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Episode 8: Why we must see work as play

We must see work as play.

In this episode of How Peo­ple Work, Jor­dan and Jason explore the ways to think dif­fer­ent­ly about work, incor­po­rat­ing hap­pi­ness and play. The hosts start by talk­ing about their child­hood aspi­ra­tions and how most kids want to play games as their career.

The con­ver­sa­tion between Jason and Jor­dan revolves around the com­plex­i­ty of life as one grows old­er and the need for rules to guide one’s actions. They dis­cuss how chil­dren have a script to fol­low, and bound­aries are well defined. How­ev­er, as one grows old­er, the rules become less defined, and one may not know what is expect­ed of them. There are unwrit­ten rules in work cul­ture that are con­fus­ing, and peo­ple may not know how to nav­i­gate them. They sug­gest that it is essen­tial to have a mutu­al aim and agreed-upon rules to play by, which makes the game of work fun.

Key ideas and highlights

  • When asked what they want to be when they grow up, most kids answers involve some form of play. Why do we lose that?
  • There are unwrit­ten rules at work that are con­fus­ing; good lead­ers write out the ​“How to Win” section.
  • Hav­ing a clear mis­sion, vision, val­ues, or rule book gives peo­ple peace and clarity.

Word of the day

Scrupu­lous — 24:59 ✅


  • 0:00 Intro
  • 2:51 Why we need to think dif­fer­ent­ly about the notion of work
  • 3:37 What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • 4:15 Play­ing a game as a career was every kid’s dream
  • 11:38 Why the fond­est mem­o­ries of life are mem­o­ries of play­ing games
  • 13:15 Games as a micro­cosm of how soci­ety works
  • 15:51 Why we don’t like liv­ing in a world with­out rules
  • 19:55 Good lead­ers write down the unwrit­ten rules and make them clear
  • 21:14 There must be a way to win work
  • 25:56 Why it’s hard­er to see wins at work

Lis­ten on Apple Pod­casts | Spo­ti­fy | YouTube

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Con­nect with Jor­dan and Jason on LinkedIn.


Jor­dan (00:05):

How many hours and years of our lives do we spend on work? For near­ly all of us, we spend 30 plus years and one third of our days in our voca­tion, more time per­haps, than we spend at rest or at play. But this isn’t a prob­lem. Why? Because work is good. Work needs to be inte­grat­ed deeply into our lives and must be in line with our most impor­tant goals and val­ues. And if it is, we have a far more com­plete and ful­fill­ing life expe­ri­ence. Wel­come to the How Peo­ple Work pod­cast, where we explore the inter­sec­tion of how humans think and act and how they apply them­selves to their work. When you under­stand both of these things, you’ll be equipped to be insight­ful, com­pas­sion­ate, and com­pelling lead­ers. All right. Wel­come back to How Peo­ple Work. I’m Jor­dan Peace. This is Jason Mur­ray join­ing me as usu­al, your co- host today. Thanks for lis­ten­ing in. Today, we’re going to talk about — shock­er. We’re going to talk about work again, but we’re going to talk about work as play. We’re going to talk about a pos­i­tive vision of work and how work can be enjoy­able, how work can be fun.

Jason (01:14):

Going to try to, anyways.

Jor­dan (01:14):

I say, we’re going to try to fig­ure this out. This is not a top­ic that we’ve writ­ten blogs about, writ­ten books about, fig­ured all the way out alto­geth­er, but it’s some­thing that we’re inter­est­ed in and some­thing that we see as kind of key to fig­ur­ing out how to see work as a good thing, which is an argu­ment that we’ve made before. And how do we go about enjoy­ing that? How do we go about see­ing work as play in the same way that we as fathers see our chil­dren play? And that play turns into work, and that work turns into play, and they kind of oscil­late back and forth. So wel­come back to the pod­cast. I think we prob­a­bly want to kick off, Jason, if you want to give us a lit­tle recap of last week and sort of tran­si­tion us into this week and this idea, this top­ic that we’re going to talk about.

