Work as Play: Part 1

work as play

Work as Play

What’s the secret to choosing and creating work as play? Some of the greatest contributions of our time came from playfulness. Albert Einstein, Buckminster Fuller, Pablo Picasso and many more well known scientists, engineers and artists attribute their contributions to a playful state of mind, where they were open to seeing new possibilities and following hunches.

People considering a career change often ask the question, “Can you help me find more creative and passionate work?” Well, I have a better question: What do you do naturally, when work feels like play? It’s possible to be playful, inventive and enthusiastic, all while in the midst of your daily work—but first you have to rethink the concept of “work,” and second, you have to know what you’re innately best at doing.

When we think of the great engineers and inventors burning the midnight oil, we usually view them as obsessed scientists, somehow very different from the rest of us. Looking in from the outside they appear to be workaholics, wacky-minded professors—people who look like Einstein with crazy white hair who wear the same clothes everyday. What we don’t realize is that many of these people do not see themselves as geniuses. They were simply doing what came naturally.

How often do you recognize when you are being brilliant? Most people don’t see themselves as having any special gifts or talents. It’s like asking the squirrel how she can climb trees like an acrobat; she just is what she is. Just like we can’t perceptibly feel how our five senses operate instantaneously, we usually can’t perceive when our natural talents are shaping our thoughts and actions. A major step toward finding work that taps our natural talents is to begin noticing when we are being more like a squirrel, as well as when you’re more like a cat stuck up a tree.

Einstein’s Secret

Extraordinary scientists and engineers have revealed a secret to career fulfillment. During a research interview, Einstein described how mathematicians form their mental processes,

“The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. . . the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play . . . from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”

Rather than setting out to be geniuses, the people we call “gifted” were tapping their creative minds by doing something every kid knows instinctively—being playful engaged in something they we’re into.

How much joy does your career bring you? In just a few seconds of inquiry, most people can tell if they are doing work that inspires them and taps to their potential. When you are in a curious state of mind, absorbed in what you do, notice how your creative thoughts flow more naturally, where your sense of wonder is turned on.

What activities make you feel this way? Go on to part 2, Work Sucks, to learn more.