Work for Work's Sake
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, …”
A volleyball bounces between us with childlike joy.
“Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, …”
Our unwavering focus is on receiving and passing back the ball. Nothing else exists.
The ball hits a few inches away from my wrists and falls to the ground.
“Twenty-two! That’s our record!”
We strike a victory pose and start again.
“One, two, three, …”
Volleyball, pickleball, ping-pong, tennis–I love playing ball sports not to win a game but to continue it. An aggressive stroke ends a game and the fun of playing it. I enjoy passing the ball mindfully so we can continue the game and stay in the loop of thrill and joy. The longer the game, the more exciting and delightful.
I value a process more than an outcome in art too. When I practice Japanese calligraphy, I focus on each stroke to savor the moment. I do calligraphy for the sake of calligraphy, not for creating exquisite artwork. If my calligraphy turns out beautiful, it’s just a lovely bonus of the practice, not its purpose.
I take the same attitude toward my work. Whatever service I offer has stages of idea development, planning, marketing, promotion, implementation, and evaluation. Instead of focusing on a successful outcome, I concentrate on each step and enjoy it. I do a task to continue on to the next one. I work for the sake of work and savor the process.
Not all of my projects yield conventional success. A class no one attends. A product that doesn’t sell. But it’s fine because I have already enjoyed doing that project. I worked for work’s sake, and that’s the only thing that matters. The rest is beyond my control.
A failed project shows me where to go from here. It helps me prepare for the next set in the game, so I can continue playing it with pleasure.
When work becomes play, and play becomes work, your life unfolds. —Robert Frost