#96. How To Play and Have More Fun As A Dad – Mike Rucker

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Today’s guest is Mike Rucker

We go deep talking about:

  • How to choose to have fun during your children’s activities rather than viewing it as a duty you must fulfill
  • Why it’s critical to carve out time in our hectic schedules to play with and have fun with our children
  • Why we as parents need to let go of the need for ground rules/instructions in order to explore and have genuine fun with our children
  • Being a parent with a growth mindset and modeling it for your children
  • Recognizing that it’s okay and possible to learn from our children while also instilling in them the belief that they, too, can make mistakes.
  • How we as parents can include our children in activities that we enjoy, especially if we’re having difficulty enjoying some of their interests





Curt Storring 0:00

Welcome to the Dad Work Podcast. My name is Curt Storring, your host and the founder of dad work, how to play and have more fun as a dad with my guest, Mike Rucker, we go deep today talking about how to choose to have fun during your children's activities. Rather than viewing it as a duty you have to fulfill why it's critical to carve out time in our hectic schedules to play with and have fun with our children. Why we as parents need to let go of the need for ground rules and instructions in order to explore and have genuine fun with our children. Being a parent with a growth mindset and modeling it for your children, recognizing that it's okay and possible to learn from our children while also instilling in them the belief that they too can make mistakes, and how we as parents can include our children activities that we enjoy, especially if we're having difficulty enjoying some of their interests. Dr. Mike Rucker is an organizational psychologist, behavioral scientist and charter member of the International Positive Psychology Association. He has been academically published in publications like The International Journal of workplace health management. His ideas about fun and health have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post Fast Company, Forbes, Vox Thrive global mindful Mind Body green, and more. He currently serves as a senior leader at active wellness, and is the author of the upcoming book, the fun habit available in January of 2023. You can find Mike online at MichaelRucker.Com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, all of which I will provide the links for on the show notes page Dad.Work/Podcast. Guys, this is the second part of what I mentioned a few weeks ago in episode number 94, talking about play, enjoy and kindness and all these things that fill in the positive version of what we usually talk about, which is sort of the shadow and the trauma and the healing and stuff like that. But what happens on the other side of that, how do you actually have fun? How do you positively influence your children with play? We're going to talk about that here with Dr. Rucker. And this was just an incredible conversation with a lot of stuff that I learned personally. And these are my favorite conversations where I'm just asking specific questions for how do I become a better dad, because I'm right here doing the work with you guys. This was awesome. I really, really appreciated having mike on the show. And I think you'll get a lot out of this as well. Before we jump into the show, if you're not following me on Instagram, why don't you go follow dadwork.curt, that's DADWORK.CURT, very active on there. That's where I share the most stuff about becoming a better man, husband and father. And if you're getting value from the show, guys, would you just take a few seconds, leave a review on apple or a rating on Spotify, it would help the show incredibly. And it's just a great way for me to get feedback to make sure that things are going well that I'm doing a reasonable job of bringing on amazing guests and having great conversations. And it helps this podcast get in the ears of more people, because we're pleasing the apple algorithm, which is something we always love to do. So if you guys are getting any value, please take just a few seconds, leave a review on the podcast app or give a rating on Spotify. Otherwise, Here is today's conversation. Let's go.

Alright, dads, we're back for another episode of The dad word podcast. And I'm here with Mike Rucker. And we're gonna be talking about play, which is, in fact, one of the things has been on the topics of our men's groups and our online community called the village. And I've been sort of asking guys like, how do you even play? How do you have fun? Because I don't have any time for that. And that's, that's what I think that's just an assumption. And I know it's BS. And Mike, I'm super excited to have you on because you know, a thing or two about this. And so I'm, like we said, before we started recording, we're just gonna go, whatever tangents I'll share personal stuff, because I want your input. And I know you got some stories to share, too. But maybe we should just start with what you sort of said to me earlier, which is like, there's two rules for having fun with your kids. And from this point, we'll just blast off where we want to go. But what are those two rules? Because like, I think I need them more than anyone. Yeah. So what I found from both sort of academic research, and then obviously, you know, my own interaction with a daughter and a son is that there are two things, one, you need to let them lead, right. So

Mike Rucker 4:01

You know, so I'll give an anecdote, you know, from my own experience, and that is that my daughter, I was taking her to gymnastics, and she's now doing like, full blown gymnastics. So this happened like four years ago, this scenario that I'm describing, that wouldn't work, because at 10, she wants nothing to do with me, right? But at six was basically just tumbling. So she was doing somersaults and, and basic agility exercises, and I would take her there and basically sit there and burn the hour, right, I was sitting on my phone, you know, basically wasting time. And

I realized, like, what am I doing here, like, you know, the whole idea is to get her active. What happens if I bundled an activity so that she's still out exercising, because the ultimate goal was to, you know, get her out of the house and off of, you know, her Kindle and join her in this activity. So, you know, again, it was just a simple reframe, of adding a little bit of strategy. But instead of burning that hour, every Saturday watching her do gymnastics, we enrolled in a father daughter, dance class. And it actually, that's the short version, the longer version is, I had just gotten a hip replacement. So I'd actually I needed to also do rehabilitation, and I found a dance instructor that also had a PT background. And so she made rehab, relevant moves for us. And so I was able to stop going to rehab, which was another, you know, second another hour out of my week, and create this, you know, create this amazing experience where we were both having fun, you know, and I suck at dancing anyways. So it was neat, because I was getting to be a better dancer, creating these amazing experiences with my daughter, and my daughter was getting the same, you know, now she's an amazing gymnast, you know, Metaline. And it was because, you know, those types of fundamentals at six can be done dancing, or, you know, whatever. Again, that's not something that would work now that it was amazing thing I could do while she was young. Now, she doesn't want to dance with me at all. So we flipped that into cooking classes. So you know, because I suck at cooking. So that was another thing where I want him to gain some mastery. And ultimately, I was looking at him myself during the pandemic, you know, when a lot of people were doing this stuff via zoom, and we were all, you know, trying to figure out how we could have more fun in that environment. But ultimately, we found a place where there's a culinary kitchen, because I hate cleaning up. And so we go and do that together. Because again, she's aged out of wanting to dance with dear old dad, still embarrassing.

