Why Work When You Can Play?

Before I begin telling you how you can have fun and play all day instead of work, work, work, let me set up some "Aaron definitions" for you. These definitions aren't necessarily what you will find in a formal dictionary, they are more the way I like to define them to help put them into context for discussion here.

When you perform any activity you exert energy. This energy can be expended through both physical and mental activity.
Work is the effort you make performing activities you do NOT want to perform. Exactly what you call work may be different from what other people call work because it depends on what you do and do not like to do.
Play is the effort you make performing activities you DO want to performing. Essentially this is the opposite of work.

So by these definitions I am saying that work is all the things we do that we do not enjoy while play are the things we do enjoy. It is important to note then that what one person calls work, another person will deem to be play.

For example, some people love to run. They love the exhilaration of the wind flowing by as they get the blood pumping. They feel alive. Me, I see that as something to be avoided. I do love to exercise, the physical exertion is not the issue. But running makes me hurt and not in a good way. To me, running is hard on the body and while it may get you in good shape now it wears on the body and can cause problems in the long run.

Meanwhile, I do love to work play on the computer (most of the time). Whether it is writing, programming, organizing or playing games, most of the activity I perform on the computer is enjoyable to me. Others see working on the computer as, well, work. They find the activity boring, agonizing or just something in general they don't want to do.

My favorite example is sports. I look at all the energy people put into sports, whether it is basketball, football, skiing, whatever. These are all activities that take a lot of effort and a lot of time to time to master. Yet people, for the most part, see this as play. But how is playing basketball for a couple hours play while spending a couple hours moving into a new apartment typically considered work? It really is a matter of perspective.

Have you ever noticed that when you start a new job, it usually is fun and exciting? You are doing something new and there is a whole new world of possibilities awaiting you. But somewhere along the line that new job turns from play into work. You dread coming into the office. What went wrong?

First of all, your perspective has changed. The illusion of what the job was has now been replaced with a touch of reality and a bit of cynicism. You begin to see all that is bad instead of all that is good.

But it doesn't really have to be this way. There are a number of things you can do to help you turn your job into play and keep it that way.

The first thing you need to do is determine what it is you love to do. What kind of career path could you choose that involves activities you enjoy? This isn't an easy question to answer. Sometimes you think a job involves certain types of activities when it really does not. So when exploring this question, make sure you learn about all the things people in that profession have to do and make sure you really do like to do those things.

When I was in school oh so many years ago, I wanted to be a biochemist. I loved chemistry and physics and was excited to learn more about human anatomy and physiology. So I got a job working in a biochemistry lab. That is when I learned what it was the typical biochemist does all day. Lab work was not for me. I hated it. It was boring, tedious and slow. And it took me a full year to realize it was the work that I was doing and not the people or specific lab that was the problem.

The good thing is that as soon as I realized I didn't enjoy the job, I changed my major and pursued a different career. This disappointed many people including my adviser and the head of the lab I was working in. They probably saw me as a slacker and thought me worthless. The typical reaction people have is "Why can't you apply yourself better?" But the truth was it just didn't fit me. It was best for everyone that I move on to what I did like to do rather than force myself to be what other people thought I should be.

If you can try to actually do the job or get a job around the people who do what you want to do. You will get a great deal of insight into what will be required of you if you decide that career is right for you and you will learn whether you like it or not before having to spend years getting a degree or the required training. It will also get you connected to potential employers or people who could get you strong recommendations. It also can act as experience that is relevant to your future job.

This is the difficult part of finding happiness and joy in your job. All too often we listen too closely to others and do what they want us to do rather than pursue a career that is fulfilling for us. We have to live our life, not other people. But when deciding on the course of our lives, it is more important to respect our wants and desires than those of the people around us. We have to live with our choices. And when we find a career we love, we will serve others with more energy, doing a better job and spreading more happiness to others in the process.

Once you determine what things YOU find enjoyable and have found one or more career paths that require efforts you will enjoy, find out who hires for those careers. What do the job postings employers put up say? Do they require a degree? Certifications? Experience? Training?

Take this list of what employers want to see in their job applicants and start doing what it takes to become qualified. Remember, as you exert the efforts required to land that job, you are doing these things so you can do what you love. You are seeking out the fun in life to create a career of play and not work. Thinking this way makes the effort you exert to get that fun job enjoyable as well and it is so much easier.

As you seek out your education and training, also look for opportunities to work as closely as possible with people who are doing what you want to do. I have found that an hour of experience is worth more than 10 hours of education. The education is important and in many high end occupations a prerequisite to the job. But you learn so much more by doing than by studying.

Also, get as much practice as you can. It has been well researched and is widely believed that to be considered an expert in your field that, no matter how talented you are, you need about 10,000 hours of practice. This translates to 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year for 5 years. Your practice includes your study, research and actual work experience. I would also go as far as to say it depends on how hard you expend effort toward your goal and how focused you are when you are doing it. If you are intent on the task, it may actually take a little less than 10,000 hours and if you lack focus it could easily take much more.

Employers benefit most from employees who love what they do. When you love it, you expend more effort and are more focused. Loving your job is a benefit to everyone. And your co-workers will be much easier to be with if you are having fun.

Of course, no job is completely void of some work. Life in general isn't all play either. But you can maximize the fun and minimize the work. Optimally I would say if you only have 1 hour of actual work every day you are doing great. And if you are enjoying everything else, the work won't really be all that bad - heck at least it is over with pretty quickly so you can go back to playing!

Having fun in your career means you will be happier, healthier and more productive. It translates to greater success and more job security. It means a happier family life as you take the joy and not the frustration home at the end of the day. It reduces stress and can help to prolong life.

So have fun and don't work, GO PLAY!