Jason (02:08):

Sure. Well, in the last episode, we were talk­ing about hap­pi­ness, and we’ve spent a cou­ple episodes talk­ing about that from a few dif­fer­ent van­tage points, but specif­i­cal­ly last week, kind of the ben­e­fits of hap­pi­ness to our work and all the research around how that impacts pos­i­tive­ly the indi­vid­u­al’s expe­ri­ence of work, the ben­e­fits to the orga­ni­za­tion in terms of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, per­for­mance, et cetera, et cetera. And I think this top­ic in par­tic­u­lar is inter­est­ing. And I’ll say we’re talk­ing about this right before the episode. We haven’t fig­ured this all out our­selves. And so I think through this con­ver­sa­tion, explor­ing some of the ways that we can sort of think dif­fer­ent­ly about the notion of work. And so hap­pi­ness being some­thing that seems to be catch­ing on a lit­tle bit more. Peo­ple are pay­ing atten­tion to it and think­ing about it as it per­tains to work. And so play sim­i­lar­ly maybe isn’t- work as play, maybe isn’t thought of as terms that go togeth­er very often or very well. But I think there’s rel­e­van­cy there, espe­cial­ly as we think about, well, how do we kind of rebuild a par­a­digm for work that’s more pos­i­tive and gives us some­thing to aspire to, I sup­pose. So I thought it would be fun to start with a ques­tion around what did you want to be when you grew up? So I actu­al­ly know a lot of stuff about you, but I don’t think I know the answer to this question.

Jor­dan (03:41):

So I want­ed to be some com­bi­na­tion of John Smoltz and Chip­per Jones. Okay. So any Braves fans, Atlanta Braves fans lis­ten­ing and would imme­di­ate­ly know those names. Many base­ball fans would prob­a­bly know those as well, because they’re two Hall of Famers.

Jason (03:56):

So third base and pitcher.

Jor­dan (03:58):

Yeah, third, well, he was a short­stop before he was third base man.

Jason (04:00):

That’s true. Before they moved him over.

Jor­dan (04:01):

Spent some time in left field when he still had the ath­leti­cism to do that, but yeah. Yeah, Chip­per and Smoltz. Smoltz prob­a­bly be being my num­ber one top ath­lete that I’ve ever watched. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was unsur­pris­ing­ly, right, the idea of play­ing a game for work, play­ing a game for a career, being on that stage and wear­ing that uni­form and hav­ing team­mates and pur­su­ing a cham­pi­onship, and just the pomp and cir­cum­stance around that as a child. And watch­ing these guys for me, lit­er­al­ly dai­ly, I mean, we had the game one every day, right from April until Sep­tem­ber or Octo­ber if they were in the play­offs, which they often were when I was a kid. It just seemed like, what else would you do with your life? Why would you do any­thing else besides play baseball?

Jason (05:01):Yeah, the boys of Summer.

Jor­dan (05:03):Yeah exact­ly. Exact­ly. So that was my, what about you, Jason?

Jason (05:06):So that was it. Base­ball. Base­ball, yeah. Yeah. Very singular.

Jor­dan (05:10):How about that?

Jason (05:10):Great. What was it about John Smoltz in particular?

Jor­dan (05:15):

Man, I feel like I could always get a good read on John Smoltz, like even as a kid. Yeah. I feel like I could read his emo­tion and he seemed kind of what I feel like now. He seemed a guy that he had the tal­ent and he had -

Jason (05:34):An all star with a lot of money.

Jor­dan (05:36):

No, no, no, no, no. Not that piece. Not that piece. No I’m talk­ing about a young John Smoltz, right. But he had the tal­ent, he had the abil­i­ty, and he had the aggres­sion. He’s like, I’m going to do this. I’m going to dom­i­nate these guys. I’m going to strike peo­ple out. I’m going to make ​‘em ground in dou­ble plays, et cetera. But I always sensed a lit­tle fear behind his eyes. I always sensed a lit­tle, you’re not quite sure you can do this, are you, John? And I don’t know. I don’t know John Smoltz per­son­al­ly. Yeah. I have no idea if he felt that. That was always my read on him. And I’ve always felt the same way. I’ve always felt a nat­ur­al sense of con­fi­dence that, sure, I can go out and do this, but when I actu­al­ly get out there on the field or I get out there to record a pod­cast, behind my eyes is a lit­tle bit of just like, ah, can I really?

Jason (06:26):

That feels like a good trait, and that seems insight­ful to me. Because I mean, do you real­ly trust some­body that has seem­ing­ly a hun­dred per­cent pure con­fi­dence? Yeah, because I don’t, I feel like some­body that appears that way is just BS. Does­n’t every­one have a lit­tle fear behind them, even if they’re real­ly good?