Curt Storring 7:49

Man, that is so cool. And I have to ask, like, Are you a playful person? Like, are you used to having fun? Or is this hard for you to

Mike Rucker 7:57

know? I think that's what, you know, sort of my hallmark is that I'm not right. Like I I'm a bit socially awkward. I'm not, you know, a lot of folks in the play space, you know, folks, I call friends, you know, are pretty boisterous. And that's like, that's in their DNA. Right. And so, I wouldn't even call myself a play expert, you know, because there is definitely, you know, there's play therapy, which is a very much an academic realm. There are folks that advocate for play someone in your backyard, Christian Anderson, you know, is big on Legos and doing, you know, Organizational Psychology interventions, you know, through the play a structural creation. For me, it's more just how do we create more pleasure, delight and joy in our lives, right. So play is a great tool to do that. But mine is really just how many of us are, you know, burnt out bored, or just, as you mentioned, like, I want this in my life, but I can't manifest it for various reasons, like, and often it is just these either reframes, or simple nudges, to, you know, to kind of unearth opportunities. And all it takes is like three or four, right? Because a lot of times, it's all we need, like, we're so devoid of it, because, again, 168 hours goes so fast, but we generally can reclaim, you know, one to two hours of our day, if we're really mindful of it. And when we're not doing that, we tend to like crash out on the couch, right? So like jumping into a thought, a lot of us think, Well, I'm just too busy or too tired. Like, that doesn't make sense. But with some mindful tinkering, and again, we're only talking about, you know, one to three hours in your day. It's actually quite invigorating. So you end up thinking like, Well, I'm just doing too much, I'm too tired to do this. You start implementing that. And when you get more mindful of how you're spending your time, but too it becomes quite easy because yes, you still need sleep right? There are fundamentals of our well being that you know, we don't want to over optimize our time, but it, instead of popping out on the couch, we get excited, have that dance class with her daughter or, you know, I see a guitar in your background, that's my next sort of experiment is to see if, you know, my son's turned seven next month, when I play bass, you know, to see if he wants to start taking music classes together, because that'd be another fun thing, you know, that we can, where we can build this mastery. So just to kind of close the loop on the rules, the reason why it's important to let the child lead is if you jump in there, I don't want to geek out too much on the science. But there's something from social psychology called transactional analysis. And as adults, we tend to play three roles, right, where the parental role, the adult role, and the child role, right. And so, without geeking out or getting too boring, we really have a lot of fun in that child's role. But oftentimes, when we're with our kids, we feel like we have to be parents, right. And so I've done some research on this. And the research has been replicated, where you can see this playing out in real life for anyone that kind of wants to do their own field research is that children's museums like, so you'll go into these amazing experiential play areas, right. And so all of them have different things. But most of them have like pool noodles and blocks, right. So you can build these creative structures, children will run in because they don't have heuristics. And they don't have you know, all the, you know, filters that we built as adults that we need to be able to process information because we have so much being thrown at us. But they don't, they're not bound by those, right? They're not burdened by those. So they run in and just immediately start having fun, right? They start building cool things, self organizing, they don't need any instructions. And where you'll see adults, there'll be paralyzed on this on the sidelines, because it's hard for us to get back into that childhood space, we need instructions, like What the f are we supposed to do here, right? Because that's, we know that most of the time like at work, if we just mindlessly like jump into something, we're often going to get reprimanded, right? Because there is a shortcut, there is an instruction book, but fun, like free creativity and the ability to sort of express ourselves.

It's tough when we're bound by those rules. And so in these spaces, you'll see that once adults kind of relinquish the need for, you know, for instruction for a map, they can explore the territory and really have fun with their kids. And they start, you know, they light up maybe even more than children. Right. And so that's a great example of what happens across the board is that oftentimes, we think we're playing with our kids, but we're directing or leading, we're turning it into a lesson, right? And that immediately flips the child into thinking like, Okay, this isn't fun. This is me at school, even though you know, it's my parent, because they're trying to teach me something, right, which isn't engaging in play and fun. And so that's really the mindset shift, like, How can you let the kid lead? Because that's a great prophylactic for you jumping into that parent or adult role, like you're like, Okay, let's be kids, you know, and like, in that space allow you to be like, Yeah, okay, we're gonna break eggs, like, I don't need to give you a lesson, right? You know? And then there gonna be plenty of times where that doesn't apply, right? You're if you're trying to teach your kid baseball, and you know how to do it. Well, like that's not play. That's not you know, that's you trying to teach your kid how to master a skill. And there's a place for that, right? But when you're really engaging in, in fun, you need to get in that childlike state, and one of the best ways to do it is to let the child lead because then you're like, Okay, I get it. I'm not supposed to be an adult or a parent in this situation. I'm supposed to be a kid playing with my kid.

