The Value of Play

In this episode, John and Noelle discuss the value of play. Discover the benefits of giving your mind and body the freedom to experience joy and creativity.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

The Value of Play

In this episode, Lumia co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss the importance of play in our lives -- what it is, why we need it and why it matters to us so much. Plus, Noelle relates wearing an egg costume to meetings and John gives his take on how we play in community.

Episode Transcript

John: Hey guys! On this episode, we’re gonna talk about the importance of play, which I think is really important especially today where everyone is — the new nine to five is working from home and people have to structure their days and put some balance into their life. Noelle, what is your definition of play?

Noelle: Hi John Kim! I’m Noelle Cordeaux. This is our awesome podcast for the Catalyst Coaching Podcast. My —

John: I always forget to introduce you and tell people who we are and what we’re about. I just assume that, you know, they’ve been listening forever.

Noelle: Well, because we know each other kinda well.

John: And also, you’ve never called me John Kim before. I like it.

Noelle: I can start doing that. My gift to you, you’re welcome.

John: Thank you.

Noelle: You’re welcome. My definition of play, oh gosh. I think play, for me, is this unstructured mental place where you’re letting your mind and your body go free flow and experiencing just joy and creativity.

John: Yeah, absolutely. So two words stick out from me, with my definition. And from your definition, that is flow and creativity. I think that if you’re engaging in some kind of activity where you kind of lose track of time and you’re able to hit flow, I think that is definitely play. I mean, it could also be work too, but to me that’s play. And also, being creative — creating a space where you could flex that muscle — I think is definitely play.

Noelle: Yeah. And play too is so seriously relationally-oriented. Like you can absolutely play and get into that kind of stuff on your own. But from an evolutionary perspective, the importance of play, both in the human and animal world, has been to teach us how to get along with others, how to let go of s**t, how to negotiate just in a personal rules of engagement, and to have this kind of experimental place where if you break the rules, there are consequences.

John: Yeah. And I think that the world has defined play as something that is extra. It’s definitely on the bottom of your to-do list. A lot of people don’t “play” ‘cause they feel guilty, that they should be working. So how do we redefine play? What do you think? I mean, I guess just by talking about the importance of it, you know.

Noelle: Yeah. I mean, from a brain perspective, we know that play increases your prefrontal cortex function — and that’s a decision-maker of your brain. So giving yourself space to be unstructured, to be creative, to be engaged with other people, to have fun, to lighten up — it makes you more creative, it increases your social skills. And these are all things that we’re seeing [inaudible] declined then in society — it decreases in creativity, which halts innovation and social skills, where we’re breeding this generation of f***ing psychopaths who don’t know how to interact with each other.

John: Yeah.

Noelle: So, you know, like where do we go, how do we fix it? I think that maybe there’s this fundamental thing going on in society where we’re striving to create this ideals and not really looking at what true enjoyment in life is. Or maybe are so serious. Or maybe so concerned about what other people might think of us, that we don’t let ourselves play — ‘cause God forbid, he’s looking.

John: Yeah. And can play be relaxation? Can play be something that — I guess you have to define it, but can play be something that doesn’t involve creativity?

Noelle: Yeah, totally. I mean, the components of play, as they’re classically defined, are have to do with movement. Just moving your body around with other people — running around outside, going for a walk with a friend, going to a gym, engaging in interpersonal connectivity that involves any kind of movement, laughter. Just thinking about stuff in a creative way, giving yourself time to read a book that doesn’t have anything to do with your professional life.

John: Moving your body around with other people, we all need that in our lives.

Noelle: Yeah. Very much. So what happens for you, when you engage in that kind of stuff?

John: So before, I used to never “play” because I was so driven to build something, and I defined the workdays to be 12 hours and just constantly hustling. And I learned through my rebirth that play is actually essential. It gives you a reboot, it gives you fuel. And now I’m all about maneuvering in a higher frequency and being in a certain state, and I think without the play piece, it’s really hard to do that. So especially in a world today — both you and I are entrepreneurs, and we create our own schedules, and we’re out there hustling and stuff — I think for all the people who are working from home, who are trying to build something that where they have to create their own structure. If you take out the play element, I think there’s a high chance of burnout. I think that play is what makes what you’re doing sustainable.

Noelle: Oh, totally. And I think a lot of that goes back to isolation. I know the past couple of weeks I’ve been working from home back in Philly — mostly by myself, that I’ve been going freaking nuts because there’s me and my dog. And I think that that characteristic of isolation drives people to look at their phones more, instead of engage with other people — be on their computer, rather than getting up and moving around. We’re tribal creatures — if we don’t create these spaces and dynamics to be physically outside moving around with others, we’re missing out on a whole lot of chemical bonding. Moving your body gets all of those endorphins flowing, and then being with others kinda seals the deal with oxytocin and dopamine and serotonin. And you feel like you have your people, you feel like you have your crew when you’re socially doing stuff and playing.

