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Are We Having Fun Yet?

July 31st, 2011 10:55 PM by Lehel S.

Are We Having Fun Yet?


Last week, I finished reading Edmond Morris' three-volume

biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and while there are many

reasons to recommend it (which I do, highly!), it got me

thinking about how we define fun. Late in his life, TR said

that he had enjoyed "about as much fun as any nine men I

know!" He lived with joy and gusto throughout an amazingly

productive, hard-working life. How did he accomplish so much

and still have time for fun along the way?


I've often written that happiness is one of the most

universal human desires. There is something about happiness

that sums up the best of fulfillment, satisfaction,

achievement and contentment. Everyone wants to be happy.


And a big part of happiness is having fun. On the surface,

fun is just, FUN! Fun is laughter and play, it's pleasure

and relaxation and escape from our daily work. It's about

teasing or games or vacations and watching our favorite

movies or watching our favorite team win a big game. Fun is



We all want to have fun, but on closer examination, it's not

as clear-cut as it seems. In fact, it turns out that how we

define "fun" is a rather important and complicated thing.


We all define fun in different ways, and I suspect our

definition of fun ultimately determines our self-worth and

shapes our success in life. Our definition of "fun" impacts

the goals we achieve and the things we fail to achieve.


This may be unfair, but I want to point to some people I've

never met and use them as examples of unfortunate

definitions of fun. Based on news reports, Charlie Sheen

seems to define it as drugs, alcohol, sex and outrageous

parties. At various times, my impression is that Britney

Spears, Paris Hilton, and Robert Downey, Jr., defined fun as

doing things that have resulted in pain, embarrassment, even



To some degree, we all know about this kind of fun. Who

hasn't done or said something that we hope doesn't come back

to haunt us? At the time, it seemed like "fun." We laughed

about it. We were "letting off steam" or trusting that "what

happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" would turn out to be true.


But does that definition of "fun" lead to long-term

happiness? I suspect not.


Teddy Roosevelt defined fun differently. He thought it was

great fun to write books, run for president, explore new

territory and build the Panama Canal. For him, fun was doing

things most of us would consider work. It turns out, our

definitions are very important!


If we define fun as avoiding "work," and if we combine it

with being silly or acting out, we can predict the long-term

results. In moderation, these things may be harmless but if

they become our primary definition of fun, our pursuit of

pleasure becomes very expensive.


In contrast, TR and I suspect most highly effective people,

define fun differently. In his lifetime, TR was President

for almost two full terms. He built the Panama Canal. He

wrote about 40 books, some of which are still the definitive

works in their field. He explored an unknown river longer

than the Rhine. He wrote hundreds of articles and gave

thousands of speeches. He won the Nobel Peace prize. He

started a third political party. He collected thousands of

zoological and ornithological specimens for the Smithsonian

and other museums. And along the way, he had "more fun than

any nine men I know."


For TR work and fun were indistinguishable. His life was

about productivity, learning, and doing. He made plenty of

mistakes, and some of them were whoppers, but oh! did he

have fun along the way!


The lesson I take from TR is to be very careful about how I

define fun in my life. Like everyone else, I want to be

happy both now and at the end of my life. And, I want to

have tons of fun along the way! For him, fun was about

learning and challenge. It was about building and doing and

making a contribution.


What do you do for fun? I suspect your definition of "fun"

has a lot to do with what you'll achieve in life.
Posted in:General
Posted by Lehel S. on July 31st, 2011 10:55 PM



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