Finding Joy in Simple Pleasures


Clint Murphy Mike Rucker


Clint Murphy, Mike Rucker


Clint Murphy  00:00

Mike, welcome to the growth guide podcast, we’ve already started to have a great conversation off recording. So I’m looking forward to diving into some of that. Before we dive into your book, The Fun Habit, can you give our listeners a brief bio about yourself, just to warm them up about the personal Mike, and then we’ll talk about The Fun Habit.


Mike Rucker  00:18

Sure. So I’m an organizational psychologist by academic background, and behavioral scientists by professional background. In my day job I help wellness centers provide broad based interventions, primarily right now through fitness to help people towards that path of well being, but then also really a zealot of positive psychology. So still cohort with that tribe, the International Positive Psychology Association, in the book that you mentioned, have tried to shine a light on some of the things that we’ve gotten wrong about happiness, and potentially, some ways to look at it differently.


Clint Murphy  00:55

I love that and the area, I want to start with you is an interesting one, because you wrote something that aligns with how I’ve looked at the last three years, and it’s related to COVID. And I know there was a ton of horrible things about COVID. A lot of people dealt with situations that weren’t positive if you were able to stay employed and live a good life, not get too sick. There were some upsides some silver linings, let’s call it and you said the silver linings where it provided many people a once in a lifetime opportunity to observe their former selves, their schedules, rhythms, distractions and obsessions, and ask some questions. Am I living the life I want? What is accidental? What is by design, and they could start to choose over the last three years, there’s two words I’ve started to use a lot more than I ever have in my life. They are deliberate and intentional. And COVID gave that opportunity to say, am I deliberately choosing the life I want? Am I being intentional about how I spend my time every day? And when we’re allowed to start seeing people every day again? Am I going to choose to fill my time? Or am I going to choose to continue to use it? How I was enjoying using it during COVID? And so that’s a bit of a long starting question. But what does that look like to you? And how have you seen that silver lining in your life? And in some of the people you work?


Mike Rucker  02:28

Yeah, absolutely. So first, I’ll start off by saying I love the word deliberate too which was originally in the title. And then Simon and Schuster, it said, a lot of people don’t like that word. So like, oh, man, it is kind of a heavy word. Right? You know, a lot of people are looking for the seven secret ways, right? And so deliberate, does require some discipline. And I think discipline paired with the word fun, you know, creates enough of a dissonance, it’s not inviting. Right? You need to walk into that. But to answer your question, I think that’s exactly right. There’s two things that happened. And it was sort of a divergent path. And I like to approach this now with grace. Because before, you know, when you’re overly prescriptive in answering a question like this, you’re not taking into consideration that some people were extremely scared, right? And so the world is falling apart. And if freeze is sort of your mechanism for defense, right, we talked about fight, flight or freeze. And it’s just like, What the hell is going on. And it’s hard to re habituate your behavior. That’s something that you can’t just tell somebody will work your way out of it. Right. So let’s be fair to the folks where that was their defense mechanism. And they there are people that are still stuck in that mode, and they need our help, and they need our grades. Right. But I think there were a lot of people that realized, wow, the rhythms of my life going into COVID were sort of buying into that meritocracy fallacy. Like, you know, I was really just grinding away for a finish line by not my own design. And now I’m here in a space where I really get to recreate what my schedule looks like. And I better access to the things that really do fill me up, because I had been so over prescribed to some other ideal, you know, whether you’ve got that from the internet, your boss, I know, you mentioned in one of your podcasts from your now wife, right? Like these things that are like, Okay, well, this is what everyone says. So it must be true. Folks, were able to peel back those social normative ideas and go, What is it that I really want, when the world does open back up? And they ask those questions in earnest, and you see a lot of folks reaping those rewards if like, you know, now that I’m able to piece things back together. These are the things that I don’t want in my life, because especially for a type right. What I’ve gotten intimately aware of is that so many of us myself and It’s a huge balk at a glass house, we’re so good at adding things into our systems, right? Like, Oh, this looks amazing. Let me just stack this onto my to do list, right? Like, oh, if I just do one more thing, then success is right around the corner. Yet we’re pretty poor at removing things. And so what the pandemic did, you know, what was only supposed to be two weeks, but essentially ended up, you know, so many months was like, we’re removing everything. And so that really was for the first time, at least in our generation, where we could say, Okay, how do I want to piece this back together? Because it happened so methodically and slowly, under the guise of a lot of trauma, but it’s still allowed folks that had that psychological safety to ask those types of questions, a once in a lifetime opportunity to do so.


Clint Murphy  05:53

And what’s interesting is, you said that what really jumped out at me is in certain cities, so for example, I’m in Vancouver, Canada, and we had pretty strict lockdowns. And part of me wonders, the cities that got open really quickly, again, definitely had some upside from isolation implications on mental health as an example. But did the people that got let’s call it freedom back quicker? Did they get less of this silver lining? Because if I was on lockdown for 14 of 24 months, did that grace of time? And as you said, clearing the slate, did that give me more opportunity to reassess my life than the people who got right back to rhythm and routine?


Mike Rucker  06:54

So to answer that there’s a lot of complexity, right? You know, Robert is great, but the good life, I think the impact of engaging in pro social behavior cannot be underestimated. And so there are certainly some really interesting post mortem studies now on the impact specifically with children. So, to get to the heart of your question, I think we do need to look at an n of one because looking at that from reductionism would be quite problematic, because for some people, absolutely, if more time would allow them, the sophistication to do this in a way that’s really meaningful for them, certainly, they’re going to benefit. There’s also clearly a lot of people that suffered dearly, from not being able to cohort with one another, because especially in times where we feel like our safety is under attacked, not having each other is quite harmful. Right. So I just want to pay homage to the fact that that is a very complex problem, and one that probably affects, you know, certain folks in different ways for you who I believe on air admitted to being an introvert. Probably so right, but for the extrovert that needs pro social behavior to feel alive and content, you know, I imagine it could be quite harmful. So it’s interesting. And again, I don’t think it’s a one size fits all. But certainly, it did provide value to the folks that took advantage.


Clint Murphy  08:21

And the more I even think about it, I definitely see those silver linings. And even I recognize thatyou hear people online, say sort of, hey, we understand why they did that. And we should probably never take that approach again. And I’m in the camp that says, Yeah, I agree with that. I don’t think ever again, I want to be in lockdown in my house for a year. Just the downsides. Mentally, were so strong for so many people that it seems to outweigh a lot of benefit, but we won’t keep going on that.


Mike Rucker  08:22

Fascinated by it, too. For some reason, I had this intuition that we would go there. And yeah, to your point, I had a PSA through something I got involved with where, you know, I was encouraging everyone to essentially get vaccinated and in no way am I an anti Vaxxer. I still think folks should get vaccinated. But I think the speed with which we attacked that problem, certainly initiated a lot of naivete, right, where to your point, right? We didn’t know what we didn’t know. And we’re trying to do the best we could still I still believe in greater good arguments, like we were doing this for the greater good. But there are always casualties. And I think we need to approach that with empathy. Right now, when you see those arguments online. What’s the Void is the empathy, right, like, Well, there certainly were folks that were harmed by getting vaccinated. And so to say that that doesn’t exist. I feel as as toxic as saying that vaccinations shouldn’t have happened because clearly we needed To protect the vulnerable, right, but then to acknowledge that some people didn’t get hurt, either, you know, it’s clear that it did trigger some autoimmune issues and, you know, in a significant proportion, and not to support those folks that were harmed, you know, because that’s contrary to the narrative that No, everyone should have gotten vaccinated. It’s strange to me.


Clint Murphy  10:20

Well, the big thing we realized with online and in all of these debates, and so many others is what seems to almost always be lacking. You mentioned, empathy. And then the other word is nuance. Everything has to be so black and white. So left and right. So us versus them, and there really is no them. There’s, you talked about it earlier. Well, before we started pressing the record button, when there’s a them that implies the me in them. And really, there’s a we were why can’t we break ideas? Apart from people? Why does everything have to be? Well, if it if they don’t agree with me? They’re on the other side of the fence? Well, wait a second, who’s creating the fence? And why are there sides to it? In all of these arguments we see online, I always start to wonder like, why can’t we just lift the fence up, throw it away, and just have a civil discord that looks at the fact that all of these conversations can have a little bit of nuance, instead of just know, I have to hammer my point home? Because that person’s wrong?


Mike Rucker  11:35

Yeah, nope. I agree wholeheartedly. And yeah, instead of it being discourse, it’s, you know, being provocative and essentially trying to win, I think in all aspects of life. When things are solely focused on an outcome and not about growth, then it may become problematic. I mean, certainly there are exceptions to that. But that’s an outcome agenda, right? Like I need to win so that I can move on. And instead of like, how do I build a bridge and understand this other person and their concerns?


