“Are we having fun yet?”

Not only does having fun help to reduce stress, it loosens us up and gets our creative juices flowing. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, writes:

“Good moods enhance the ability to think flexibly and with more complexity, thus making it easier to find solutions to problems, whether intellectual or interpersonal. … Laughing, like elation, seems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely, noticing relationships that might have eluded them otherwise — a mental skill important not just in creativity, but in recognizing complex relationships and foreseeing the consequences of a given decision.”

Looking for a less sober expert? “I like nonsense,” said Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). “It wakes up the brain cells.”

An “expert” in the field of fun is Burt Rutan, legendary airplane designer and CEO of Scaled Composites, an aerospace operation with 125-plus employees.

“If you're having fun,” said Burt in 1999, “you're more likely to be productive. … By putting the F-word up front, I've been able to attract talented people to work here even though they could make as much, if not more at, say, Lockheed or Boeing. Having fun is how I've managed to create a profitable company. … In the last five years, we've done four new-from-scratch airplanes … and I don't think that's good enough. I think we ought to be doing something more fun, something more challenging.”

Five years later, in 2004, Scaled Composites won the Ansari X-Prize for being the first private company to launch a man into space and bring him back safely — twice in the same week.

Rutan's state of mind since winning the prize? According to chief engineer Matthew Gionta, “He's like a kid in a candy store. He's having more fun than he ever has.”

(Oh, and the X-Prize includes a $10 million check.)

Still not convinced of the power of fun?

Tattoo the F-word on your forehead (be sure to do it backwards), then look in the mirror and repeat after Burt:

We ought to be doing something more fun!

We ought to be doing something more fun!

(Repeat until it really sinks in.)

Joel Saltzman is a speaker, facilitator, and consultant. His latest book, Shake That Brain!, will be published by Wiley in December. Contact him at (877) 742-5348, by e-mail at joel@shakethatbrain.com, or at www.shakethatbrain.com/wow.