Jor­dan (06:48):I hope they do. Yeah. I think when there’s noth­ing there and there’s just com­plete blind con­fi­dence, the word sociopath comes to mind. Do you really?

Jason (07:01):

It’s clin­i­cal.

Jor­dan (07:01):

Yeah, right. It’s a lit­tle wor­ri­some. But any­way, I could­n’t have described any of that as a sev­en year old boy watch­ing John Smoltz in the play­offs in the ear­ly nineties. But yeah, I always was a huge fan of his.

Jason (07:17):

Yeah. So for me, I had three main ones grow­ing up. Grow­ing up a mil­i­tary kid around Marines in par­tic­u­lar. My dad was a Marine. I always want­ed to be a fight­er pilot. And so some of that was going to air shows and stuff when I was a kid. So I saw the Blue Angels a whole bunch of times. I just loved that stuff. I thought it was super cool. And then Top Gun obvi­ous­ly was big when we were kids. And so all of that was just like, man, being a fight­er pilot would be so cool. And I always feel a lit­tle bad that maybe I should’ve been one, because I have great eyesight.

Jor­dan (08:00):You have a ridicu­lous eyesight.

Jason (08:02):So many peo­ple are disqualified.

Jor­dan (08:03):People lis­ten­ing to the pod­cast, don’t under­stand what it’s like to be on a Zoom call with you when you’re shar­ing your screen and you are using eight point font.

Jason (08:11):

Every­one can see this, right?

Jor­dan (08:12):No one else on the call can read what you could read. You’re like, you guys see­ing this ok? And we’re like, well, tech­ni­cal­ly we can see your screen, but I can’t read a damn thing. Just

Jason (08:22):I just assume most peo­ple can see. So then paleontologist -

Jor­dan (08:29):


Jason (08:30):But that was main­ly because the Juras­sic Park

Jor­dan (08:32):Jurassic Park, I was going to say, I was like, I’m, it’s in here.

Jason (08:35):Of course, I mean, it was maybe not so much of the dead dinosaurs, but what if we could make live ones? That would be cool.

Jor­dan (08:43):And then you were going to find the Dino DNA. Yes.

Jason (08:45):Yes, and that’s going to be me in the Amber.

Jor­dan (08:48):

Yeah, right, of course.

Jason (08:48):I knew how to do all that stuff when I was very young. And -

Jor­dan (08:53):That is such a mil­len­ni­al, mil­len­ni­al goal right there. That’s ridiculous.

Jason (08:56):Have you watched all the Juras­sic Parks? All of ​‘em? Even the most recent one?

Jor­dan (09:02):

I might be able to still play the theme song on the piano, because I learned that when I was like eight years old.

Jason (09:07):

That’s impres­sive. Yeah, I could not do that. I watched the most recent ones too. It was good. All of ​‘em. Yeah. And then marine biol­o­gist, main­ly because of sharks.

Jor­dan (09:18):

Ok, not because of the Sein­feld episode.

Jason (09:19):

And my son got that from me because he does­n’t know what a marine biol­o­gist is, but he says he wants to be a shark scientist.

Jor­dan (09:26):

Shark Sci­en­tist. That’s perfect.

Jason (09:27):He just wants to see sharks.

Jor­dan (09:29):

He just calls it what it is. Yeah, shark sci­en­tist. That’s great.

Jason (09:33):

So yeah, it’s awesome.

Jor­dan (09:36):

That was perfect.

Jason (09:37):

What do you think it is about, mean? Obvi­ous­ly we became none of those things.

Jor­dan (09:44):

Nope. Swing and a miss.

Jason (09:45):

But there’s some­thing fun to rem­i­nisce on that, and you kind of dream about it. But I do think there are prob­a­bly clear mem­o­ries that many of us have from child­hood that per­tain to maybe moments of just pure enjoy­ment when we were doing things. And I’m curi­ous if there’s stuff that comes to mind for you where you can recall things or games or activ­i­ties or what­ev­er that, you know, you just got immersed in that kind of brought you that sense of joy and happiness.

Jor­dan (10:21):It’s always games for me. It’s always games. Some­times sports, but some­times just games. Games that fit in a box and you pull ​‘em out and play.

Jason (10:33):

I know you’re a big board game guy.

