After doing something for 27 years, you’d think that you could figure it all out and know how to “do” it really, really well, and gain fulfillment too.
That “something” for me is work (aka what we do to make a living).
And nope, I haven’t quite figured it all out yet – which I gather isn’t unusual given that a Google search for “Secret of Work” produced no less than 181 Million entries.
Keep in mind I’m not talking about the classic cause and effect here – that is, the objective results of the labor, which is in most cases contributing to profit or loss.
What I’m searching for looks inward, to the effects of the work on ourselves, our psyches, and our overall feelings about life.
Yep, the deep stuff.
The problem is, we can get so tied up in the “day-to-day” nuts and bolts activities that are part of our daily working lives that we rarely can come up for enough rarefied air to ponder those larger issues.
Occasionally, however, this higher level reflection can happen, and this past week was one of those times for me.
It was the confluence of several things – a funeral, a business trip, a management meeting, and a conference – that created a perfect learning environment.
And here’s what I learned, in very simple terms:
- Work must be done with passion
- The work must be for a cause greater than ourselves
- It ultimately must be fun, or it isn’t worth doing
What’s more, these 3 are truly a set – that is, you can’t just get to 2 out of 3 and call it good.
We need to get to the fun part, and that’s all too often neglected. It’s an underrated piece of the puzzle.
For example, how often does someone ask “Are you having fun?” at your workplace?
I suspect it’s a rarity, since “fun” is all too often associated with “unproductive“. Where the work itself can’t possibly be the cause – if someone is enjoying themselves too much, it must be because they spent more time playing video games than cranking out spreadsheets.
In other words, there’s a “fear of fun”.
But here’s where my lessons of the past week come in.
I see “fun” when the passion and the cause are making a difference – when a group of people are continually hitting targets and raising bars – in other words, to use a sports analogy, they are “winning”.
And who doesn’t enjoy being a winner? Think of the camaraderie, the smiles, the feelings of satisfaction, the pats on the back, and yes, the celebrations.
That’s FUN, all right. Better than getting a high score on Tetris.
I realized that I don’t fear this – in fact, I do regularly ask my team if they are having fun.
Because I’m confident that the foundations of the “secrets of work”, the passion and the cause, are already in place.
I just need to get them (and myself) across the goal line to the fun zone.
This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by James Michener
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both”