« Double your income in a year ... by reading!? An update on reading for learning, plus a current list with brief comments | Main | The crucible of teaching: Want to learn in a hurry? Teach! »

What does it take to work with flourish?

Have you ever worked with someone and noticed they seem to slip in little flourishes as they happily go about their business? I'm thinking of the programmer who gives a little viola after typing a tasty morsel, of the pianist who adds additional movement during a rapid passage, or of the actors who bow for the audience with grand flourish. I was reminded of how uncommon these flourishes are when my five year old daughter and I recently enjoyed the antics at the great local college pizza place, where the workers (young guys from the University) like to toss the slices into the air then catch them on the paper plate before sticking them in the oven.

This got me thinking: Why don't we see these more often, and what does it take to enable us to work with flourish? I think the first ingredient is joy. If we are feeling heavy and weighed down with duties and responsibilities, how can we add these light touches? Second, I believe we need a supportive work environment at which we feel good about what we do. Who wants to put on a show (which is what a flourish is, after all) when you're not feeling playful yourself [1]?

So what's the connection to personal productivity? Simply this: After adopting Getting Things Done (the system I use for mastering the deluge of stuff entering my life) I now have the lightness and energy needed to let those little flourishes express themselves. For example, when making tea, I now sometimes give the cup a flip before setting it down. (And no, I haven't broken any ... yet.) Or I'll sometimes when my daughter has music on I'll let a few guitar moves come out (nothing to showy, mind you - we are very tasteful people).

In other words, once I got a handle on the modern world's (often severe [2]) distractions, I've found it is natural to perform the work of life with flourish. So how about you - Do you work with a flourish? What would it take to do so?

  • In Use Pizzaz!, the authors point out that having a little pizzaz lets us stand out and be noticed. They have some suggestions, including:
    • Using illustrations or pictures,
    • telling funny stories, and
    • making outrageous statements.

  • In GTD Is Conscience-Clearing, the author reflects on how GTD's collection phase helps to clear the conscience:
    When I sit down and empty my head by putting every thought on paper, my heart gets poured out as well. Weights are taken off my chest. Burdens are lifted from my shoulders.

  • [1]I think this came up partly because I recently read Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, John Christensen. The book's Big Thought is that our attitudes shape the places we work, and are important. According to the authors, the four ingredients to make work fun and productive are:
    • Choose your attitude,
    • Play,
    • Make their day, and
    • Be Present
    Highly recommended.
  • [2] In Why can't you pay attention anymore?, Edward Hallowell talks about Attention Deficit Trait, a disorder related to ADD that has environmental causes. He considers the core symptoms distractibility, inner frenzy, and impatience, and links it to difficulties staying organized, setting priorities, and managing time. He claims it can undermine the work of even gifted executives.

Reader Comments (9)

What an interesting post. It reminds me about the various people I see in different jobs who have that extra something that sets them apart. Usually, if I think about it, the "extra something" seems like a performance talent that's lacking in other people around them. Now that you've brought this up, I'm going to think a little on it, myself. I'll link people to this great post while I'm at it.

April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Hi, Chris.

Usually, if I think about it, the "extra something" seems like a performance talent that's lacking in other people around them.

You've hit the nail on the head! Thanks for the comment.

April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

The real question is how do you get yourself or your co-workers and staff to deliver this extra performance.

Great posts guys.
My thoughts are at

April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGraeme Watson

Matt, great post.

An area that stands to benefit all in the chain: employee happy, Customer happy & employer happy.

Hmmm, so to put that into responsibility.
Employee - put on heartfelt performance;
Customer - enjoy the show and part with hard earned cash;
Employer - make sure your employee finds their job enjoyable;

That's the "what?"
Graeme asks the better question of "how?"

April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDan Hill

Hey, Chris. Thanks very much for the great analysis. I think you're on to something. You remind me of the book [ The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage | http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0875848192/qid=1145329306/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/104-8085125-4087950?s=books&v=glance&n=283155 ], which I tried to get through but initially gave up on. Now the environment (you and my other brilliant readers) are telling me it's time to re-try.

April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hey, Graeme. Thank you for the comment, and for the tremendous value-added continuation - [ Giving the Extra Pizazz to the Service Experience | http://graemewatson.blogspot.com/2006/04/giving-extra-pizazz-to-service.html ].

For other readers, I highly recommend tje posts by both [ Graeme | http://graemewatson.blogspot.com/2006/04/giving-extra-pizazz-to-service.html ] and Chris - [ Yellow Highlighter: Matt's Idea Blog | http://chrisbrogan.blogspot.com/2006/04/yellow-highlighter-matts-idea-blog.html ]. And yes, I'm quite biased!

April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

I like your reasoning, Dan. Thanks for commenting, and for reading!

April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hi Matthew:

One of our little "flourishes" at home before we eat dinner is to click our forks together in a toast to the day. My family is my husband, 20-year old bonus son Jeffery and his girlfriend Nikita, and our one-year old son Josh. It never ceases to crack us all up. The best is seeing the look on Josh's face when we do it. You can tell that he enjoys seeing us laughing and smiling. That is the power of living life with flourish as an example to our kids.

I personally don't think it is something you can "teach" to employees. If you are a manager, you will support employees to demonstrate flourish by creating a positive and encouraging environment, respecting differences and talking with them frequently about what their work means to them and what their unique gifts are. It is also what you demonstrate as in the family example above ... how do you show your own flourish in your work?

April 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPamela Slim

Thanks for the great story, Pamela, and for the insight regarding how to make (or allow) these to happen.

April 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.