Fun is the fuel

There's a lot of confusion out there about how to follow your passion, do work you love and have fun at work. There are people running around preaching “just have fun” like it's an answer to a decade of questions. Like “fun” will pay the bills and put food on the table.

See, doing stuff you love is not about taking your foot off the pedal. It's definitely not saying that you can be excellent by not putting in the work. Doing your best, whatever it is, is a big part of doing what you love. There's no fulfilment or accomplishment without effort.

Sometimes, I worry that I'm adding to all this when I talk about “doing more stuff you love” because I know that a lot of people will only take it at face value and not dig a bit deeper.

But, here's the punchline: Fun is the fuel.

So (in my best Tina Turner voice) what's “fun” got to do with it?

I see “fun” as the key ingredient in motivating you enough to work your tail off. If something is fun, you're going to work hard; it's as simple as that. In this sense, fun is the precursor to the enormous amount of work you have to do to be excellent in your chosen career. In a recent podcast, Gary Vaynerchuck mentioned that “fun” is the doorway, but work is what gives you the results. You need the door to be open, but there is only one way to walk through it.

This makes sense to me. We're all just human; we all need motivation. So, it's logical that having fun is a nice, juicy carrot that will keep you working hard - long after someone with a mere interest has packed it away.

Why do we need the fuel?

Now that the internet is opening up opportunity for everyone around the world, you're competing with everyone, no matter where you are or what you do. So, either you outwork people or you outthink them. Ideally, you do both.

To be excellent, you have to find a way to stand out. Whether that's in your own team, or in your firm, or at a more macro level. There is always competition at play; there is always the need to work hard if you want to be valued and valuable. Without the hard work, you can't develop the skills and knowledge that others don't have - which is what will ultimately make you valuable.

There is no cutting corners. Good things require hard work.

But... What if you can't be bothered?

If you can't be bothered, you're not doing something you can be great at. So, either go and do something else or stop trying to be bothered.

Seriously. If you have a prolonged period of “I can't find the motivation” or “this is boring” it's a great sign that you need to make change (duh!) if you want to do work that you can be great at. If you're not waking up keen to get working on the next problem, you've either lost sight of the bigger picture or you just don't have the “fun” fuel and should be doing something else.

If you don't, you'll struggle to put in the work required. That's cool, but just be honest with yourself. You have to have the humility to understand that working hard is the price and that “fun” is the fuel. So, if you aren't working hard now, or if work is a struggle, you'd better look at the bigger picture. Maybe you would just prefer to cut bait and not bother, and that's cool, just don't then wonder why you're uninspired.

I love my work but some days are a real pain in the arse

This doesn't mean anything except that you are paying the price for being great.

Another great piece of Gary Vee advice is to see fun as both “macro” and “micro”. At the macro level, you love being a lawyer. But, the micro of that document, or that trial, or the next 2 months while juggling kids, might mean things aren't so fun for a while.

Understanding what the macro is for you, and making sure it's something “fun”, will help drive you through all the micro pain along the way.

It could take time; your micro might be a 4 year degree. A friend of mine just put himself through part-time study to become a Chiropractor, while running a practice and keeping a family alive, fed and housed. He could see the macro and dealt with the micro day-by-day.

Sometimes, though, the macro starts to sour. You lose sight of the fun in the big picture, and then the little things really start to sting. You have a choice: Take action to bring back the fun (usually with small steps), or move on to something else.

So there you have it. Whilst finding your passion/work you love and “just having fun” is a great start, see it as fuel to fire the hard work. It'll make doing it a hell of a lot easier.