Should work be fun? Not if you want to be successful


February 24, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

work be fun

Let me repeat. If you want to be at the top of your game, and reap the quality of life benefits that come with that, then I would argue that all of your work should NOT be fun.

It’s these grueling, “not fun” tasks that are key to success. There is a huge discipline difference – with major quality of life ramifications – between doing “hard, smart work” and this plus doing the real grueling tasks that your peers are unwilling to do because it is too far out of their comfort zones.

What differentiates the A players from the B players is a willingness to do the work that is not fun at all.

Lets use an example. There’s a brilliant economist with tenure at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. He works incredibly hard and smart within his discipline; in a way that few people in his field can. However, in the tasks he least enjoys — networking and marketing himself – he is unwilling to do the hard work.

Let’s look at the other economist with a best selling book and with invitations to speak at beautiful sites around the world. She can also work incredibly smart and hard within her comfort zone, but is also willing to do the grueling networking and marketing work that she hates doing. She does the work that is not fun. Poring over the agenda of a conference she is speaking at the following week, identifying those who may be useful to meet, researching their backgrounds, sending introduction emails prior to the conference to lay a better foundation for networking at the event, sending the emails at night as that is simply the only time to do so, getting in the extroverted mindset at the conference to make the most of it, etc. [Again, this is stuff she hates doing but does it anyway.]

And guess what. The one who does the most of this grueling, un-fun work, becomes one of the most accomplished and admired economists because of the greater exposure to inspiring experiences and supporting people along the way. [And subsequently is best positioned for a life well lived due to the confidence and financial stability dividends that come from a successful career.]

Other examples:

    • The middle manager who HATES to do performance reviews but plows through them so that she can best develop her team and as a result best reach her goals. 
  • The entrepreneurs who hates to do cold calls but swallows his pride because he knows it is the only way to grow his business. Realizing that a little bit of “artist” suffering is a necessary ingredient in the overall game. 

We have this misconception that if you have self awareness and are in the best place to actualize yourself, that all your work should be fun. This is false. It should be fun most of the time but you have to take on the grueling, “un-fun” stuff to ultimately self actualize.

Doing the tough, unglamourous tasks is not fun. It can be a nasty slog. But know that it’s a key part of the mix.

Written on 2/24/2009 by Kit Cooper. Kit serves as executive director for Best Life Practices Foundation. The website shares quality of life best practices discovered from in-person interviews with well known types like Richard Branson and Tom Skerritt to lesser known but equally interesting individuals. Photo Credit: Phillie Casablanca

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