EP 83: Cultivating a Practice of True Play with Gary Ware

Uncategorized Jul 21, 2023


Do you have a relationship with play?

Do you integrate time to play into your life around work and rest?

Or does play feel elusive or like a luxury?

If it does, you’re not alone.

So many of us are weary and weighed down, trying to stay afloat while keeping up with life, work, and being engaged citizens. And we live in a culture that continues to prioritize work and productivity over play and rest.

But building a relationship with play can be an antidote to toxic hustle productivity. And play can help quiet the noise in our minds and temporarily distract us from our burdens, leaving us in a better place to come back and tackle them.

Today, I’m so excited to dig into the benefits of play with Gary Ware.

Gary Ware, the Founder of Breakthrough Play, is a corporate facilitator, keynote speaker, certified coach, and author of the book Playful Rebellion: Maximize Workplace Success Through The Power of Play. Gary has over 14 years of experience in the corporate world holding various leadership positions. Gary also comes with nearly a decade of experience as a performer in improv theater.

After experiencing burnout in his pursuit for success and happiness, he realized that what was missing was play. Committing to a life of play is what led Gary to discover his passion for facilitating. Gary uses the power of applied improvisation and other playful methods to assist people in unlocking creativity, confidence, and better communication. Gary was recently featured as one of the Top 100 HR influencers of 2021 by the Engagedly HR software platform. When Gary isn't leading workshops or speaking, you can find him learning magic or off on an adventure with his wife Courtney and sons Garrett and Cameron.



Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • Why Gary defines play as an accelerant
  • How we become play-deprived and how that contributes to burnout
  • Why adults need to reclaim play and rebel against productivity culture
  • Tips for bringing play into your work life and enlivening meetings
  • Why play needs to be an invitation and you can’t just book a ropes course 
  • Three major barriers to play and their antidotes
  • How to find micro moments of play and rest in your day


Learn more about Gary Ware:


Learn more about Rebecca:




Scroll Down for The Full Episode Transcript:

Gary Ware: We need to rebel positively, playfully so that we can be more productive, we can connect, we can be our true self and also get a lot of work done. It is possible for that to happen. You don't have to work first then play. You can have a playful environment. You can see the work as a very serious thing and not take yourself so seriously.

[Inspirational Intro Music]

Rebecca Ching: What is your relationship with play and how do you integrate your work with time for rest and play? Does play feel elusive or like a luxury these days? If so, you're not alone. In my work over the years, my clients have taught me our relationship to work mirrors our relationship to play. Right now, the people I talk with are weary. Now, they're determined, they're focused, they're committed, they're even hopeful but also incredibly weary, weighed down by a lot of pressure and expectations and trying to stay afloat. Y’all, I feel it too. So many of us have not been able to catch our breath from all that’s happened the last several years while trying to keep up the demands from family and work and trying to be an engaged citizen.

Now, I work with people who are making big shifts in their business and the way they do life right now, and they tell me they need to stop delaying play and rest and joy because working and grinding harder does not offer the relief they desire. But they also note how downshifting from productive work to meaningful play feels disorienting because they were taught play has no place at work. 

This recent quote from Hilton Carter, who is a director and an editor and a fine artist who is passionate about plants and demonstrates a lot of play and humor in his teachings on how we care for our plants, stood out to me. He said, “Running a small business can be challenging and tiresome and believe me we’re all walking the line of burnout and tranquility.”


Phew, so now, more than ever, we need to cultivate playful spaces real time, where we work and live in order to deepen our connections with Self and others while also supporting our wellbeing and rewiring our relationship to productivity and work.

I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with humans who navigate life’s challenges and lead in their own ways. Our goal is to learn how they address the burdens they carry, how they learn from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others. 

For the longest time, I believed work was synonymous with play. Work felt exciting. I wanted to keep doing it. It energized me. It challenged me. I developed deep friendships with people I worked with. Some I’m still in touch with today. My work with them, it felt like play, and I’ve been fortunate to work in places where I connected to the work on a personal level and worked alongside some brilliant and dedicated people.

I still feel that way today. I love what I do and who I work with every day, but for a long time, I could not sit still outside of work. Shifting out of work mode still challenges me. Ask some of my friends when they say, “Hello,” when we meet up for lunch, and I immediately dive deep into something heavy that I’ve been noodling with in my mind, and they're like, “Just wanted to know if you wanted to share an appetizer, Rebecca.” [Laughs]

Unless I was sick or deeply fatigued, relaxing, goofing around, making (oh, the horror) last-minute plans to do something I enjoyed instead of being productive in my career or with household chores or errands, well, it felt overwhelming and even wrong like there’s this moral meaning around wasting time and indulging.


I sometimes would hear this voice like, “Who do you think you are to be playing right now or resting right now?” 

So after establishing my private practice and my kids were old enough to be in school all day, I started to consolidate my schedule and have a day off of clients in the middle of the week. I still shake my head as I reflect on how hard it was for me to take a long lunch on that day or watch a show in the afternoon. It was during this time that I started to see the shadow side of my relationship to work and productivity and how my worth, value, and safety enmeshed with a toxic understanding of work that I’ve breathed in my whole life. 

Now, more recently, I made the commitment to pursue even more space on my calendar and in my inner system. I’ll be honest with you, the results feel a bit like a shit show at times, and play continues to be a bridge to help me navigate these shifts, things like live concerts, live music (oh, it’s medicine) or playing in my garden, beach time standing in the waves for hours on end, Cornhole and games of Uno, or playing catch with my dogs, or making up stories with my kids based on random words or things that catch our attention all continue to be medicine as I detox from toxic productivity and recalibrate my boundaries around my work, that I deeply love and value. I see how my relationship with work feels like an inner mosh pit rebelling against sitting with all that I’m feeling and thinking and “need to do,” right, let alone the weight of all that’s happening in the world, the discomfort, the unknown, the stories that move around in my head.


When I feel a dip in my mood or feel overwhelmed or just stuck in those blahs (that blah, blasé feeling), I do a quick play inventory and usually see that I’m in a play deficit, which reminds me of this quote by play scholar Brian Sutton-Smith who says, “The opposite of play is not work, but it’s depression.” I notice how work can sweep in and quickly quiet the noise between my ears and distract from the burdens my system is carrying, but so can play.

Another play scholar Dr. Stewart Brown named seven properties of play in his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. He talks about play that’s full of purposelessness (that’s a big word), and he talks about play that’s voluntary in nature. So hear this all of you planning play now, no forced play. [Laughs] It's inherent attraction. People want to do it.

