In Defense of Bringing your Ukulele to Work

Posted By Sam Kwietniak on February 12, 2015

Bricks and blocks and magnetic balls have become all but essential elements of the creative work place. And, as the proud owner of a motley collection of desktop figurines, I freely admit that toys of any sort are wonderful tools for daydreaming, encouraging playful new ideas and inciting outside perspectives. But I think it’s time we introduced a new, more pluckable paperweight to office culture. One that allows its player to explore more than sight, touch and spatiality, but time, tone and tambour too. Enter that chief of happy instruments: the ukulele.

Basking in a wave of ever-increasing popularity, thanks, in large part, to Zooey Deschanel and yogurt commercials, the ukulele’s mainstream, 9-5 ship has finally come in. My first experience with it struck like an unexpectedly cheerful chord one Friday afternoon. I happened to have had a gig in New York that night, and to save time, brought all of my (fortunately lightweight) gear with me to the office for immediate EOD train dashing. I was facing a set of headlines with very little headway, and somewhere in the doldrums of post-Indian-lunch I could hear my uke’s chirpy little voice begging for some attention. Frustrated, distracted and too full of curry to fight back, I picked up my ukulele, and tentatively plinked a few notes. Expecting a complaint, or at least a comment, I was emboldened when there were none. I started strumming a little more courageously and within a few minutes, I was fully engaged in an all-out jam session. That afternoon I wrote a couple of really solid chord progressions, some key melodies for future solos, and more importantly to the client, a slew of really great headlines. I suppose that sometimes when you’re stuck, you just have to pluck.

Maybe you’re a skeptic. Maybe you think the happy sounds of uke-ular warfare will make the office more distracting. And if so, maybe you need to invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. But for the rest of you, I offer this cliché—one that’s too often ignored to not repeat again: Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. For the best ideas, go anywhere and learn everywhere. 

Cross borders and boundaries and departments and lines and seas and mountains and red tape and ages. Share stories and journeys and lessons and nightmares and smiles and meals and seconds. And if you can’t do any of that on your lunch break, then do all of that with a ukulele.

Put your fingers on any fret in any combination and it will sound good. And it will be fun. And it might even lead to a new idea. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Sam Kwietniak is a writer at Karma and finds Hawaiian shirts not distracting at all.