Jor­dan (10:34):

A big board game nerd. I always get on you for nerd­ing out on some­thing. This is the area where I’m real­ly with you on the nerd side of the house, so to speak. I think some of my fond­est mem­o­ries of my entire life are sit­ting down, or lay­ing down rather, on the pier at the Chick­a­hominy Riv­er here in the east­ern part of Vir­ginia, with my mom, and play­ing Scrab­ble. Play­ing Scrab­ble. That was our thing. It was the bat­tle of the wits. And I remem­ber since, I bet it was a lit­tle bit old­er than when kids learned to read, so maybe sev­en, eight years old, some­thing like that, where I knew some words. I knew how to spell some things. And we start­ed play­ing Scrab­ble then. And every time we went down to this River­house, which house is a gen­er­ous word for this lit­tle cab­in that was passed down through the gen­er­a­tions, but we sat on that pier and we played, and time stood still.


I mean, it could have thun­der­stormed, it could have been a hur­ri­cane. I would not have noticed. We just were in it and we were play­ing this game, and I was try­ing to get the right spots so I could get the triple word score and make sure I got that X on the triple let­ter score. And so strate­gic about it and just play­ing with her and I mean, those are some of my fond­est mem­o­ries of my entire life. And it was­n’t base­ball, it was­n’t the World Series, but it did­n’t need to be. It did­n’t need to be because to me, being able to have the rela­tion­al aspect of being with her and play­ing with her, but also just the com­pe­ti­tion aspect of, I’m going to beat this adult at this game because I can fig­ure out a way and maybe she’ll let me win. I’ll nev­er know. But I did occa­sion­al­ly win. And that was just a big thing to me. And it’s hard to describe because you’re like, it’s a board game, why is that impor­tant? But to an eight year old, nine year old, 10 year old kid, there’s some of my fond­est mem­o­ries and there’s some­thing to that. There’s some­thing to study there as to why was that so important.

Jason (12:55):Why do you think, or what, what about those moments or play­ing that game, if you were try­ing to put it into maybe a few words that kind of res­onate to describe it, how would you?

Jor­dan (13:15):

I think games are, they’re just a micro­cosm of how soci­ety works. Some­times. I think we over­step our bounds and we pur­sue this idea of com­plete free­dom. Just com­plete, just do what­ev­er you want, when­ev­er you want, how­ev­er you want with who­ev­er you want.

Jason (13:36): Does­n’t work.

Jor­dan (13:36):

It’s such a mis­take, right? But no game works, just like no, soci­ety works with­out rules, right? You sit down at a chess board and you say, okay, well this is a queen, and that’s a rook, and that’s a knight. And then you just move wher­ev­er the hell you want. Yeah. That’s not a game, right?

Jason (13:51):


Jor­dan (13:52):

You need rules. Oth­er­wise, there’s no game to be played. No mutu­al agree­ment on how we’re going to go about doing this. So I think part of it is just the micro­cosm of soci­ety boiled down to some­thing that a child could under­stand of just like here, I take a turn, you take a turn, you form a word. The word has to exist in this cer­tain dic­tio­nary. I mean, we were seri­ous. We had the Scrab­ble dictionary.

Jason (14:19):Oh, yeah. That’s necessary.

Jor­dan (14:20):

We would look it up. I knew all my two let­ter words, I knew all my two let­ter words I had them mem­o­rized, right? So I knew that I could play, I could play Xi. Yeah, that’s a word in Scrab­ble. Yeah, Za, that’s a word in Scrab­ble. So I could play that, and I could play across and also con­nect it to this valu­able word. Learn­ing that and excelling at that just felt like a micro­cosm of grow­ing up. It felt like devel­op­ment. It felt like my intel­li­gence and my intrigue about life was just kind of brought to kind of acti­vat­ed through this sin­gu­lar game. And then of course, the rela­tion­al aspect. I’m sit­ting there with my mom, it was just me and her, and was the whole world dis­ap­peared. And that was obvi­ous­ly a beau­ti­ful aspect of it. And I miss that. And I miss her. And she’s passed away. So the more now, it means even more to me now than it did then to think about those mem­o­ries. But I think life, and now I’m think­ing as an adult, life is real­ly com­plex and hard and hard things hap­pen, and it’s a lot of infor­ma­tion to process. And so when you boil things down to just like, I’m just in this moment, in this game to do one thing, there’s a cer­tain clar­i­ty that exists there that does­n’t exist in the midst of all the chaos that is life.