John: I wanna underline that because that’s the other thing I’ve learned in the last five years — is the importance of engagement with other people. You know, I cut my day in half — around two o’clock, I go sweat, I workout. And it’s never the workout I remember, but it’s the bonding with the boys, the bonding with your tribe. That stuff is like medicine. And even if it’s just nothing but s**t-talking or slapping asses or whatever it is that you’re doing, but that connection and movement with people as you would say — that is just gold. Then you have a version of that with your team, you have a version of that with your friends. And I think when you’re kind of jumping into different tribes like that throughout the day, it really refuels you.

Noelle: Yeah. And I think what you hit on is a really important component — of being able to joke around with other people. That is the foundational — humor and lightheartedness — is the foundational elements of play. I can’t exist in any of my relationships without humor.

John: Yeah.

Noelle: And I think a lot of times — at least for me, is my way of giving to whatever group that I’m in. Like I know I make people laugh and so it’s something that I bring to the table to kind of change the environment that I’m in.

John: You definitely have a playful spirit, which I appreciate.

Noelle: Thanks. Were you there the day I wore my egg costume to the office?

John: No. You wore an egg costume?

Noelle: Yeah, because —

John: Amazing.

Noelle: — it was around Halloween, and it was just like one of those weeks where like everything was freaking me out and stressing me out and I was just like, “Whatever.” Like I’m wearing this giant egg to the office, and Julie and Amanda just looked at me and were like, “Oh my God.” But you know what, it changed the entire dynamic of the day.

John: Yeah, I love that. I was just out on a double date and my friend Joey said, “We’re going to wear clown suits.” He said something ridiculous to embarrass you in front of your date, and I was like, “Embarrass me? That would be amazing!” Like if you showed up in some kind of crazy outfit, that would set the tone instantly and break the ice and that would be hilarious, you know.

Noelle: 100%. A little bit of play and a little bit of humor goes a long way. And I think people are so concerned with their appearances, or how people perceive them, or “What is so-and-so thinking of me? My hair.” That they’re even afraid to introduce these concepts of play and breaking the ice, and appearing perhaps foolish in front of others.

John: Right. So here’s a question — can you thread play into your life? And also if you do that, what does that look like? So I mean, does play have to be put aside for the weekends? Or do you think it’s something that you tap into daily or that it’s threaded?

Noelle: You know, I think that from a really core perspective, the foundation of play has to be self-love. That this is something that’s so central to our being, that is so often neglected and ignored in favor of seriousness or getting a job done or whatever it is. It has to come from a place of “I’m giving this as a gift to myself”. And that gift to yourself has to come with the ability to let go of your ego and to open up to others, and to maybe get a little bit brave and find some people that you can run around outside with. I think it’s really hard for adults to make friends —

John: Yeah, absolutely.

Noelle: — and kinda find those people and get vulnerable enough to engage in play, or even admit that it’s needed and important. So I think start with the self and then keep tracking on through bravery. And if you can find people that you can play with, cherish them because it’s rare.

John: Yeah. I say start with allowing yourself to possess the spirit of play. And it’s kind of like what you’re talking about — and the visual for me is when you said you came in to work with the egg outfit, and unfortunately I wasn’t there. But I see that visual in my head and that spirit, that energy — I think you start with that and allow that to ripple in your life, and it will manifest in the way it will manifest. So whether we’re talking about an egg costume or you going to the beach or the way you handle work, a meeting, anything — I think allowing that to leak in your life can be a great way to thread play into your life.

Noelle: Oh yeah. 100%. Absolutely. And I think too self-knowledge comes with that — kind of getting to know yourself almost. Like what makes you laugh. I’ll be the first to admit that ridiculous things are right up my alley — the more ridiculous the better. But that’s not for everybody, you know. Not everyone could entertain themselves by wearing a giant egg. I personally give no f***s, and so that’s great for me. What would be satisfying on that very — like a little kid’s level, like what did you like to do when you were a kid.

John: Yeah. That is actually a really good question. You know, in my book, I talk about in the stance part connecting with the part of yourself that we’ve all locked into a hope chest when we had to grow up, when we had to pay bills, when we had to take care of someone, get a job, get married, whatever. And I think play is involved in that. I think tapping into — for me, it’s a 12 year-old that was spinning on his head on cardboard and was breakdancing in the 80s. And the way I tapped into that kid was — I bought a motorcycle, I started CrossFitting. And I listened to that part of John Kim that I’ve neglected for so long when I was married, when I was running a restaurant bar — all I thought about was business and chasing shiny things. And I gotta say, it makes you invisible. But when I started to pull out that 12 year-old with the windbreaker and fat laces, and started to dance with him and allow him to give him what he needs — it doesn’t mean you have to do what that 12 year-old did or what you found was amazing or what gave you fulfillment back then or what was play, but it just means to tap into the spirit of that kid. And so me doing that made me feel more whole, it made me feel more complete, it made me feel powerful. And now, things like butterfly pull-ups and riding motorcycles — it’s now part of my life, it’s threaded. It’s like that 12 year-old — that play — is living and breathing in me. And I can’t take it out.