Curt Storring 13:57

Right? Okay. So that almost, to me, it's like, oh, I have to prioritize fun and play in a way that I wouldn't normally because I go like, I there's no time for that doesn't really matter. We need to learn now. And what it's like, it's not like I want to sit my kids down and teach them from a book. But it's like, oh, when you were playing this, did you get the lesson? And it seems like what you're saying is like, no, no, like, the lesson will have its time. But fun is good in and of itself. Is that what I'm picking up?

Mike Rucker 14:23

That? Absolutely, yeah, because it relinquishes a sense of duty from both people. Right. So, you know, again, those moments of creativity and expression and identity development, none of those happen when you're in that mode of like, okay, I'm a sieve and I'm meant to, you know, I'm meant to disseminate this incoming information being that child are all right. And so, you're granted again, just so that, you know, it's well stated, there are definitely times where you needed to be an a parent or an adult and it's Actually, if you're not engaging on one on one play, like, let's say you're in a group environment and you see your child, do something that's not appropriate, it, you can easily switch back right? And be like, Okay, we're going to turn this into a learning lesson, because that was absolutely not appropriate. But I will tell you from my own experience, not just with my own children, but also coaching other people, that that is the outlier, right? Like, for the most part, when you get into these situations where you're really being, you know, allowing for expansive thought and allowing for both of you to have a growth mindset, right like that anything in this safe psychological space, it's free game, like, not only are you going to learn from your child, but again, you're going to give them that confidence that they can make mistakes, which is really important, right? You're seeing it more and more. You know, in academic literature, we call it benign neglect, right? It's really an interesting Western problem that goes beyond helicopter parenting that, like, we've created these humongous bumper rails for our kids, that they don't feel like they can break eggs, right? Like everything needs more and more needs an extract an instruction book. And that's unfortunate. It's why folks are getting less creative. Yeah.

Curt Storring 16:21

Oh, yeah, that one hits, close to home. And that's one of the things we've been actively going against is finding ways to challenge them, so that they can fail, and then be like, Oh, good. Actually, this is like super good. Because if you can't fail, well, you just want to try things, at least that's what I what I think. And I kind of want to go into, I've got two thoughts that are coming up just on the personal side of things. The first one is, I sort of my identity is somewhat wrapped up in becoming a grown up early, just with my, you know, family situation, I took on the role of, you know, not a kid for very long, that's how it felt to me. And so I feel as though when I try to access player fun, go like, I'd rather do something else. And I just don't have this, like inherent draw to it. And yet, when I do something like play hockey, for example, it's like, Oh, I do this all day. And so I wonder if there's anything there? Like, how can people who never really had the space for that growing up? Get into it? Or is it simply like, yeah, just follow the rules, man, like, just just do it?

Mike Rucker 17:27

No, absolutely. I think you, you know, like anything, it's a skill that can be developed. And I've already, you know, just from the short time that we've interacted, I get the sense that when it becomes available for you, you enjoy it, right. And so I think just being self aware that there's some discomfort there, you know, something that you can start to build on, right? And so what is it that I can do? That's fun for me. And with regards to co creating it with your kids, again, that's kind of, you know, goes to the second role that so many adults, you know, need to be reminded of, and that is that, if something's not fun for you, that you're doing with your kids, there are so many opportunities. So, you know, if hockey is one of those things, like how can you incorporate your kids into an activity that you enjoy as well. And then there's where you would need to be careful, like, if you are really into it, and pretty a type, you know, like, you know, allowing for free play, and then, you know, allowing yourself like, Okay, well, this is going to be the instructed component of that. But you need to make sure that there's, you know, time reserved for a we're just gonna have fun, you know, maybe that's letting up and letting them shoot a couple goals on you, or whatever it is. But like, it's a balance, right? Because I think some people are turned off like, well, you know, part of my role as a parent is growth in my child. And that's absolutely true. Right? So there'll be components of that, you know, using the hockey metaphor that yeah, of course, it's not meant to be just whimsical all the time. At the same time, we all do need those opportunities to enjoy each other's company. And if you're just teaching all the time, and being critical, whether it's constructive criticism or not right, then that's not really a fun situation. That is a pathway towards mastery, which is, again, a good use of time, but not something that should be all consuming.

Curt Storring 19:29

Right. Okay. That's excellent. Thank you. And the other question that's personal is my eldest really likes to talk. And this is like a blanket statement, but he likes to talk for play, and very be very controlling of, okay, you're going to do this, then I'm going to do this and we're like this kind of dinosaur and we're doing like this kind of quest. And we're going to do this and then like, oh, no, that can't happen. And he's very particular and I am so resistant to that and I just go like, okay, no, actually we're going to play That's because I just can't like, Dude, I cannot do this. And it's like, I feel terrible about it, because I want to be able to connect with him. And I just sometimes don't know how, because it's just like a talking game. And with my middle son who's seven, he's much more just free. You just Oh, silly, we do Lego, we jump around, we just like he just sort of plays and he says stuff sometimes with his with his words, but it's generally just, oh, yeah, but then I can play too. And it's like the eldest, I don't feel as though I have this space, because he wants to be very particular. So I wonder if anything comes up for you around that, and how I can help guide both of us to have fun how I can have fun in that situation? Do I just have to like, go for it? Or is there a way I can wrap all of our interests and try and have fun together?