Dr. Brown talks about how we get this freedom from our sense of time when we play. What a gift, right? One of my favorites is the diminished self-consciousness of play along with improvisational potential and this desire to continue it. Of late, I’ve been most drawn to the improvisational play where there are no schedules or plans on how to do things. It’s something I’m noticing as I create more space in my life, and that’s why I’m so excited to talk with today’s Unburdened Leader guest.

Gary Ware is the founder of Breakthrough Play and the author of the book Playful Rebellion: Maximize Workplace Success Through the Power of Play. Gary has over 14 years of experience in the corporate world holding various leadership positions. Being a multifaceted individual, Gary also comes with nearly a decade of experience as a performer in improv theatre.


After experiencing burnout in his pursuit for success and happiness, Gary realized that what was missing was play. Committing to a life of play is what led Gary to discover his passion for facilitating.

Gary uses the power of applied improvisation and other playful methods to assist people in unlocking creativity, confidence, and better communication. Gary was recently featured as one of the top 100 HR Influencers of 2021 by The Engaged HR Software Platform, and when Gary isn't leading workshops or speaking, you can find him learning magic or off on an adventure with his wife Courtney and sons Garrett and Cameron.

Now, notice when Gary talks about play deficits and what we can do to avoid them. Pay attention to the barriers to play that Gary talks about and how we can protect ourselves and the spaces we work and lead in from defaulting to these common play barrier traps. And listen for the crossroad events that led Gary to pursue a career as an improv facilitator full time.

All right, y’all! Now, please welcome Gary Ware to The Unburdened Leader podcast. Gary, welcome!

Gary Ware: Hi! I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for having me! 

Rebecca Ching: Oh, thank you for coming on. We were just talking briefly before. I was so stoked to find out that you are also based here in San Diego. Really, when I first heard about your work, I was prepping for topics for the summertime and what do we do in the summer? Play. I was thinking I didn't play a lot. For me, as an adult, work was play. I had this ambition, and I got to do all these things until I had kids. [Laughs]


Then they kind of turned my life around and realized I’m like, “What is this inefficient thing that you're doing?” [Laughs]

Gary Ware: Yep.

Rebecca Ching: And really, it just forced me to get back to my roots of really what I did as a kid and to play. The more that I dig in, even with my clinical work, and see the importance of play as so foundational to our wellbeing, to relational, physical, mental, physical, spiritual wellbeing, it’s foundational. So I want to kick off and ask you how do you define play? What is play to you? 

Gary Ware: Well, play is such a broad spectrum of things. The thing that gets a lot of adults on edge is this definition of doing something for no reason other than the sake of just doing it, with no outcome at all. That’s so broad, and because of that, it’s often labeled as frivolous or a waste of time. However, there are other forms of play where it’s the ability to be so entrenched in what you're doing that you're able to connect on a deeper level with others. Time flies by. You're able to grow as a person and be the best version of yourself. That’s why when you were talking about your work, as you saw your work as play, yeah, that is a form of play if you do it right. And then it can turn into burnout and stuff like that.

Rebecca Ching: Hello. 

Gary Ware: But anyway, play is an activity, in my opinion. I call it the accelerant. It’s the fastest way to growth, as far as learning, it’s the fastest way to connect with someone, and it’s one of the fastest ways to really enjoy something. I think it was Aristotle, I could be wrong, but they said you can learn more about a person through an hour of play than a month of conversation, or something like that.


Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh. That's actually really, really true. And even their ability to play and to shift gears instead of just grind. It is an accelerant. I do a lot of leadership trainings, and I just got some feedback. We got feedback from the participants. I felt so seen. One of them was, “She just seemed so chatty. I liked her!” I was like, “Yes!” I did not want to be serious. I just wanted to chat. I didn't want to have to do all the muck of the work. But I think the part of me that felt so seen is because that often is seen as a negative, the just want to chat, connect, goof around, not be so serious, right? 

Well, in my prep for our conversation, I came across a term you used called play deprivation.

Gary Ware: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: So I want to actually have you define what that means to you and how does play deprivation show up in your life. 

Gary Ware: So, first off, before I talk about play deprivation, I want to say that we’re called neotenous creatures, as in we retain our juvenile features through adulthood, which means that we are wired for play, we are wired for playfulness. Because we often associate play as something that kids do, a waste of time, we cut that off. And so, play deprivation is just like anything else that you deprive yourself from. You start to be restless. Burnout can show up in that, moodiness, all of these things that are detrimental to us as a society, as community beings, it’s because we’re not allowing ourselves to be playful and to play. And so, that sometimes is the quickest way to alleviate symptoms of burnout is to bring that back into the equation.


Rebecca Ching: But we live in a world that has a lot of deprivation of play, right? We kind of look at it as an outlier. “Oh, they look like they're having so much fun.” It’s not cool to have fun doing what we’re supposed to do. Just bringing it back to you, when does play deprivation sneak up on you and in your life, even with all that you do? [Laughs]

Gary Ware: Yes, this is one of those things where I tell everyone, “Look, I know all the signs. I’ve experienced it, and it still happens to me,” and it happens when I overlook the warning signs. When I start to say, “Oh, you know what? I’ve got to do some work,” and then I start missing things, like I’ll skip this workout, I’ll skip this meditation.

Rebecca Ching: Ah. 

Gary Ware: You know, my son will pop back, “Hey, dada, can we play?” I’m like, “No, no, no, I’ve got to do some work,” you know? When I start doing things like that, it’s gonna start to sort of pile up. When I’m not having proper sleep, proper rest -- I talk about this in my book, in that we don't necessarily -- I know it’s suggested eight hours or whatnot. I’m just saying for the amount of sleep that you get, is it restful sleep or are you the type that the battery drains to zero, you're passed out in your bed with your cellphone in one hand and then you’ve been working and you're not really truly resting because you're thinking about all these things that you have to do and you wake up exhausted.

So when that starts to happen, when you're doing more all-nighters than you probably should be doing, that’s when it's going to start to build up. And it happens to me. I don't think it’s possible to completely cut those things out. Stress sometimes is a good thing in moderation, but when it becomes more of the norm and it happens on such a low amount that it’s unnoticeable until it’s too late.

Rebecca Ching: It’s a slow creep.

Gary Ware: Yeah.


Rebecca Ching: It’s a slow creep. Now I’m thinking my son has been on me to play chess, and, I mean, I feel like for chess I need space, and I’m like, “I need space to do this.” he’s like, “No, just five minutes. I want to teach.” I’m like I’m not gonna learn chess in five minutes, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s not about me learning it. It’s about me playing with my son. We had a little bit of a conflict last weekend, and he’s like, “When are you gonna --.” He did something really wrong, and out of nowhere he was like, “When are you gonna play chess with me?” And I was like, oh, dang. He needs some time. That’s a sign for me that we need that too. 

