Putting in extra effort to make an event or experience extra special is great. But sometimes -- like my disastrous attempt to find the PERFECT Christmas tree for my mom -- you can overdo it. Like this story? Then check out my book Misadventure Musings: Lessons learned from life's awesome and absurd moments. Continue reading
I wouldn’t describe my mom and dad as helicopter parents. Partly because giving us a long leash was just their parenting style. Partly because with eight kids running around like a bunch of maniacs, you’d need a whole fleet of helicopters to keep track of us. Continue reading
“Kids these days.” It’s a familiar expression used to express disapproval of how far today’s youth have drifted from the virtuous and well-behaved ways of their elders. But you only need to hear a few stories from my dad about his ridiculous childhood shenanigans to see what a crock that is. Case in point: the fateful Christmas he got a BB gun. Continue reading
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on my Josh Martin Ink blog. In an age of iPads, Xboxes and $200 shoes, our sources of entertainment and activity require increasingly sophisticated technology, equipment and infrastructure. But there’s something to be said for the simpler activities. Activities that nurture creativity, ingenuity and imagination. In 2005 the cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. The stick made the cut in 2008. “[T]here aren’t any rules or instructions for its use,” said Christopher Bensch, the museum’s curator of collections. “It can be a Wild West horse, a medieval knight’s sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band.” In a time when it seems that every toy requires 17 triple-A batteries and every activity requires mountains of gear, it’s nice to see the simple stick and cardboard box be recognized for the limitless entertainment potential that can be unlocked through imagination. Here are twenty activity ideas for children and adults alike that require one item or less. Feel free to whip out this list if you ever hear a kid whining that they’re bored.
- Tag. I don’t mean tagging your friend puking on a cop on Facebook. I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent chasing friends around the schoolyard yelling “You’re it!”
- Soccer. It’s no surprise soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Whether you’re from Richmond Hill or Rwanda, all you need is a soccer ball and some open space.
- Ultimate Frisbee. Like soccer, but for hippies, the only thing you need for Ultimate is a disc (and perhaps granola).
- Cards. There are hundreds of games you can squeeze out of a single deck of playing cards. Perfect for games night or a rainy day. I come from a huge card-playing family. Euchre, Bugger your Neighbour, Hearts, Pork Chop—we grew up playing them all.
- Hopscotch. Any sidewalk or blacktop can be transformed into a playground with a bit of chalk and imagination.
- Yoga. Although many people go to yoga studios and gyms for this activity, all you really need is a yoga mat and a familiarity with the bizarrely-named poses.
- Red Rover. Oh man. No other game has been responsible for more clotheslines, bruised wrists and sprained fingers than Red Rover. “Red Rover, Red Rover, we call the paramedic over!” A personal favourite.
- Hide and Seek. Another favourite. All you need is a group of people and a good place to hide. Just don’t hide next to a bee hive like I did as a kid. That hurts.
- Charades. Great party game that doesn’t require anything fancy. Giving an easily embarrassed guest something x-rated to act out is always hilarious.
- Arm wrestling/thumb wrestling. Requires nothing but your own bodies. Think this is a lame activity? Watch Sylvester Stallone’s “Over the Top” and think again, buddy.
- Duck Duck Goose. Thrilling suspense. High speed chases. Patting people on the head. This classic has got it all.
- Bloody Knuckles. Taking turns rapping each other’s knuckles until they bleed is admittedly a bit violent and juvenile. But I wanted to mention this because it was a pretty common activity with my schoolmates.
- Touch football. If you remove the contact element from football you remove the need for all the pads, helmets and mouth guards. And the need for medical attention (in most cases).
- What time is it Mr. Wolf? I’m not sure how familiar people are with this game. It involves players calling out “what time is it Mr. Wolf?” to the “wolf” who has her back turned to them. The wolf calls out a time, like “7 o’clock!” and the players take seven steps toward her. This continues until the wolf thinks the players are close enough to catch and the next time they ask “what time is it Mr. Wolf?” she replies “LUNCH TIME!” and chases the squealing players around the playground.
- P.I.G. All you need is any sort of projectile – a ball, Frisbee, hard-boiled egg – that gets tossed back and forth between players. Drop the item and get a letter. When you spell P-I-G, you’re out.
