William Liao

February 10, 2022


The most brilliant people that I know of have at least five traits in common: they are quick to break rules that don’t make sense, they never take themselves too seriously, they are excellent at finding humor in life, they treat life as one big experimental sandbox, and — the topic of today’s post — they make time to play.

Dr. Stuart Brown, in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, summarizes decades of research that suggests that engaging in play is essential for our cognitive and emotional well-being.

In another book, Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure For Anxiety, Charlie Hoehn suggests (in case the title didn’t make it obvious enough) that play was the antidote he had been looking for all along to cure his anxiety — at first a seemingly bold claim, but again perhaps not so bold according to Dr. Brown. 

So what exactly does it mean to play, and how can we be intentional about introducing it into our lives?

Dr. Brown loosely defines it as “stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding pleasure in the heightened vividness of life” – his definition suggests that play isn’t necessarily a specific activity but rather an attitude — a lens through which we may choose to view a given experience. In other words, we can, in a sense, play at work, at conferences, in class, at sports practices, etc. 

All the research points to play imbuing your experience with joy, heightened creativity, and improved learning outcomes — nothing but upside. 

So, play 🙂.