So it’s amazing how play deprivation creeps up on us, but there is this thing also. It’s not cool. If I’m being a goofball -- or for me, play is being a goofball. I’m not wearing my therapist hat or my coach hat or my mom hat, you know? I am dance-partying and making my kids go, “Mom, stop,” you know? That to me is probably more of my -- but there are not a lot of spaces to play. There isn't a lot of invitation for play.

From your work and your research and even your book you touch on this, but why don't you share a little bit about why you think play deprivation is kind of more the norm these days?

Gary Ware: It’s the environment. We create environments that are not susceptible to play, and in those environments people don't feel like they can be themselves or in those environments, it’s too much stress. Or maybe there are unspoken rules that, “Hey, you do this here. This is not approved.” Especially here in The States, we have this sort of hustle culture where it’s, “Hey, you need to rise and grind. Work, work, work. You’ll sleep when you're dead.” That is not conducive to play.

Now, you bring up a good point as far as different types of play and playfulness. Dr. Stewart Brown, in his book Play, he talks about this a lot of there are different play personalities. The joker is the one that is often synonymous with play, you know, goofing around and whatnot. Now, to that point, you don't want your surgeon to be like, “Hey! Look what I just pulled out of you!” 

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] No.


Gary Ware: Doing a magic trick. But at the same time, you don't want your surgeon to be so uptight and stressed out that they're gonna make a mistake. So there has to be this equilibrium, and there’s a lot of research that shows that teams that create space for goofing around, teams that play pranks on each other (they do it in respectful ways), they actually grow closer. However, to my point is that the environment is not conducive to that, so people don't think that they have permission to act that way, and therefore, they don't. Because they -- I have this belief that the environment always wins. You can have the best intentions in the world, but if you're put in an environment that’s not susceptible to that, it can’t breathe. 

Rebecca Ching: You're right. I’m a DC and a Marvel fan, but I’m just thinking about the Joker, right? One of his kind of insidious comments is, “Why so serious,” right? 

Gary Ware: Right. 

Rebecca Ching: This is complete literal archetype of a sociopath who was so deeply abused. So he played with hurting people deeply. But that sense that not being serious is forboden, right? I mean, being a joker can be disruptive, you know, to a sense, but just stop taking ourselves so seriously. That’s something I just really try to do. 

I want to take you back in time.

Gary Ware: Yeah! Let’s go! Rewinding.

Rebecca Ching: Rewinding! So I heard a story, and again, in prepping for our conversation. Let me know if I’m getting any of this -- correct me if I miss anything.

Gary Ware: Yeah. 

Rebecca Ching: But I want to go back to when you were in your late thirties, because I still was thinking about this. When it rains it pours. You had a young baby, and you just received the news that your business partner, your cofounder, wanted to buy you out of the company that you both developed, and on the same day you received the news that you had to move out of the home you were living in because it was gonna be sold. So you made plans to move back home with your parents. So what were you thinking during this time, and how did your study of play -- because it was kind of a side hustle at the time -- help you go all in with this new venture? First, just tell me what were you thinking when you had this perfect storm?


Gary Ware: I was in shock, to be honest, because if I can tell you what happened before that -- yes, you're right, when it rains it pours. But I was oblivious to it because I thought -- actually just a few days before that, I was in Nicaragua leading a retreat, and it was a play-based, play-venture retreat. Again, this play stuff that I did, facilitation and whatnot, was just a hobby. It was a side hustle. It was something I was interested in. Yes, I was taking all the learnings and applying it to the team that was for the business that I ran, but I would do all these other things. 

And so, it was my birthday week, and me and another facilitator were in Nicaragua. It was our last night there, and I was looking at this beautiful sunset. We were on the beach. There were baby turtles coming from the nest, waddling down to the ocean. It was beautiful. I literally was almost in tears. I was like, “Wow! I get to do this. I am fortunate enough to have an environment that allowed me to do this,” because I had a decent salary. I was running this business. I had flexibility for that. Little did I know that was the calm before the storm because, yes, that Monday when I was checking in with my business partner, he told me that, yeah, he was gonna be buying me out.


He owned 90% of the company. His choice. There were only two partners, so he had most of the stuff like that, and then, yes, right after that we got the call that they were selling our house and we had about a month and a half to move.

And so, I was shocked. I was completely shocked of, like, what do I do? My wife’s not working, we have an almost-one-year-old, and in that moment, as far as play, play’s extinguished, and that’s just how we are as creatures. When we’re stressed, we can't play. But the challenge is we can't access creativity either because we’re in that fight, flight, or freeze, so we’re operating from our limbic system (our lizard brain), and we’re not able to access the creativity and the possibilities and whatnot. But fortunate for me on a few things, one, I had the support of my family. They were like, “Hey, come on. You can move back in,” and then I had the support of my wife. And sometimes it takes someone outside of you to see something that you don't see, and she was the one that suggested, “Hey, how about you sort of double down on this?”

I guess maybe the sane thing would have been to go get another agency job. You know, I, at this point, had over a decade of experience working in that world, and I probably could have gone and tapped into my network and probably had gotten another job. But there was a little bit of shame because I left a very cush job to start this agency, and I was so excited. I was like, “We’re gonna change the world!” And no, it ended up being a lot more of the same.

So nonetheless, yeah, there was a lot of shame, but my wife, she was the one who really supported me and said, “Hey, I think you can do this. I think you can figure this out.” On top of that, talk about the play, she noticed a difference in me when I would do the retreats and when I’d do these workshops, how I would come back invigorated, full of joy and life compared to I would be in a client meeting or something and come back just exhausted. 


So it was a noticeable difference. And so, yeah, that was the catalyst that put me on the journey that allowed us to be having this conversation here today.

Rebecca Ching: It is so powerful how our people can be the mirrors to us even when we don't like what they're reflecting back. Because I really do see my husband and my kids as kind of my barometer too. When they reflect back on how I’m doing, we’re in it, right? We’re kind of like the frog in the boiling water sometimes, and we’re just doing the thing, and then they reflect back and we’re like, “No! No, I’m not upset!” And I’m like, “Oh, wait.” [Laughs] “Yes I am,” you know? 

Gary Ware: Yep.