- Rock Paper Scissors. I’m pretty sure more decisions have been made amongst my friends using Rock, Paper, Scissors than by thoughtful discussion.
- Tai Chi. A great activity I’ve wanted to try since my days in Taiwan. All you need is some instruction (and a cool paper fan if you want to look extra awesome).
- Tabletop football. Two players on opposite ends of a table. Object is to move a coin across the table in 4 or less pushes/flicks (downs) and have the coin partially hanging over the edge of the opponent’s end of the table (end zone) without it falling over. Harder than it sounds.
- I went on a camping trip/other car games. Before the days of DVD players in cars, iPods and PSPs, families going on a road trip had to occupy the long hours with driving games like “I went on a camping trip”, "eye spy" and “would you rather”.
- Debating. Probably the easiest way to pass the time of all these ideas is to open a controversial topic up for discussion.
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By Josh Martin Badge of Awesome is all about doing cool things and being more active. But how do you live a more “active” life when every hour of your day already overflows with activity? How do we “suck the marrow out of life” as Thoreau describes in our go-go-go world? Good question. We’ve all got full plates. But it’s not about squeezing more things into your already jam-packed schedule. It’s about making changes that allow you to spend your time in more meaningful ways. It means assessing how you spend your time and figuring out ways to adjust your lifestyle to make room for the things that matter most to you. In fact, a lot of times, “sucking the marrow” may actually mean cutting back on activities in order to make room for more meaningful experiences. The old “less is more” approach. I discuss this idea in my book, “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance: How to make room for what matters most in life” (get your free copy when you subscribe to the Badge of Awesome newsletter). Here’s an excerpt:
The Suitcase ScenarioPicture yourself getting ready for a big trip. It’s time to pack. On your bed rests your trusty suitcase. Next to your bed stands a mountain of items you are trying to bring with you. As you stand there, tapping your foot, hands on your hips, you consider your options. Many of us face this same dilemma when it comes to things like work-life balance. We have a seemingly impossible pile of stuff for which we need to make room. And our capacity to do so (our suitcase) is limited by the number of hours in a day, the amount of money in our bank accounts and how much energy we can expend before collapsing. In the case of the suitcase, as in the case of life, there are three options to make it work: a) Squeeze. Cram the items into the suitcase. b) Stretch. Get a bigger suitcase. c) Simplify. Unpack some of the stuff to make more room. The suitcase scenario is a metaphor for the challenge of life balance. We often find ourselves neglecting priority areas of our lives (exercise, eating right, spending quality time with family and friends, time to ourselves, etc). We then set goals and look for ways to fit these areas into our already full lives. All three of the above-mentioned options can appear to be reasonable solutions. Options A and B seem to be the most common approaches these days and they can be useful from time to time. However, I believe that Option C—a simple living approach—offers the best and only sustainable solution to this problem. Here’s how the three different packing options typically play out:
Option A – Squeeze them in.What it is: Rather than change anything (like Options B and C), Option A finds ways to creatively cram these neglected areas of our life into the nooks and crannies of our suitcase. What it looks like:
- Not getting enough exercise? Take the stairs at work.
- Not spending enough quality time with a friend? Meet them at the grocery store and chat while you shop.
- Need to get more work done? Work on the bus or carpool and work during the ride.
- No time for breakfast? Eat on the road or go to the drive thru
Option B – Get a bigger suitcase.What it is: The dimensions of our suitcases are represented by Time, Energy and Money. Option B attempts to stretch these dimensions in a few different ways. It’s about increasing capacity. What it looks like:
- Increase the amount of time you have in the day by going to bed later.
- Increase your energy levels via caffeine and energy drinks.
- Increase the amount of money available to you by getting another credit card or getting a higher-paying (and potentially higher-stress) job.
- Retrain (expand your capacity) and get better and more efficient at what you do through professional development.