Clint Murphy  12:07

Yeah. And so let’s flip ourselves back to some fun. So like, we already talked about one of the words that I’ve really picked up in the last three years is intention. And you write about this idea of living life intentionally as well. And starting with a conscious decision to a dog, a bias towards fun. So I’ve always said I have a bias to action. You’re saying, Hey, don’t just have a bias action have a bias to fun, Clint, what is the bias to fun look like? And how does that tie into our fun habit?


Mike Rucker  12:43

Yeah. And I certainly appropriated that from that space. Right, what I realized, writing the book, and you know, it’s baked into the book, so it’s not like I hide from this or I made you read between the lines to, you know, assess this wisdom is that we have been groomed our whole lives, especially, you know, the audience’s that you and I both tend to cater to, to look at our schedules and our rhythms to extrapolate as much productivity as we can. And we haven’t really looked at it through the lens of how can I also make this enjoyable? So it’s not an either or? Right. It’s a yes. And, and so you’ve looked at your schedule, usually, by the time your middle age, you know, plus or minus 10 years, so much to see how can I squeeze things out of every second right to? I think I joke about in the book a little bit. I mean, literally, some of the folks that I’ve followed are like, hey, you know, Can you clear your inbox on the toilet? Like, as asinine, silly as that recommendation? Sounds like, that’s literally out there in our space, right? And so, okay, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to change too many things. But if you are feeling burnt out, how can we reorganize your activities in a way where you are biasing them towards fronton? Because certainly, you can’t have fun all the time, right? I mean, you can’t really do anything all the time. But we can generally steer our boat towards a certain direction. And a lot of times, if we look at things that are draining, and not leading to our own vitality, there are ways creatively to either reduce them, right, because again, we want to try and make space before we add things back on, or to reinvent them so that they are essentially fun. Because this is one that’s fascinating. There’s so many times where you’ll have these discussions with people and like, I just hate this. What happens if we attacked it from a different angle? Well, I never thought of that. Because when you’re trapped in a certain way, right, or the behaviors gotten habituated, or you’ve been told by someone, you know, just don’t listen to the other people. You know, this is the way you want to grind it out. But it doesn’t work for you. Oftentimes, you get stuck, right until something breaks. And so oftentimes, you could just look at, you know, hey, I want to approach this differently. and it makes a world of difference.


Clint Murphy  15:02

And, there’s something there because even you know, I’ll take last night, Mike, in that, got home from work, did some things, recorded some things. And then I went for a walk with my dog for maybe an hour and a half and I got back and my youngest son, you know, I knew I had to get up early to have our conversation and my youngest son said, Hey, are we going to play Pictionary? For the four of us and I recognized now looking back that there I was a certain level of grumpiness because I was tired, I was already ready to go to bed in yet, that Pictionary with the family, probably for him and his brother was sort of a fun highlight of the day. And looking back for me now. It was a highlight of the day, but the grumpiness going into it because it wasn’t in the schedule. It wasn’t in the calendar, because I was trying to milk every ounce of productivity from the day, instead of saying, hey, let’s get where the summertime the boys aren’t going to bed early. Let’s get board game in the calendar. Because we all have fun doing that. Let’s throw that in the calendar every night, to have fun as a family and figure out what are those fun routines that we’re going to do? So when you’re talking to people about building this intentionally, you start to say, hey, let’s get some fun time, whatever that fun is for you into your outlook? If you’re one of these Outlook life people.


Mike Rucker  16:34

Yeah, which I think most of us are, unfortunately, right? Again, sometimes we need to look at the things that have been normalized in our life and see if there’s a way to re angle them to be more advantageous for us. And the calendar certainly is one. When we put things on our calendar that are work related, they tend to be immutable, right? And so how can we use that mechanism to benefit ourselves? And certainly what I found in my research is the most successful people at having this work life blend are the ones that scheduled time for fun into their calendar, because then it creates those bumper rails like this space is meant for this time. And when people are that intentional and deliberate. Also, they do things to protect that time. So they’ll put their phones away, right? It’s not, you know, there’s no improv to it, right. And so I think, again, this isn’t the only way I always kind of put an asterisk in here, because people are like, well, how can you have fun, if things are that rigid? Well, we need to start by creating a space so that it can happen. And then you can start to sort of integrate spontaneity, you know, once you get a taste for it. But if you’re at a point where you’re like, I’m not even having, you know, two or three hours of fun in a week, which, unfortunately, is a whole host of people, especially in North America, right? We already we could go through the leisure statistics, and then I do that often. We don’t have to do that here. But we’re just not turning ourselves off enough. Right? I mean, that’s clear by the record levels of burnout, we’re seeing 2023, you know, unfortunately, is one of the worst years yet. So it’s clear, this message still isn’t heading. And so to answer your question, getting on the schedule, being deliberate about it, you know, just simple behavioral interventions, like I’m going to turn my phone off, maybe even put it away. This is, you know, time for the family, or myself, for that matter, you know, and figuring out what are the aspects of this that I want to play with to make sure that it really is fun for me. And generally, those are three things. It’s the environment that you’re in, right? So this could be from work all the way to, you know, time with your friends? Is this a place that I want to be? Right? It’s who I’m doing it with? So who are the people involved? And then what is the activity, right? Like, in your example, if part of the reason you dreaded it is because you hate Pictionary, then all your child probably really wants to do is play with your dad. So a lot of times, you know, people capitulate, especially parents, because they’re coming at it from the sense of duty, right? Like, I want to be a good dad. So I got to play with my kids. I’ll just do what they say. But it could be like, You know what, I want to play Madden with you. Are you cool with that? And the kids like hell yeah. And so that simple shift, right? Like, now you guys are both doing something that you want. The ultimate goal was really only to have fun with your child. And now you’re doing something that’s not going to make you dread that hour. Like we’re, you know, on your head is I just wanted to sleep. I don’t want to be here playing Pictionary.


Clint Murphy  19:34

Yeah, I love that. So the environment where I’m doing it, who I’m doing it with, and the activity that I’m doing. So we’re probably going to just explore some of that throughout this conversation as we work our way through. Part of that thing that we get trapped by that you talk about is the happiness trap, and you tie that into the hedonic treadmill and I hadn’t read about the difference between of anticipatory pleasure and consume Ettore. Pleasure, can you share with our listeners what those two differences are? And how do they drive us on the hedonic treadmill? Which gets us stuck in that happiness trap?


Mike Rucker  20:17

Yeah, so there’s always different ways to attack this. Because again, it’s, you know, a bit complex because there are multiple forces. So we’ll start with the neuroscience, right. One of the things that I think is fascinated all of us that look at habits, rightI think James clear touched on this, and certainly different neuroscientists who bring this up. Hubermann is another one, we used to call dopamine, the pleasure neuro chemical, right. And we just know now that that’s not true, it’s really meant to get us excited and motivated towards the stimuli. So we see dopamine spike, right? When like, the roulette wheel goes, right, we’re like, Oh, are we going to win are we going to lose. And so it is exciting. And it’s fun when we get, you know, that release, but it’s really meant to prime us to do that thing, right to do something exciting. And so what happens is that, that becomes kind of addictive. Like, if we’re always seeking high arousal activity, then it’s not really that we’re content, right? It’s that we’re just kind of always chasing that next thing, because we find that exciting, where, you know, sustainable pleasure. And sometimes we look at this through the lens of finite and infinite games isn’t necessarily about that next win, right? Or that, you know, the next sort of higher level of excitement, it’s more about, what am I doing, that brings me genuine joy and delight over the long haul, because it’s not necessarily like I’m trying to achieve something, it’s really that I’ve just set my life up, again, using that bias towards fun that all of the things that I do I genuinely look forward to. And so that’s the difference what we know, you know, to kind of finalize, the answer to the question is that we generally do have what we call a high level setpoint of happiness. And so whatever we’re doing to kind of try and get excited, you know, we will eventually level set or will adapt to whatever that is. So what’s often we often cited is lottery winners, right? Like, obviously, getting that type of windfall is super exciting. And, you know, depending on how quick you adapt, you’re going to have this pretty boisterous, you know, six to 18 months, right. But generally, you then re calibrate to the social norms of that socio economic class, right now, all of the lures of that, you know, faster cars, bigger houses, the problems of that particular social class are now yours. And so you’re not necessarily judging yourself of who you used to be, you’re now judging yourself, amongst others. And we’re, that’s become extremely problematic now is that our generation and the generation before us really had a small group of folks where that agitation took place, right? For our parents, it was just our neighbors, like, oh, okay, amongst this small tribe, I want to figure out where I rank, right, and like, you don’t want to be bottom. And generally, most of us, you know, do sort of want to be on the upper echelon, because that, you know, when you’re living in the scarcity mindset, that means you get more resources, right. But we do live in a world of abundance. So if you’re able to figure out again, what you need, and then be really content with what that is, you generally have a more sustainable level of happiness. But what’s gotten really problematic for kids generation is that now we’re not comparing ourselves against something that’s real. We’re comparing ourselves against something that’s curated where all of the bad, right, I’m talking about social media. But there’s certainly other tools out there that make this problematic. Now, this comparison that makes you kind of figure out where you do rank within the world isn’t against something that’s a true ideal. It’s against something that’s been really manicured. And so now we’re seeing there was just a report out this week that unfortunately, wouldn’t look at the amount of lying that happens with millennials online compared to Boomers and Gen X, I think it’s 3x because you feel this need to not be yourself and then that dissidents becomes really problematic, right, because again, I have practiced in the book once that gap widens from where you think happiness lives to where you exist in your current state. Ultimately, that level of happiness will start to seep into your identity and once it once that happens, then we see clear clinical outcomes because you know, once you identify like, Okay, well, happiness is always on the horizon, and I’ve never been able to attain it, I must be an unhappy person, then you start to look for artifacts that support that, because it’s how our identity works. And it really becomes an insidious downward spiral. Sorry, that was a lot. But it’s, you know, that’s how complex it is. But and I’m happy to nuance any that anything, where do you think I might have, you know, jumped over to the puddle?


