Talking with, Marney K. Makridakis, author of Hop, Skip, Jump

Episode #192

Today’s guest is Marney K. Makridakis, author and creativity coach.
Learn all about how to add creative play back into your life.
Perfect as spring approaches and we need a creative boost.

Also, some new software and apps I love.

Transcription of Interview with Marney Makridakis

Alison Lee: Ok. This is my kind of chat I like to have with someone. Today I'm talking to Marney Makri, she is going to say it again for me, Makridakis. Right? Did I do it right?

Marney Makridakis: You got it!

Alison: Yes!

Marney: Perfect. Perfect. You win a big time prize!

Alison: Thank you. And I'm so excited to talk to her about, this book is great. "Hop, Skip, Jump. 75 ways to playfully manifest a meaningful life." That’s what we all want every day when we wake up anyway, I think. I'm a big fan of play so I'm excited to talk to you today about how we can play more in our life. Thank you so much Marney for coming on.

Marney: Absolutely. Let’s play. I'm here. Let's rock this.

Alison: You know I always said to people and they make fun of me, I always say "Can we plan a play date?" I think it’s left over from childhood right?

Marney: Well I love that you are out there asking people to plan a play date.

Alison: Right?

Marney: I think that's awesome. You know it’s something that, it’s such an important topic for you know parents and child development, educators and there's play theory and childhood. And then it kind of drops off.

Alison: Why is that? When do we stop playing?

Marney: Well I think that that changes for everybody but I think that there's a pervasive drive that it’s all about results and productivity. And I think that somewhere in our results oriented society things get a little skewed and we have both an individual and a cultural belief that hard work means we're doing something right. That the hard something is, that means that we are really successful and that's where the results come from. And so play gets written off as something that is frivolous or something that, you know it happens after the hard work is done. And I think that this is only just continued and made even more dramatic than in the past decade or so where everything has gotten so frenetic with so much information and the speed of life has just increased exponentially. And so there's a lot of pressure to perform, to produce and play gets lost in there.

Alison: There is a lot of pressure to produce. I'm feeling it.

Marney: Well and here's the thing is that when there is so much pressure in this fast paced world, we're obviously, we are put into these 2 poles, you know. Either we're in this fight or flight survival mode or we just are numbed out and we need to escape. And so our playtime has become just looking at Facebook or playing Angry Birds or just vegging out in front of the TV. Because we feel like that’s what we need. We need to just escape and numb out. And so meaningful play has totally gotten lost I think for the most part and we need to consciously bring it back

Alison: I know. You are so right. It's true! We need to do more just fun play. Because what is it we've given up not having meaningful play? What do we lose when we just go to Facebook and Angry Birds?

Marney: Well I think that. One thing I say in Hop, Skip, Jump is that play is not an activity, it’s a state of mind. And it's a portal to presence. It’s how we touch our core essence. What we did as children, what animals do for no real evolutionary reason except that it’s so intrinsic in their nature is play. And so we lose touch with what is spontaneous and true and organic to our humanity. Play is how we touch and amplify that experience of being human. And it also happens to be a really cool trick for getting things done. Moving past procrastination and really getting through a lot of our own blocks. So I think when we ignore playtime, we are actually ignoring on of our superpowers that ironically can really help quite a bit

Alison: Ok. I love that. Yeah. I love that. You know the other day I let my dog out the back in the morning and she took off and just ran loops and up the wall and threw her ball and just ran, ran, ran. And I stared at her sort of jealous like "Oh. That looks so good." And then she was finished and she came in and I thought "Oh yeah. We should all do that." Run out and just go "Yahoo!"

Marney: Absolutely. Animals do it and kids do it. I have a 6-year-old and you know, I mean here I am. I wrote a book about play, right. But still it just happened this weekend where we were sitting down to play and I said what do you want to play? And he just looked at me like, you know, what? I want to play. Just play. And that in itself was like, Ok, yes, Mommy is still learning too that we don’t have to work hard at playing either. And that’s what I really wanted to achieve by this book is that this isn’t a book that feels. I don’t want it to be a book that feels like work and feels like self-improvement. Like, ok, now I got to get play in my life. I've got to do that too.

