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Why 'minding your mojo' is crucial to success

Ben Birchall
Industry Expert

Ben Birchall is a writer, broadcaster and content specialist

Ben Birchall
Industry Expert

Ben Birchall is a writer, broadcaster and content specialist

To social entrepreneur and founder of Playground Ideas Marcus Veerman, we all have a ‘mojo-meter’ – an internal dial for us to assess our wellbeing and sense of purpose. But how do we read it, and what happens when it's in the red?

Playground Ideas is a not-for-profit organisation that provides free, open-source resources to help anyone, anywhere build a playground. The website hosts over 150 DIY step-by-step manuals for building playground elements from items that are easily sourced; things like used car tyres, stumps, timber and steel.

Since 2007, the Playground Ideas community has built close to 1,000 playgrounds in 72 countries, impacting an estimated 500,000 children.

But like most entrepreneurial endeavours, Playground Ideas didn’t grow without personal cost to its founder. The program began with Veerman building the playgrounds himself – lots of them, and quickly. In 2009, he found himself in hospital after a horror run of: a serious stomach bug, a mugging, a bus crash, denghi fever, appendicitis and influenza type B. All of this came after whirlwind six-month period building 40 playgrounds in Thailand - a pivotal experience in Marcus’ life. 

children playing in playground

The mojo meter

As he said in his Do Lectures talk, Veerman had lost his ‘mojo’. What it forced him to do was stop, reflect and ultimately redefine Playground Ideas to what it is today – an open-source information platform. It also forced him to step back and assess what it took him to regain his drive, passion and sense of wellbeing. His mojo.

Find the thing that restores your mojo and ask how often you’re doing them. Could you be doing them more often? Veerman also encourages us to look to the people around you – your partner, your kids or your business partners.

How is their mojo and what are their mojo-restoring activities?

To restore his balance, Veerman took time out, bought a Kombi van and went travelling with his partner.“

The opportunity to have freedom of thought from the day-to-day work gave me perspective on what we’d done over the past two years.

“As we travelled from country to country my mojo meter was slowly restored.”

While time out might seem counter-intuitive to growing a business, Veerman sees it as the opposite. “If I didn’t have this time to reset, I don’t know how I would have continued.

”But beyond taking time out to travel, how do you maintain that balance?

Veerman realised that like the children he was building playgrounds for, he needed time to ‘play’. 

The importance of play

Veerman sees play as serious business, and wants to direct the mental health conversation towards the fact that a low-stress lifestyle extends your life. “I don’t think we’re there yet, we’re still talking about depression and anxiety and how to reduce those negatives rather than build up the positives to give you more resilience,” he says.

And the facts are undeniable. “Children who don’t play enough as children earn less later on, they don’t have the critical thinking and problem solving skills to do really well in life, they drop out or don’t complete high school as well and they tend not to get degrees.”

So whatever it is that recharges your mojo, do it, and do it regularly. Your business might thank you for it.

Playground Ideas are about to commence building over 100 playgrounds in East Timor in 2016. 

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