Clint Murphy  25:22

Yeah, there’s so much to chew on and dive into there. So let’s have some fun. So the first one in, I always refer to this as the Kardashian effect. And I’ll keep saying that till we both see it on a Wikipedia page. And then we’ll remember it was on here. But it’s this idea in I always caveat that nothing against the Kardashians, they’ve done extremely well with their approach to life. But one of the first families where essentially we see on apps, lifestyles of the rich and famous, and it tells everybody, well, wait a second, that’s what I want I want to be them in the reality is, well, no, 99.9998 of us, percent of us are never going to have that lifestyle. And if I tie my happiness to what they have, then I will never be happy, which is a bit of this equation. And it sounds like what I was hearing from you as aligning with that is, is the happiness equals my expectations minus reality. And the wider that gap gets between reality and the expectations I have, which are being fueled by social media. And now we have a new social media app as of yesterday, which has so many, you know, I think probably has 10 million people on it already. It within 24 hours of being launched, more expectations are being created that won’t be met, which leads to bigger gaps, which leads to the opposite of what we were striving for. Is that aligning with with what I’m hearing from you?


Mike Rucker  27:03

Yes, absolutely. It’s not something that’s obtainable, right. And so what happens and the, you know, behavioral science sort of concept behind this is survivorship bias. So we talk about a very small percentage, where, of course, to your point I met, you want to tip of the hat, the hard work that took to get someone like Kim Kardashian, where they were, but then the bit of luck, right, you know, this provocative video, that sort of, you know, set the stage for that one, I don’t think too many people would want to go through the humiliation or maybe, you know, have the moral compass where that wouldn’t be something they wanted to do anyways. And that might not be ultimately where they want their ship to go anyways, yet, we still celebrate this, but we don’t talk about all the casualties, all of the folks that, you know, went down a similar path, but because bad luck ended up happening to them, are now in a place where they’re damaged beyond repair. Right. And then kind of adjacent to that is the amount of work it does take to sustain that level of success. Right, I met, I think all of them have lost their first husband, right? So you know, that if you don’t value relationships, then that’s fine. But again, look at all of the kind of elements that require to uptake that amount of success, right? So let’s take someone like Tom Brady, like, yes, let’s celebrate his success. But I studied peak performance for quite some time, but we spoke sacrifice so much. And a lot of us don’t want to do that. I mean, I love my wife and my kids, I don’t want to give that up for a high level of success, where that’s not necessarily going to make me more happy yet. We’re not talking about that enough. Instead, we’re just looking at another picture. That is amazing, right? Because it’s the product of so much sacrifice. But again, we don’t talk about the sacrifice enough. Because, again, we only celebrate, you know, these folks that have through an amazing amount of luck, and generally an amazing amount of hard work have gotten somewhere. But again, it’s such a narrow focus, you know, with regards to what they’re doing, that they have given up so much a lot of what most of us wouldn’t want to give up.


Clint Murphy  29:25

And people don’t tend to realize it one of the ones that always jumped out for me my is when you look at you talked about health earlier, you look at Matt Fraser who I think won five crossfit games in a row and he was on the CrossFit Games podium when he was double majoring in engineering in business. And when he was asked, How did you do that? He said it was it was simple. It wasn’t easy, but it was really, really simple. He took everything in his life that didn’t contribute to those two goals, CrossFit and school and he cut it the eff out And even more importantly, he talked about when he retired after winning five games, because he probably could have kept winning. And he was young. And people were like, well, why are you stopping? And he said, for five years, I have cut everything out of my life, every bite of food was measured, every, you know, bedtime at this time, every minute of every day was scheduled. And every year, I would take, I think it was like a week off. And then it was back on. And he’s like, I can’t live my entire life that way, for long periods of time. And the average person doesn’t realize the level of sacrifice that that person is talking about, nor would everyone we want the outcome, but how many people actually would be willing to do what that person did?


Mike Rucker  30:54

Yeah. And so there are a couple of things to unpack there. One guy that really shifted my perspective on this was Noah Kagan, I interviewed him ultimately, for the book, the interviewer also lives on my website. And so I think, you know, again, this rigid approach that a lot of us have, when we’re first crafting our ideas, right, we get this wisdom, and we figure out the debt we want to make in our in the universe. And we kind of need to be rigid, because we need to accumulate enough information where we can have, you know, good conversation, but then have those ideas was challenged to kind of get to the next level, right. And so where I’m going with that is I realized that leisure had this direct line to burnout. And so my argument always has been that we do need to restructure our schedule in a way where we’re reducing the amount of work that we do, especially in the West. And so I brought these ideas to Noah. And for folks that don’t know who Noah Kagan is, he’s kind of a brand name in the entrepreneur space. He’s started app Sumo, and he has a popular podcast called Okay, dork. And so, you know, I said this to him, and he goes, you know, in my 20s, and I believe, early 30s, I was having so much fun grinding out every day, you know, even though you know, work with and, and I would continue work after dinner, I was with my friends. And we were doing fun stuff we were building, you know, it was kind of that 8020 rule, right? Like, you know, after hours we were doing, we were still working, but we’re doing things in a way that really filled me up. And it wasn’t until later, you know, kind of latching on to your anecdote that I needed to change things up, because that wasn’t fulfilling anymore. And so again, this one size fits all doesn’t necessarily mean that you know, whatever stage in life that you find that you have to listen to all of it, right, certainly pull the meat from the bones. But I think one commonality that you hear, to your point is the folks that didn’t want to go down that path. So they were super deliberate. Because in that moment, you know, CrossFit was the thing in the book, you know, my doctoral work with studying physicians, they certainly fit in that camp, right? Because you do need to sort of engineer every other thing out of your life to finish medical school and certainly residency because it’s so intense, but it’s that transition out of it once you have reached that outcome, like, Okay, how do I put things back together? And then look at that, you know, through the lens of savoring, like that was an amazing time. And now that’s over, let me live a rewarding life after that, rather than Oh, my gosh, I can never do that again. And so, you know, that’s what I always kind of laugh when you hear these folks like, well, I left corporate worlds to become a life coach. Well, essentially, you just use that formula. Like you wanted that thing, because you bought into meritocracy. Like why other? You know, why? Why else? Would you want to win the CrossFit Games, it was essentially devised by humans, right? And it’s just a trophy. But I’m an Ironman, I did the same thing, you know, an Ironman, it’s a silly sort of endeavor. And I just wanted to say I was an Ironman. So I’m not villainizing that. But we do need to recognize that those are episodic. And then what is your plan after that happens? And the folks that navigate that successfully? Like, No, I like the example that you brought up, like me with iron men, they tend to be happy because they did the thing. And now they prosper afterwards, right? Because they have, they can put on the case and then kind of move on. But it’s the folks where there is never an end, right? Like, you know, if I’m just finally Senior VP of this firm, when I’m 60, then I can enjoy retirement. And we know through a whole host of quantitative and qualitative research, you know, the one that’s often brought up that I cite in the book is Brian, where’s work? You know, where she’s interviewed through ethnography, all these folks. We know that folks tend to regret that if that’s the long game for them, if it’s the short game, again, I’m not out here preaching that like, you know, you want to take three years where you just really grind it out, because that is pleasurable for you, because every one of those workouts means that you’re getting closer to something that you’re really going to find fun than, you know, Far be it for me to stop you from doing that. But what I am suggesting is a lot of folks are working that hard, and not understanding what the ultimate goal is, or it’s a vanity metric, right? It’s something that’s been prescribed to them, or something that doesn’t really resonate with them. But they think that once they achieve it, you know that it is going to be like, Okay, well, now I’ve arrived and everything will be okay. And to kind of close the loop on my conversation with Noah. That’s exactly what happened. He thought once he hit a million dollars, like that was gonna be the prize that would kind of illuminate the rest of it. And, you know, that ended up in his bank account. And that’s when he, you know, that was one kind of, you know, temporal landmark, like, Okay, I need to pump the brakes a little bit because I got the trophy. And, you know, no, no one’s throwing a party for me.