Jason (15:51): Yeah. Well, there’s a com­plex­i­ty that comes lat­er in life where I think the con­cept you kind of brought up around the rules is actu­al­ly real­ly per­ti­nent. Because I think I feel like I go through life some­times. I’m like, I don’t know what the rules are, right? I don’t know what I’m doing here. What is sup­posed to hap­pen? What are the rules to play by? It’s far less defined than it would seem, which when you’re a kid, you kind of feel like, man, all the adults know what’s going on. It’s like you become an adult and you have kids, and you’re like, I don’t know what the hel­l’s going on.

Jor­dan (16:28):

Oh, I know. And ear­ly on, you feel like you have a lit­tle bit of a script, right? Because when you’re a kid, it’s like, well, you just lis­ten to your par­ents and you obey your par­ents. That’s your job. And those are the para­me­ters. And I think that’s, hon­est­ly, that’s good par­ent­ing kids that actu­al­ly know where the bound­ary lines are. I think those are the for­tu­nate kids in the world that get to know where the bound­ary lines and where can I play? And then, you know, have a script. You go to school, you go to ele­men­tary, you go to mid­dle, you go to high, and then what­ev­er the next thing is for our gen­er­a­tion there, it was a big push for col­lege, may­be’s dif­fer­ent from the next gen­er­a­tion, the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. But there was a lit­tle bit of a script. And I just remem­ber 21 years old grad­u­at­ing school and feel­ing like I fell off the face of the earth. It was like, what’s the script? What’s next? And every­body was like, you decide. And I’m like, what me? I get to decide what’s next? No one told me this was com­ing. Right. It’s a scary thing.

Jason (17:33):Yeah. And then they hand you a baby next and like, oh, I did­n’t fig­ure out the oth­er stuff yet.

Jor­dan (17:39):

Right, exact­ly. That whole, imag­ine you’re drown­ing and some­one hands you a baby. But even before that, just get­ting into a job and now there’s all these dif­fer­ent rules in a job. There’s boss­es and there’s boss­es’ boss­es and there, there’s times you’re sup­posed to be cer­tain places and there’s eti­quette. And you’re not sup­posed to say that to those peo­ple, but you can say it to this group of people.

Jason (18:03):Keep that etiquette.

Jor­dan (18:05):I mean, it just sort of, I’m with you. But there’s a work cul­ture that you don’t almost like kind of rules. They are in the work game. And you don’t know it.

Jason (18:17):Well, they are. They’re unwrit­ten rules.

Jor­dan (18:20):

They’re unwrit­ten, for sure. Yeah. There’s writ­ten and there’s most­ly unwritten.

Jason (18:22):

Well, and I think that’s the thing is if you think about what makes a game fun. Yeah. It actu­al­ly is the rule. It’s the rule. There’s two things. Total­ly right? There’s a mutu­al aim, there’s a pur­pose to the game that we’ve agreed is the ulti­mate pur­pose. It’s like right — score -

Jor­dan (18:41):

It’s the how to win sec­tion of the rules when you open the book.

Jason (18:44):

Which that’s the first place I flip the first place I play a new game. Yeah. How do you win? Okay, that sounds fun. Okay, now how do you play? What are the rules? Right? So you got to have that. There’s an agreed upon aim, and then you’ve got to have a set of rules that every­one’s agreed to play by as well. And when you think about it, when we’re kids, I mean, how freak­ing annoy­ing was it when some­body start­ed break­ing the rules and cheat­ing? You’re just get rid of the cheater, shun the cheater!

Jor­dan (19:14):

Or try to change the rules on you.

Jason (19:16):

You’re like, you can’t change the rules,

Jor­dan (19:17):

And you’ve already played half the game, and you’ve applied the rules that you knew to get ahead, and the rules change. And now you’re behind.

Jason (19:24):

Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. But I think there’s a take­away there. I mean when we’re think­ing about the work con­text. What is the mutu­al aim? What are we try­ing to do here? What is our pur­pose? What are we aim­ing for col­lec­tive­ly that we’ve agreed upon that we can get togeth­er and play the same game? Because if we’re not aim­ing for the same thing, we’re poten­tial­ly all play­ing dif­fer­ent games.

