Fourteen years ago, I went with four of my friends to get our photo taken with Santa at the Burbank mall. Were we far too old to be doing this? Absolutely. Did we care that we were the only group in line that did not include young children? Nope. Is Santa kinda creepy with five grown women sitting on his lap? Definitely… which makes it even more hilarious. What was meant to be a one-time joke turned out to be so fun that it became an annual tradition, complete with themes and costumes. Even as our own families and lives grow and change, it’s a once-a-year event where we can feel like kids again with each other.
Over time, the things you used to play at become serious endeavors, or to-do list items, or no longer worth doing at all. Running around with your friends outside becomes running on the treadmill at the gym, scheduling coffee dates to see your friends, and attending networking events to make new ones. We think of those activities as good and healthy, but they’re actually remarkably unnatural, not to mention not very fun. Because if you saw a kid doing any of those things, you would feel like you were in an alternate universe. Kids don’t run to stay fit, they run to feel the wind on their face and the grass beneath their feet. Kids don’t network to climb a career ladder, they bond through joyful moments. Kids go for what they want without worrying about why or what for—they just want to have fun. As adults, we deny ourselves that luxury without understanding the incredible benefits we’re missing out on.
The 'what are you waiting for' vibe really struck me. We can do anything we set our minds to. I get caught up sometimes in all the things that can hold me back. There will always be obstacles. But I prayed about it all and I was given an idea, and it can truly make a difference, and I want to make the most of this life.
Most people bury this knowledge in the back of their brains and heap on distraction upon distraction—anything to avoid seriously reflecting on the fact that our time here is limited. We hide it away in hospitals and retirement homes. We pay lip service with bumper-sticker phrases like “life is short” or “you only live once,” but mostly we just suppress thoughts of our own mortality.
Bringing up this topic is considered bad form. Society operates under a silent agreement to keep any mention of our mortality off-limits. And when it happens—a friend gets in a car accident, a relative passes from a heart attack—you still might think, That's not going to happen to me.
Well, unfortunately, life is not a dress rehearsal, and death is too important to ignore. To embrace and understand what it means to really live, we need to make sure our relationship with and understanding of death is honest and realistic.
As pandemic restrictions started to loosen a little, I was overjoyed to find my pod of friends interested in doing all sorts of new activities—tie-dying clothes, teaching ourselves to roll sushi, hosting Connect Four tournaments, fermenting and labeling our own hot sauce and pickles, and sneaking out to Venice Beach at midnight to swim in the bioluminescent waves. As bad as the pandemic was in many ways, seeing others try new things with people they love was a bright spot, a small glimpse of what life should be like.
These experiences gave me natural bursts of serotonin and dopamine—feel-good hormones—that jolted me out of my depression temporarily. The novelty forced me to pay close attention to the task at hand, leaving little room to dwell on the past or worry about the future. And when I succeeded at something new, it helped build my confidence and courage.
My personal experience aligns perfectly with scientific research. The evidence states that simply being more present by doing something new stimulates and activates regions of our brain that improve our mood.
When you were younger, you might have had some type of allowance to use on whatever you wanted. What if you gave yourself an allowance for your experiences? We’re not personal finance experts, and there are plenty of books on that if you want to go deep (I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi is a great place to start). We do, however, know that when experiences truly become the priority, spending habits often change.
One day in your past, you had the last sleepover with your childhood friends, you just didn’t realize it. The last time you played hide and seek. The last time you pranked your parents. The last time you had a snowball fight. But why?
We asked 20,000 people, “What’s an experience you did as a child that you’d love to do again?”
Some of my closest friends are people that I worked with that I shared once in a lifetime (or just out of the ordinary) experiences with, whether it was staying in a haunted castle in Scotland together, seeing someone hear for the first time, hiking Machu Picchu, or simply staying up all night talking about life after attending Coachella together. But it wasn't just about having a good time.
Shared goals and experiences play a crucial role in fostering a great corporate culture by creating a sense of unity, belonging, and purpose among employees.
Here are some ways in which they contribute to a positive corporate culture:
This is a simple one, but can be powerful.
Plan an experience by yourself that you would normally do with someone else. For some people this could be as big as an overseas trip, for others it could be going to the movies, a baseball game, a hike, or a class.
Take notice of how you feel doing this on your own.
