When I walk the halls of R&D at our Buena Park facility, I’m always on the lookout for one thing. The same holds true wherever I see employees gathering, or when I stop to chat with a distributor group touring the campus. I listen for laughter in all its forms from soft giggles to loud belly laughs. When I hear it, I can’t help but smile. Why? I believe that, when people are having fun, they are at their creative best. It’s a state that makes learning easier, work more meaningful, and life happier.
The first time I got serious about fun
Thinking back, I suppose I really became serious about the importance of fun in graduate school over five decades ago. At the time, I was in the doctoral program at U.C. Berkeley where I found myself at the forefront of an emerging field of research: lipoprotein metabolism. Guiding the way was John Gofman, Ph.D., a respected medical physics professor and a man who had one of the greatest influences on my professional life. He was the first investigator to identify blood levels of high-density and low-density lipoproteins. Today, these so-called “good” and “bad” cholesterol fractions are established risk factors for heart disease, but back then, it was a time of intense research and exciting discovery.
I worked closely with Alex Nichols, one of John’s top investigators, researching the physics, physiology and biophysics of heart disease. Our workdays were long, 10 to 12 hours at a stretch. Yet every day, we made sure to take a break, go down to the gym and work out for an hour, swim or play volleyball, and then grab something to eat at the cafeteria and talk about our projects, and come back and work. On Thursdays at dawn, we would meet a few other scientists at Tilden Park to play 18 holes of golf before work. We would even work on Saturdays and Sundays, whatever it took to bring a project to completion. I loved every second of it. Alex was a wonderful teacher and a true inspiration on how to live a balanced life.
Taking fun to work
After graduation, I took the notion of making time for fun with me as I began my career as a young Nutrilite scientist. I was a “road warrior,” spending about half my time on the road. I talked to distributors about Nutrilite brand products and the business opportunity. I tried to make it fun for people. I often tag teamed with a sales manager, and we would play practical jokes on each other and do other quirky things to help distributors laugh as they learned. When you are having fun, work becomes play.
A motto in the making
This simple habit became a motto in the making during my Firebird journey when I sailed around the world to learn about people of different cultures and their attitudes about food, health, and nutrition. This 84-foot ketch only needed a few experienced sailors to sail the open seas on a quest for adventure and world discovery.
While in search of some of the best diving in the world, we dropped anchor about a quarter mile off Lady Musgrave Island, one of the largest coral cays on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. As we prepared to jump into the water, a flurry of activity along the shoreline caught the eye of a crewmember. We scrambled to grab the binoculars.
The commotion appeared to be a large shark swimming about 10 yards from shore, and it was circling something. Suddenly there was a burst of activity followed by a pool of blood slowly spreading over the surface of the water. Armed with a .30-30 rifle, we scrambled into the whaler to fend off the shark.
When we arrived at the exposed inner lagoon, we saw a hammerhead shark that looked to be 14 to 17 feet. It was heading right for us. A couple times the shark surfaced. Shots were fired, but the bullets just bounced off, and the shark escaped into the deeper water.
We then went into the lagoon to see what the shark had attacked. We thought it was a baby porpoise because we had seen about 20 or 30 of them at one end of the island. But when we got in closer, we saw what was left of a 6- to 7-foot gray shark. It had been cleanly snipped in two. We retrieved the head portion, which was all that was left, hoisted it onto the whaler, and headed back to the Firebird. None of us had ever heard of a hammerhead attacking a gray shark and biting through it in one bite.
Back on the boat, a crewmember cleaned out the jawbone, complete with those deadly serrated teeth. We proudly displayed it in the boat’s main salon as a memento of the “Great Shark Attack at Lady Musgrave Island.” It was a fitting frame for our motto, “You can’t have too much fun,” fashioned out of wood and rope and signed by the crew.
With all that shark activity, we decided to cancel our deep dive for the day. Instead, we took our flippers and snorkels and went ashore to do some shelling and diving in a protected lagoon on the other side of the island. During the day, we discovered all kinds of bird populations and much evidence of large turtles. At night, we watched from a distance through binoculars as five or six giant turtles made their way up the beach to lay their eggs.
It’s not often that you can list the exhilaration of a shark attack, the beauty of exotic birds, and the discovery of giant turtles among the day’s events. Lady Musgrave was really quite incredible. All in all, it was one of the best days of the journey and proof that you can’t have too much fun.
Wherever you are on your life’s journey, I hope you make time for fun along the way in business and with family and friends. You only have one life, you deserve to live it to the fullest.
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