Make your vocation your vacation. I think that’s one of the smartest business concepts that I’ve ever run across. I learned it from a book called Work is My Play by Wallace E. Johnson, one of the founders of Holiday Inn.
One of the things that Johnson says in his book that I like so much is this: the secret of success is to work half a day. It doesn’t matter which half you work; just make sure you work half a day. Now, you have to take that in its proper context, because he isn’t talking about a standard eight-hour workday. He’s talking about a day, the full 24-hour period from sunrise to sunrise, which means your “half-day” is 12 hours long. If that just shuts you down flat, consider this: when you study all the great business successes, you’ll see that they were not accomplished by people who punched time clocks like most people do. Average workers put in their 40 or 50 hours, but their real life exists beyond what they do for a living.
Well, folks, the secret here is to throw your whole heart and soul into your business. Just put it all out there. My best analogy for that is the farmer. Farming isn’t really a job that people do for money. Farming is a lifestyle. It’s a part of who they are, and it’s every cell in their bodies. It’s what they live for; it’s their whole identity.
When I think about blurring the line between your work and play, I can’t help but think about the standard job mentality. It’s all about the money for most of us, isn’t it? Most people just naturally assume that that’s what I’m all about, too, because during the past two decades I’ve been “successful.” But they’re wrong. For me, it’s all about the game. It’s about the excitement. It’s about the freedom. It’s about the fun, the adventure of competing.
I’ve successfully blurred the line between work and play, and you should too. Find out what you’re really good at and run with it, putting your whole passion into the things that you really enjoy and do well. I often get up at five AM and start working immediately. Noon rolls around, and I think, “Wow, seven hours just went by — and it happened so quickly!” Sometimes that shocks me, and I wonder, What did I do? Simple enough: I got absorbed in my work. It became as enjoyable for me as any play. The flow of it makes me feel alive. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s interesting.
I have a little sign on the treadmill where I work out, and it says, “Do whatever makes you feel totally alive.” That’s what a business should be about. It’s not only about making money; that’s just a necessity, like breathing, and to me there’s nothing more boring. Whenever you focus on the money alone, or any other single thing, as far as I’m concerned you’re going to make the wrong decisions. That’s why you focus on the game of it, in its totality, and revel in the excitement, the adventure, of trying to build something substantial.
Try to do something that makes you feel passionate, and just fall in love with your work. Do what makes you feel most fulfilled, and spend as much of your life as you can in those areas, playing with whatever gives you the greatest sense of joy and fulfillment. For me it’s marketing, writing, communication. It’s anything that has to do with selling and developing business plans and strategies. Just don’t take it too seriously, or you’ll lose track of what really matters.
Now, does that mean you should laugh at all your problems and just skate by them? Of course not! But this whole idea that being in business is like a prison sentence, where you have to keep your nose to the grindstone and it’s wrong to get loose and to relax and have fun… that’s an old, worthless idea that you need to set aside right now.
Consider professional athletes, who offer the ideal example of blurring the line between work and play. They get paid to play games… though it’s a lot of work, too. It’s no easy job to be, say, a baseball player who plays 160 games a year from April all the way through September. That doesn’t account for all the training and the playoffs, either. They work incredibly hard on it; these athletes are very fit, because they stay active and train all the time. But they’re playing.
Even more amazing, they’re basically playing a kid’s game. Pick-up games of baseball are being played every day across the U.S. and all around the world in their thousands. These guys are doing it for a living… and some are making millions at it. That’s a classic example of getting paid to have fun. Their play is their work, and vice versa. They work hard at it, just like us entrepreneurs.
Now, don’t take this attitude too far, because in order to be successful in business, you’ve got to take it seriously at some level. That doesn’t mean you have to let it give you a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Don’t take it so seriously that you’re exhausted all the time, either. It’s okay to be exhausted occasionally, in the same way that a good play session or a good workout exhausts you. In fact, that’s a great way to think of it: it’s hard work while you’re doing it, but you like the results that come from doing it.
Even if you lose sight of the enjoyment in the heat of the moment, you like seeing what you’ve gained from it, and you like keeping score. You like going to the scale to see how much weight you’ve lost or how much muscle tone you’re gaining. It’s challenging, but it’s fun.
Business should be like that. Take it seriously and play to win, but remember that it’s just a game, and have fun playing.