Alison: I know. I know. Let’s schedule in play time. Alright so I'm with you on this. I’m totally with you. And I agree with you. I think it’s really important especially, well I don’t know if it’s especially. But it seems to me especially people who are in the creative world. Because to go from a project where, an assignment to Ok makeup a book or makeup a website or makeup a product and make it come to real life that it's very difficult to jump from nothing to making something without some play in there, I think.

Marney: I agree.

Alison: You do. Ok.

Marney: Totally I agree. And I think that, you know it also can be very difficult for creative people or for people who are actively producing creatively to remember that playtime just for us is really important. Because we can get in this mode of "Ok. Well anything that I make, needs to go on my blog."

Alison: Oh I know it. Oh my God! It’s so true.

Marney: It's like "I'm going to the bathroom so I have to make a tele class about you know 5 ways to be mindful while you pee. You know.

Alison: I know!

Marney: Marney: So it’s really important ironically perhaps for the people who play easily who are right [inaudible] creatives to remember that play is just for them. And that's really important to put that in there. It only serves to the greater benefit of, you know our mental health and sanity as well as what we do produce and put out there.

Alison: And everyone listening, listen up. It’s so good. I've talked to so many people the first piece of jewellery or cake or doll, all the creative crafts they make has to go for sale type of thing. Ok, I'm selling things now and the pressure is crazy.

Marney: Yeah. And then we lose, I mean that's how we lose that initial passion. I mean it’s important to go back and look at, OK what was playful for this, with this and through this at the beginning? Where did the sustenance kind of start to drip away? And very often it’s when we kind of get into manufacture mode and leave that fun experimentation mode. And there is a time and place for all of those different phases. And in the book I call those 3 phases: Hop, Skip and Jump. And I can talk a little bit about them if you like.

Alison: Yes. Well I was just going to ask you, now that we're in there, how do we blend our play into productivity? How do we blend it so we are not just being made fun of? It's like "[inaudible] to her. She's always busying playing somewhere in the playground so."

Marney: Right. Right. I think one thing that I find really helpful its sort of a contradiction. I know it’s a paradox I should say because on the one hand we want our play to just be for us and then when we also understand deep down that there is a purpose to our play that also frees us up quite a bit. I have, in Hop Skip Jump I name three phases of the creative process or the manifestation which really is all about taking whatever you want to create and bringing it to fruition in the world. Whether that is baking a cake or losing 30 pounds or finding a new place to live, it’s all about creation. It’s all about [inaudible]. So I name these 3 stages as Hop, Skip and Jump. The hop phase is all about dreaming and brainstorming and planning, envisioning and wondering and daydreaming. The Skip phases is about experimenting and trying new things and exploring and meandering and dabbling. And the Jump phase is about very purposefully moving into completion, taking action. Purposefully moving to take those steps into action and jump from one place to another. And I think that by actually seeing that anything we've manifested naturally goes through those 3 processes, we can start to see that there are actually different gestures where play is put to great use that are natural tendencies because most of us will have a natural strength of those 3 areas. I've got a quiz in the book that you can scan the code and get there online to find out if you are a natural hopper or skipper or jumper. And that’s an important place to start because it shows you where your strength is and that’s a good place to start playing. And then as you said blend and balance to bring more of them. So one thing that I talk about with clients when we are looking about bringing more play in is making sure that we are looking at Hop task or Hop activities and Skip tasks and Jump tasks and making sure for example a given week has a balance of all of those. Because that’s how we can not only thrive in our strength but have a more well-rounded approach for bringing our action forward to really satisfying results.

Alison: So it’s really manifesting using play to help us get there as another tool?

