The Fun Theory and Why it Will Never Last

Note: I was hesitant to publish this post, especially the day after I announced my new website. I didn’t think I would get the right message across. I also worried that this wouldn’t be “practical enough” to merit reading all the way through. But I pulled the trigger, blasting this message out into cyberspace in hopes that you’ll find something of value in here. Now that I’ve thought about it, this is probably one of the most important messages I’ll ever write. If you get half as much truth out of this article as I got from writing it, then it’ll be well-worth the read. I think this is a perfect piece to follow-up yesterday’s launch. (Read time with video: < 10 minutes)

The Fun Theory (thefuntheory.com) is an initiative of Volkswagen that is “dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s changed for the better.”

Perhaps you’ve already seen some of the interesting videos circulating the internet. Here is my personal favorite – a Fun Theory solution to change physical activity levels:

Piano Stairs


The result of making a flight of stairs into a digital piano: 66% more people chose the piano stairs than the escalator.

I think they’re onto something over at VW. There’s definitely a timeless principle that the fun theory is based on, but unless The Fun Theory evolves, it won’t change the world as much as their videos seem to make you feel it will.

They claim that “fun can obviously change behavior for the better.” And I absolutely agree with that. But there is a subtle hole in their reasoning, and it’s a very important principle for those concerned about their physical lifestyle to understand.

While I am completely supportive of finding ways to have more fun and also to help people get stronger, healthier, and ultimately happier, I think The Fun Theory Approach is destined to fail, or at least remain ineffectual long-term – unless it changes.

You see, this is a very common reaction to what a group of people perceive as a problem. Volkswagen, which happens to be a very large corporation (go figure), feels it’s necessary to step into the daily lives of common people because they need _________. More physical activity, more recycling, whatever – anything that they think is good “for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s changed for the better.”

The problem is that Volkswagen is coming up with a solution that will automatically change behavior, instead of a solution that will encourage people to choose new, better behavior just because it’s better. They are taking the responsibility for a better world upon themselves, instead of giving the responsibility back to the people. It’s reminiscent of a doctor writing a prescription that will “cure” the problem instead of recommending lifestyle changes that would prevent health problems in the first place. Or, of a government taking responsibility for issues that can and should be handled by the people.

Yes, it’s a good thing that they are doing, and yes, they will change behavior for the better as their video experiments prove (of course, this is VW’s definition of what is “better,” which could be a whole other discussion). BUT – personal responsibility is NOT something you can control for someone else. You can only present the illusion of control. Sure, the piano stairs produced a better result in physical activity, so much so that 66% of people chose it over the stairs compared to without the piano. So, it’s a good thing, but only in spirit, not in truth.

Did they really affect people’s lives for the better? I don’t think so.

What VW is essentially saying is that the world has a physical activity problem, and they are going to create a fun solution to solve the problem. But realistically, nobody has the resources or the willingness to install piano stairs on every public staircase. And even if resources were available, human nature will go back to normal after the excitement wears off.

I mean, sure, walking up and down a flight of stairs that plays notes would be fun… for a little while. Maybe a few trips up and down. But after that, if I were the type who took the escalator, I would go right back to my original behavior after the novelty wore off.

And THAT’S the very problem. As evidenced in their videos, the Fun Theory Solutions are based on novelty – and novelty doesn’t last.

Take the novelty of The Fun Theory to an extreme, and what do we get? A world where personal responsibility is dwindling. A world that acts more like a machine than a society of freethinkers. A world where your every action becomes influenced by the control established by those special few “in the know.”

Sounds a lot like Big Brother, doesn’t it? True, but that’s not entirely the point of this article.

The point is that there is a better way. The Fun Theory is in its initial stages, one where inspiring others is of utmost importance and probably their main focus. Just the idea that having more fun is not only possible, but also that it can have a positive impact on our culture is amazing and a worthy pursuit. But if they want to grow their idea, they need to do more than just inspire. They need to start offering something practically useful for the world. Because the truth is – most people don’t have fun anymore. Most people have actually forgotten how to play. And honestly, there are a lot of things in this world that could be better. The Fun Theory absolutely has a legitimate mission, and a worthy cause – but they need to approach it from a slightly different angle.

If they don’t adapt, the novelty will eventually wear off and people will go back to their original, subconscious habits.

The Heart of The Fun Theory

So, do you remember the principle I mentioned at the beginning of the article? This is the main reason for writing this post, to explain this principle because it is of utmost importance and is entirely congruent with the Physical Living philosophy.

And here is the principle, quite literally a secret to success that, if applied, will revolutionize the way you live your life: Love what you do. Or, put another way: Enjoy what you do. Or even, have fun.

That’ll be $300. You can deposit it to my Paypal account. And what a STEAL! $300 is a great deal because that is some of the most valuable advice I’ve ever given. Seriously, I need a pay raise over here!

All kidding aside, making a conscious effort to love what you do is the timeless principle for success that The Fun Theory is trying to replicate. Most people don’t see love as a valuable commodity, though. In fact, most people reading this will probably think, “duh, no kidding, tell me something I don’t know why-don’t-cha!”

The truth is that we already have direct access to the timeless principle that The Fun Theory is based on. It’s within us – the capacity to love. It’s so simple and so obvious that it’s easy to dismiss. We think, “of course, that’s the secret. I get it, now tell me something that will really help me out.”

I’m all for reading the top 10 lists, and 7 ways to improve your lifestyle, and the ultimate habits for ensuring success. But the truth is that all of that stuff is just gravy. Filler information. Noise.