Mike Rucker 20:49

Yeah, I would try and cook create an opportunity. Like, if what you find cumbersome? Is the engagement, you know, like just, you know, the immense amount of verbose language and are there spaces that allow it? So there's more interaction, right? And you would have to figure out what that is, but like, you know, is it an environment where, you know, it requires more activity based play, rather than verbal play that you both can agree is fun, right. Another strategy that works for some, it doesn't work for all is savoring, that what you're doing is lighting him up. So to try it, you know, it's a form of mindfulness, where, again, you're not preserve rating on the fact that there is uncomfortable aspects of the play you have with your oldest child, but really trying to savor the fact that your child is really enjoying the time and a lot of time. You know, again, mindfulness is a practice, right. But I know that you've been getting into it, you know, from doing my own due diligence. So it is an interesting form of mindfulness that really works well, for some people, like I was talking with a person. And she just hated watching her child. This is what her child likes to do. It's a similar story, apples and oranges, but similar. The the guy loves to take Hot Wheels, they have a long hallway. And for whatever reason, he finds so much delight. And just scooting on from one side to the other, then I'll go the other side and Scutum and insists that his mom watches because that's part of it. Right? So my first advice was to her was We'll find another activity. And that worked, actually, because the kids quite whimsical. And, you know, it took some initiative on her part, but they she found some stuff that still has that kind of action, like frisbees and rolling balls out in the back that was almost as enjoyable for the child. And so she engages in that more, there's some distance, you know, and, but then also, this mindful technique really did work for her. And that is that she saw how in, you know, instead of like, oh my gosh, this is such a waste of time, I can't watch another one of these cars go down the hallway, she was focused on the joy and delight of her child doing it. And so, you know, having her mind there, just watching her kids smile on her kid light up, and like, how fun it was for kid gave her a little bit more resilience to spend the time that way. And so, you know, she kind of met it in the middle, organized more time. You know, that was enjoyable for her because she enjoys the outdoors as well. And being in nature. And then, you know, the time you know, where the child absolutely just wanted to do the cars using this mindfulness practice of, you know, putting her minds focus on the on her child's enjoyment, which lights her up and not on like, oh my gosh, this is such a waste of time. So I don't know, hopefully one of those two strategies might work.

Curt Storring 23:56

Yeah, no, thank you for that. And I've actually, I have employed that mindfulness strategy on another type of play, which was Pokemon cards. And I was like, ah, you know, I used to play Pokemon cards when I was like, eight or whenever they came out, and I just like, for some reason, I wasn't really interested. And I brought this to my men's group, and they're like, dude, just play with them. I was like, Oh, right. This is about like playing with him. And it's about spending time with them. Not about like, having fun playing Pokemon cards, like that doesn't even matter. So that's actually a great reminder to me to just like, chill, because I don't need to be the one having the most fun. I just need to like, be there having fun with him. And him having fun is like, he's great to me. So that's a really helpful thing to do. And then I feel like I actually outsourced this to our, our community. I was like, What are you guys do for fun? Like, how do you play with your kids? And so maybe that's another question I can outsource to you like, what are some of these things is I think every family makes up games. You know, we got guessing games we've got you know, be an animal that starts with the letter K and then they act it out. Like we've got all sorts of games we play and sometimes it just, it feels like I reach into the trunk, and nothing comes out. And I don't know if that's because I'm stressed or overtaxed or whatever. But are there any things that have come up either in your household or with the people you work with, they're like, Oh, these are amazing games to get people just playing and having fun.

Mike Rucker 25:18

So that's interesting, like, one of the challenges is that fun is so unique to each environment, right, not only to the individual, but the group. I mean, I can talk personally, but like, when I am working with folks, you know, some houses, like would love to play Monopoly, the idea of playing Monopoly to others, you know, like, so it really is about experimentation to like, make sure that I'm casting a broad net to anyone that's listening, like, you know, you're going to know what it is, right? But the, the main key is, to be creative, to have an open mind about it. And then, you know, start to see what I call creating a fun file, like, you know, keep a list and, you know, don't be too quantitative about it, but keep experimenting until something really lights everybody up, right? And when you do that, when you kind of experiment, like really interesting things will happen. Right? So to answer your question, like, cuz, if you had asked me off the cuff, at what I'm about to tell you, I'd be like, Okay, that would never be fun, right? But it's, it is super fun. So, my wife's super introverted, right? I love heavy metal music, and I don't get to listen to it a lot. Because it's loud, and my wife hates it, right. And so but because I am, you know, this is something that I enjoy, you know, experimenting with fun. I knew my kids love to get tickled. So we created this game, where I'm allowed to turn on heavy metal music, and I it's called tickle monster. And basically, we just rage out, my wife goes upstairs, you know, basically puts on headphones. And gives us that space, and we just burn it out. So I'm listening to music that I love. And again, because it's, I don't get to listen to it all the time. It's even more enjoyable, right? And, I don't know, for whatever reason, just chasing and torturing the kids with tickles has become this amazing game, right. And then we kind of wind things down. So it gets their energy out, right. And it's activity again, outside of you know, just pacifying them with the screen. And then, you know, we spend like five minutes at the end, applying superglue, and putting the furniture back to make sure we don't get in too much trouble. And then it's over. But like, yeah, that doesn't sound that great until you do it. And it's just like, it's neat. You know, it's mayhem that I love again, you know, I think, before we hit record, I, you know, I recently hit him hit a milestone, I'm an old guy, like being able to, you know, play like a little kid likes me out. So I also love building. So that's another affinity I have with my younger son. So that's another thing, like, I'm not a big fan of toys. I think like most of us, you know, the science is super sound, with regards to experiences over things, but I probably go overboard and spoil my child with Legos because I love creating within. And so that's just something that we can do together, my son thinks very linearly, you know, in a winner linear fashion. And so, you know, being able to follow instructions and put things together mindfully and, and then have, you know, this kind of cool creation, that's something that I found that I really enjoy doing with him. And when my daughter will play like, you know, silly little games. And again, doing all these activities, where it was skills that I wanted to master anyways, and like bringing her into the fold, hasn't degraded that experience for me at all. I wouldn't take him cooking classes anyways, and bringing her in, you know, we're probably a little bit so sillier than we would be if we were doing it individually, and probably learning a little bit slower. But the memories that we're creating men, it's worth every second. So,

Curt Storring 29:11

yeah, that's, that's one of the things that I've like, underlined in my notes is to take classes together, like I just, I never would have thought of that man. So like this is it's already immensely helpful. So thank you. And we actually sorry, go ahead.

