Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Inject some fun into your work

“Tell your son to stop trying to fill your head with science – to fill your heart with love is enough.”

Richard Feynman was a theoretical physicist who made a tremendous contribution to physics and its teaching. I have been reading his wonderful book “Six Easy Pieces” - six lectures he wrote for first year physics students.

Much praise is heaped on Feynman as a physicist, and unusually in this field he achieved a certain amount of fame during his lifetime. This was due to his work on the Challenger disaster as well as his brilliant teaching.

Two things strike me about him: one that he has a genius’ ability to make the complex understandable, and secondly that he worked hard at having fun. I'd like to think the two are connected.

He worked in a strip joint. When I say worked, he didn’t strip; he did his work in a strip club. Napkins would be covered in equations. I’m guessing that his found it relaxing and that the creative atmosphere helped him think. I can only speculate as to his wife's views on this matter, but it certainly produced some wonderful work.

There is much evidence that our thinking is different when we are relaxed. Ideas often “pop” into our head in the bath or swimming: while our conscious processes take a break, the unconscious keeps working away at the problem.

Feynman was a keen player of the bongos and a juggler; he enjoyed cracking safes and painting. He had a lifetime ambition, which was ultimately unfulfilled, to travel to Tuva – a hard to reach republic in the far south of Siberia. Chosen, I believe, for its sheer difficulty and obscurity.

He died from cancer when he was just 70. But he has left a lasting legacy, not only of his physics but also for his mischievous sense of adventure and fun.

We haven't all been blessed with the mind of a genius, but perhaps we can take a leaf or two out of his book. I'm thinking more of the bongos than the strip club, obviously ...


  1. Caroline

    I have not commented for while and find myself drawn to your thoughts. I would love to known where and whw you were touched by this thought.

    I would offer that one does need to go outside ones normal space to discover what a wonderful and positive world we have within our grasp.

    The challenge is to find the catalyst or anti catalyst!


  2. Hey! Thanks for the comment – good to see you back!

    As a typical extrovert I look outside of myself for ideas and inspiration. I am intrigued by disciplines which appear to be unrelated to business – the ballet, for example. Whilst a ballerina may not know one end of a Balanced Scorecard from another she does understand the need for regular and sustained practice of her art. In business most of us would have no idea how to pirouette, but are perfectly au fait with a Gantt chart. So taking ideas from one discipline to another I feel has merit.

    I think any high achiever must be worth studying to try to understand how they accomplished what they did. And a high achiever who loved strip clubs and the bongos is just too delicious for words!