I’m lucky to know him as Honey Bear (his camp nickname), but Brady Gill is someone I deeply respect for freeing us from shoulds and entering a line of work that most would never dream is reasonable OR feasible as a career (he’s a play expert!). Read on to hear about how that happened, why play moves the human race forward, and what he’s currently most excited about.
How did you get into what you do?
When I was six, I started going to summer camp and for the next 26 years, I have only taken two summers off. At camp I learned to be my best self and how to see the best in others. Through holding every position imaginable including Camp Director for 5 years, I had the opportunity to teach play to others see the transformation it allowed.
Three years ago, my friend Levi Felix, who had been doing Digital Detox retreats for the previous two years, told me his interest in starting a summer camp for adults, and I jumped in! I was so excited to bring my experience and skill set to “Grown Ups” and give them the same opportunities for play that I was providing for kids.
People are starting to recognize the importance of play, but to you, why is play so important, regardless of age?
For me, play is what keeps us fully present and alive in this world. Play engenders four major characteristics that I believe contribute to a wonderful and happy life:
When you are playing a game, you have set rules and infinite possibilities. In many ways this is the same description of what life is, but in a game the stakes are low (nothing terrible will happen to your physical or emotional well-being) so you can PLAY. In doing so, you are practicing what it might be like to actually live life in the same way. You can try new strategies, discover different ways of doing things and be innovative, all while laughing and working with others.
Most of us are at our worst when our “Fight or Flight” brain is active. It’s when we lash out, run away and generally feel anxious and upset. Without play, that part of our brain is going off all the time, because it doesn’t really know what is a threat and what isn’t. But in a playful life/world, we are constantly learning what is dangerous and what we’ll survive. In doing so, we become more comfortable in our own bodies, around others and in the world around us.
I believe that the utopian world we are going towards is a truly playful world. The more we play together, the closer we get to that world.
“Neoteny” is “remaining young”, and it may be ironic that it’s not well-known, because human evolution has been dominated by it. Humans have evolved to their relatively high state by retaining the immature characteristics of their ancestors. Humans are the most advanced of mammals – although a case could be made for the dolphins – because they seldom grow up. Behavioral traits such as curiosity about the world, flexibility of response, and playfulness are common to practically all young mammals but are usually rapidly lost with the onset of maturity in all but humans.
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.
– Tom Robbins
Why do you love what you do and what gave you the courage to go after that?
Simple. . . I love to play. I have been playful all my life and I am at my best, and feel my best, when I am playing with others. For me there was never any choice but to follow this path. I am just incredibly fortunate to be following it at a time, when we are so play deprived that we’re starving for it. Big ups to the camps that have taught me everything I know: Camp Tawonga, Camp Galileo and Camp Grounded.
Tell us two things you are excited about right now.
Outside of work, I am currently working on self publishing my inner children’s stories, which will have a Kickstarter launched by the end of February and be fully published by the summer. I’m also about to start taking sketch comedy writing classes!
For more on Brady or to book him to speak at your next event, visit his website.