Mike Rucker 29:22

No, I was gonna say so because again, I don't know your children all that well. But like, even if it's an entrepreneurship class, right, there's like, some really cool things out there. Like, I don't know it all that well. But I know that there's like a lemonade stand society that's meant to like, you know, help young entrepreneurs, and there's just all sorts of really cool stuff. One of the I had one of the things I advocate is, you know, meetup.com I'm not sure if that how prevalent that is in Canada, but here in the States, you know, it has all sorts of affinity groups. I mean, you're already Part One, but if that's something that's devoid in your life, that's just a way to, like get started, right, like, all of a sudden, or like, you know, in even modest sized cities like my own, there's a whole host of things you generally can do if you just take like the hour to research it. So, you know, oftentimes when I'm working with people, it's as simple as like, I don't know, there's nothing to do around here. Really, there's nothing to do around here, you know, and it's, it's because they haven't prioritized just taking the time to do it. And so it's like this dam that gets created, right? Because yeah, it does take a bit of work. And, you know, the worst part is maybe the first, you know, one or two tries is going to be like, Ah, that was not that fun. But after 10 tries, you're going to find two or three things that like, wow, you know, I want to experiment with that. Like, that was interesting. Let's maybe do that again. You know,

Curt Storring 30:52

yeah, ya know, this is all of this sort of bringing to mind the fact of just putting the mindfulness to fun and to play, whereas I apply it to almost everywhere else in my life. And it's just like, fun was never even considered like, why would I do that? Is it it just was to like happen? Aren't I broken? If it doesn't happen naturally. And that was sort of this, like, a long standing belief was like, Oh, I guess I just must not be very fun. And this is sort of refreshing and rejuvenating to be like, oh, yeah, you have to try. Like, that's actually a pretty good idea. But it's

Mike Rucker 31:24

not your fault. Yeah, we've got decades and decades of a Puritan work ethic. You know, you and I seem to have similar DNA. I know, we've been bombarded with hustle porn, you know, like, throughout the pandemic really changed things. I think the great resignation is starting to dissipate some of that, but certainly pre pandemic I met, you know, the idea that you had to hustle that everything had to be 10%. You know, excuse me, 10x 110% is what I was trying to say. It's just, we now know, that's folly, right? This happened with sleep, you know, if you recall, in the 80s, and 90s, like, people were championing, you know, this kind of, you know, hustle culture was even worse back then, like, we were literally celebrating sleep deprivation. And luckily, that has come full circle, or people know that, like, even folks that do tell you to, like, optimize every second of your life are still like, but you need to get eight hours like so, you know, it is a great thing that we've come around to that. But leisure, I think is going to be the next one right leisure in the most macro sets. And if you can't look at your, you know, 24 hours are really 16. Because you should be getting eight hours sleep and find one or two hours in that day that's lighten you up, even if you have to co create that with your kids or your partner or find it at work. That's a real problem. And we know that's one of the major reasons for burnout. You know, we need to take some time off the table for ourselves. And that is now hands down empirically validated. One of the biggest reasons for the burnout epidemic that we're facing today. Yeah.

Curt Storring 33:05

Oh, that that rings true for me, just in the last week, we went camping over the weekend, it was three or four days. And you know what, with a two year old, it's actually surprisingly not relaxing at all. And I also did not play hockey because of that. And so I'm feeling coming back from it like a little bit, just out of sorts, not quite turned on a little bit burnt out. And it was like, have what's going on here. And there's a lot to it. But that just reminded me like, oh, yeah, I didn't get hockey in. And I didn't get the weekend. And I just like had to be on all the time for everyone. And the play was nice when it happened. But it was more so like taking care of everyone's needs, being on all the time making sure that the baby didn't walk into the creek and drown. Like there's all this crazy stuff that had to go on. And it's like, yeah, there was some time alone missed some playtime missed. So I got a like, yeah, I got to do something this week, as we're talking about this, but when you were saying like an hour to two to three. What about playing with your kids? Is there like, a minimum time and I hate to say that, because obviously again, that goes into the hustle culture. And I know you mentioned Gary Vee before we started, but it's like

Mike Rucker 34:12

I like Gary by the way he Yeah, yeah, no,

Curt Storring 34:16

here's here's the awesome super blocking

Mike Rucker 34:18

it back now. It seems like lately he realizes. Anyways, I digress. But yeah, he's a good dude. I just want to go on record saying that.

Curt Storring 34:26

Yeah. Yeah, like the there are a lot of busy dads obviously. And I have plenty of thoughts about, you know, how much we work, whether we should work that much whether we should even have more support in our society. There's a lot of conversation to be had there. But let's just suffice it to say there's a lot of dads who work huge hours, maybe two jobs, they're working, maybe even the night shift so they get this little window with their kids. But I have heard I have been told to me I even tell other men just get 15 minutes of like 100% Attention to your kids, when you come home from work, same with your wife. And that's better than three hours of like 25% attention, because you're on your phone, you're tired or whatever. So I think like that sort of, it seems to me and it's worked for me to be a good reframe to be like, a little bit of 100% attention is better than a longer a bit of like scattered attention. But I wonder if there's anything in there from your sort of more professional background to go like, hey, this amount of time is basically necessary for the kids to get it or, or anything like that. So are there thoughts around timing and stuff like that?