Option C – Pack less in the first place.What it is: Balance via simplicity. It’s about unpacking some of the stuff (hours at the office, hours in commute, how much we buy, time spent in front of the TV, etc.) in order to make room for other things you’ve been neglecting. What it looks like: Work
- Take a job with lower stress/shorter hours (even if it means less pay - this will mean a change in your spending habits too)
- Set boundaries
- Live closer to your job and commute less/telecommute
- Value experiential over the material
- Buy a smaller home
- Fill your home with less stuff
- Watch less TV/spend less time online
- Cut back on the extracurricular calendar (kids and personal)/learn to say no
- Embrace a “no rush” attitude
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By Josh Martin Chiayi, Taiwan—My 90 cc scooter (which I fondly nicknamed, “Scoot Scoot Riot”) howled in protest as we made the steep ascent along the winding mountain roads in Taiwan. By noon Marty, Yanik (my two fellow ESL teachers) and I had reached our campsite for the weekend. That evening, as the sun set over the mountains, and without an agenda to occupy our time, we strolled through the campgrounds. We passed a group of six Taiwanese men who invited us to join them for dinner and some Tsingtao Beer. Though strangers, in no time at all we were laughing and joking around the campfire like old friends (even if neither side spoke the other’s language well). The parade of food was simple and delicious. They generously treated us to every type of local cuisine imaginable. At the end of the meal one of our new friends offered me a plate with a massive fish head on it, its beady eye staring up at me. I have never been a fan of seafood to start with (especially the kind that can look you in the eye), so I politely declined. Upon doing so I was informed that to be offered a fish head was a show of great respect and friendship within Taiwanese culture. The honour outweighed my distaste. Reluctantly, I accepted and proceeded to eat the vile thing. To this day, however, I’m not entirely sure if it really was a gesture of friendship or if they just wanted to see if I would actually eat it. Finally, when the food had all been eaten, the guitar came out and the singing began. In a country obsessed with Karaoke, our hosts showed no inhibitions. Before long, we were singing and dancing around the fire, the fish head sloshing around my belly full of cheap beer.
The simple, spontaneous, informalOur mountaintop dance party taught me an important lesson in the value of simple gatherings. The simple, the spontaneous, the informal—these are the key ingredients to the best get-togethers. I’d much rather share a six-pack of cheap beer with friends around a campfire than attend a stuffy dinner party with hors d’oeuvres and fine china any day of the week. Weddings are a good example. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent on these events. And so much work goes into the superficial elements of the gathering—the food, the décor, the ambiance—that the real reasons for celebrating are at risk of getting crushed into a corner. When I think of the best weddings I’ve been to, I couldn’t tell you what the flowers were like, if the cake was any good or if I liked the bride’s dress. What I remember is laughing and dancing like an idiot with my friends. Likewise, looking back at our mountaintop party, I don’t remember what I was wearing or if the food they served us was overcooked. I remember the good company and the experience of being guilted into eating a fish head. In the end, experiences have a longer shelf life in our minds than material stuff. For the full-length version of this story and more than fifty others, check out my book: Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in Balance from Life's Absurd Moments.
By Josh Martin
“My friends are my estate.” – Emily DickinsonWaterloo, Ontario—It’s ten-thirty at night and I’m hurtling down a deserted street inside a shopping cart, like some hobo torpedo. As my mobile, metal coffin rattles down the road at mach five I suddenly realize something—I’m an idiot. It had all started two minutes earlier when my “friend” Royce offered to push me to the local bar in a shopping cart. Royce and I lived together in university with four other buddies in a dump of a student house on Marshall Street, a few blocks from the bar we were headed to. Never one to pass up a free ride, I accepted the shopping cart offer without a second thought. I sat in the shopping cart facing forward and cheered Royce on as he pushed me faster and faster down the darkened street. Before long, my courage faltered. “OK, Royce!” I yelled over the clatter of the rattling shopping cart. “Slow down!... Slow down, Royce!... ROYCE!?” The cart showed no signs of slowing down. I risked a glance over my shoulder to sternly insist that my good and trusted friend stop the cart immediately. Unfortunately, my good and trusted friend was now twenty yards behind me with a stupid grin on his face. He had let go of the cart and sent me hurtling into the night. Turning forward once again I realized that I was drifting to the right. To my horror I found myself heading straight for a fire hydrant. I vainly attempted to extricate myself from my impending doom. But leaping from a speeding shopping cart is more difficult then you might imagine. I crashed squarely into the hydrant and was launched from the cart as if from a catapult. I flipped head over heels, cleared the fire hydrant and landed on my back in the grass on the other side with a dull thud. Yup, I thought to myself. I'm an idiot.