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Have More Success, Play a Bigger Game and Rethink the Work/Life Balance

In the spirit of bowl games and the analogy of playing a bigger game on a bigger field, I ran across this quote that really struck a chord with me as I thought about how we make distinctions between work and play:

“A master in the art of living draws no distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” *

Unless you won the Powerball, you are probably working not just for the fun of it, but also to make money or achieve other manifestations of success. For most people, most of the time, work feels like work, not play. But if we could blur the lines between “labor” and “recreation,” and approach all things with the commitment of work and the gratitude of play, could we also more easily achieve success?

If you are an entrepreneur, you organize and operate a business, including taking on the associated financial risks. You have chosen to spend a lot of time and energy in a field you love, but it’s much more than a hobby. There is an entire list of associated behaviors around being an entrepreneur that would be distinct from someone who spends time in the same field as a contractor or hobbyist.

An entrepreneur combines what she loves with a way to earn an income, and in so doing plays a much bigger game. By creating significant financial goals for herself and plans for pursuing those goals, an entrepreneur enlarges the circle of play to include the circle of work, playing a much bigger game.

If you are an executive, it’s likely that you are the senior-most leader of your functional area. You lead Operations, IT or Finance, for example, and you represent that voice in executive meetings and decision-making. That is definitely a critical component of being an executive, and on its face, it doesn’t sound like “fun.”

At the senior-most executive levels in any organization, however, a bigger game is played by developing a more holistic and strategic point of view. This distinction includes having a broader and deeper understanding of what happens across the entire business and external markets. Being willing to make decisions for the entire enterprise, not just a single functional area, differentiates executives who are capable of leading at the highest levels. These are executives who take broader responsibility for organizational needs around constraints, opportunities and resources, and are willing to offer an insightful opinion and a well-honed understanding for strategies that are beyond functional expertise. This executive, too, is enlarging the circle of work to encompass the circle of play and playing a much bigger game.

Achieving a “work/life” balance is always a hot topic of conversation the higher you go up the corporate ladder, or once you’ve made a decision to start your own business. The name itself – work/life balance – suggests that on one side of the scale, there’s work, and on the other, there’s life. What if we started seeing work not as a counterweight to life, but just another part of life to enjoy? What if we saw life, not as a game of tug-of-war between work and play, but a bigger game that includes them both on the same side? It’s a small shift in attitude, but one that opens a huge vantage point into greater satisfaction, happiness and success.

*(attributed to writing and teachings from Lawrence Pearsall Jacks, James Michener and the Buddha)