Mike Rucker 35:31

Now, it's interesting, because I've been having this conversation lately. And both on the individual level, you know, it's not to get us off track, which just came to light there, a researcher by the name of Cassie Holmes out of UCLA just figured it out at the personal level, like what's a good amount of leisure? I think, because the family unit is so dynamic to prescribe that would be harmful. So I think that's why academia has probably stayed away from that, I think, from what I've gathered, but again, this is disseminating other folks work is that quantity, probably Trump's quality, but what you said in that, like this daily ritual is enough for quantity, right? Damn misspeak, I meant quantity, Trump's quality, I hope I said that, right. But that, to your point, when you are with your child, making sure that you don't break that social agreement that you have with them. So if it is only 15 minutes, then making sure that that time is with them, and that you're being mindful, that is hands down the most important because what is eroding a lot of that trust, that, you know, just wasn't a concern, you know, before mobile phones were prevalent, is they can tell that we're prioritizing other things than then every time we look at that screen, right? And so rebuilding that trust, like, letting them know, regardless of how much time you have to spend with them, that they're the most important thing in the moments that you have. That is crucial. It sounds like you're doing that. And that's a way of skirting your question, because I don't have a good answer for timing. But I think making it a ritual so that they know they can depend on you. And then to with the amount that you have. Because why I'm avoiding the question is, it's just not fair, right? I hate giving any answers that come from a place a privilege, there are some dads, you know, that have sick partners that have two jobs, because that's the role they play, and then to tell them that you need to spend eight hours a week to be a good dad, that's just not okay. And it's not who I you know, and I think again, that's why academia would, you know, you probably don't see anything and nothing that I'm aware of, but not having your kid trust you and know that the rituals that you do have, you know, that time that's that set aside, that you can be trusted and that you're going to be there. That's the secret sauce.

Curt Storring 38:19

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And that's a very fair way to sort of put it in a, I think, a compassionate and a right way to put it. And I wonder is, do you have any thoughts on one on one play versus group play? Because I got three kids. And it's logistically challenging sometimes to be like, Hey, you get one on one here, you get one on one here, you get one on one here? Is there a balance between one on one and group and to kids? Like really thrive with some percentage of one on one versus group all the time? Yeah, so

Mike Rucker 38:51

my understanding there is that you do want to try and the equitable. So that's what the literature says in practice. So, again, you know, because I'm not a parent coach, right, like, you know, that and but I do talk to a lot of folks that do have that expertise. And so the general thought, you know, you know, based on observational data is that yes, you're supposed parody is important, right? Because kids want to feel like they have equal standing within the family unit, right? But I have some amazing stories where every time someone tries to be equitable, because bananas sighs working with one person and she was using a parent coaches method of having a timer right for and stopwatch or whatever it was. And so it was this plastic clock that she had got from Amazon, you know, based on a forum similar to yourself that someone had recommended you so that she could be equitable with her two sons, you know, because like you're each gonna get 30 minutes and then the rest, you know, we'll figure it out as we go. But it was really important to her to make sure that she had reserved, you know, an hour split into Gina to play with each so that they got alone time. That timer lasted eight days because a lot of her son smashed into pieces we do the best we can, right like, and again, to answer your question, you know, concretely, yes, you should, you know, you should try and be mindful of parity, you know, as long as you do that, you know, do the best you can. And, you know, that's what's important, right, that each kid feels like there's an equitable share, you know, amongst the family unit.

Curt Storring 40:42

Right. Okay. Thank you for that. And I am, I'm looking at the notes that you sent over. And there's one thing here that says the play model with PLA y is capitalized. Is that something we've covered already, because it's talking about finding joy and delight in your existing day to day schedule? And I'm wondering if that's similar to like maximizing the time when you're wasting it otherwise, so to speak with your daughter's gymnastics? Is that the same thing? Or is there more there? Yeah, there's,

Mike Rucker 41:06

that's more of an individual tool. So the acronym stands for pleasing, living, agonizing, and yielding. And so I'm gonna it's kind of a good overview of everything that we discussed, you use the tool by, you know, doing a simple audit of your 168 hours in a given week. And then you, you know, it's a four quadrant model. So it allows you to sort of categorize how you're spending each hour. And so, to use your example of this past weekend, right, I think you, Campion for you, really, you know, if you look at it objectively, really was falling in the agonizing and yielding categories, right, like, so when we talk about having fun, the geek version of that is valence, right. So, which is really just a fancy word for pleasure. So when you're in positive valence, you're having fun, right. And if you're not having fun, you're in negative valence. And so when you're using the play model, you would look at it, you would look at the time you spent camping, and a good sort of rule for you now is, next time you go camping, if your objective is to increase the joy and delight in your life, maybe you want to figure out another way to spend your time, right. And so, yeah, it's just a simple tool to sort of organize your time. And I think, again, it's a tool of mindfulness, right? Because when you're not doing that, often times you we've been so groomed to look at our calendar for productivity, that having that simple reframe of looking at it, you know, like, how can I make my hours more enjoyable is a useful exercise, because they can co coexist, you can, you know, audit your calendar for productivity, and then overlay it like, Okay, well, I can accomplish the same task in two different ways. One way is a lot better, right? So let's say the task is meaningful time with your family, right? Like one way to tackle that task is to go camping, another might be something a lot more fun for you like a, you know, a hockey camp, right? Or maybe your kids are able to be tended to, you know, by coaches for at least some of the time, so you get some breaks and space within that. And yet, you're still all doing it together. So you know, you're still enjoying, you know, some play with your kid. This, you know, obviously, we're inventing this on the fly, but it happens all the time. Like, I don't villainize Disney by any stretch, but that is a great example of people that fantasize about how fun the weekend is going to be. And only to find that their kids really just wanted to stay in the pool the whole weekend, and then they're disappointed, right? So just adding a little bit of, you know, hindsight or foresight, you know, the plate model is an effective tool in that sense, because you can parse your time in four different easy to understand categories, and then make better choices. Okay, so