Jor­dan (19:55):

And I think the more you can take those unwrit­ten rules and write ​‘em down, the more clar­i­ty you’re giv­ing the peo­ple that work for you. In our con­text, we run a com­pa­ny, obvi­ous­ly. Not every­body that’s lis­ten­ing runs a com­pa­ny, but the more you can either do that as a leader or maybe ask for that, or demand that from your lead­ers to take, Hey, all this unwrit­ten sort of nuanced stuff. Let’s be clear about it. Let’s write it down. Let’s call it a mis­sion. Let’s call it a vision, let’s call it val­ues, let’s call it what­ev­er, the rule book. Right? That’s so help­ful. It gives peo­ple peace about like, oh, well, now I know what’s expect­ed of me, what the rules are, what the aim is, the how to win por­tion is writ­ten down. Now I know how to act. I know how to per­form in this con­text, and it helps me see the peo­ple I work with as my team, because now I know what win­ning is. That’s been defined for me. So I can ral­ly these peo­ple togeth­er and we can go win. And that’s what makes a team a team. You. You’re not real­ly a team if it’s just like, well, we just kind of show up to the same Zoom calls three times a week and hang around while some­one talks -

Jason (21:11):

What are we here for? It’a boring

Jor­dan (21:14):

And tells us all the things that they think are impor­tant, it’s kind of bor­ing. It’s pur­pose­less. Yeah. I’m just kind of bid­ing my time, doing my thing, try­ing to keep my head down. I’m not real­ly going after any­thing. And then that’s why work needs to be play. It needs to be a game and needs to have a way to win.

Jason (21:35):

Well, I mean, I know we both like sports and March Mad­ness has been going on, but it’s wild to think about what’s real­ly going on in a bas­ket­ball game or in a base­ball game. I mean, peo­ple go nuts when some­body scores a bas­ket and you’re like, what the heck is that about humans? You put a ball ‑l

Jor­dan (21:58):You put a ball into a met­al ring with the nylon hoop or the nylon net hang­ing from the bot­tom of it. Right? That’s all you did.

Jason (22:05):

Why is it so excit­ing to us?

Jor­dan (22:08):

Because we know all the work that was put in. We know all the strat­e­gy that was put in. We know, and we also iden­ti­fy with a cer­tain team because we have nos­tal­gia, we have mem­o­ries, and we know that we either went to that school or our par­ents or what­ev­er, cheered for that team. And so we asso­ciate with that. But I think it’s because it’s hard. It’s hard to do. And so when you see peo­ple achieve things that are real­ly hard to do, you cheer for that. It’s almost like just the human con­di­tion is just like life’s hard. And when you have a big win, or any one of us has a big win, it’s like, yes!

Jason (22:48):

It’s such a crazy per­fect metaphor though, when you think about it, it’s like they’re lit­er­al­ly aim­ing for a bas­ket. They’re aim­ing some­thing towards a bas­ket, in the same way that we kind of metaphor­i­cal­ly aim towards a goal, what­ev­er it is. Right. And so I, I feel like it kind of indi­cates that there’s some­thing sort of intrin­si­cal­ly in us as human beings. It’s like we aspire to, or we admire peo­ple aim­ing for a high goal that requires some dif­fi­cul­ty. And we see the maybe poten­tial of human beings in that because we admire what it is that they’re doing, but it does­n’t have to live at that lev­el alone. We also can have goals. We can also aim for things and strive to achieve in sim­i­lar fashions.

Jor­dan (23:41):

Yeah, sports, it is just the easy, it’s the eas­i­est place to see the work. You know? See the fit­ness of the ath­lete, for exam­ple. You see that, I mean, you see them run up and down the court, and if you’ve played any bas­ket­ball or if you ever like, yeah, I’m just going to use bas­ket­ball, for exam­ple. But yeah, we’re in our late thir­ties, which is crazy to say out loud, but we’re in our late thir­ties. I know from expe­ri­ence, if I show up on a bas­ket­ball court and I run up and down the court, I know sev­en or eight times I’m wind­ed, I’m wind­ed. These guys are run­ning up down the court hun­dreds of times, some­times at a full sprint, some­times at a jog. And then I’ve got a guard, a guy, and I got to jump and I got to rebound, it flies out of bounds and I got­ta grab the ball.


