I often wonder if the Holy Grail of work, and life for that matter, is thoroughly loving what you do? It seems strange to me that so many people don’t ever find it. Strange, because when I look at my own working history, I have overwhelmingly loved what I do. I always promised myself that the day I wake up hating what I do more than loving it, is the day I begin a journey to find a new space and place to express the working part of who I am. On the whole I’ve done that. Perhaps I’m fortunate in that I’ve had choices? Maybe I’ve got an attitude that defaults to seeing the great stuff and ignoring the crappy stuff? Whatever it is, it does seem that I work in a different world to many.
My favourite quote in this context is from Joseph Campbell, famous Mythologist:
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life.
I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking.
I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane
will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
Yesterday, in the bathroom of Cape Town International Airport I saw a photograph of two men in an advert that captured the Rapture of being at Work. It’s a great image that shouts out passion, love, excitement, fulfillment, fun, happiness, enjoyment, commitment. All the characteristics I imagine all leaders and managers wish they saw in their people everyday. The image, however, is not captured at work. These two guys are in a pub somewhere, during working hours (apparently) watching something. In my world it’s a game of darts, but it could be cricket, soccer, netball, or rugby on TV.
The advert is suggesting that this is not where you want your people during working hours. So they have a solution for you… track your people’s movements so you can ensure they’re being fully productive during the time you have them.
But I wonder to myself why wouldn’t I, if I was a manager of these guys, be happy for them to take an hour or two out to build those kinds of feelings and emotions. Can you imagine them going back to work after the amazing event they’re watching, and the productivity gains that would result? I’d be prepared to wager that they’d do far better business than two of their colleagues who clocked in at 8 and were ‘being productive’!
It’s back to the theme of ‘play’ for me. We don’t play enough at work, and when we do, it always has to be attached to a business outcome or objective, or even worse we rename it with something business sounding, like ‘serious play’ or ‘team building’. The act of doing this robs play of the depth of what it is. Play is play. It’s simply that. We do it for it’s own sake, and when you play you’re not concerned or focussed on the outcomes.
It’s the paradox of play in business that we’re uncomfortable with. The paradox is that play leads to everything we wish our people had in business, but the act of play isn’t allowed by our business boxes and processes.
More play is required in business today. It’s not easy work to change the current paradigms and status quo, but it’s work that must get done.