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 naturally, where work is play when you’re doing it? 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 raised white hair, wearing the same clothes everyday. What we don’t realize is that many of these people do not see themselves as ‘working’ or as geniuses. They were simply doing what came naturally to them.

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 a spectacular acrobat—she takes it for granted. Like the eyeball cannot see itself, we usually can’t see our natural talents; they make up our personal lens into reality. A major step toward finding work that taps our natural talents is to begin noticing when we are being like the squirrel, rather than like a cat trapped 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.”

work as play

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 we’re into.

How much fun you are having in your career? 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 and adventure is satisfied.

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

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