human resources, and sustainability.” — Kevin Werbach, For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business

Here is another quote about fun, which is one of my favorite quotes by my favorite authors on living in the moment, Ariel and Shya Kane: “We have come to realize if we are not having fun, we are moving in the wrong direction.”*

But how to find this “correct” direction. What is fun anyway?

Fun is a complex term made up of just three letters.

What is fun for us might not be fun for someone else. What we find fun is not only subjective to various persons but even to the same person in different circumstances. We might enjoy playing a game one day and not so much on another.

But there is a great thing about fun. However difficult it is to define it with words (I counted, for example, more than ten various definitions of fun in just a few chapters of the acclaimed book Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster**), we all know what it feels like for us.

Fun can show in different ways. One time while we have fun and enjoy something we laugh, and other times fully engulfed into a video game we play or fantasy novel we read, we frown and appear quite tensed from the outside. But we will still have fun!

There is another excellent feature of fun. You can discover it anywhere and in anything. Even in those activities, you claim as not being fun initially.

We can either discover fun when we give that project or activity a chance and approach it with curiosity and without prejudice (open to recognizing the fun factors in there), or we can bring fun elements into this project deliberately. Or better both.

How can we do this?

Curiosity and passion can help us here. I call them to be the other two siblings of fun in this inspirational triplet, one preceding and another succeeding the birth of fun at each moment. This triplet helped us, humans, to choose and pave earlier unfathomable paths. See References and Notes to read one of my favorite stories on how curiosity leads to passion and fantastic success.***

Fun also lead me to unexpected initially but utterly rewarding places. I wouldn’t have become an author if I hadn’t let myself “taste” the writing out of curiosity and let myself follow what felt healing, rewarding, rejuvenating, but most of all, fun for me. I tried various art forms in my life, including singing, playing guitar, painting, making jewelry, and decorations. But it was writing that turned out to be the best to express myself.

Through all that experience, I discovered that fun equaled wholehearted and rewarding engagement. And that is what defines successful projects and those involved in them. The latter are wholeheartedly engaged and experience this engagement as utterly satisfying.

References and Notes:


** Here are just five of the shortest ones:

  • “Fun is light, energetic, playful and…well…fun.” — Will Wright in the foreword
  • “Fun is all about our brains feeling good — the release of endorphins into our system.”
  • “Fun is the act of mastering a problem mentally.”
  • “Fun is contextual.”
  • “Fun is another word for learning.” — Raph Koster, Theory of Fun for Game Design

*** “I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air I saw it wobble, and I noticed the red medallion of Cornell on the plate going around. It was pretty obvious to me that the medallion went around faster than the wobbling. I had nothing to do, so I start figuring out the motion of the rotating plate. I discovered that when the angle is very slight, the medallion rotates twice as fast as the wobble rate—two to one. It came out of a complicated equation! I went on to work out equations for wobbles. Then I thought about how the electron orbits start to move in relativity. Then there’s the Dirac equation in electrodynamics. And then quantum electrodynamics. And before I knew it… the whole business that I got the Nobel prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate.” — Richard P. Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character

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