Curt Storring 43:55

that seems really useful in a perverse sort of way. Because like, oh, let's apply tools and productivity to having fun and playing. And it's like, okay, that kind of sounds sick. And at the same time, this is the world we live in. So I wonder if there's anything else like that, that comes to mind that you use with people that you've used in your own life, to sort of like structure this better so that we continue to be mindful of it as we go through our lives?

Mike Rucker 44:19

Yeah. So it's funny you say that, like before I add an additional tool. I mean, that is you've hit the nail on the head with the primary reason it's hard as adults to have fun, right? Because that thought that we have to add it to our calendar that it has to be prioritized, like is inherently not fun, right? And so so many of us get hung up on that because we're like, really, I gotta do a time on it. But those are simple things that you can just do. And then you move on from him. Right. And so I just wanted, I meant, it's a great sort of insight that you pulled out that generally I bring out but you landed on organically like that. If that is one of the things to think about it, like you said, you know, because you brought it up several times, you know, during our conversation, right, like, this just doesn't sound that fun to like be able to, you know, cross the chasm as it were. But like, it's an easy cross. So just some simple reframes. Right? So a couple of other tools, you know, is reframing, I call it story editing. So like, you know, you know, a great example is the car thing like, right, like you're not, or in instance, with your kid, like, how can I reframe this so that it's fun for both of us? Like, what are aspects of it, where it's just negative self talk that I might be able to just simply tell myself, a great study out of UCLA, had people simply prompt their weekends, as vacations and simply just thinking about your weekend as a vacation without any other, you know, rules. They're just like, Okay, wait, yeah, I get it. The weekends meant to be a break, allowed folks that space to like, detach from work. And even when they were doing like, domestic chores, doing them with a little bit more joy, you know, because they were making better choices. Like, wait, this is my time, let me put on my headphones. Or let me do this in a more sort of a way that's, you know, more authentic to me kind of flexing your agency and autonomy, right, in ways that you don't do a couple of other tools, our activity bundling. So we've talked about that a lot. Like, you know, again, my anecdote about the cooking class, like that was something I was going to do anyways, so bundling it, you know, with time with my daughter was a great way to basically get a 3x on the fun on that. And, and so as weird as that sounds, right, because now that sounds like a productivity hack. Like, just get past that, like, okay, yeah, it was, but, man, it's, you know, so much more enjoyable, right? And then one is another tool of mindfulness is, you know, really taking time to savor, right? So once we start to think back to the times that we had fun, either, recently, so that we're learning like, wait, I really do want to do this more, or thinking back to our childhood, like, you know, I really wish I did do that more like that's a long lost thing. That starts to open the door for all sorts of ways to invite fun and delight further into your life, right? Because all of a sudden, don't be like, we I really liked doing this when I was eight. And this is something maybe I could introduce to my oldest son that could reframe, you know, this verb, these verbose episodes that we're having that I find exhausting. And I really enjoyed this. And I bet I'd enjoy it again. And I'd love to introduce it to my kids. So that kind of savoring, reminiscing and relishing memories, both recent and from your past are great tools.

Curt Storring 47:51

Oh, yeah, that's really good. And we talked about that in parenting sometimes as well, which is like your you and your memories of childhood are like some of the best parenting tools, you've got what felt good to you, what didn't feel good to you will do the good, don't do the bad. And like, that's a great way to use yourself as a bit of a litmus test in terms of how you're going to parent. And so why not do that for fun, too. And that is how I started playing hockey again, is I actually started playing hockey again in Thailand, when we moved there for a couple of years with the kids. And we're just traveling there. And it was like, Oh, I saw this ad on Facebook or something was like, Oh, come play with the local hockey team. And I was like, Oh, I love hockey. I haven't played in years because I thought like I was too busy, whatever. And I started playing and I haven't stopped in like the last five or six years. And it was just because I went like oh yeah, I loved that. Why aren't I doing that again? So that like auditing your time now auditing your life as a child, and putting like, like you said, the productivity hacks together. Man, this is like, suddenly it's all speaking my language. And it's like, Oh, damn, I'm going to do this, like immediately when we get off this call and just trying to have more fun. And I want to there's two last things I want to touch on. One is like, I don't know how much time we're going to have for this. But I want to hear maybe more of a like a why this is so important. Cuz I think we all get it. But I'm sure like, from your perspective, you've got some more insights scientifically about like, actually, it's better for your life, if you have more fun and joy. And then I want to touch on your book, and then we'll sort of wrap it up. Sure.