Clint Murphy  35:56

Yeah, you get there and you realize, oh, wait a second. I can’t stop. Like, I can’t stop this, I haven’t hit a number where I could actually change my life. Like, I have to keep going. And so you think you’re getting to an end goal. And it’s just a, it’s just a gate on the on the slalom ski trip down the hill, one of the things so that jumped out at me and I’d be remiss if I didn’t come back to it when we were talking about conservatory pleasure. And we’re talking about this idea, or sorry, I’m thinking more anticipatory pleasure. You talked about Iron Men. And I remember for a lot of my life, I would, I think, thrive off anticipatory pleasure alone. So I would anticipate doing the Iron Men, I would play it out, in my mind, get the rush from finishing a Ironman in my head, and not actually do one. And so people who are very good at visualizing, and they play out that imagery of achieving their goal and getting a bit of a dopamine hit for visualizing it. How can we use fun? Or how can we use the discipline, if you will, something that takes us from achieving all of these goals in our head to doing it in real life?


Mike Rucker  37:16

Yeah, no, that’s a great question. I think it’s, again, going to be unique to each individual, but what it is, is moving towards, how can I also enjoy this not in an outcome based fashion? Right. And so moving beyond the trappings that you’ve asked in your questions, it’s really what are the things that I’m doing to get to this achievable goal that I can manipulate in a way that makes the whole process enjoyable. So for me, as I talked about in the book, it was gamifying, the cycling training, right, it was engaging with people that I liked, I found that road bike cyclists, tribes, were not my jam, for whatever reason, they didn’t talk about things that I liked, and they all dressed in funny clothes, in my very biased opinion. So I was playing with the mechanisms so that it wasn’t just necessarily about saying that I was an Iron Man. But it was the things that I were that I was doing that really attracted me to the entire process. And so for a friend of mine, Patrick fellows who I give a tip of the hat to in the book, that wasn’t necessarily for him, because he is so driven, right, he has the athletic prowess to win some of these things. So for him to make it more whimsical, wasn’t really his jam. And so what he did instead was found a way to continue that path through service. So now he’s created the Louisiana marathon, he cohorts with people that create these types of environments so that they can have fun doing it, but that he’s also contributing to it, you know, from a more weed perspective, than a purely sort of hedonic perspective. So there are different ways to approach it, and you need to find the one that works for you. Again, if you do have the opportunity to slay some of these things, Far be it for me to say that, you know, some of the activities that you do along the way, aren’t going to be agonizing, because that’s the sacrifices you need to make. And again, I’m not advocating that you don’t make those sacrifices. If you know, in your heart of hearts, this is something that you really want. But what I do advocate for the long game, and for your own resilience is to find ways to make not just the outcome enjoyable because that’s so ephemeral, but also the way that you’re getting there.


Clint Murphy  39:31

And so part of that what we want to tackle is to get people into this idea is the play model. And we have as our axis’s fun and challenge. So can you paint a picture of what the play model looks like? What are four quadrants are in where are we trying to get some of our time spent, which is basically our fun habit.


Mike Rucker  39:55

Yeah, so the plane model, as you mentioned, is a four quadrant model, you can either Google it, and as we’re talking through it, you know, it’s it comes right up, see the visual representation, but I’ll walk, you know, listeners through it. So P stands for pleasing. And these are the activities that are kind of low challenge. But we really do enjoy. You know, at the beginning of the podcast, you mentioned time with your pet, and that that is a great example for most people, right? You know, playing with kids is another one cooking things that we can do, but don’t really require a ton of energy. So they’re pretty easy to do throughout our week. And the reason that these become important, you know, the science that underpins this quadrant, came from Matthew Killingsworth, and Dan Gilbert. And what they found is that folks that kind of meander, or they call it mind wandering throughout their week, you know, they’re always kind of just in their head, thinking about the next activity, and not really enjoying the things they do tend to be the most unhappy people. And so if we can find ways to organize our time we’re enjoying and be mindful of the simple pleasures really does seem to be an easy intervention, to living a life with more contentment and happiness. The Living quadrant is really not that there shouldn’t be some challenging things in our life that we enjoy, right. And so I know you had, you know, a guest about our, you had these opportunities to use things that lured us towards things that we enjoy, that can lead to growth. So you know, whether that’s something strenuous, whether that’s a spiritual practice, or a mindfulness practice, you know, that opened the door for transcendence or for mastery, are things that really make us feel alive, right. And so if we’re looking back at the time that we spend, and so an entry point to using this model, you know, it’s really taken a time on it, there’s only 168 hours in your week, right? So if you’re looking back at the 168 hours of your previous week, and you don’t have one or two things in the living quadrant, you might want to ask yourself, why? Because it means you’re probably not presenting opportunities for yourself to grow, right. And so these are things that are enjoyable, but take a lot of energy. So if they were scattered throughout your week, you’re generally going to burn out, right, they’re certainly, you know, the folks that Chase music festivals, or whatever it is, we know that if you live too much in there, you’re probably running from something and not run forward something. So you need to be careful, the agonizing quadrant we talked about, so we don’t need to go into depth. I mean, it’s certainly a component that all of us have, these are things that we don’t like doing, that are the necessary evils to you know, get through life. But oftentimes, especially if we’ve habituated those in our day, there ways to approach them, you know, as an anthropologist, like, Hey, I just don’t like the way I do this. But maybe if I approach it differently, I could do it better for folks that do have a degree of privilege in their life, are there ways to outsource this, because if I look at this critically, it’s just not something I need to do when I’m not good at it. And that’s probably why it’s not fun for me, or two, it’s just I, you know, kind of value myself at $50 an hour, I could get this done for 12. It’s just like the perfectionist in me, or some sort of other challenge that requires, you know, it’s making it a consistent part of my life, how can I reduce this so I could let other things back in, right? Yielding tends to be the lowest hanging fruit. So these are things that are really easy to do, but aren’t bringing us much joy, right. And when we look at this through the critical lens, it’s generally stuff that we’re doing to kind of pacify our time. And so in the book I unpacked, you know, I don’t use too many academic words. But there’s one concept that kind of the reader needs to understand called valence, right? We use this term in psychology, but it’s a really easy term to understand essentially means are you finding something pleasurable or are you not right, and, you know, it helps build the quadrant model. And so, when we’re in a state of discomfort, right, whether that’s something as simple as boredom, or we’re really in, you know, some sort of traumatic pain, anything that will alleviate that pain sometimes tricks us into thinking that we are enjoying ourselves. So, you know, one of the most prominent modern culprits, obviously, is social media, right? And so we’ll flip mindlessly through something like Instagram, and because it’s displacing boredom, because displacing mild negative valence, we’re like, Okay, well, this is mildly enjoyable, but it’s not really it’s just a leaving in that pain of boredom. And so, you know, your Pictionary example, is a great one where at the onset, oftentimes where something’s going to require a little bit of work, we think like, this is going to leave me exhausted. But in a majority of times, when you engage those activities, as long as you’re not completely drained, you know, you’re being mindful of good sleep, hygiene and things of that nature, when we move our life towards those activities. So moving from the yielding category to the pleasing category. It actually leads to more vigor and vitality. And so this isn’t just conjecture, one of the funnest things, why putting the book together because I knew this intuitively, was falling on a piece of research that didn’t come from clinical psychology. It came from a bunch of social psychologists and statisticians from MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. And they looked at something called the hedonic flexibility principle. And so they found that folks that were pushing things towards the pleasing and living quadrants of integrating, you know, fun things in their life in a in a way that made sense. We’re actually the ones that showed up the next day with vigor and vitality. So ironically, they were more productive than their counterparts. They were like, just let me grind it down till you know, 9pm. And if you look at it in the most simple quantitative terms, it’s kind of easy to understand, right? Which just look at, you know, in business school, we talked about widgets, right? If you’re working 40 hours a week, and you’re able to make two widgets an hour, right, that’s 80 widgets. But if you’re working 60 hours a week, and you’re so burnt out that you can only make one widget an hour, right? You might think that you’re a workaholic, and busy and grinding. But ironically, you’re producing less than the person that is limited, you know, whose fun cup is full and producing at, you know, again, because they’re able to approach work more diligently and you know, more organized. But the thing that I found the most fascinating from the study was that they’re these folks that are living kind of a blended life of enjoyment and productivity, when they approach their day, they’re also the ones that find the most innovative solutions. So when you’re not ground down, you tend to be more creative and innovative. And so that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to do that at work. Like some of these folks are the CrossFitters that like, let you know, what is the harder challenge, but they’re the ones that seek out opportunities in the living quadrant. So to surmise, what happens is you’re living in this upward spiral, right? Because your fun cup is full. So you have the resilience, you know, the emotional flexibility to kind of approach the day and attack it in a productive way, versus the folks that are like, you know, I’m just gonna do it till I win, right, who are grinding themselves out, they’re not recharging their batteries, and slowly but surely, they’re on this downward spiral until, you know, years later, like what happened to me. And it’s because they didn’t live life in a sustainable way.