That’s why my new website, Physical Living, will not only offer solutions for exactly HOW to practice a better physical lifestyle, but also how to fall in love with the process (and why). I want to show you how to fall in love with physical living so that you’re not depending on me for a better physical lifestyle (or other blogs, books, resources etc.). I want you to create your own expression of abundant health and fitness and then go on to inspire others to do the same.

You see, I’m the type who takes the stairs at every opportunity I get. Sometimes, I even run up the escalator that’s going down. Why? Because it’s fun and also because it’s a good thing, but mostly because it’s fun. I happen to love physical living, not because I have better blood test numbers or may live longer than most, but because I love how a physical lifestyle makes me feel – right now. I feel great all the time. I can almost fly up the stairs. Nothing can slow me down (or so it feels sometimes). I embrace new challenges willingly and look forward to every opportunity to express the joy I receive from physicality.

I sincerely wish that there was an easy way for me to convey to you how much I truly love physical living. But it’s very hard, especially through the written word (and I’m not even a good writer). If I were a musician, I would play a song to help you get a taste of the experience of how physical living makes me feel. If I were a poet, I would write you something beautiful. But I’m not those things. All I can do is tell you the truth and hope that it sticks, that it sinks in, and that you feel compelled to seek your own expression of love for physical living.

I know artists whose medium is life itself and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased life. They are the artists of being alive. – Bayeshan

So, now what?

You know the secret – you know the purpose of this article. You get it, and it makes sense. The next step is so simple.

Practice it.

Further Reading

How to Love What You Do: Plus 100 Ways to Disguise Exercise

To your health and success,

CST, CST-KS, NSCA-CPT
Fitness Professional

 

10 Responses

  1. Interesting. I never even heard of fun theory until you posted this. I am definitely with you on this one.

  2. Yep, I can’t agree more…with the second half of the article. Artists of being alive — I call these people lifecrafters. I was just writing about lifecrafting in my Journal last night. Coincidence, I think not. “A lifecrafter is one who is aware of the process of life and is conscious of their role as source for that process. There are no passive moments. All moments are the result of creative choice.” So yeah, your message is perfect. “Go, and practice the craft of life.”

    I think though that you are being a bit hard on the fun theory. Is it a methodology for executing permanent change for “the better”? No. But then most people aren’t ready for that anyway. If you’re “in the zoo” (a place I admit to being more often then I wish) then you won’t even see, much less understand, a methodology of living that is best for those who are “healthy, happy and free.” What a zoo human needs is to see, regularly (until it becomes a habit), “not zoo.” They need to see something outside their box which reminds them that they are actually living in a box. Everyone (except perhaps the fully enlightened?) is living in a box, but some boxes are bigger than others. Lots and lots of people are living in a box that specifies that fun can only happen at specific times or places during the day. What I love about the fun theory is that it forces people to accept for a moment that their box is bigger than they thought it was — that they can have fun in this place that they previously thought they couldn’t. More fun is never a bad thing. Of course some people are going to return to their smaller box after the experience (probably most). But if it happens again and again, one might eventually realize that there are no ordinary moments and that all of life is novelty (which is exactly the message in the second half of your piece).

    • Hey Jeremiah, I’m glad you left a comment! I grabbed that Bayeshan quote at the end from your Facebook profile – it fit perfectly with the article and contributed to my decision to publish this today. Lifecrafters, I like that very much!

      I see why you think I’m being harsh with the Fun Theory, but it’s not my intention. They’re off to a great start, but I think they’ll need to evolve at bit to better refine their purpose. Inspiration is the first step – a wake up call to everyone. I’m just hoping that they go a step farther because they have such a worthy cause.

  3. If you were a musician you could write a song, a poet you could write a poem….. but as a guy who loves movement… you could just ahh… show your love for the movement!
    (which you do do in your videos, inspiring me already bro).

  4. Good post, John. Until the structure of society supports physical activity, attempts to increase it will always be merely “cosmetic.”

  5. I love the concept of lifecrafters! Thanks, Jeremiah. This is a very big subject, I think. It really falls upon the idea of a certain kind of acceptance about modern life and what we have to do day in and day out to survive in it. For all our technological conveniences, technology itself has made out lives complex, relentlessly immediate, and sedantary. Just taking a small example, think about going away for a month or even a week without checking emails, paying bills, going through our mail, answering phone calls, reporting in to work, or dealing with any of the other musts in our lives. It wouldn’t be too long before we could be featured on A&E’s HOARDERS. When I think about being a lifecrafter I think of eeking everything I can, every goodness, out of the mundane. Heck, if I can be wildly happy living within my “box” I don’t reckon it makes a difference how big or small it is. Basically, it can come down to something as simple as getting on an escalator and not even noticing, or wondering how fast you can scramble up to the top. There are endless opportunities to creatively live a very ordinary but full life. Great article, John and you are becoming a very effective writer. Have fun practising!

  6. Good article. Hmm, people have forgotten how to play…

  7. Hey, John, maybe they are just trying to waken people to the idea that having fun is a great way to live, and that can apply to being fit, active, and healthy. In that sense, the piano stairs are just a creative way to spark the imagination of anyone seeing it – that is, “Hey! Look at this! Now go have fun your own way.” In that sense, it is definitely a good move, and it could last forever.

  8. That’s is one hell of an article!
    John, what most impressed or confirmed to me is what I have been experiencing with being ‘physical’ is that ‘being here and now’ – in your words – “makes me feel – right now”. That is so spiritual and beyond just being physical! Thank you for writing this. This is an important mile stone that a traveller like me finds that we are on the right path!

    Shiva.

Leave a Reply