The Power of Action: “just play” in business and life

Play in the Workplace

A little play in the workplace never hurt anyone.

In this post, I will share a few resources, and an activity from my life, that support a BIG idea.

The big idea: Resisting the urge to over-plan, and instead stepping up to take action as soon as you can is not only extremely powerful, but a good business decision, and doing that continuously, over and over, will eventually yield desirable results for you.  This big idea is also a common theme in Happy Go Legal’s coaching practice – the value of injecting play into more of what you do.

I’ve been gardening to one of my favorite podcasts lately, thanks to a “player” of mine (that’s what I call my coaching clients), who reminded me how inspirational (and action-oriented!) these podcast episodes are.  Pat Flynn is not only a good guy, which one can tell just by reading a single blog entry or listening to a single podcast episode, he is also damn smart.  (If you haven’t heard his podcast or read his blog, there’s still time, so check him out.)  One thing I really like about the way Pat does his thing is that he takes ACTION.  Planning and having a basic idea about where you want to be are important, but above all, actually DOING what you plan is what moves mountains.

Here is an activity from my life that helps illustrate Pat’s wisdom

I play a lot of basketball, and I have since the 6th grade.  Like many kids, I dreamed of doing amazing things on the court long before I had the skills to do them (to be clear, that’s still the case, but I’m working it).  To get there, it all started with grabbing a ball and learning the game by playing.  In sports, unlike in business, it’s an absurd idea to sit there on the sidelines for four months planning out every play or move before you play.  But, we’ve all talked to people who have grand business ideas who end up spending so much time planning that their energy and zeal for their project turns into disdain for the never ending planning (“I have to do this before I can do this, but I need to get that done, before I can do that“), and then spirals into fear for not doing it perfectly.  Meanwhile, other ideas are left unacted upon, and someone else may be acting on their first great idea.  That inaction just became wicked stressful!

Nope, in basketball you learn by getting out there.  You lace up the shoes and JUST PLAY.   This last phrase is so powerful, I want to break it down. (And I want you to tweet about it: click here to share the most recent time you did something without overthinking it.)

Just Play!


just   adv  \ˈjəst, ˈjist, ˈjest also without t\  :  ONLY, SIMPLY <e.g. just be yourself>

An adverb used in this way, “just” describes your action.  I love it because it requires presence of mind.  There is nothing else, but this action — here, it is play.  There is no thinking, no judgment.  Only, and simply, action, play.  If you are doing more than playing, then you are not just playing, so you are not learning or enjoying yourself, and therefore you are not doing yourself any favors.  The true power of your action comes from your being present, from JUST taking that action and that action alone.


play   verb  \ pley \  :  TO TAKE PART OR ENGAGE IN A GAME <e.g. I play the game of life>

Play is essential to learning, to teaching, and to being happy.  Ask anyone with a dog.  When you play you don’t worry about the time, and you don’t stress about things you didn’t get done in another part of your life.  I define “game” broadly so I can play more in my life.  In the big picture, most things that you do with consistency can be seen as a game, and in fact, it is this analogy that the coaching technique we use employs constantly.  If a goal is to be happy, the more you play, the more you are achieving your goals.  If you cannot inject the spirit of play into what you’re doing, take a break.  Just like you’d take a sub if you needed to get your head back into a basketball game or shake off a poor play, reassess how you are playing your game of life, work, business development, relationships, etc.  Sure you can be serious and be playing at the same time, and you can also get paid for playing your game (in fact, you’ll be winning that much more if you are, right?)

What is the point I am trying to make?

There are two, actually.

  1. Crazy, in-depth planning is overrated, and action is essential!  While I don’t like the phrase “fail fast,” the concept is congruent.  The things we seek, experience, learning, and results, flow directly from actions, not planning.  Planning can even get you in trouble, by creating a false reality.  In the words of the founders of 37 Signals in their quick read REWORK, “There are too many factors that are out of your hands . . . Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.”  In basketball, I can’t plan exactly how my defender is going to guard me on each play.  I need to be ready to shoot the three if he gives it to me, and if he guards me close, I need to be ready to take him off the dribble, or pass and move without the ball.  I need to just play to figure these finite details out.  So . . . you got a business idea?  Get your general game plan in order, and either act on it now, or decide affirmatively to park it in the bike rack while you play at something else, or until you’re ready to act on it.
  2. The spirit of play needs to seep into more of what you do.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  When you are playful, you are more productive, more present, less stressed, more focused, you learn easier, and you are generally a happier person.  Play can exist when stakes are high or low.  In reality though, when you are in the zone it doesn’t matter.  In that zone, you will trust yourself, and you will do your best work.  That zone is the state of mind where, whether you recognize it or not, you are playing.

See?  “Just play” sums it up nicely.

There is an old saying in the field of carpentry: measure twice, cut once.  Even in a field where exactness is absolutely critical — measurements are taken to the 16th and 32nd of an inch! — the most important word in this adage is “cut.”  Without this action, nothing gets built!  (Please don’t play with saws without taking the proper safety precautions.)

Inspired yet?  If not, watch this, from a company that has embraced and made millions off pushing the power of action (watch it anyway, it’s short and cool):

For more resources like Pat Flynn’s podcast and REWORK, please visit our Resources Page and Our Bookstore.

Got a resource to share with us, or want to share how you inject play into the workplace?  Leave a comment here or on our Facebook Page!

Ready to join our community?
Sign up for the Happy Go Legal newsletter and receive exclusive content and updates in your inbox!
We hate spam just as much as you

Happy Go Legal Policies