Playful

“We have no empirical evidence that being more serious leads to greater insight into the human condition than being playful. There is, however, growing empirical evidence that being playful opens toward the ever-elusive, supple heart.”
John Paul Lederach


There is only one thing I miss…that I truly miss…from going to work every day at an organization, from being an employee, on a team, responsible to deliver what’s been promised.

That thing? The fun of it. The playfulness, the messing around, the good humor, the connection and camaraderie. Enjoying myself at work – playing at work – is something I never got tired of and that I miss very much.

As a “sole practitioner” I have to work very hard to create the kind of playfulness that, inside the walls of the company – in the right conditions, of course – happens organically. I have regular and irregular phone calls and email/text exchanges with friends and colleagues that help me keep perspective, have a laugh and enjoy the experience of my day-to-day work. And that’s essential because I can take my work much too seriously on far too many days.

I am reminded today that the intensity of my furrowed brow suits my work only insofar as it moves me toward lightness and freedom. I realize that I can measure this by checking whether I am inching myself closer to the playground than to the principal’s office.

That the seriousness of my endeavor can be for the purpose of creating more playfulness – rather than just more work “product” – seemed an irreconcilable difference to me for far too long. That my work is and always needs to be playful, given all of the best effort I can muster, is what makes it worth doing. And what makes those on the receiving end much more appreciative of what I offer.

I love my work. Some days I love it so much that I squeeze the life right out of it. Some days, better days, I hold it lightly…so lightly that it just starts to float away. And I can sit back and smile as I watch it go.


This is for my friend, Alia.

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The Same, but Different

It’s easy to forget that my perspective on the matter is not the only one, not the only possible interpretation.

The same thing, seen in another way, from another angle, from a different set of eyes and experiences, can and likely will form a different impression.

The intersection of those two points of view is a choice point. It is the place at which we can choose a stance of investigation and integration or one of intransigence and certainty. And it is a choice, that’s the most important realization of all. It is always a choice.

These photos were taken within seconds of one another. No filters, no manipulation. It is the same thing, and from one angle to the next it is completely different.


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‘Earth Wall’ – Andy Goldsworthy – San Francisco
Photo credit: David Berry, 2019

Your Busy Heart

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the 
chamber of commerce 
but take it also to the forest. 
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you 
were a child 
is singing still. 
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four, 
and the leaf is singing still.
~ from What Can I Say, by Mary Oliver ~


It might be that the best thing to do right now is to push away from the desk, walk down the hall, exit the building and take a walk.
It might be that what you discover outside could not possibly be confused with a forest. It might just be parking lots and buildings and people.
It might be that the fresh air is as close to the forest as you need to get, to refresh yourself, clear your mind, consider your questions in a new way.
We should all get to the forest as often as possible, I couldn’t agree with that any more strongly.
And, even though that may not be easy or convenient to do, we can take steps in that direction. Those steps include pushing away from the desk, walking down the hall, exiting the building and breathing in a new perspective.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

This is a Season

This is a season, not a permanent condition.

Just because the sewage pipe split due to 25 years of attack from palm tree roots and allowed waste to flow backwards into our downstairs bathtub last spring;

And just because both the heater and air conditioning had to be replaced this summer;

And just because our dishwasher leaked A LOT and caused so much damage that half of our kitchen was “demoed” today, down to the studs;

None of it means that 2019 will be another year of domestic catastrophe. Sometimes, quite literally, shit happens.

This is just a season and it’s a season in which we have learned the true cost of being rich. Not wealthy but rich, in the sense of having far more than we need, the luxury of complaining about inconveniences and the ability to pay for them and get on with our lives. That kind of rich.

As simpler and wiser cultures know far better than ours, the more attached we are to conveniences, the less convenient life can sometimes be.

Here’s to a season of simplicity, perspective and appreciation. Here’s to a season of falling in love again with what matters most.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Another Set of Eyes

You can’t take care of what you can’t see.

Call it a blind spot, call it being too close to the problem, but with only your eyes – and the limits of your perspective and the strength of your bias – you’re going to miss some vital information.

If you’re cleaning a bathroom mirror that might mean some streaks here and there.

If it’s something greater, something about how you do your work or lead your team, those few forgotten streaks might have greater significance.

One major difference between an amateur and a professional is the commitment to getting it right. And that means building feedback into the process early and often.

If you want to see yourself – your work, your contribution – accurately, become a professional. Hire another set of eyes.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.