Mike Rucker 49:17

So this one was quite profound, because it's not when I went in to researching this. You know, it was for some interesting reasons. It's funny, usually I bring up my origin story, and we're not going to do that because I actually find it refreshing that you didn't ask me that. So But long story short, there's the I'm a big believer in positive psychology and my little brother unexpectedly passed away, right? And so that's why I started researching fun because I was always kind of constantly pursuing happiness and that went awry when my brother passed away. So that's what started me on this long you know, big journey of studying and fun academically. But as They've kind of evolved past, you know, the the needs of the self. Something quite profound is that when we're having fun, it relinquishes us from that those burdens of the self, right? Like, we just all of a sudden feel connected to something outside of ourselves. So you know, whether that's to our friends and understanding that we need each other, or, you know, if you find your fun doing solitary activities, like even, you know, in your, you know, when you're in flow and hockey, or you know, you find it, you know, on nature walks, you understand that you're much smaller than he wants to believe you are. And once you understand that, you're smaller than, than you thought you were, you know, when you were stuck in your own head, all your problems seemed smaller to right. And so we're just so wrapped up, right, like everything is our problems of our own making, right? Like, we don't have enough time, we don't have enough money, we're not doing enough as a as a, you know, dad, or a partner, or whatever it is, like all these things, were kind of contrived when you peel back the layers. And when you have you make that space and start having fun for the sake of fun, you relinquish yourself from all that and you realize, like, oh my gosh, like I have the agency and autonomy to like, my problems aren't that big. And I think that's what allows us to white leisure is so important, right? Is that it frees us from those sorts of burdens of the self. And we also get that, at any given moment, we can kind of change our circumstances, for the most part, unless we're like chronically ill or whatever. Because you can have fun, no matter what your economic circumstances or you know, your place in life, you can always walk out of your, you know, your door for the most part and, and go for a walk or, you know, connect with a friend, or whatever it is, whatever you find fun. And, and so, by doing that, you understand that your problems are much smaller than you want, you know, made them out to be. And I think that's the most profound part. And that's why leisure is so important, you know, those escapes, whether it's coping, because you really need to cope, or it's, you know, being expansive and realizing that nonlinear thinking, being creative, finding pleasure, and you know, just giving yourself space is, you know, his frame and connects you to something much bigger than yourself.

Curt Storring 52:30

Man, I really liked that. I maybe it should have led with that. So everyone's like, Oh, yeah, I gotta get some of this. But yeah, thank you for sharing that. And that makes so much sense. It's almost like another tool in the so called, like, mindfulness toolbox we talk about sometimes people want all of this, they don't want to be so burdened by the problems. They don't want all the stress of finances and whatever. And this is often, like the last thing people turn to, it's always okay, what can I optimize? How can I meditate more? How can I take things out of my life? But if you added fun, and you could get all those things, like not only do you get what you want, we also have fun, like what this seems like, not a magic bullet by any means. But like, pretty close to it. And I'm really excited by this. So thank you for sharing that man.

Mike Rucker 53:15

Of course. Yeah, like, it's just timely, right? I think we're already you know, for Absolutely. There's some serendipity there. But I think with the pandemic, we were able to all reevaluate, you know, what was important to us, right? Because we did lose all of our autonomy really, right, we were being told what to do. And then also a lot of things that we took as absolute was, you know, I'm an even as something as benign as like, you know, 80% of the population feeling like they had to go into an office to be able to be productive, and that just being shattered. You know, I think we're able to reassemble our subjective reality in ways that can behoove us. If we mindfully take those steps. Like, wait, okay, wait, I have a lot more agency about how I do spend my time than I once believed. And so that's, that's a great gift that this really horrible last couple of years has given us is, I think a lot of people have wised up and awakened to the fact that they can recreate their lives in a way that's still in line with social norms, but serves them much better.

Curt Storring 54:25

Yeah, man, here here. Okay. Can you tell us about your book and where people can find you as well? And the next couple minutes, however long you got, because I'm cool to listen, because I'm interested to see.

Mike Rucker 54:36

Thank you so much. Yeah. So I have a book coming out through Simon Schuster. It drops January 3 of next year. So a little bit of time, but I would be grateful for anyone that wants to preorder it and then, yeah, I blog at my website, Michael record.com. And I'm on Twitter, under the handle perform better.

Curt Storring 54:55

Nice. And what's the book about?

Mike Rucker 54:57

It's all about the science of fun. Yeah.

Curt Storring 54:59

Oh, Nice and what's it called?

Mike Rucker 55:01

The fun habit not get the title,

Curt Storring 55:04

publisher and the date. That's funny also sorry. The fun habit. Yeah. Amazing is that, presumably on Amazon or anywhere else books are sold? That's correct. Yeah, amazing. Okay, well, we'll put that in the show notes too. And if there's like a pre order or something like that, we can put that in there. And yeah, man, thank you for this. Thank you for reaching out. And I said before, it's like a really good reach out email. And I was like, Oh, I gotta have this guy on. And it's so timely, not only for the societal reasons that you said, but because this has been like the conversation that we've been having lately. And so I'm like, I got to get this out to my guys early before it goes out, because it's probably gonna be a little while before it goes out. But, man, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I appreciate it.

Mike Rucker 55:44

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity

Curt Storring 55:53

thank you for listening to the data word podcast. That's it for this episode. But if you would like to stay in touch between weekly episodes, why don't you go over to Instagram and follow me there because I drop a number of things throughout the week that are related to what we talked about on this podcast, but usually go a little bit deeper, provide some tips you can find me on Instagram at dadwork.curt. That's DADWORK.CURT And please, if you have been getting something out of this podcast, if it has touched you if it has improved your marriage, or parenting or your life, would you please leave a quick review on Apple or Spotify. leave a rating. If you have a few extra seconds, leave a quick review. That's the best way that we can get this work in the hands of more fathers. And I truly believe that we change the world, one father at a time, because each father that parents better that loves better raises children who do the same. And in just a couple of generations. I feel like we could be living in a world much better than the one we live in today. Your review will help along that path. And I thank you so much for being here to listen until next week. We'll see you then.

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