Noelle: That’s awesome. You’re also a really good dancer.

John: Oh, thank you.

Noelle: I was totally blown away. You know, like coming from me who presents like a [fraggle on acid?] I was like, “Wow John!”

John: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if I’m a good dancer. But that is — so when you see me dancing and act stupid and make those silly videos, that’s actually a great example of not the 44 year-old John Kim who’s a therapist but that silly playful 12 year-old John Kim who grew up in the 80s. Like that’s me addressing him.

Noelle: That’s a really important point. Because I think that’s where we’re going wrong — is separating the f***ing two. Why can’t you be John Kim the 44 year-old therapist who’s also a badass dancer and rides motorcycles? Like why can’t that be combined acceptably into the whole of your being. Where I’m Noelle the “whatever the hell I am” and I like to wear my egg costume and pink crocs, and my hippie dresses and go dance that concert. True story doesn’t negate my power or my professionalism. It’s just a part of me that maybe adults just — I don’t know, maybe they don’t like to look at that kind of stuff.

John: Yeah, they don’t. But here’s the thing, that’s what makes you three-dimensional, that’s what makes you shine. And I think that allowing yourself to do that is going to put you into the state where you can produce your gifts. So whatever it is — whether it’s work or an athlete, or whatever it is that you do — I think that’s when you hit your potential. It’s not when you’re invisible, it’s not when you neglect parts of yourself. When you come into yourself and you become this whole person — whether we’re talking about dancing or pink crocs, whatever it is that makes you “you” — and you allow space for that, I think that is when your potential goes up exponentially.

Noelle: I completely agree. And it almost feels like your starving yourself if you don’t give life to those pieces.

John: Yeah. What a great topic and conversation. I think it’s so important to just — if you’re listening to this, ask yourself how much play is in your life. Ask yourself if the spirit of play is something that you are growing or that you have ignored. And ask yourself what your life would look like or how different you would be if you started to put more play into your life.

Noelle: Oh yeah. And from a life coaching perspective, whether you’re interested in your own life, whether you’re coaching others, or whether you’re maybe a client who’s working with a coach — I think a lot of times we tend to focus on achieving or acquiring things versus the actual experience itself. Which is this — the end of your life, you might take a look at all the things you’ve achieved and acquired and say, “Wow, that was great.” But what you’re actually going to remember is the experience. And you have a choice, whether that can be meh or joyful.

John: Yeah. And I think that experiences — I’ve always said this — that’s the goal, that’s what’s convincing. I think a lot of us — we imagine things, we think about things, and it’s a very logical — it’s very in our head . But we don’t really give ourselves the permission or space to actually experience something.

Noelle: Indeed.

John: And that’s where the shift happens, in the experience.

Noelle. In the experience. And I think it’s good to talk about these things openly, get the commitment from others around you — to be silly, to take the lid off that box, and discover maybe some things you didn’t know about the people you love.

John: You were just mentioning about coaching and play. And if you are a coach, if you’re a life coach, or if you’re a fitness coach, yoga instructor, meditation coach, whatever coach that you are, if you’re in a coaching world — two things, ask yourself how you would incorporate play into your practice with your clients and also how you would explore that topic. I know that some of my most memorable classes — fitness classes — have been the classes where we like warm-up playing dodgeball. Or we — just doing stupid things, you know. And what I mean by stupid is like fun, silly, out of the box — and that’s incorporating play as a coach. So as a life coach, what would it look life for you to incorporate play into the session?

Noelle: That’s a cool idea. I mean, I like that concept a lot. Everybody has their own spin on it.

John: Yeah. It doesn’t mean that you have to show up in costumes and stuff. I mean, it could, but it’s whatever play looks like for you. Whatever it looks like for you to inject that spirit into a session. Because I think with life coaching, people see it — there isn’t a stigma, but there’s kind of like this idea of what a session should look like. You know me, I’m all about flipping things on set and trying different things.

Noelle: I think from now on, when we do stuff together, we should roll into the room with you breakdancing and me in an egg costume.

John: That’s how I go into my sessions.

Noelle: Awesome.

John: Little arm wave, instead of a hug. But thank you for bringing this topic, I think it’s important. So many of us forget about this, you know. And what a great reminder, even for myself as I start my day.

