I woke up yesterday morning feeling like I had gotten into a fight with a basketball hoop… and lost.

My feet (and toes?) were aching. My legs felt more heavy and sore than from just my usual 3-mile run. Muscles in my upper back twinged in strange places, and I had lightly strained something in my rib cage.

Despite the mild discomfort — and the humility of recognizing that, yes, I am indeed in my late 30s, after all — I couldn’t be happier to have the aches if it meant the fun I had in “play” the day before.

My mild injuries arose at a Memorial Day cookout hosted by friends who I’ve been getting to know over the last two years through my partner and her social circles.

Between the IPAs and hot dogs, I was invited into a game of HORSE with four other guys, which then evolved into a pick-up game on the host’s small stone basketball court.

Practice shots evolved into challenging ourselves to acrobatic slam dunks, shooting and missing plenty of long-range three-pointers (“FROM DOWNTOWN!”), and attempting stunts like alley-oops that often ended with gasps and shouts of discomfort.

Despite the limitations of our ages and our athletic ineptitudes, our play was full of bust-a-gut moments of laughter, a lost-and-found wedding band, and, thankfully, no serious injuries — except for some humbled egos.

Play can feel very vulnerable.

When we enter into a play state, it brings us into a state of openness. That openness can feel uncertain and uncomfortable when you’re not a kid anymore.

And, on the awkward social age in which we live, playing with other adults can feel particularly foreign and uncomfortable.

On top of it all, we’re living through a prolonged post-pandemic experience, where social distance and fearing others and lockdowns have contributed to social decay and seemingly frayed patience, with many unable or unwilling to interact with others without confrontation, aggression, or antagonism.

In this day and age, willingly engaging in something “playful” with other adults can feel far from appealing.

These thoughts on “play” were on my mind thanks in large part to a recent interview I hosted with Gary Ware on The New Story Is podcast.

Gary Ware
 is a Strategic Play Consultant, corporate facilitator, keynote speaker, certified coach, and author who helps individuals and teams integrate play into their daily business. Gary was featured as one of the Top 100 HR influencers of 2021 by the Engagedly HR software platform and is the author of the book, Playful Rebellion: Maximize Workplace Success Through The Power of Play.

I invited Gary into the podcast as an expert in helping adults reclaim play in their lives — especially if they are dealing with burnout and chronic stress (and who among us isn’t!). 

In our interview, Gary shared his discoveries and experiences with teaching the power of play to people in corporate work environments, including:

  • How remembering how to play as adults can create and preserve crucial levels of psychological safety, especially in the workplace
  • The neurochemical benefits of play on productivity, mood, and building interpersonal trust
  • What a society that values play could look like—and how we can each get started

To listen to the interview, visit The New Story Is podcast or click over to the podcast feed on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, where you can hear my conversation with Gary on the power of play.

While you’re there, subscribe/follow and leave us a rating and review, which helps others find and enjoy the work we’re producing on the podcast.

You’ll find more than 40 episodes in a growing library of intellectual, thought-provoking conversations with vetted experts who do more than pitch you on “what’s worked for them.”

Unlike many other podcasts, our guests discuss their expertise through the lens of pressing social, cultural, and political issues — the kinds that are affecting the mental health and shared perceptions of so many of us today.

You’ll find recent episodes on burnout and chronic stress, equity and belonging, the state of democracy, capitalism with a conscience, the future of disability rights, and so much more!

Go listen to this interview on the power of play at The New Story IsApple Podcasts, or Spotify.

Happy listening. Play on! 🏀

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the words we use — and the stories that those words tell.

Although we may think that words have one (or maybe two) specific, clearly defined meanings, the truth is that words have many meanings.

Different words represent different things to people. The significance or value of certain words varies and changes over time. Some people feel ownership over words. And, many people feel minimized, dismissed, hurt, belittled, and pained by certain words, whether they are used in certain ways or by certain people. 


Because words are not just words, but stories.

Whenever a word is used, it no longer remains a simple speech sound — a construction that symbolically represents an object or idea. Whenever a word is used, it assigns meaning. It represents significance. It carries intent. And, most of all, it impacts and affects.

Words can carry whole histories. Entire lifetimes. Legacies of oppression, neglect, and even hatred.

And when certain words are used in certain ways by certain people over time, their meanings can ingrain some deeply held, hard-to-shake ideas, beliefs, and perceptions throughout a culture.

Those words can have a big impact on how someone feels about who they are, as a person.

In the latest episode today on The New Story Is, I speak with author, speaker, and women’s empowerment coach, Sasha Cagen.

Once a Silicon Valley social media startup founder, Sasha has become a champion of feminist empowerment methodologies, especially for women over 40, who feel restricted or held back by social norms, cultural pressures, and expectations that are minimizing to a full and whole life experience.

She has appeared on the  BBC,  Anderson Cooper 360,  CNN Headline News,  Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and  NPR’s “Day to Day” and “Talk of the Nation”. Cagen’s essays have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the  Village VoiceUtne Reader, and beyond.

Of all the things I appreciate about Sasha, her knack for words stands out.

She invents words, coins catchy phrases, and creates enticing, evocative conversations and reflections around words and their meanings: especially words that have historically been used to minimize, belittle, diminish, and oppress women.

In our interview, I ask Sasha about the words that stigmatize and stereotype women as something “less than” — and how, throughout her life, she’s strived to push back.

From redefining the meaning of certain words and challenging women to reclaim others, Sasha’s work and advocacy centers around helping those who identify as women counteract internalized oppression and find renewed sources of self-knowledge, healing, and empowerment in their lives.

Despite the childhood refrain we would call out across the playground, “Stick and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me,” the protestation was never true.

Words do hurt.

Research has proven it.

— One 2019 study revealed that Black American women who encountered routine racial micro-aggressions experienced stress symptoms associated with trauma.

— In 2021, researchers showed that healthcare workers who suffer verbal abuse in the workplace had lower levels of empathy, and severe post-traumatic symptoms — symptoms that were more severe than when they experienced physical violence.

— In 2018, researchers concluded that receiving a psychiatric diagnosis — what we might otherwise call an “objective” label of a medical condition! — impacts a young person’s self-concept and social experiences, both in ways that are beneficial and informative, and in ways that are adverse and isolating.

Words, in short, really do matter.

Perhaps one of the “new stories” of our time should be practicing increased awareness, curiosity, and tolerance around what the many words of our languages mean… not only to us but to others. Especially for those who have been historically marginalized, overlooked, and underrepresented in our society.

Ready to have a listen and decide for yourself?

Pop over to Apple Podcasts, or Spotify to stream the interview now!