Rebecca Ching: And even just like, “Wow, that seemed really stressful,” or, “You actually are really happy. I haven’t seen you this happy or joyful in a while,” and having that feedback from someone you trust. Having those folks in our life, I can think of every pivotal moment I’ve made has probably been connected to someone also mirroring, reflecting, giving some feedback. And so, that really is crucial.

And so noticing that you were having fun with it, it’s interesting though how you didn't see it, that you were having a blast with your side hustle/hobby, but that you were super all in with grinding at the agency job. What was in the way of you connecting the dots with how much you were loving this work that you were doing in the play space and coaching and consulting around play versus your job? What got in the way of you seeing that before your wife pointed out this fact?

Gary Ware: To be honest, I think it’s society in that, going back to what you were saying before of how as a greater whole we think that in order for it to be meaningful it has to be hard. “Hard work!” 

Rebecca Ching: Yes! 


Gary Ware: “We have to work hard,” and, “You shouldn't be having that much fun,” you know? “That’s ‘a hobby.’” and then also one of those things of, “Well, that’s what I went to school for, so that’s what I should be doing as my career. Why should I start over,” or anything like that. Even though if I was honest with myself, I would realize, oh, yeah, with the agency, the first couple of years were great. It was the honeymoon, but then that’s why I didn't see the writing on the wall. That’s why I was oblivious to when my business partner was like, “No, I’m doing this,” and then come to find out a few months later I got word from someone who was in the sort of same circles that he was trying to sell the agency, and I was like, “Oh. Oh, interesting.” Again, I was oblivious. So lesson learned, but yeah, I think the main thing is I didn't think I deserved that to be my career. 

Rebecca Ching: You know, it’s interesting. I’m sitting here thinking about play deprivation and the shoulds that we all carry and how they feed each other.

Gary Ware: They do.

Rebecca Ching: Right? The shoulds. It’s interesting how the shoulds of you're not supposed to enjoy what you do, and if you do, what’s wrong. There’s this weird thing. I think we’re in a time right now where the tide is turning on that, but at least that’s what I was raised with. So thanks for sharing that. 

So I want to talk about how you wrote a book titled Playful Rebellion.

Gary Ware: Yes. Yay! 

Rebecca Ching: So walk me through your thought process of a playful rebellion and then what led to your need for a playful rebellion.

Gary Ware: Yes, so the reason why it’s called a Playful Rebellion is, when I said at the top that us, humans, we’re wired for play, however when we become adults we think it’s a frivolous activity, it’s ingrained in us. It’s in our DNA. There are things like the promise of work ethic and all these other things that have been there, that are telling us that as adults we should work very hard.


We don't have to enjoy the work that we’re doing. Play is just for kids. The main thing is, yes, there are some people that do all of that stuff, and they're very successful, and they live a very rewarding life, and things like that. Again, the old thing was like, “Oh, you know what? There are only 20-something years and then you can retire.” Well, guess what? That’s not a guarantee. Also, it’s not guaranteed that you're going to live that long, so why are you waiting to enjoy yourself?

And so, companies and people as a whole are trying to optimize. “Hey, how can I get more productivity? How can I do all these other things?” Guess what? The answer’s been staring us in the face. It’s play. However, because we have so much adversity to play, just because I know the data and all this other stuff, I'm still going to have some resistance. So we need to rebel. That’s where the rebellion comes from. We need to rebel positively, playfully so that we can be more productive, we can connect, we can be our true self and also get a lot of work done. It is possible for that to happen. You don't have to work first then play. You can have a playful environment. You can see the work as a very serious thing and not take yourself so seriously, and then as a result, you can definitely reap the benefits.

So that’s sort of like the thing of why we need a playful rebellion. Where does this come from me of the same thing of, “Man, I’m reaching burnout all the time.” And, again, I thought that was a thing. I was like, “Oh, adulthood. When you reach adulthood, you just burn yourself out on the daily, and it’s a badge of honor to talk about how much you work because that’s just what we do. 


It wasn't until I took an improv class. Again, my background is not in theatre. It’s not in any of that, and it’s very ironic and funny. My reason for taking the improv class had nothing to do with joy. It had everything to do with optimization. I wanted to be better at public speaking. I wanted to be better at my job. I wanted to get a promotion, and I found out through a mentor that an improv class is that path. 

I didn't want to take an improv class. I was actually scared. I was like, “Why do I need to do this?” But I did, and that first class, those first two hours were so amazing. I like to say you never forget your first improv class, if it’s done right. Others you're kind of awkward and anyways. But nonetheless, for me it was such a magical experience because for two hours we were just playing. We were playing these silly games. But it was a lot of fun. I was completely focused. I wasn't thinking about my to-do list. I wasn't thinking about all the things I had to do at work. I wasn't thinking about the stressors of life. I was just in that moment.

I tell this story a lot, but it’s very funny. I go home, and my wife, after this first improv class, thought I was drunk, thought I went drinking or something afterwards because I was just so bubbly and full of joy, and I was just so happy. And then I was excited. Come Sunday, I was excited for Monday (when most people aren't excited for the beginning of the work week) because I, that evening, had improv class. So that was the eye-opening thing of, “Oh, it doesn't have to be this way.” And then I started bringing these activities to my colleagues, my workmates, and we were having more fun. On top of that, we were still getting a lot of work done, and we had high levels of psychological safety. All these things I learned later.


I didn't know what I know now, but it was fun, and that’s the thing with play. Play is inherently pleasurable, and it’s something that you want to share. It’s something that you want to involve other people with.

So that was the thing, and then after that, then I realized, “Oh, there’s a better way of doing things other than needing to be a curmudgeon all the time.

Rebecca Ching: I’m curious. You talked about you sort of bringing these principles back to work, and you would start engaging them with your colleagues, and you would have fun, and you would still get a lot of work done. Can you kind of walk me through what a day would look like if you were changing things up, where you were involving play but also getting a lot of work done?

Gary Ware: One example is I worked at a digital marketing agency. We had some very high-profile clients, and these high-profile clients, because they spent a lot with us, their expectation was that they had us under lock and key, they can do whatever they want, and it is what it is. And so, we had this client that we would have meetings with, and they essentially would just use us as their punching bag, and it was so demeaning. No one liked those meetings. No one liked working on that account. It was the account that I inherited, so it is what it is. 

And so, what we would do before we would get on a call is we would play an improv game just as a way to, you know what, we just need something fun because the next hour is going to be relentless. What we didn't realize is that that game, like some of the games that we played, the goal of the game is to help you see things from a different perspective. And so, it opened us up for seeing things from a different perspective. So that was another thing. Two, it filled our body up with all of those happy chemicals like dopamine, endorphins, serotonin. So we trusted each other. We felt safe. We felt creative.


