Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

Galumphing, or How to Avoid Going Insane at Work

By Matt Martinez on February, 19 2018
Matt Martinez

Matt Martinez is a marketing specialist at Foodesign.

In the last Monday Motivation blog, I wrote a little bit about the complex efforts that are required in our jobs, and how putting too much focus on doing those efforts perfectly can end up backfiring.


This is kind of an extension of that thought.


By definition, "having a job" is simply acquiring and executing skills that people would rather pay for than learn or execute themselves.


Learning these skills isn't so different than learning to walk.  Halting steps lead to fluid, repeatable motion over time.


In the context of a job, learning your skills efficiently and competently are expected.  As well they should.  But, like walking, it doesn't have to stop there. 


Can you imagine what life would be like if you were only able to progress from one place to another by walking in an efficient and competent manner?


You'd go crazy.  You'd get tired of it.  Eventually, you'd dread having to walk anywhere.  Especially on Mondays.


But here's the thing... over time, halting walkers can learn to run and skip and dance.


One name for this idea is "galumphing."


"Anthropologists have found 'galumphing' to be one of the prime talents that characterize higher life forms. Galumphing is the immaculately rambunctious and seemingly inexhaustible play-energy apparent in puppies, kittens, children, baby baboons - and also in young communities and civilizations. Galumphing is the seemingly useless elaboration and ornamentation of activity. It is profligate, excessive, exaggerated, uneconomical... In the higher animals and in people, it is of supreme evolutionary value."

~Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, by Stephen Nachmanovitch


Throughout nature, it's through play that we ultimately learn how to master our skills.


Improvisational theatre is a good example of galumphing. At its best, it is a means by which we can elaborate on and ornament social interaction and personal presentation.  It's playing at the skills of life.


At work, however, it's "common sense" to quickly shut down the idea of play. 


It's useless.  And that's bad.


“The last thing that can be said of a lunatic is that his actions are causeless. If any human acts may loosely be called causeless, they are the minor acts of a healthy man; whistling as he walks; slashing the grass with a stick; kicking his heels or rubbing his hands. It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle. It is exactly such careless and causeless actions that the madman could never understand; for the madman (like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial significance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property. He would think that the kicking of the heels was a signal to an accomplice. If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane.”

~Orthodoxy, by GK Chesterton


There can be a use in the useless; a strength in ease.  Mastery through play.


It's when you limit yourself to only walking that you begin to go insane.


So... maybe... allow yourself a minute or two to use your work-skills in a playful way. 


For no reason at all. 


Just for fun.




The Mad Hatter: Have I gone Mad?
Alice: I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

~Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

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