When did you stop playing? And by playing, I mean doing something just for fun, with no goals or expectations about the outcome. Even if it’s a game with winners and losers, the result doesn’t matter, and your aim isn’t to get better over time. It’s just to enjoy. (Consuming entertainment doesn’t count—real play involves your active engagement, beyond just watching a screen or turning the page.)
As a kid, practically all you wanted to do was play. Every other activity (school, homework, chores, family dinner) was something you had to get through so you could go play.
But little by little, other things became more important. It’s not just that you now spend more (or most) of your time making sure bills get paid, people get taken care of, chores get done, etc. There’s been a social and psychological shift in priorities, too. Society expects adults to be productive, responsible, and serious; play is a luxury reserved for children. So, you might feel like it’s immature to play, and other people would judge you for it. And the less you play, the less exercise your imagination gets, and the more focused you become on practical matters—perpetuating the downward spiral of playtime.
The Light Show Episode 177: Show Notes
Is the pursuit of monetary abundance leaving you unsatisfied? Are you worried about having regrets in life? In this episode, we embark on an incredible journey with Bridget Hilton and Joe Huff, the authors of the inspiring book, Experiential Billionaire. While they're not actual billionaires, their wealth lies in the extraordinary experiences they've pursued.
Join us as we uncover the profound impact of experiences on their lives and how these experiences have made them wealthy in more ways than one. Bridget and Joe are far from privileged individuals. Hailing from blue-collar backgrounds in Flint, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois, they initially followed conventional career paths.
Joe and I have worked together full time since 2012. We've been lucky to collaborate on the creation of multiple brands, write a book together, and be on the ground working on philanthropic missions around the world. We've also experienced the highest highs and lowest lows together over the last 11 years, and have seen each other and our co-workers grow leaps and bounds in ways we never expected.
If you have a full-time job, you spend at least a third of your waking life working. That’s a lot of time to be surrounded by your boss, colleagues, clients, and business partners. The stronger those relationships are, the happier and more successful your work life will be—and shared experiences play an important part in that.
I rarely think of the big accomplishments or bucket list items. Even though those things are important, I think of the moments like last night, a long sunset beach walk with my pup. Grateful for the little things in life while they last. ❤️
What memories would you go back to?
One of the first things I discovered when I began to surf was how arbitrary and punishing the ocean can be. You get up on the board, start to feel confident, and before you know it, you're underwater in the wash cycle, the sea tossing you around. Once your flailing is over, you make sure all your limbs are still bending the right way and you take deep breaths, grateful for all that beautiful oxygen in your lungs.
That’s not so different from real life. Sometimes a huge wave seems to come out of nowhere and knocks you down, leaving you disoriented and gasping for breath. That’s exactly what happened to me in the first months of 2020. I found myself sobbing on my apartment floor for months straight, wondering how everything had changed so quickly, and desperately trying to find a safe and stable shore where I could plant my feet.
Joe Huff and Bridget Hilton’s transformational workshop takes attendees through a powerful and entertaining half day focused on all the ways companies, teams and leaders can unlock powerful results and untapped human potential by learning how to identify and prioritize investing in fulfilling experiences.
Told through engaging real life experiences and backed by science, their stories energize, inspire, and provide the tools and habits necessary for attendees to learn how to find peak inspiration, build deeper and more meaningful connections with their teams and co-workers, overcome burnout, optimize individual and team performance, and cultivate strong feelings of fulfillment, community, belonging and wellbeing.
Thanks Ethan for having me on! One of my favorite chats.
Bridget Hilton is co-author of the "Experiential Billionaire" book, which was just released. Her backstory is fascinating, and jumps from helping launch the careers of artists like Rihanna, The Weeknd and Taylor Swift, to shifting into founding the first ever social good electronics company which helped more than 50,000 people receive the gift of hearing for the first time.
However, as much as you might wish that life was one fun and fulfilling experience after another:
Suffering and hard times teach us lessons that can’t be learned any other way.
But, to reap the benefits that come with hardship, you need to have the right mindset.
You must learn to reframe negative experiences into positive memories (or teachable moments).
This exercise helps you do that.
When it comes to learning, Mahatma Gandhi put it best:
“Live as if you’ll die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever.”
In other words, cultivate a sense of urgency to pursue your desires and dreams now.
But—and this is important—don’t let that stop you from investing in your long-term growth.
When we’re young, we’re constantly learning.
Somewhere along the line, though, that growth starts to wane.