And then the meetings were still the meetings. The client was still the client. However, we were able to get through it, and then afterwards we weren't depleted. So, therefore, after that meeting typically we would be so not productive for the rest of the day because, again, we were beat up for an hour. And so, we don't have the motivation to jump back into work. But after that, we got through it. Again, it was an unconscious thing. We just got back to work. We still, again, have very high expectations on the work that we had to do. They were spending millions of dollars with us. So we did not neglect our work. As a matter of fact, like I said, we were more productive.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Gary Ware: And also we were able -- some of these improv principles that you learn by playing these games, you can’t unlearn them. So we were listening even more intently, and we were able to, it was almost like a Jedi mind trick sort of thing where, over time, she actually got more calm. 

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Gary Ware: Maybe because we heard her better, we were able to have empathy, and we were able to sort of get this client to be more reasonable over time. 

[Inspirational Music]

Rebecca Ching: Leading is hard. Leading is also often controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, your boundaries. Navigating the inevitable controversy can challenge your confidence, clarity, and calm. Now, I know you don’t mind making the hard decisions, but sometimes the stakes seem higher and can bring up echoes of old doubts and insecurities during times when you need to feel rock solid on your plan and action. Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex and polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing at safe and small.


Now, leading today is not a fancy title or fluff or bragging rights, and it doesn't have to be so serious either, but it is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is so unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up. Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to keep the protector of cynicism at bay and foster a hope that is playful, actionable, and aligned. 

And when the stakes are high and you don't want to lose focus, when you want to navigate inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions with confidence and clarity, then Unburdened Leader Coaching is for you and where you want to deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.

To start your Unburdened Leader Coaching process with me go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free connection call. I can’t wait to hear from you!

[Inspirational Music] 

So, one, play is medicine. Play is an antidote. It helps with endurance in getting through hard things, and that you had a bit of a crash after those toxic, hard meetings, but it didn't take you out because you pregamed with play. But that also deepened connection, and where there’s connection there’s trust, and when you have trust, you can do just about anything on a team. So I’m loving this. 

So, okay, I want to get a little granular on what is a playful rebellion with the meeting? I blew a fuse on meetings when I worked in DC. I hit a wall, and, to this day, I still have to do some of them, but there was a meeting for freaking everything.


Now, we’ve got a lot more meetings on Zoom. Zoom is more normal or some sort of online screen time. So what does a playful rebellion look like in action, especially around our horrible meetings? [Laughs]

Gary Ware: Yes. So, to that point, it’s all about looking at the social norms and how can we flip them on its head? A typical meeting is -- let’s take a typical Zoom meeting. People just sort of check in and there like, “Hmm,” you know, just not doing their thing, and, “All right, we’ve got to get to work. All right, listen, let’s get down to business.” Then there’s like, “What?” How you can sort of flip that on its head is imagine this: you have some music playing as people are coming in. Just some light music. Nothing too crazy. And before you get into the work, I love how you said you pregamed with play. I’m gonna start using that. But what if you did some sort of check in? 

So there is a game that I like to do called That’s Me or True For Me where it’s just simple questions like, “Hey, who’s a cat lover? Is this true for you?” “That’s me! That’s me!” And it’s really quick, and it seems silly. However, it has some powerful ramifications. One, it’s allowing everyone to be seen and heard, and you’re disclosing something that is personal to you. And so, as a result, you're building trust.

Rebecca Ching: You got it.

Gary Ware: Now, we can jump into this meeting and be very effective. And so, that, again, it’s different than the typical meetings where it’s like, “Oh, we’ve got to get to business and this, that, and the other.” Especially virtual meetings nowadays, you have no idea where someone came from. Where were they right before this meeting? Maybe it was something difficult or maybe they're a little burnt out, so doing something to allow everyone to sort of acclimate to each other, attune to each other really allows the meeting to be that much more productive. It seems like it’s a waste of time but, no, it’s very meaningful.


Rebecca Ching: That’s one of my favorite openers. I have a slightly different take on it, but I love that one. “Keep your camera on if this is you,” right?

Gary Ware: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: So okay, but I have been through these forced-play experiences early in my career. We’d go to a retreat and go do a ropes course. All of a sudden I’m with these folks. It was weird. Folks I’d never seen in khakis. They’d always been in suits, you know? Then all of a sudden we’re doing -- again, this is so stereotypical, but the trust fall. It was like this hotwiring vulnerability, you know? I dreaded that stuff. But this is the stuff that’s fun. A little bit of music. I mean, the research is deep and wide on music and the impact on our wellbeing and on community and connection.

Can you speak a little bit to folks that think it’s play but they're doing this stuff that they just need to stop in the name of we’re gonna bond and have this retreat, and it’s weird and awkward. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Gary Ware: I know exactly what you're talking about.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, so, yeah, I’d love for you to speak to that.

Gary Ware: So, to that point, they’re making my work that much more challenging but in a good -- so it’s making it challenging, but then when I do what I do, it actually --

Rebecca Ching: They're like, “Phew!” [Laughs]

Gary Ware: Yes. So, hey, you do you, buckaroo. I’ll do me. But so the thing is play is something that we need to be invited into.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. 

Gary Ware: Like, if you're sort of coerced into it, you may do it, but it’s not true play. And so, how I would do something like that differently -- there’s a lot of research that shows that, yes, if people are willing to do a ropes course together, and you get outside your comfort zone, that’s great.


But however, that’s not cool for everyone. Everyone’s not into that. And so, how can we attune to each other first, do something and build up to that maybe. Maybe do something as far as building trust. You're not really gonna build that much trust by, “Hey, I’m gonna force everyone to do this thing,” and people are like, “Really?” They may say that they are, but afterwards they’re disgruntled and then they're thinking about these activities. So how can we do something on a lower level that is inviting to people? How can we use inviting language in allowing people to self-select and say, “Yeah, yeah, you know what, yeah, I would like to be into this.” And then as people get more attuned to each other, as people feel more comfortable, then maybe we can take it to the next level. But they saw somewhere, they read on Harvard Business Review that, “Teams that are in danger with each other, they grow,” and blah, blah, blah. Really?

So my things tend to be more on the goofier side, tend to be on the low-stress -- it doesn't mean that I’m not gonna get you outside of your comfort zone. But I start everything very simple, and I want to resonate with everyone. I want everyone to feel like, “Oh, all right, cool. This is doable. We’re working together. This is doable,” and then I’ll crank it up a notch. But I want everyone to step together. And then by the end, when, as a collective group, we feel more trust with each other, then we can do something a little bit more out there, but I would never start with that.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, it’s a scaffolding. I love the piece that -- it’s an invitation because it’s consent.