Marney: Yeah. I think that and in the book there are 75 different tools and there are broken down for 25 each for Hop, Skip and Jump. My hope is that anyone can pick up this book and literally turn to any page whenever they are feeling stuck and get an idea of something playful to try.

Alison: That is funny. I'm doing that right now. And it’s funny you should say that because I had a little question highlighted to ask you, what do we do if we get stuck in one phase?

Marney: Yeah. I think you know it’s interesting because I think it starts with feeling Ok about the phase you’re in. Because that helps with negative beliefs that we may be getting either from ourselves or from other people, you know. People who stay stuck in Hop, have head from others "You are such a dreamer. You never do anything." People who are predominately skippers say "You just try so many things, you never finish anything." And people who are predominately jumpers feel and hear "You don’t plan anything through. You haven’t thought it through. You just take action and you haven’t made a plan. What are you doing?" And so we hold on these negative beliefs about ourselves and so I think the first step is really owning and saying, "Ok. this is what I’m actually really good at. Let me feel comfortable here." And then consciously say "You know, it could also help me to balance out and spread my wings a little but touch more of these other phases." And that's going to help my overall experience with satisfaction. And so what I hope is that for example, I'm a jumper but my success and my overall satisfaction is greatly increased when I also put more time into the planning Hop phase and the experiment Skip stage. And that's a lot easier to do when there is a playful way to pop into it. So that's what I'm hoping the book is useful for. Just open up any page and voila!

Alison: Marney, you're good. That makes sense. I think I’m a jumper too. So it’s helpful to be able to go back and the idea of balance is so important to and to give yourself some space to experiment in those other areas instead of making it wrong right away.

Marney: Well that's the thing. It's interesting because I have this quiz and I try it out and its interesting how often people are surprised by their results. They'll think they'll be one thing and then they'll get their quiz results and then it’s like "Oh yeah! That makes sense." And a light bulb goes off. And it’s interesting just the beliefs inherent in that. You know, I’ve had a lot of people who've looked at the book and thought "Ok. Well the goal must be to you know build up to jumping."

Alison: Yeah. That's a good point. That's so good. Right.

Marney: Yeah. That must be the goal. This is a hierarchical process. Not all at. They all have their strengths and potential risks and I think that that’s this holistic approach that I think makes a huge, huge difference. So if we can make that fun and not wordy and you know lost in cognitive psychology somewhere, I think it makes it much more accessible.

Alison: Yeah. Absolutely. Oh that's sort of perfect. Because you know, I immediately looking through everything went "Oh yeah. The purpose is to get to jump." To do more jump. To be better jumpers.

Marney: Well for you and I, that’s not.

Yeah. Exactly. So I just had my own little aha moments there right now. Yeah. Do you think it takes practice?

Marney: To play more, you mean?

Alison: Yes.

Marney: Yes, and no. I think that the more you do it the more we create a cycle of understanding that well this really helps you know. I have a one really simple tool in the hop stage with is my particular weakness, is that I have a fun playful tool where I talk about taking a planning or an organization task and turning it into a color game. I talk about Twister and all the characters in Clue and bringing in color and yeah, I am much more likely to get my desk organized if I organize things by color. Because automatically that feels more creative, that feels more playful. And I’m more likely to do it. I'm more likely to go to accounting if my spreadsheet has colors on it or my file folders have color on it. So I’ve got this little 2-page flip about bring play into a planning task through color. So I do something like that and I say "Oh yeah, that helps, so I'm more likely to remember it later. So I think that there is practice in that we remember we have a muscle memory and we say "Oh yeah. These little things they feel so silly but they actually work." But I also think that coming with that kind of beginners mind you know, I encourage in the book to be naive. be clueless. Roll your eyes at me as you are reading this book and don’t think you're going to get anything from it and that's a really good place to come from. So I would say rather than it takes practice, I’ll say yeah repetition helps but it also was great to just you know come with that unpractised mind. Because that's what kids do. My son Kai can play enough because he practices at it. But because that's his impulse and that's all of our impulses. It’s just that we've [inaudible] it.

