What The CEO Of Radio Flyer Can Teach Us About Happiness And Work-Life
Chances are, you had a little red wagon (and specifically a Radio Flyer wagon) when you were a child—and that your mom or dad did—and the child in your life does as well. Shared experience is one of the elements of happiness—and through the pandemic we’ve had to regroup, redefine and reimagine how to create joy and fulfillment despite limits and lockdowns.
Radio flyer has brought happy moments to families for a hundred years and the iconic little red wagon is a great vehicle for lessons learned about happiness, family, entertainment, work and life. I spoke recently with the CEO of Radio Flyer (actually, he is the CWO—Chief Wagon Officer), Robert Pasin, and his experience is inspiration for work-life, fulfillment and happiness.
Like many businesses focused on at-home fun (think puzzles, bicycles, Monopoly and even ice cream), the Radio Flyer business is up. In particular, sales on the core products of wagons, tricycles and scooters are up over 30%. The reasons have everything to do with how we’re been spending our time and getting through the pandemic together.
Creating the Conditions for Happiness
Here are a few insights about work and life and happiness—through the lens of a little red wagon:
You can create your own happiness. Happiness isn’t something you have to wait for and not something for which the circumstances have to be just right. You can create the conditions for happiness in your own backyard—literally and figuratively. Pasin attributes the growth of Radio Flyer sales to families who had to find new avenues for fun. With the lack of vacations, amusement parks or even access to local playgrounds, families had to create their own entertainment. “Parents sought to turn their driveways and backyards into playgrounds. A tricycle ride around the block became the ride in the amusement park.” Happiness is like this too. You can create the conditions for joy and choose alternatives that offer the best possibilities for positive experiences.
There is a connection between physical health, mental health and happiness. Another element of happiness is the opportunity to stretch, challenge and sweat. Depending on your interests and capabilities, your level of physical exertion may vary, but some physical effort is a good thing. A meta-analysis of 40 different studies by Wiley finds regular exercise reduces two dozen physical and mental health challenges. And according to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, greater levels of activity aren’t just great for adults, but also for children and result in protection against depression. Even further, according to University of Auckland studies, more activity as children has lasting positive impacts for adults. The correlations also go both ways. According to research published in Applied Psychology Health and Wellbeing, when you are happier, you will also tend to be healthier and live longer.
Pasin says it well, “Parents know it’s good for kids to play outside. There are so many studies that show when you combine kinetic, physical play and kids moving their bodies with imaginative play, it’s just so good for kids’ mental health and peace of mind. I don’t think any parent needs a study to tell them that. If you have kids you know if they’re playing outside for a significant part of the day—you see their smiles and their sweat—and at the end of the day they fall into bed and have a great night’s sleep.”
Nature contributes to happiness. Closely related to the physical activity of being outside is the benefit of nature. For adults and children, nature is a big contributor to happiness. A study of 3,600 people by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health found contact with nature resulted in greater cognitive development as well as physical and mental health. This was especially true of green spaces (parks, forests, gardens) and blue spaces (canals, pools, creeks, lakes). Pasin’s experience makes the point, “[When you’re] cooped up all day and on screens for home schooling situations, the opportunity to get outside and take a wagon walk around the block is as good for the parents’ mental health as the kids’.”
Variety is an element of happiness. Choice and variety are also key components of happiness. It’s tough to have been limited by the pandemic, and both adults and children need variation in activities—they need options and alternatives. Says Pasin, “[Our experience at Radio Flyer] was an underscoring that when people couldn’t do other things to get out, what we provided to them was those mini-vacations and those mini-respites from the cabin fever, that families really value.” When you’re seeking happiness, try something new and find ways to add variety to your day, even in small ways.
Memory and emotion are parts of happiness. Happiness is also tied to the experiences that we share with our friends and family. Often these times link with previous positive activities and this has a reinforcing effect. We remember the games we played with our neighborhood friends, and this contributes to our joy in being with our own children.
Pasin finds this as well, “There’s a huge emotional part of our products because Radio Flyer has been around for over 100 years and so many people have grown up with it. It reminds parents of their childhood…the iconic little red wagon. That’s always comforting to people, but during a pandemic…we’ve been hearing so many stories about people saying this Radio Flyer is a touchstone of childhood and it brings back so many warm memories. It’s comforting…to reexperience your own childhood through your kids’ eyes when they’re playing with it.”
For happiness, find ways to stay connected to your family and friends and reminisce about the time you’ve spent and the fun you’ve had over the years.
Working together contributes to happiness. Happiness also comes from working hard to achieve a goal, especially in the face of difficulty. It could be the family who is collaborating to figure out a new routine in the face of working and learning from home. But it can also be the new ways colleagues have had to work together to respond to new situations through the pandemic. Pasin’s team is an example, “Being able to deliver [on the increased demand for products], had the teams doing an amazing job…with most people going remote [they were still able to] respond to the increased demand and deliver. That was something I was super proud of the team for, and everyone was really proud of themselves too.” Create the conditions for happiness through working with others on worthy pursuits and appreciating the teamwork you accomplish.
Creativity and innovation are part of happiness. For both children and adults, joy can also be found when we’re pursuing something new and are motivated by imagination. Consider the child who turns their wagon into a flying machine or the young entrepreneur who uses their wagon to collect rouge golf balls on the course and sell them to golfers. In the world of work, we’re engaged by the problem to solve or the tough situation that needs a new approach.
Pasin also experienced acceleration and innovation with Radio Flyer. He describes the Ultimate Go-Kart which has been around since 2019, but which just won the Toy of the Year Award (like the academy awards for toys). “…it’s an electric kids’ go-kart, [and] during the pandemic, it totally took off. It was the perfect antidote to pandemic cabin fever because it’s super fun to ride. It’s very fast…kids can spin out on it. Now we’re coming out with a younger-kid version and an older-kid version…we really accelerated…we probably wouldn’t have done it at that rate [had it not been for the pandemic].” (Note to Robert and Radio Flyer: Please consider creating an adult version too!) Pasin also provides the example of new products like indoor bounce houses and foam blocks. They are innovations for Radio Flyer because they are toys without wheels, but they’ve been a perfect solution for families creating more in-home fun.
Harness happiness by tapping into your creativity and the innovation that can result from solving problems or coming up with new ideas in the face of challenges.
Happiness is multi-faceted and it ebbs and flows. True happiness isn’t a constant state of positivity, but it is an overall sense of good feelings and fulfilling experiences. It’s something we can experience through play with our friends and families—but it’s also something we can experience with colleagues and through hard work, new challenges and new innovations—and this will serve us in both the future of work and life.
Published at Mon, 12 Apr 2021 10:30:00 +0000