Gary Ware: Yes. Yes.

Rebecca Ching: And without consent, we’re doing harm.

Gary Ware: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: And then it becomes performative, and there’s this sense of, “Oh, if I don't give my A-game to this forced activity, I might get hurt in my job or I might --,” you know? So then that’s not the intention, and you're reading the room, and you scaffold into that. So I just wanted to name that. 

Gary Ware: Please, thank you. I love this! Yes!

Rebecca Ching: What are some of the most common barriers of play, and then what would you say are their antidotes?


Gary Ware: Yeah, the first barrier to play is thinking that there’s only one type of play.

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.

Gary Ware: Whether it’s, “Oh, sports!” or goofing off, and then the antidote to that is to realize that there are multiple forms of play, and not every form of play is ideal for everyone or every situation. So taking something like Dr. Stewart Brown’s analysis of what’s your play personality and then using that as a starting point for exploring. So that is one of the other things. 

The other one is most people don't think they have enough time. You even mentioned it too --

Rebecca Ching: Oh, I did.

Gary Ware: -- with chess because, again, as adults, we have this sort of perception of we’re all in. Chess.

Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh. I know. I know. I know this, but I’m like, “I fell for it!” I’m like, “I don't have to learn chess. I just need to be with my son!”

Gary Ware: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] 

Gary Ware: So for people who say, “Oh, I don't have enough time to play,” I say, “You do. It’s just that you aren't creating the space to at least get started.”

Rebecca Ching: Ugh, so true.

Gary Ware: Also there are just a few things there. One, realizing that you can have a playful moment in five minutes. And so, this is where I invite people, when they're in a good mood because I feel like you’re able to generate more ideas when you're in a good mood -- when you're in a good mood, just list the things that bring you joy and potentially how long it takes. And then put a five-minute slot on your calendar, and when you get there, just pull out your play list. What is something that you can do that is gonna bring you joy? It doesn't have to be so involved. It’s like, “All right. Five minutes.” For me, personally --

Rebecca Ching: Gosh, we complicate things, don't we? [Laughs] 


Gary Ware: We do. I have, within an arm’s reach (actually, both directions), a bag of LEGOs. For me, I like the kinesthetic putting things together. I’m not necessarily doing anything grandiose, but it’s getting my mind off of what I’m doing. I’m using my hands. I can tinker with that for five minutes. I’m good. For others, maybe it is a book, a non-fiction book, that they have on their Kindle or something like that where, look, instead of scrolling social media, maybe replace the spot that your Instagram app is on your phone with your Kindle app, and so, when you have that response to go and click that, you click and open Kindle and just read two pages. 

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Gary Ware: So time. Time is a big one. Time and perception, those are the big ones that keep people from playing. The other one is, “Oh, I’m too old.” But let’s just be honest. You're not too old.

Rebecca Ching: No. No, for me, and this is probably stereotypical, but a dance party. I’ve got a couple different playlists. And again, I mortify my kids, but it also is a form of play because I can't wait to see how many eyerolls I’ll get. I think it might be some sort of Gen X mom thing in doing weird dance-party moves to -- 

Gary Ware: I love it. 

Rebecca Ching: -- eighties music because I’m starting to find other moms that do this. I’m like I won't film myself, but I’ll watch other moms doing it. There’s something about the movement. For me, I’ve found my garden has become play, and designing spaces has become a feeling of play. I didn't realize how much creating physical spaces was play. I just kind of thought, “Oh, I’m not a designer. That’s not me,” and then once I leaned into it, I had these images that I had to download into the spaces. And so, once I lay into that, and I thought, you're right because I’m like, “Okay, I’ve got ten minutes. I’m gonna go try and figure out what I want to do with this little corner here in the yard,” and the old piece, though, it’s still prevalent. It’s still prevalent, but we’re gonna continue to push back on that one because it is a state of mind.


Gary Ware: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: Our bodies do age. [Laughs]

Gary Ware: Yes, that’s true.

Rebecca Ching: But it is a state of mind.

Gary Ware: So, to that point, someone that I was working with over the pandemic, that was their realization. because their form of play was travel, and that was --

Rebecca Ching: Oh, [Laughs] wow.

Gary Ware: And they were experiencing a lot of languishing, borderline depression and whatnot. Their therapist told them, “Hey, you need to find a new outlet,” and so, that’s how we got introduced, and we were chatting about, “How did you play when you were younger?” Then they were like, “Oh, I played with dolls. I’m not gonna go buy a Barbie.” I said, “I don't want you to buy a Barbie if that’s not your jam, but let’s unpack this. What did it mean to you, playing with Barbies? What did it signify?” Then she said, “Well, it was very nurturing. I always wanted to be a mom, so that was my thing.” I said, “Is there something else you can nurture?” Then we were brainstorming, and plants was the thing.

At first, she had this limiting belief of, “Oh, I don't think I can take care of a plant.” Then I said, “Is there a plant that you can’t kill?” She found succulents was the thing. So she started with one, and now she has over 250, 2.5 years later.

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] She is nurturing!

Gary Ware: Lots of nurture!

Rebecca Ching: She is nurturing!

Gary Ware: But to that point, all that free time -- 

Rebecca Ching: That’s awesome.

Gary Ware: -- was like, “Oh, let me research how to propagate them. Ooh, I want to make the space look nice.”

Rebecca Ching: Yep.

Gary Ware: That became, again, her form of play. And so, what happened is she was able to get into a state of flow because she was focusing on that. She had a sense of purpose with it, and it brought her joy.


Rebecca Ching: Mm, I love it. You touched on rest a little bit at the beginning of our conversation, and, again, the research is very clear. There’s a big connection between rest and play. There’s this quote in your book Playful Rebellion that stood out to me. I’m gonna read it real quick. You wrote: “People feel it’s their duty to work hard, and they feel guilty if they don't. We tend to tie our self-worth with our productivity. If we don't put in all the extra hours when we’re not producing for our employers, we don't feel like we’re as good as the people who do. It’s the mindset that’s been handed down (maybe even more than a mindset) and engrained since people started working, and if left to our own devices, we’ll work ourselves right into an early grave.” 

Again, I think we’re in a reckoning around grind culture and rest. I think people are curious about this but go, “But can I?” And there’s also a lot going on. I think more than a mindset, there are also a lot of burdens to even just make ends meet and even basic is hard to play, like you said, if you don't feel safe, right? There’s a lot of stuff going on in our world. I still think it’s important to talk about, like you mentioned, the different types of rest. I’m wondering how you incorporate rest into your personal play practices and even how you teach them. 