Clint Murphy  47:23

And when you think about that quadrant, you talked about where it’s not necessarily enjoyable. And but it’s not challenging. In you talked about the idea of outsourcing Generally, those are the activities that are probably the easiest ones, for us to outsource. Because if they’re not that challenging, they ought to be able to be done for a low cost. So if we’re going to outsource something, those would be good ones to do. And to do that. And you’ve mentioned it a couple times already through the conversation is this time, this concept that really the only resource we have that Scarce is time. We all have a certain number of hours available in our week, and you talk about the idea of time, affluence in lieu of money, as a happiness lever and a fun lever. So how can we use that concept to improve our happiness and the fun that we’re having is to increase the time affluence.


Mike Rucker  48:30

Yeah. So for folks that aren’t familiar with the term, it’s essentially means do you have agency and autonomy over how you spend your time. So when I was doing my academic work, I think it paired well with my focus on positive psychology in the sense that another direct line to vocational burnout is a lack of autonomy at work. And so I kind of broaden the tent with the thought in that area. And it’s like, Well, this must apply to all areas of life. And then certainly this work has been replicated right by, you know, folks that want to go down this rabbit hole, Dr. Cathy Holmes out of UCLA has done some great work in this area. But what hers and others have found that certainly a lot of works coming out of Penn in this area, too, is that folks that do value time over money, are the ones that tend to be happier intuitively, once you see the science, it should make sense, right? And that money is essentially utility. And if you have everything you need, then you don’t necessarily need more of it, especially if you’ve already done the beginning steps to get yourself off the treadmill, right? But if you don’t have any autonomy over how you spend your time, if you don’t have the choice of whether or not you want to engage in that game or not. It really does create this problem of feeling trapped. And so how can you create pathways where you do increase the amount of agency that you have over your time, and generally that’s just looking at how you’re spending your time in a fashion that is double For right, like, what are the areas where I can either fix things that are broken, you know, perhaps by using time blocking, perhaps by using outsourcing, perhaps by approaching it differently in domestic life, perhaps by doing it in a more collaborative fashion, like, Hey, I just don’t like how this is happening. I know my partner wants a certain outcome, but maybe there’s a way to do it differently. Again, if you feel like you’re approaching life from I have to do instead of a get to do what are the, you know, elements, and again, I would go back to the environment, the activity and the people you’re doing it with, then I might change around where it’s like, okay, now I feel more in that get to do space and then have to do space. And these are really subtle shifts. Oftentimes, people hear this and be like, Oh, I don’t know where to start. I mean, you start by asking just simple questions, right? Like, you know, what, I just don’t want to be in my home office anymore. Again, coming out of COVID. I’ve been here, you know, for three years, I haven’t really actualized that this feels more like a prison, you know, not because it is but because, you know, I’ve been told this is where I need to work. Let me go try working in a coffee shop, or a co working space where I’m actually around people, because I like, you know, more of a high arousal environment or I’m an extrovert. So that’s just a hypothetical, right? But again, like, how do you start there by asking simple questions, and then those subtle shifts, you know, you’ll be amazed at how much they make you feel better. And so when people do this work, what I say is, you know, give it two or three weeks, because oftentimes changing behavior there is that sort of a, you know, that uneasiness, right. Like, oftentimes, let’s say, you’re able to clear the space by outsourcing something, and you’re like, you know what, I really love playing the guitar. You know, when I was in college, let me try and see if that’s something that will fill my fun cup. And like the first one or two weeks of lessons, like I suck a guitar, this is awful. No, no, just get back to that space where it was joyful. And it doesn’t take that long. But oftentimes, people will give up in the first week. But that’s all to say, again, that kind of summarizes that. When you check in with yourself, like, I don’t know, is this subtle shift really going to have an impact, like check in a week or two later, and see, and I promise you, you know, the majority of people listening will again, another nod to Dr. Cassie Holmes, she did an interesting study, where she just had people go into her weekend, thinking that it was a vacation. Like, remember, this isn’t meant to like clean your garage, or that you have to play with your kids. This is something where you have complete agency and autonomy over however you want to spend this time. So what was fascinating is there was no other sort of prime intervention, right? Just remember, just be mindful that this is your 48 hours. What was found was that people still did the things, they still mowed their lawn, they still played with their kids. The visual rhythms didn’t change all that much. But the idea that they did, they this was this time where they could do what they wanted. A majority of the folks in that study showed up Monday, so much happier and ready to tackle the week. And this is just a mindset shift. This isn’t even reorganizing your time yet. Right? And so these tools are powerful. It’s yet at first blush, you’re like, that kind of seems trite.


Clint Murphy  53:20

But they’re not. Yeah, that what jumps out at me there is, as a parent, I often say it’s not Groundhog Day, for those of us who remember the Bill Murray movie, but it’s Groundhog week, or groundhog month. And that that Monday night is this activity Tuesday night, this one Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, all of a sudden, you’re on the weekend. And the weekends are super scripted, because there’s this activity that activity, visit this post, do this in your back to Monday, and then it just repeats. But what you’re saying it’s a bit of a pattern interrupt to say, Well wait a second, Saturday and Sunday are my vacation. So even if I ended up doing the same things that pattern interrupt that it’s not a script, but it’s my choice to spend these 48 hours how I will is enough for me to mentally say I just recalibrated myself and now I’m going to come back in Monday and be more joyful, even if I didn’t shift what I did on that Saturday and the Sunday.


Mike Rucker  54:23

That’s right. And I don’t want to sensationalize this. I’m and this comes from an interview I have with with Dr. Holmes. And then essentially what it is, is a pedestrian entryway into mindfulness, right. I mean, you’re just being mindful, instead of going into autopilot as you suggested. You’re like, Okay, let me be present in the things that I do and understand that this is my time. And that is enough of a boost. You know, to go okay, yeah, but and if there’s something you really don’t want to do the permission to say, Hey, this is my vacation. You know, I’m gonna figure out a better way but there’s One thing that I found fascinating that I don’t get the invitation to talk about enough that you set it up. So I do want to, is in my day job again, you know, oftentimes I work in, you know, health club Wellness Center setting. And so we were working with this really advanced company that ultimately had to leave North America because of some of the privacy laws. But we set up cameras all over so that we could understand how people habitually used our health club environment. And what I found fascinating and certainly was illuminating to me with regards to how we totally underestimate how much we have visualized our behavior is that folks that were using exercise equipment, so we would have rows of treadmills, right. And folks go to the same treadmill, when they go to work out, especially folks at lunch, right? Because cognitive load is at a high, you probably just got done, you know, busy half day, all you want to do is kind of unwind. And treadmills are great for that, right? Because it’s kind of a mindless activity where you can, you know, reduce cognitive load. So if they’re machine was broken, let’s say it was four out of a rule of 10. Instead of going to machine five, a majority of them would just leave, like, Oh, my machine’s broken. That blew me away. And so I was actually able to show one person this right, and like, hey, you know, why didn’t you just stay? And like they didn’t have an answer. And so I use that as a way to highlight all of us are like that, when you do this, you know, 168 hour time on it? Yeah, everyone’s always like, Well, every week for me is different. Like, it’s not, yeah, 10 15% will be. But for a majority of us, we’ve habituated our lives in a way that until we look at it critically, we don’t understand that to your point. I love that word. It is Groundhog week. And it just is I met you can say it’s not but it is.


Clint Murphy  57:00

It is why I love you know, you talked about earlier, this idea that we try to add everything okay? Well, I just read this book, I’m going to add something, I just read that book, I’m going to add something, we can’t add everything because we have a finite amount of time. So you suggest instead a subtractive approach. So if we want to get into this upward happiness and fun spiral that you were describing, one of the ways we can do it is to subtract some of the agonizing activities. So what does this subtractive approach do? And how can we, you know, you said, here are some questions you can ask yourself to get into the living quadrant? What are some questions we can ask ourselves to subtract some agonizing activities?