Noelle: Absolutely. You know, it came from our Facebook group. So John and I have a Facebook group call “This Is Your Tribe” — thousands and thousands of people in there, and we do a SHFT daily coaching question. And the coaching question yesterday was, “If you are gonna describe to somebody else about how to have fun, how would you do that?” And then I debrief the topics at the end of the day, and that’s really kinda what got me thinking about this whole concept — I was reading everybody’s responses and how they were kind of struggling to instruct others how to play. And I was like, “Alright, we need to get in there.”

John: Yeah. And you know, speaking of the Facebook group — it’s growing, I’m excited about it. I was talking to one of our catalyst, MC, who was just recently on this podcast. So you and MC go back with me the furthest, and we were talking about — so I created something called the “treehouse”, and this was before Facebook had groups and all that, like seven years ago. And it was a little group blog, and there was about 10 or 15 of us in there. It’s amazing because “This Is Your Tribe” is kind of what I envisioned before the tools were out — of all these people connected throughout the world, engaging and sharing their story and videos and text and all that. And so for me, everytime I see that — I know for many it just seems like a Facebook group, but it’s not — I saw this in my head like five six years ago, and I just like knew that we could all use social media or the Internet as a tool to connect and rebuild ourselves through each other.

Noelle: Oh yeah. And I think that my favorite part of our group is that it’s almost an anti social media experience on social media. That we’re so committed to transparency, we’re so committed to showing the real versus the curated. And playing, you know, that group is infused with fun and humor and meetups — and we’re having our own meetups that a regional group is bringing up across the country. It’s becoming an amazing community. So if you guys out there listening, wanna hang out with me and my egg costume, and John breakdancing form time to time? Check out our organization, get involved, we’d love to have you.

John: So it’s called — it’s searchable, just type in “This Is Your Tribe” in Facebook, and that should pop-up and then send us out your request, and we have to approve you. But also know that like any group — and this is what’s great about it — it’s not just rainbows and butterflies. There are things just that are gonna trigger you, there are things that are gonna make you think, there are things that are going to bring you resistance. But I think all that is soil, I think all that is what’s going to push you to stretch yourself.

Noelle: Yeah. And, you know, all growth comes with discomfort.

John: Yeah, of course. And if you guys are in the group now, I’m sure you have experiences. I’m sure you’ve experienced relatability, support, inspiration, encouragement — but also, I’m sure you’ve experienced resistance, triggers. You’re not gonna like all 6,000 people, you know. But that’s all part of it. Like any group, I think that it can be really a powerful experience. And it’s free, it’s on Facebook.

Noelle: Yeah, totally. And our events are free too. So check ‘em out.

John: Yes. Where should we have them go? Just go to SHFT.us — it’s kind of our mothership and you could, from there, branch off into meeting the coaches, doing one-on-one sessions, full jumping into a tribe, finding out about our life events. Man, you know what, Noelle we built this thing and it’s like — it’s spreading like a virus and it’s like this octopus with all these different tentacles, and we like create a new tentacle a week.

Noelle: Okay. We can go with virus and tentacles. [Thanks?] John.

John: A good virus. I know there’s good bacteria and bad bacteria. Is there such thing as a good virus? I don’t know.

Noelle: Well, us, we can be the good virus.

John: Finally. Alright.

Noelle: I love you so much.

John: But it’s growing, it’s exciting, and there is something under the umbrella of SHFT for everyone — doesn’t matter where you’re at in your life or what you’re going through. Or — and this is what we really specialize in — if you want to coach.

Noelle: Yup. Our coach training program is pretty epic, and I think the community aspect of all of these coaches who come together to form this collective has just been magical.

John: Yeah. So as we end, Noelle, how are you going to inject some play into your life today?

Noelle: I have concert plans tonight.

John: Oh, nice.

Noelle: I have a full day of meetings with the team, where I will no doubt harass individuals in a humorous way that delights my soul. And I think I might harass my dog a little bit too.

John: Nice. I’m just going to take on the attitude of play, and I’m gonna move play into the forefront of my brain and keep it in line with my intentions, and see how that ripples in behavior. So instead of defining or describing what play should look like, I’m just gonna let it flow.

Noelle: Awesome.

John: Alright guys, if you enjoy this dialogue, we create it every week and subscribe to this. And we are also now rotating our Catalyst instructors ‘cause they all have so much knowledge and wisdom, and they all specialize in something to create more dialogue just to make your life better.

Noelle: Absolutely. I love this podcast and I’m so excited that people are listening and it’s growing. Keep the questions coming and we’ll keep the content flowing.

John: Yeah. Oh, I love it. Alright guys, be well and inject some play into your life today.

Noelle: Have a great one.

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