Gary Ware: Yes, oh, my gosh. That, for me, has been a new sort of frontier because, again, in that grind culture it was like, “Oh, I don't need sleep. I need to be productive, so I’m gonna get up as early as I can,” and blah, blah, blah. No. It’s lame. Once I got some really good rest, I was like, “Ooh, this is amazing. I need more of this,” and then we had kids, and then I miss that?

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]


Gary Ware: Then I talk about quality. So, for me, and I talk about this in the book first thing: macro. Macro is sleep, and I work with people that consider themselves recovering workaholics, and they're like, “I can't sleep eight hours. My body won't let me,” and I said, okay, meet them where they are. “How many hours do you sleep? And is it restful? Is it completely restful?” I talk about creating a, I forgot where I read this, but it was like a bedroom palace, a place where it’s very inviting. Do you have, if it works for you, the blackout curtains or do you have the comfy sheets? Are you creating a wind-down routine? It’s funny the things that we use with our children, they still are applicable as adults.

Rebecca Ching: And I would think, too, that rest isn't just sleep, right? Sometimes it’s just staring at the wall.

Gary Ware: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: Sometimes it could be watching a show, not completely numbing out. It could be just doing something small, right? It’s almost like this bridge to play, too, right?

Gary Ware: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: Because it’s not just sleeping. 

Gary Ware: Yes, and so, that’s the micro rest. So the macro is the sleeping. The micro are those moments in between work and other things where you're giving your brain and body a chance to rejuvenate. And so, yeah, I ask people often, “All right, in between meetings and stuff like that, what do you do?” Most people are like, “I don't know.” And then I ask them, “All right, over the next week, keep track of those moments. What happens in those moments?”

Rebecca Ching: Ooh! Like a rest and play inventory? Like what do you do in between those little moments? Oh, I’m gonna do that! Oh, my gosh. I’m gonna have my whole family do that.

Gary Ware: So a number of people find themselves like, “Oh, yeah, I check email or I scroll here or I do this,” and those things --

Rebecca Ching: Right?

Gary Ware: Yeah! Small moments that aren’t --

Rebecca Ching: Add up.


Gary Ware: Yeah, and they add up and they're not conducive to just overall good brain health and productivity. And so, instead of having five minutes and scrolling on social media, I have this beautiful view out of my window right here. I can see our bird feeders, and the sun is starting to come out. It’s nice. So I will sit there and just sort of just zone out and we’re good, and then you get back into the default mode of the brain where you're starting to sort of be creative and stuff. However, it is one of those things you have to give yourself permission because that does not seem like a good use of time. 

Rebecca Ching: Yeah. Yeah.

Gary Ware: But those micro moments are crucial. Then the last thing that, in this grind/hustle culture that most people don't really think of, and these are like meso breaks. These are stepping away from the work for an extended period of time. We don't all have the luxury to take sabbaticals. I’m excited for the day where that is a possibility for me, just not yet. However, I had to reframe the situation, and one of the things that I worked on was what I call meso Fridays, is to be done with work by noon so I can spend the rest of the afternoon doing something creative and something fun and whatnot. Oftentimes, it was just sort of errands and stuff, but it’s all good. That gave me some space so that on the weekends I’m more present for the kids.

Rebecca Ching: Exactly.

Gary Ware: But people are working through the weekends and stuff. This is all about intentionality. Do you have a time that you can step away from your work? Trust me, the work will still be there, you know? It is possible.

One quick story. It’s sort of sad, but there’s a big sort of lesson. A good friend of mine ended up getting really sick and had to take some time off from work and was really stressed out about what’s gonna happen when they return. It turns out the work was still there.


Her team helped her pick up the slack, and everyone was there to support, but it’s that culture of that you have to be there or else everything's gonna fall apart. And when she was really reflecting she was like, “It was like my body had to tell me some way,” and that’s the unfortunate thing is let’s not wait until we have a serious injury before we start to put some of these into place.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. You know, you brought up presence, and I’m like I can't rest if I’m not present. I can't play if I’m not present. But both of those are catalysts to help me be more present. It’s this interesting piece, but I can numb out. I can have the spectrum of dissociation. But that’s not restful. That’s protection. And so, I feel like this is some nuance here that I’m gonna be rumbling with. Thank you for that.

So I guess I just want to wrap up because you’ve evolved in your own career and what success means for you. So I’m curious what success looks like for you today and how it’s different from when you were younger.

Gary Ware: Yeah, when I was younger, success was very sort of external. It was whether I got the raise or what’s the position or materialistic, like, “Oh, look, I bought these things, and that represents wealth,” and stuff like that. Now, as I’m more mature in my sort of state of being -- I’m not mature, but anyways. [Laughs] It’s more about impact. Did I do something that helped someone else out?

Matter of fact, on a daily basis, I have sort of an affirmation that I read to myself, and it’s like, “What can I do to show kindness to someone? What is one small thing?” 


That’s something that I don't always plan it out, but I say it to myself as a way to just sort of put that intention into my head of, “Oh,” coming from a place of empathy and whatnot. So, for me, I know that I’m successful if I am doing something that is contributing to something bigger than myself. I know maybe because we’re on the west coast and we’re in Southern California we’re all woo woo, but that’s for me, and I can live with that. That means that, yes, I can not always have to take the biggest contracts and things like that.

Now, don't get me wrong, this has been and seems like years in the making. Sometimes I do regress backwards, and then I have to remind myself, I’m like, “No, no, no. We’re good. Stay the course.”

Rebecca Ching: Mm, so it is interesting because I’m a very competitive person, and so, there’s something about ambition and entrepreneurship that can kind of feel like play, and then it has its shadow side. So quickly it can just go there. But I appreciate that too.

So this is great. I feel like we could talk about so much more. Are you okay if we wrap up with some quickfire questions?

Gary Ware: Please bring ‘em! 

Rebecca Ching: All right! So what are you reading right now, Gary?

Gary Ware: Phew! What am I reading? Oh, it’s actually right here on my best. This is an amazing book by Genein Letford. I just met her at an awesome conference, and it’s The 7 Gems of Intercultural Creativity.

Rebecca Ching: Ooh!

Gary Ware: Genein talks about how, if we want to have diversity (diversity of thought and stuff like that) and be creative, we need to consider all these things. And so, each of these gems is a different sort of practice. And so, I just broke into it. I just got it. 

Rebecca Ching: Nice!


