“Mom, you’re a really hard worker.” I’ve heard variations of this twice in the last two weeks from my daughters (age 9 and age 7). At this particular time, I had just put all three kids to bed and was just sitting back down at my desk happily eager to continue working on a new business idea I’ve been trying to figure out, and about which I had had a breakthrough earlier in the day. Addison, my 9-year-old night owl, was coming out to let me know she couldn’t sleep – but had stopped to observe me working for a while before she let her presence be known.
The remarkable thing was that even though I was – technically – working, it didn’t feel like work. It actually felt more like settling down with a good book, or even enjoying a delicious meal. And rather than be annoyed at being taken away from that delicious meal (which I did feel, slightly), I opted – instead – to share with her what I was doing and specifically that it didn’t feel like work, that I was enjoying it.
Here’s how the conversation went:
“Well, I imagine that the work I am doing now actually feels to me like playing on Minecraft feels to you, so it’s actually kind of fun. Remember when you thought it would be cool to make a wishing well that actually granted wishes in your Minecraft world but you didn’t know how?”
“And you had to figure it out, do some research, try a few different things and ultimately you figured it out …right?
“And it was fun, wasn’t it? Otherwise, why would you do it when no one was making you? In fact, I’m always yelling at you to get off Minecraft aren’t I?”
“So this is like playing Minecraft for you?” (read with 9 year old sarcastic tone).
“Yeah, actually, it is. I thought ‘wouldn’t this be cool?’, and I’m trying to figure out how to make it happen, and I am guessing it’s probably just as much fun for me as creating things on Minecraft is for you.”
Then I made her go to bed so I could continue to play, I mean work.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure she “got it” – but it got me thinking about what messages I was sending to my kids about work. Yes, it’s something you “have” to do. Yes, it takes away from other things you want to do (like be with your kids) even with you like your work. Yes it is sometimes hard, and sometimes you have to do things that are hard anyway (and we often call that “work” vs. “play”).
But what about these messages? When it comes to work, we need to rebalance our messages – not only to our children – but to ourselves.
Investing time in making an idea a reality for no other reason you think it would be “cool”– is a not only a good use of time, it might actually be the highest use of time.
The doing can be (and often is) more of a reward than the outcome.
Even doing things you want to do requires sacrifice, but having more than one “good thing” to do at any given time is the kind of problem I hope my children struggle with throughout their life.
Responsibility and effort can be their own reward, if it’s for a cause that is meaningful to you (and what’s meaningful to you is very likely different than what is meaningful to others, thank God for that).
“Fun” is a worthy pursuit.
On the other hand, I could have just totally invalidated my attempts to get her to get off of Minecraft.
Susan O’Neal Gear has over 20 years of experience at the intersection of consumers, marketing and technology. Passionate about all aspects of a consumer’s relationship with brands and retailers, we’re spending the next year looking for new, groundbreaking thought leadership – if not disruptive solutions – with the potential to redefine the parameters of consumer loyalty. If you also want to see some game changing happen -then follow Upstream Insight, contribute your voice, share this post…do something!