Alison: I know it’s so true. I’m having all kinds of flashbacks here and I'm looking at your book and I love this fun fact about rubix cube with its 43 quintillion possible configurations and it is a toy that people have done theories and MIT and papers and things and it’s like "What’s up with that?" I mean, you know.

Marney: It's interesting because there is this whole, there is play theory and even now gaming theory you know. It's all. You know there are ways that play is being studied. Its only just been recently studied in the animal kingdom which I find really interesting. There is a lot of interesting stuff about play theory and how it works scientifically and psychologically. I leave that to the play theory books, you know. I wanted this book to be, I have a great list of, a play reading list for grownups. For people interested that I really wanted to be tangible, like open to any page you can do this for 5 minutes or less. The chapters are super short so that we don’t get lost in words and that we can just dive right in and try something.

Alison: No, it’s absolutely true. And I think it goes back to what you said earlier. In the world we live in right now that is so fast, read a book for me has left my playtime. Which is very upsetting. And it’s because we have to get our information. It comes out of all day long and so it’s true with your book. You can open up one page, there it is. Oh here is a little idea. Uhuh. Let me think about this. So, you know we have changed I think how we consume information today as well.

Marney: Totally. The whole way that we have metabolized both information and inspiration is so different. You and I both being entrepreneurs ourselves, we know. We know how different information is shared and conveyed. SO I really wanted to make these tools really easy to get in and get out.

Alison: I can see that. It's great. And do you also think personally that it’s really changed because of the internet and how we relate to people and emails and texting are playtime?
Marney: I personally do. I think that it’s the irony that's everybody is talking about, you know that all of these time saving devices are ending up eating into our time. That was my book before this one was called Creating Time: Using creativity to reinvent the clock and reclaim your life. And it was all about using art and creativity to redefine our relationship with time. And it is you know. Everybody is talking about how much time we've saved and yet when we compare what this is like, what are life is like now even to when we were kids you know it’s pretty staggering. You know as blessed as we are to have all of this wonderful technology and goodness knows I love it.

Alison: Me too.

Marney: My life and my work and it’s amazing. So I hate to point the finger at it but I have to say that I do believe that the constant, it’s the constant flow of information. And I think it’s that there is, everything immediate. Everything is now and we're missing something. Something is happening and you know that I think has really cut into this, into what used to be a space where we could have meaningful play. And that's what leads to this, we are either revved up or numbed out.

Alison: It’s so true.

Marney: Connecting on Facebook is not playtime. It’s not you know. I mean it can be fun and it can be worthwhile and I don’t want to knock the benefits of it but that’s not meaningful play.

Alison: No I agree with you. And I am for, exactly. I am for everything but I know when over the holidays we like to play games as a family and we played different charade type games and it feels so good to get back to that kind of interaction than email or text.

Marney: Yes. Totally and I guess it does really go of course back to blending. You know it’s not like let’s just throw away all electronic devices but let’s have as you said, I had the same things over the holidays. Like just completely stepping away from anything that plugs into a wall and it really is like a reset button. I have a playful exercise in the hot phase which is of course all about planning and finding ourselves and reorienting with new beliefs and it’s so simple but it really works. It’s just simply draw and doodle on a big piece of paper a button that says "Reset" A reset button that you can then press with your whole first or put it on your heart or lick it or whatever you want. Make your reset button and allow yourself to press it when you need to rest. And I mean it sounds so silly like really? I’m going to take a piece of paper? But people do it. I hear it all the time like, yeah I have my reset button. It’s on my dashboard of my car or it’s in my top drawer at work and I press it. And we need that. We need a reminder to reset and one way to rest is indeed to step away from the electronic stuff.

Alison: Yes. Yes. And it takes some practice to do that because well, I know for me when I have stepped away I almost went into a rehab.