Gary Ware: I’m just breaking the surface. I saw her speak at a conference that I was at in Santa Barbara called The Epic International Summit, and her talk just blew me right open on all of that stuff. And so, so far a really great book, and that’s what I’m reading.

Rebecca Ching: I can't wait to check it out. What song are you playing on repeat?

Gary Ware: [Sigh] Oh, oh, my gosh. Embarrassing. It’s the “Peaches” song from The Mario Brothers movie that Jack Black sings. 

Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh. Jack Black, yes!

Gary Ware: It’s so silly, but I love that song, and it brings me so much joy. 

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Oh, I’ve got to check it out. What is the best TV show or movie that you’ve seen recently?

Gary Ware: Ted Lasso, hands down!

Rebecca Ching: Oh, hands down. I know, where I’m at at this recording, there’s one more episode left of the season, I believe. So I’m having a moment.

Gary Ware: No, we have three. The season’s longer.

Rebecca Ching: We have three? 

Gary Ware: It’s, I think, gonna be 12 episodes, so we have 3 more. 

Rebecca Ching: Okay, that feels better because this was like, “What is gonna happen?” Okay, this feels better to my nervous system. Thank you.

Gary Ware: You're welcome.

Rebecca Ching: Exhale. Okay. Not everyone relates to this, but I’m a big eighties pop culture person. Do you have a favorite eighties movie or piece of pop culture?

Gary Ware: Oh, my gosh! Ahh, yes! 

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]

Gary Ware: Ah, you're my people. Oh, okay, all right.

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]

Gary Ware: Where do I start? Real Genius

Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh, yes. Real Genius

Gary Ware: Real Genius. That popcorn scene?

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Gary Ware: It’s like just amazing --

Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh.

Gary Ware: -- when the house is -- they pull that prank, and then the laser comes in, pops all that popcorn, and the house is pretty much exploding.

Rebecca Ching: I think you touched on one of your mantras. I don't know if you have any, but what is your mantra right now?

Gary Ware: Yeah, the one about spreading kindness. Another one that -- I tend to be very competitive as well, so you're not alone there -- but it’s all about what can I do to be better than the person I was yesterday?

Rebecca Ching: Ah.


Gary Ware: And so, for me, the competition is instead of -- because I have a tendency to compete against other people, and as a way to keep myself laser-focused, I think about, all right, if I’m going to compete, let’s compete about myself with myself. 

Rebecca Ching: Yep.

Gary Ware: And how can I be better than I was yesterday? So then I have to keep that in check, but between the kindness -- so now I’m focusing on someone else, and the improving little by little every day, I feel like that’s a good yin and yang. 

Rebecca Ching: That is good. I appreciate that. I’ve found that I am much better when I’m competing against myself. That feels a little bit more contained.

Gary Ware: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: What is an unpopular opinion that you hold? 

Gary Ware: Ooh, I’m not a big fan of Star Trek. I know there are Trekkies out there. I just have tried it and I don't see that. So that’s just not my jam.

Rebecca Ching: That is a polarizing statement right there. That is a very polarizing statement. 

Gary Ware: Can we still be friends?

Rebecca Ching: Not as much for me, but for people I know, yes.

Gary Ware: [Laughs] 

Rebecca Ching: I actually hesitate to say those things because it can be -- same as Star Wars. Star Wars and Star Trek, it’s like get behind me, Satan. [Laughs]

Gary Ware: Yes, exactly! You know what? Those Star Trek nerds, it’s all good. Come at me. It’s cool.

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] You’ll play it out. And who or what inspires you to be a better leader and human? 

Gary Ware: My two boys. I have a six-year-old named Garrett and I have a nine-month-old, as of this recording, named Cameron, and they are so curious and creative, and they are going to be way smarter than their pop. So, one, I want to feel like I can contribute to their growth, so they inspire me to be a better person because I know that it’s not a -- 

Rebecca Ching: For sure. 


Gary Ware: -- do-as-I-say sort of situation. I have to model the behavior if I want them to also be good humans. And so, that has been my inspiration. I don't want to raise two little boys that end up being douchebags, so. 

Rebecca Ching: Awesome, Gary. This has been so fun. Where can people find you and connect with you?

Gary Ware: If you are on LinkedIn, look me up: Gary Ware. I spend a lot of time on Instagram @garyware. I’m on some other socials, but those are the two places where you can find me the most.

Rebecca Ching: I love your Friday Wrap Ups. On Instagram, you do a little montage with just what you’ve seen around the internet. They're awesome and very worthwhile checking out.

Gary Ware: Yay! 

Rebecca Ching: So definitely go follow Gary, even for some joy and play there.

Gary Ware: Awesome!

Rebecca Ching: Gary, thank you so much for your time and for all that you bring into the world and just for your leadership. I really enjoyed this conversation, and I’m grateful for it. 

Gary Ware: Thank you, and I want to just acknowledge you, Rebecca. Thank you for holding space for us to tell stories. This has been such a delightful time, and I really appreciate being on the show!

[Inspirational Music]

Rebecca Ching: Ah, before you go, I hope you take away a few key nuggets from today’s Unburdened Leader conversation with Gary. Now, if your wellbeing is tanking, that may be in part because your practice of true play is out of sorts. Gary shared at length how the power of play can foster wellbeing, connection, and feeling more engaged in all areas of our lives. He also shared how play offers relief when we’re overwhelmed, and we’re stuck at work while creating connection and community instead of just grinding and pushing it harder. I’ll be honest with you, as much of a goofball as I am, I’m not a fan of these cheesy, forced icebreakers that just check the box and call it play. No way. But I deeply value integrating a playful spirit and culture around work. The rules around professionalism and seriousness make us sick and move us away from meaningful work and wellbeing.


So, I’m curious, after listening to today’s episode, do you want to make any shifts in how you approach work and play, and when you take a moment to do a play inventory and reflect on times of play, are you suffering from a play deficit? And how can you push back on the barriers of play Gary discussed in our conversation? It sure makes a lot of sense that the idea of play feels so elusive to so many right now, and to hotwire play with some random games or icebreakers could feel even more burdensome. So the challenge for us is to intentionally and with commitment and sensitivity to all involved, weave more play into our work, into our life, while also creating cultures of play where it becomes the norm and not something judged by toxic work systems. This is the work of an Unburdened Leader.

Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. If this episode was meaningful to you and impacted you, I would be honored if you would rate it and review it and share it with someone you think may benefit from it. You can find this episode, show notes, and free Unburdened Leader resources, along with ways to work with me www.rebeccaching.com! 


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.