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October 21, 2015

Play Trumps Sex (Appeal) at 30,000 Feet

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A couple of years ago I took my first flight on Virgin America Airlines and was delighted with all of the bells and whistles they offered. I immediately jumped on social media to gush about my experience with them and even took the time to write them the following appreciation:

“Oh Virgin America. Our first date was more than I could have imagined. You flew me there and back with so much abundance, calm and beauty...and did I mention how sexy you look too? I can't wait for our next date. I'm willing to stop seeing the others to be with you. If only you could take me to more destinations.”

Fast forward to yesterday when I flew Southwest. During a layover, I went to the back of the plane to stretch my legs. One of the flight attendants was dancing to Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News and she invited me and the guy who just boarded the plane to restock the sodas to join her. We all started dancing together. I immediately experienced a light heartedness and a wonderful sense of community as we began to sing along.  

Time and space dropped away. In that moment, it didn’t matter if they had the best food and movies or that the flight wasn’t direct. What mattered was the enjoyment and connection that I experienced through play.  

At the end of the flight, one of the flight attendants made up a country song and sang it over the loudspeaker. At the end of the song, the passengers burst into applause with appreciation for his creativity and willingness to freely express himself. There was a palpable feeling of joy throughout the plane as the wheels touched the ground.

I walked off the plane in deep appreciation for laughter, improvisation, community, our shared desire to play together and for Southwest Airlines, which is the only airline to be ranked by Glassdoor in 2015 as best places to work.

In the past when I spent a lot of time coaching couples, I would always ask,” What is it about your partner that you most love?” The most common answer was “He/She makes me laugh.” More than other qualities, being playful was what was most attractive.

While I was easily seduced by all of the sexy extras Virgin America Airlines has to offer, if I had to be airline monogamous, I’d choose Southwest. At 30,000 feet or on the ground playful spirit connects me to my humanity, our shared connection with one another and to the joy of being alive.

Virgin swept me off my feet, but Southwest had me dancing on those same feet. You can only sweep me off my feet once, or maybe twice; after that the newness and the appeal of sexy wears off. But dancing, singing, and playful surprises—that’ll keep me coming back again and again.

How about your organization? Are you trying to sweep your employees and customers off their feet or are you keeping them on their feet, dancing again and again through the masterful art of  play?

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