Mike Rucker  57:50

Yeah, so I think for everyone, it’s going to be different. But certainly, for a lot of people, things that have been helpful, are not just looking at social media use, because that’s easy. And I think you can find all sorts of strategies online how to do that. There’s health meters in our phones, to help us do that now, because you know, both Apple and Google realize how pervasive it is. But once you look at your social media use and see if there are ways to essentially, you know, reduce some of the time on that. Also look at your apps like Gmail, Slack and Twitter. Again, this one’s a tip of the hat to near but one of the things I found fascinating was how much email I was propagating by just kind of being kind and, you know, and continuing the chain. So what are some of these behaviors that you’ve habituated, that maybe if you scale them back, you could time block that activity in a way that frees a lot of space? Because you’ve essentially just created a mechanism for you to feel busy? Because that feels good, again, through this lens of meritocracy, right? Are there things of convenience that you’re doing that just aren’t necessarily good? And so, as a way to highlight this, one, out of all of the great wisdom from The Four Hour Workweek, I think the one that hit the most for me was when Tim’s like if you hate a book, Why are you still read it? Right? Like so many of us, you know, especially that habit success mindset are like, well, I picked it up, you know, and so I need to finish it, right? Because our parents taught us like, you know, you finish what you start, but like, what a terrible use of time. And that can transcend so many other things, right? Like relationships with convenience, clients that you hate, that aren’t, you know, won’t necessarily impact your bottom line if you cancel them, but will free up so much psychological space. So these are just a host of different examples that might apply to some, you know, they’re not going to apply to everyone. But there are always ways to sort of prune your week again, because especially by the time you’ve reached, you know, mid late 30s 40s 50s, you’ve habituated your, your time in a way that oftentimes these things are sort of hidden.


Clint Murphy  1:00:00

Absolutely hiding generally in plain sight too which can be a challenge, the so one of the things I want to make sure we get in is, is as I look at the clock and we start to run wind down is the saver system. So this seems to be a really meaty part where you and I can spend some time as a way to help people get to the fun habit is I love acronyms. So for those who are listening saver is story editing, activity bundling, variable hedonics, options and reminiscing. Do you want to take them through saver system at a high level? And then we can dive into a few of them to give them some tools to get them into their fun habit?


Mike Rucker  1:00:48

Yeah, certainly. And the good news is we’ve touched on most of them, right? So it’s really just encapsulating all the things that we’ve already spoke about story editing, it’s just a fancy way of saying reframing. I took this concept from Dr. Timothy Wilson, who wrote a great book about it called redirect. But essentially, what are those scripts in your life? And you know, this is talked about quite a bit. So most people should be familiar, that are leading you to believe that you have to always be grinding. was a fellow author actually a fellow Canadian for you? Are you familiar with Paul Jarvis, he wrote,


Clint Murphy  1:01:23

I think I am, Company of One.


Mike Rucker  1:01:26

Yeah, that’s right. That’s a great book, right? Like, how do you recreate some of these things that are driving you forward? So you don’t feel like they’re not in your life, but they’re in a way that does lead to contentment, right, again, doesn’t require that everything be something where the goalpost is always moving? And so how do you one D villainize fun and understand that it needs to be part of your life so that you do have the resilience to tackle all of the other things that you like, but then also how to back out of some of the trappings of meritocracy so that what is enough so that when you do arrive there, then you create the space for other things. For activity bundling for the folks like most of us that are busy, it’s kind of a low level strategy for what are the things that you’re already doing that potentially you could and again, we talked about this, add elements to it to make it more exciting, right? And so for some, you know, especially for parents, it could be what am I already doing? That’s the routine of my week, to essentially babysit my kids, are there ways that I could combine activities there were in a more engaging environment with them, where I’m, you know, participating, rather than just spectating, that leads to my own enjoyment and their enjoyment as well. And so that’s just one thing. But again, if you’re going to add elements, you know, let’s say, you really like comedy, and you want to go to a comedy show, you know, what are the right friends, to bring into that environment, so that that whole experience is more enjoyable. So it’s really just an ode to looking at opportunities to reorganize your time in a way that’s combining things so that you know, things that you’re doing, you are finding, you know, maximizing them as being enjoyable. Variable hedonic. So we talked about that’s really like a broad based concept to suggest that we do want a variety of things in our life, because when we do, that allows us to index more memories. And generally, what we know from neuroscience is that when we’re adding a whole tapestry of different things in our lives, we generally believe that our lives are fuller. But that also, there’s a cognitive benefit. And that once we experience a whole host of different things, whether that’s through paths of mastery, or whether that’s just, you know, enjoying all the things that life has to offer, we’re creating more neural pathways, we call this neuroplasticity. And so that can lead to what’s called cognitive reserve later in life. So it’s not just about having more fun. We also know that, again, creating this kind of life type of street helps preserve our cognition later in life. options come straight from coaching. So that’s really just people make better decisions when they had better options. So the Oh, and savor is an ode to that. Like, how do we create those options? So one, you can be premeditated by the fun that you’re having? Because we talked about that at the beginning of the podcast, right? If we have options in our getting on our calendar, they tend to get done. When you have something again, sorry, so many examples have to do with parenting. But this just happened to a whole host of acquaintances. Spring bake break came up in April, and no one really had any plans. So Spring Break the spray opportunity, you know, you only have 18 of them with your kids until they go off to college just kind of passed by because you didn’t have an available set of options. So it’s really paying homage to the fact that folks that do think about these things a little bit ahead of time in all aspects of life, but particularly for having fun tend to make better choices and have better opportunities. And then reminiscing is really an ode to gratefulness and savoring the things that we do. We want to integrate more fun in our lives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to have fun all the time. And we’re predispositions to worry. There’s an evolutionary reason for that. But that evolutionary reason we’ve kind of aged out of after, you know, 1000s of years of evolution, and so priming ourselves to think about the good in our life, and being deliberate about that can have a really positive impact. So that’s saver  in a nutshell, it’s a there’s a lot to cover. But I think we grouped it well.


Clint Murphy  1:05:36

Yeah. I wonder, to some extent, Mike, whether I was using savor, because so many of these things we read, we and we plant them subconsciously in our mind. So I’ll give you an example. We were out Monday night, long weekend here in Canada. So it was Canada Day. And both of our boys birthdays are in June. So we went out for a family dinner, to a nice restaurant, they enjoy my my wife was originally going to cancel it because we’d gone out that weekend. And I said, Hey, like this is a family tradition. Like let’s do this. And let’s have a good meal. And while we were waiting for the food, one of the things I threw out at them was, hey, what are three things that were highlights for you this year? And what I want to know is for school for sport, and for life, what were your three highlights for each of you? And so really what I was doing was breaking out the reminiscing and getting them to curate what are my favorite memories, and do that time traveling as part of the reminiscing, which are two of the ones that you you talk about for reminiscing. And one of the ones that came up for everybody was we were we did for spring break, purposely plan a trip down to Texas. And while we were there, we built it around basketball. So we were able to watch a Mavericks game and then go down to San Antonio and watch a spurs game. So that deliberate planning led to something that we were then able to reminisce on. So it feels like there were some other elements of savor in that conversation Monday night at that dinner. But reminiscing is you have some ideas that can supercharge that concept. And two of the ones that really jumped out at me were the ones I just mentioned, time traveling and curation. How can people use those to supercharge their reminiscing?


Mike Rucker  1:07:44

Yeah, so I think anything that kind of brings you back in that moment, right. So we know that if you have a tangible asset that brings you back, you’re able to essentially relive that in a much richer date detail. And we don’t necessarily know why. And that we do know that memories start to reorganize themselves, if we don’t have anchors that kind of keep them there. And then curating is you know, something where it has a whole host of benefits. And so as I admit, in the book, I’m not much for scrapbooking. But for folks that don’t necessarily want to go to Michael’s and I don’t know if that applies in Canada, do you have it or microsystem in Canada, certainly in the arts and crafts, you can still you know, create artifacts, or bring in digital assets into forms that give you this opportunity when you schedule that, you know, to be able to look at these things and bring you back into those moments of time. And so, you know, one that I think is quite fun and has, you know, kind of hit with folks that are invited to do it is if you have a wedding album that cost you like $1,000, right, which again, kind of blows me away, you know, very easily online, you can create something much cheaper, you know, because that’s one of the sort of entryways into creating memories that you can have on the coffee table, you know, for your kids to play with. Because once they start to look at this and sort of reminisce with you, right, it brings up all these opportunities to talk about the event for them to ask questions and bring up things that like, oh, I want to think about that. But it starts to cement those memories in a way that’s so joyful, because now not only are we thinking about the event, but you’re creating these new memories with the folks that you share it with. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with your kids. It could be with your friends and things of that nature, again, that weren’t deliberate, though, right? Because so many of us kind of relinquish that control to things like Facebook, and unfortunately, they’re using artificial currency right? Did it get the most likes, did it get the most comments? And generally, that’s not something that’s intimate to you. That’s because the picture was really great or you’re doing something silly that sort of resonates, you know, in this Instagram moment that we live then. And so being more intentional about it like, hey, this curation is just for us. And it’s, you know, bound together by love and things that I don’t necessarily want to share with the public, but are really meaningful to me, tend to be a lot more impactful, and again, make us feel more connected than something that we pass on to the public, and wonder why that only got 300 likes versus 500 likes. So being intentional about your creation, and then again, this time traveling, you know, understanding that the value in remembering these pleasant things because we do have this propensity to think about all the crappy things in our life, both of them are really useful strategies for maximizing fun’s benefit.


