When is work play?
Photo: Dr. Ellen McMahon
Ellen McMahon, EdD, MBA, is an associate professor at National-Louis University in the College of Management and Business. Ellen has extensive international experience consulting in Eastern Europe and the Balkans
When my oldest daughter, now a teacher in Nevada, was young she rode horses. We lived far from the barn and so she didn’t get to go to the barn everyday but only a few times each week. So when she did get to the barn she gave it her all. She groomed her own horse; she did practice drills, perfecting her own riding and her horse’s responses; she cleaned up her horse after the ride then she mucked the stall. And if she could convince me or her father or grandmother, her most common rides, to stay even longer, she would try to do the same grooming and mucking to one of the lesson horses. On school days she would have to do her homework in the car on the way there before she could ride, so on the ride home she would eat whatever snack we brought and then fall asleep. When we finally did get home she would hardly have enough energy for dinner a bath before collapsing into her bed! For a trip to the barn you could get her to do just about anything.
Now I imagine if she had to do that every single day, not just on riding days or the summer day camp days, she may not have the same enthusiasm for the job, but I am not so sure. She was born loving animals and doing things for them, horses and dogs particularly, never seemed like work to her.
So what makes something work or play? I think that is the question we all have to ask ourselves. What makes you jump out of bed in the morning, even on cold dark days? What makes you rush through the required things to get to those things that feel like play? When you find out what that is you can figure out how to make a living at it. Your energy and enthusiasm will energize those around you. There is nothing like talking to someone who loves what they are doing. Even things you may find boring become a bit more exciting listening to what someone else might love about it.
I feel quite lucky that I am part of National-Louis University, in an institution that serves returning adult students. Helping those around me explore new topics, develop new skills and begin a process of transformation doesn’t feel like work, it feels like an honor to bear witness to such profound growth.
Whether it is working with people or horses find something that gives you energy and figure out how to do it every day.