Marney: And that's what's interesting is looking at, you know. And this actually is sort of more in line with my first book but what the hay? You know this idea of what are we really afraid off, you know? When we make room in our life for things whether it's stepping away from technology or whether its letting go of a commitment or whether its creating time to have 5 minutes where nothing happens and then increasing that to 5 minutes twice a day, 3 times. When that feels scary, what are we afraid of? What’s the payoff that we get for being so busy and being plugged in. Why is that so important to us? And sometimes those are not easy questions and the answers aren't pretty because a lot of times they go back to ego, you know. And why it’s important to feel so busy and feel so important and you know that's not pretty stuff to look at but it’s important because it’s a way to become free and really realize, Ok. There is on one hand what am I losing or what is my ego think I’m losing by stepping away. But what am I gaining? I'm gaining time with charades with my family. I'm gaining you know my neurons getting to realign themselves. And as you say it takes practice and I think it you know, what I think is helpful to remember and capture. "I’m doing this for myself after the holidays to remember yes, 4 days with no cell phone, nothing. It felt so go. I want to hold on to this. So I use one of my own exercises and I caught that big Aha in a butterfly net. I did a little origami butterfly to put that in the butterfly net so that I can remember to hold on to that.

Alison: Right. Yeah. Visual memories help. Oh my God! Marney you are really smart. I think this is the new trend too. So I think you are right on it with your book because I think everyone is hitting the wall this way and looking for the next way out and forgetting that it’s to go backwards into play. They think it’s like what's the next organizational book I can buy? What’s the next software application I can use that will handle it all for me so I can put more in my day? How do I get more things done in my day? All of that and I think we're all hitting the wall.

Marney: Yeah. Well will all need to instead of getting the next gadget, we just need to sit down on the floor or play jaxs or just go back to the things that we loved as a child and bring little pieces of them back. You know, and the ideas in Hop Skip Jump, intentionally, each thing to try is something you can do in just a few minutes. And you know it’s not about quantitative time anyway. It’s about qualitative time. but what I have loved hearing from readers is that even if you know you can read these little 2 page chapters. They are not even chapters, there are little, you know.

Alison: Concepts.

Marney: Concepts. Yeah. And even if it’s not something you want to do. So for example maybe you don’t want to you know draw and doodle the reset button, at the very least just taking a break to kind of step out from your routine and get a new idea, you are going to come back into whatever you were doing with a different perspective, you know. You've shaken up your beliefs in the snow globe and got a little glitter going on in there. And that's really what it’s all about is just shaking things up a bit.

Alison: No, I think it’s great. And I you know I know for the people who are jumpers who think "I can’t take time to do that." The truth of the matter is when you do you move forward back where you left off easier.

Marney: Easier. Absolutely. Yeah.

Alison: With less struggle. So it’s got a huge pay off you know. I know when I've done it. yeah. It’s like I’m really stuck and [makes noises] and then it seems counter intuitive to decide to go out and play Frisbee and yet go play and come back and see how much better you do.

Marney: Exactly. And capture that. Remember it, talk about it more. That's where we'll get to value this when we're talking more about the ways that play is helping us. And what we are talking about at social events isn’t what you do for a living is what do you do for fun? And you know when that’s the first question and then we start to value it more, you know go play Frisbee and then come back and see how much more productive you can be.

Alison: Exactly. So there you go. Oh Marney, I loved talking with you and I know I love playing with you so there you go. Feels really good. So everyone let me see state your website. It's So people should come over there to check out your book. Check out, what else do you have on there you want to tell people about on your site? Because I know people are going to want to.

Marney: Yeah. Artella Land is like an imaginary realm of islands of words, art and spirt. Lots of different places to play for creative people and creative entrepreneurs and there's many different things to explore over there. So yeah, come on over and get lost.

Alison: Exactly. Take a break and then check out your book, "Hop, Skip Jump." It’s fun. I've had it pm my desk for a while now. I knew I was going to look forward to talking to you. So thank you so much for taking the time out to play with me.

Marney: My pleasure. Thank you for having me and thanks for the play you bring into the world Alison.

Alison: Oh, you are welcome.