Clint Murphy  1:10:43

You really made me realize is my wife used to enjoy making those online scrapbooks as you as you call them, where she would put the photos and she was great at putting like captions to really make you remember. And then at some point, she said, you know, life just got too busy. And we stopped making them it. But what I remember is when I would pull one off the shelf, and I would flip through it, it would almost automatically make me grab the next one, or grab the next one and be like, Oh, I remember that day, I remember when we built that sandcastle or that sandpit in Hawaii, and it just brings you right back there. So they are beautiful. I definitely love the idea of us getting back to those.


Mike Rucker  1:11:25

And the best part is they’re generally a nudge to get things rescheduled. I think, for most people, that oh, my gosh, you know, I haven’t seen my best friend Nate in like, six months, like, This was so fun, let’s get something back on the books. You know, without that, again, like just kind of passes you by. But when you reminded like, these people mean a lot to me, and this is what life is about, then that can be a great lure to get those things back on the schedule. So they have a whole host of benefits.


Clint Murphy  1:11:54

Yeah, I love that. So one of the places so we talked earlier environment who we’re doing it with in the activity we’re doing, one of the ones we don’t have too much autonomy over is work. So we go I mean, well, technically, we can choose where we work. But let’s say we’ve got a place we’re working, one of the things you say is, hey, to know whether you’re doing it right, whether you’re having fun, one of the questions you want to ask yourself at the end of every day is am I finishing the day, on time and energized? What does that look like? And what are we looking for in that answer?


Mike Rucker  1:12:34

Yeah, so this is an ode to self determination theory. And I think it’s just are you able to use time in a way that does lead to renewal, right? And so, again, it’s rooted in autonomy? Are you spending your time in a way that when you leave work, you’re not so depleted that you can’t live a life outside of work? And there are really simple strategies for this, right? So instead of writing the trivial sort of this is how, you know, we can have forced fun at work, right, which we know fundamentally doesn’t work. I think it’s more about how do you break up your time in a way that even if you do have these agonizing activities, because you need to move forward, you’re finding ways to have fun throughout the day, so that you have this balanced approach to your energy, right, but you’re maintaining arousal, and this works in all aspects of life. So it’s not just work, but when you’re able to do that. So something as simple as, okay, you know, what works not going to be fun today, but I’m gonna take my lunch hour, and I’m gonna go, you know, have it with a friend so that I can attack the second half again, using that hedonic flexibility principle to, you know, really tackle the second half, so that after work, I’m gonna be present with my kids. It’s those types of things. So there’s some simple sort of novel things you can do to have more fun at work, but really to enjoy yourself. Sometimes it can be as simple as what are the elements within my control, right, where I can enjoy myself, again, maybe perhaps approaching a work task in a different way, or perhaps just using those opportunities for breaks and actually taking them instead of tricking myself into thinking that, you know, if I just grind things out, you know, I’ll finish the day a little bit early, which we all know never happens, right?


Clint Murphy  1:14:21

Yeah. And you talked about something there when you mentioned lunch hour because I and I loved how you talked about it in the book, because one of the rules I’ve generally always had for myself, no matter how busy I am at work is that lunch hour is somewhat sacred for me as a way to say we’ll wait like a minimum, ideally 45 to 60 minutes where I can decompress. I can eat maybe I play a video game, I just do something that says hey, I’m not grinding. And now as I’ve gotten a little bit older, I find it’s a great spot where I can go out for a walk with some of my colleagues and have a walk and talk and when In a walk and talk at a place where we can grab a bite, and then we’re back in the office and I feel super charged for the afternoon. Why is that lunch hour is such an important tool that we can have in our arsenal to make the day more enjoyable.


Mike Rucker  1:15:17

So it’s clear that our brains work somewhat like computers, right. And so if we have a heavy problem, or we’re engaged in something that requires a lot of routine tasks, we call that cognitive load. And just like any other thing that requires power, right, if you do something for too long and red line, you eventually lose the capacity to do that. And so the science on here has some foundational principles. And when we’ve talked about willpower, we talked about things like ego depletion, I think there’s a lot of debate in the scientific community about, you know, what context we’re going to give these words. But I think with regards to a foundational idea, what we know is that if we don’t implement these times for renewal, that eventually we lose the capacity to do that certain tasks. So again, it could be something routine over time, or with regards to something that’s innovative and creative, that that tends to fall off a cliff, as we already discussed, right. And it should make sense, right? At a very fundamental level understanding, not just this is conjecture, or like some kind of blue idea, the idea that when we start to feel like we’re losing the capacity to do something, we need to get into more algorithms to come up and vote, right. Because at that point, you just want to get it done. So you’re not looking at creative ways to do it, you’re definitely not enjoying yourself, because at this point, you just want it to be over. And so you’re just trying to move as fast as you can forward. So there are a couple of things to unpack there. One, when you can break and sort of recharge your battery, you’re going to go back and do it better and do it more enjoyably. Because you’ve had that chance to, you know, reduce cognitive load for a while and recharge those batteries. The second is, when we get in that space, we don’t take that lunch, then we can start tricking ourselves into thinking that busy work is actually work. And so when you’re able to look back at that in a rearview mirror, most people that you know, are metacognitive will understand like, oh, wow, that wasn’t really leading to productivity. But without being mindful in that way, a lot of us and I certainly, again, the second time, I’ve done a rock edit glass house that was wondering, you know, if I just sit my inbox, you know, from 11pm to 1am, like, well, that’s still me just getting stuff done. And it felt good, right? Because I was really busy and feeling overwhelmed. And I felt like well, at least I’m doing something that was contributing to nothing. Right, like, certainly wasn’t moving me forward, all it was doing was making me feel like I was doing something that didn’t contribute to reducing, you know, the things in my life that really were leading to burnout. And so you are more susceptible to that as you move forward by not taking breaks, because you are again in that place of negative valence, right? So you’re going to do anything that kind of pacifies you’re not feeling good.


Clint Murphy  1:18:07

Yeah, versus taking that break, so that you could come back and be productive. And you remind me I have a big yellow sticky note on my computer that asks me, are you being busy? Or are you being productive? Doesn’t mean I’m always being productive? Because the answer is often I’m just being busy. But having that reminder to say, hey, what am I actually doing in this moment? And am I choosing to be busy? Or am I choosing to be productive? Mike, last question for you on the book before I throw some rapid fire questions at you. What did finding Ultima mean to you? And what lessons did it teach you on your journey?


Mike Rucker  1:18:49

Yeah, so for folks that don’t know what Ultimate is, it’s interesting planet and this series of books called choose your own adventure. And so this one book in particular, was really interesting in the sense that most of these books, you know, chose different paths. And ultimately, you could get to different scenarios in the book. But in this one book, and I guess I’m this is spoiler alert. So if you are going to read the fun habit, maybe start at the end, and jump ahead. But in this particular book, The only way to get to the happy ending was to essentially throw out the conventions of the book, and just jump to that page. Right. And so what I found is it’s a great metaphor for the folks that I found living the most joyful lives is exactly what they’ve done. They’ve been able to somehow circumvent the hedonic treadmill because they realize is more about contentment than again, you know, chasing that next carrot, the next promotion that next award, you know, that next date on Tinder, it’s more of figuring out like, these are the components of my life that really made me feel content being cool there and then playing the infinite game around those constructs, because they know Have what they’ve developed is sustainable, right? And so it’s really how do you get past all these this social normative behavior that’s leading to, not where you want to be. And then just saying, hey, happiness is where my two feet are, I just got what I need. Now, the rest of the game was fun, because I can jump around and do things that I like, because I’ve already got that foundation that keeps me happy, I don’t need to find the next shiny nickel for that to happen.


Clint Murphy  1:20:28

And more and more, the way I describe that, Mike is to simply say, choose to play your game, by your rules, stop letting society tell you what game you need to play, and what the rules of the game are in, the more you can get to that spot. To your point, the more happiness, the more fun you’re going to have. Because now you have complete control of your own life. And so few of us realize that we actually do have a ton of control over every minute of our day, if we want to.


Mike Rucker  1:21:04

Nope, that’s exactly right. And I think I didn’t put it in the book because Simon Sinek had just come out with, you know, a whole manuscript about it. But when you get into that space, when you start to understand that your contentment is infinite game, and that the games you devise around it are finite games, when you lose, they don’t become a big deal. Like, okay, that was interesting. And you can celebrate the lack of victory just as much as you celebrate the victory, right? Like, that was interesting in context. And when you’re able to do that, then you can move on to the next game, because it’s just like playing any other game, right? Like, when I lose Monopoly with my kids, does it sting for a hot minute? Yeah, cuz so crush them every time, right? But other day, I’m gonna remember these amazing, fun games where we all laughed, because the outcome isn’t the anchor for that thing happening. The anchor for that happening is really enjoying my time with the kids, and I can move on to the next game. But when we’re again, sort of, you know, confined by meritocracy, where the game never ends, each one of those peaks and valleys can have so much more impact than it should. And so you’re spot on, I think, in that regard.


