Finding Fun in the Most Serious Work in the World
Hospice workers are doing the “most serious work in the world,” said Ron Culberson, a home care social worker, EMT, speaker and humorist. Despite how serious the work is, “hospice people get it,” he said, “they know the need for balance.”
Ron visited Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care in late September during a staff appreciation day to share what he has learned about balancing the seriousness of the work — specifically, the importance of finding humor in work and in life. There’s a risk of being too serious in the work and losing objectivity, he said.
Ron started working in hospice at 25 years old. Then usually the youngest person in the room, he felt he had a special opportunity to learn a lot — from other staff members and patients alike — and being so young also gave him a license to have fun. Over the years, he learned that fun can not only help people enjoy their jobs more but also do their jobs better. That’s the focus of his book, “Do it Well, Make it Fun,” which has been shared with Pikes Peak Hospice staff.
“Success isn’t about being serious,” he said. “Pikes Peak is not the ‘most serious hospice.’ You’d never put that as your mission statement. You want to be the best hospice. It’s about excellence, not seriousness.”
That idea applies to people, too. Ron said a lot of people become more “serious” and leave their inner child behind at some point in their adult life. They’d be better off hanging onto that inner child, instead, he said. Humor can lower stress and help creative and flexible thinking.
For example, every joke has a setup and a punchline. The punchline is funny because it gets the listener to think about the setup in a different way — with a play on words, revealing something that should be obvious or giving a surprise. “Humor builds,” Ron said. The more you find things funny, the more you find things funny. That can lead people to think more creatively in other situations.
Humor can help with stress, too. Stress is not automatically stressful, Ron said. Stress isn’t caused by what you’re doing or what is happening around you but instead comes from what you think about it. To help with those regular stressors, Ron suggested finding fun, or allowing yourself to have fun, to perform better. When you have fun, you’re more likely to do something good for yourself, he said.
He referenced Volkswagen’s old “Fun Theory” commercials as an example. Most passengers leaving a Subway station used an escalator, but after giant musical piano keys were installed on the stairs, people started taking the stairs so they could play the piano.
Ron encouraged everyone in the room to find more fun in their work for their own sake as well as for their patients. “We need you to keep doing what you’re doing,” he said in closing. “You’re providing something in the community that is so necessary.”