Clint Murphy  1:22:17

I love that. My end Do you have time for four rapid fire questions? Yeah, let’s do it. All right, let’s do it. So what’s one book that for you is had a massive impact in your life?


Mike Rucker  1:22:28

Well, I think what really blew the roof wide open on you know, some of the more philosophical concepts that we’ve talked about throughout this podcast, is the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah. Harare, right. Yeah, yeah, I’ll butcher his last name. Because after reading that book, you realize that essentially, everything that has dictated the way that we operate through this life has been made up by us, right? Like, when I put that book down, I was like, what? Yeah, it’s not like I follow Elon Musk and believe we live in the matrix. But yeah, even if you have a religious slant, you’ve got to sort of admit, then well, then the other 299 must be wrong, right? Because there are all these different religions with different gods. And so essentially, I think even the most staunch spiritual folks will admit, the dogma was made up by man, right, I was raised Catholic, but it certainly King James, you know, handpicked and curated what he thought was going to be important to man. And so, you know, these moral principles that we have have been self created, corporations were made up, right. But he goes, you know, in quite some depth about how capitalism has been able to thrive because essentially, we’ve made, you know, corporations, this legal entity that live among us, but that’s completely made up, right, we take those away, and they’re gone. And then money is completely manmade. Right, this thing that, you know, drives all of us is this, you know, it’s a fiat currency, right? And so, once you understand that creating these finite games are a lot more interesting in context, because, yes, you need to play by those rules, we’re still very much a part of a tribe. But once you understand that, it’s all essentially been made up and politics as well, right. Your rules are, are much different than mine, you know, in a lot of ways, and, you know, the social fabric of healthcare, you know, that requires a different game to navigate, you know, health issues and things like all of these are rules that have been made up and so once you understand that, it’s easier to look for the back doors, you know, I talk about that a little bit. The Celebrity events, it’s easier to navigate like, Okay, well, they said no, but who’s gonna say yes, and so that book blew me away, because it was like, okay, you know, again, not this philosophical matrix, but very much almost everything that dictates you know, my perceived success or lack of success in life has been made up by man. And because of that I can find loopholes on In general exploit Muslim to my benefit.


Clint Murphy  1:25:02

I mean, I live life the same way I live as if we are in a matrix. And it’s a lot of people bemoan that. I think it’s the greatest thing ever. Because what it does is it gives us a rulebook we know, and then we can search out the cheat codes. Because we know, we know how the game works. We know we’re in charge of, of how we play the game. And so stick a remote control or a game controller, or in our hands tell us where a Sims character and we know how to beat the game. It’s such a fun way to approach life in almost any category, you can win. But you can only do it if you believe that’s the way it’s structured. And then you say, Okay, well, let me study the rules. Let me find people who have done what I want to do, break their behaviors down and say, Okay, well, if I replicate that I’m gonna get what I want. It’s such a Yeah, fun interesting way to live life.


Mike Rucker  1:25:57

And then I think where people get caught up, and again, it goes back to the, you know, where emotional flexibility become problematic. There are going to be times when that’s not suitable. Absolutely. Yeah, my daughter’s in crisis. Like, this is not a game. This is a crisis. So the Yes, like, you don’t have to be sad Skloot. But in a majority, especially in our the working game, right, let’s keep using the metaphor because it plays, there are a lot of cheat codes. And maybe you got a character that don’t, you know, doesn’t have the same special advantages that another character and the game has been generally, you know, most characters can win.


Clint Murphy  1:26:35

100%. So what’s on the bookshelf for right now? What are you reading?


Mike Rucker  1:26:40

So I’m just about to finish up the Body Keeps the Score again. Nice. Yeah. It’s, I think that book again, talking about books that you know, are able to shift paradigms, this idea that brain chemistry is a lot more connected to this nurture, versus nature agreement than we ever thought and the impacts of getting it right at the beginning. Amen. I feel like it’s steering me towards more of a life of service where I really want to have a higher impact on the way that we raise kids, because it’s clear, you know, that helping folks build scaffolding is a lot more important than we ever thought. And I think if you look at a lot of the issues that we’re going to be facing, you know, in regards to supporting millennials and generations before them, it has to do with the fact that we have undercut a lot of the social structures that were supportive at both the nurturing side, but then also the autonomy side. Right. And so that book, in excruciating detail, explains that and so yeah, it’s, I love it.


Clint Murphy  1:27:44

Yeah, it’s, yeah, there’s a lot of work to do in all of those areas. So I love hearing you say that. And, Mike, if you look back on the last 12 months, is there anything you spent $1,000 on that, Mike, thanks, Damn, I should have bought that earlier.


Mike Rucker  1:28:01

I’ve gotten criticized for this before, but I’m gonna stick to my guns, I would say my VA, I’m always under $1,000. And that allows me to do the things that I want and help support her. Again, I’m one of several different clients. That’s why, you know, I don’t have a ton of money, so $1,000, about what I can afford each month. And it’s always under that, but the amount of space that she creates in my schedule, so that I can have, you know, some time left at the end of each week for fun, you know, I’m grateful for that.


Clint Murphy  1:28:34

Yeah, my wife and I are in the process. We’re having a meeting next week with an online group that provides that service. So so we’re in the process. So I’m 100% with you on that it’s it can be life changing. In so because the show is about growth and improving our lives in perhaps it’s introducing more fun into them. What is one habit, mindset shift or behavior change that you’ve made in your life, Mike, that you look back and think that had an oversized impact for me?


Mike Rucker  1:29:07

Well, a couple of things. Right? One, you know, the crux of the book is that shift from outcome focus to journey focused, and that both can coexist and good mental health kind of lives in that ideal, you know, because outcomes are ephemeral. So how do you stack the deck so that the things that you are doing are always sustainably enjoyable, and that if you do have, you know, bad days, which we’re all going to have, you have the emotional flexibility of knowing that these things are abundant in your life. So that’s the message of the fun habit. I think, one that kind of blew me away, especially because so many of my friends were watching it, obviously, you know, being a purveyor of positive psychology. My tribe was so embedded with Ted lasso. And so I think reluctantly, you know, like folks saying they don’t like Nirvana because everyone might you know, that sounds Um, team spirit and sorry for folks, that metaphor doesn’t apply. I was like the last to watch it. But this year, I watched all three seasons. And in the first season, he has this thing called Be curious, not judgmental, he wrongfully attributed to Walt Whitman. And so I think the show essentially derived it from, you know, Hive wisdom. But that was so big for me, because, again, I kind of admitted it, you know, with regards to when Noah sort of chipped away, but I have been judgmental because as an academic, right, I was, you know, it was that me versus them scenario that you had mentioned that, I think, you know, as we’re growing our emotional maturity, we need to do that, right, you need to pick your side so that you understand who you are, because at that point, you’re still hitting against boundaries, right? It’s really hard to be open to all information, because you’ll get confused, like, what is real and what’s not. But once you kind of move up with regards to your own self development, and you feel secure enough in your own skin, then this shift to being curious, like, okay, you know, I believe what I believe in and, and I feel confident in that, because I’ve done the work, being open to new ideas. One is a path towards empathy, and really connecting with others in a way that’s much more meaningful than being judgmental. And to it allows you to really thrive in your own wisdom, because inevitably, you’re going to get certain things wrong, or times just going to change that. And so if you don’t change with it, it leads to pretty poor choices and poor outcomes. Right. And so yeah, that was another piece of wisdom that just kind of blew me away, like, wow, I’m a lot more judgmental than I thought. And so I’ve been trying to be a lot more curious.


Clint Murphy  1:31:45

I love that. Curiosity is one of my favorite things in the world. So I really appreciate that answer. So Mike, today, we went pretty wide, we went pretty deep on the fun habit, is there anything we missed that you want to make sure we get across to the listener as we wind it up?


Mike Rucker  1:32:03

I think just being aware of that autonomy that you have, right, we touched on it with regards to time, affluence, you know, see that, where you have power over your domain, you know, again, you can always get more money, right? Like, at the end of the day, you know, if you want to jump into an Uber or Lyft, you can make a few more funds. But if you have everything that you need, and some might not right, like so, you know, again, I understand that there takes some work to get there. But if you’re getting close to that, or you’ve arrived, making sure that you don’t move the goalposts and then figuring out what are the aspects of the only real finite resource that you have in your life that you can start to regain control over is one of the most fruitful endeavors to live a life of contentment, and have a lot more fun in the process.


Clint Murphy  1:32:54

Love it, and where can people find you?


Mike Rucker  1:32:56

So the book to find out, it’s out now. So certainly, if you’re inclined, I love your support there. And then my websites, Michael, where I write a lot about the science of fun, and then also has links to all my socials and the trade articles I write for various publications.


Clint Murphy  1:33:13

Perfect. Thank you for joining me today. We’ll get all of that in the show notes and get out there and buy Mike’s book. Thank you, Michael. Thank you so much Clint for having me.

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