I got to throw it at some guy’s legs so that it bounces off. And then it’s our ball. There’s, it’s just chaos for 40 min­utes, maybe longer if you’re pro­fes­sion­al. So you know from watch­ing that, and then from your own expe­ri­ence, like, oh my gosh, the work that was put in to get even one’s body in shape enough to do the thing that’s being done is insane. And then the scrupu­lous work that a coach put in to fig­ure out the X and Os and to fig­ure out how to, or we’re going to set a screen and we’re going to run off of that, and then that guy’s going to come off the screen and go towards the bas­ket and we’re going to pass to him at the, all of that. So it’s just clear with sports. So it’s just like, oh, I can see the work that was put in, and I can see what suc­cess looks like because the ball goes through the bas­ket and the game ends since some­body wins and some­body loses.


And busi­ness is, it’s hard­er to see all of that, right? Yeah. It’s hard­er to see because most of our chal­lenges in busi­ness, as we’re sit­ting here typ­ing away at our com­put­ers, it’s not a phys­i­cal chal­lenge. We don’t have to be in incred­i­ble shape to do the thing that we do, but we do have to have an incred­i­ble amount of resilience. We do have to be able to bounce back. We do have to be able to lose and learn from the loss and change our tac­tics and try again. We have to have the courage to try new things. We have to have the courage to fail and own that and own up to that and say, Hey, that was me. That was my idea. It did­n’t work. Right? Yeah. There’s dif­fer­ent sort of chal­lenges that we face in busi­ness than what’s faced in sports, but it’s no dif­fer­ent. It’s just less obvi­ous. Right? Yeah. Because it’s still a challenge.

Jason (26:21):

A chal­lenge is a chal­lenge whether small or large. And yeah, it’s real­ly inter­est­ing because this con­cept of flow, I know you and I have talked about that a lit­tle bit before, not on the pod­cast, I don’t think. The most com­mon anal­o­gy when you hear sci­en­tists talk about flow is ath­letes. And so the con­cept of flow is where you become so immersed in an activ­i­ty that basi­cal­ly you lose sense of time and space and you’re just in it. Total­ly. But it requires, so the sci­en­tists that study this stuff and unpacked it, it requires hav­ing a goal. So you actu­al­ly can’t expe­ri­ence this sense of flow if you’re not aim­ing for some­thing. So it requires that, that’s why ath­letes often are kind of ones that expe­ri­ence this, right? Great­ly because they have a very clear goal.

Jor­dan (27:17):

The goal is so obvious.

Jason (27:18):

And there’s a chal­lenge. So that’s anoth­er part of it that’s required, is a sense of chal­lenge. So it’s like some­thing that’s just beyond your abil­i­ty. So it stretch­es you a lit­tle bit, but it’s not so far beyond that you can’t actu­al­ly accom­plish the thing. And so that’s part of it. And then the oth­er part com­ing back to some­thing we were talk­ing about in the con­ver­sa­tion is rules. You have to under­stand how to do the thing right before you, so it can’t be a total mys­tery to you. How am I going to achieve this goal? I have no idea. It has to be some­thing that you actu­al­ly know how to do it, you know the the rules, you know how to play it. And so there’s that sense of, I know the rules, I know how to play it. There’s a chal­lenge and there’s a spe­cif­ic aim that I’m going for.


And it’s crazy. The sort of pos­i­tive ben­e­fits that they found that this flow expe­ri­ence cre­ates. I was actu­al­ly talk­ing to a Chief Peo­ple Offi­cer that we’re friends with recent­ly, and I was just inter­view­ing her about some oth­er stuff. But I was talk­ing about, Hey, what are some things that your com­pa­nies focus on this year sur­round­ing the employ­ee expe­ri­ence is some­thing that I’m think­ing about a lot these days. And one of the things she described very explic­it­ly was try­ing to make space for employ­ees to have more flow expe­ri­ences in their work. And I was like, that’s crazy. I’ve nev­er even heard a com­pa­ny talk about it that explic­it­ly. But they were kind of onto this idea of, well, we have to design the work expe­ri­ence in such a way that peo­ple can feel these things that cre­ate this real­ly good pos­i­tive feed­back loop around kind of expe­ri­enc­ing work as play. And I think, I feel like it’s fair to call that play because I think those flow expe­ri­ences seem­ing­ly arise out of play expe­ri­ences or what we might describe as play.

Jor­dan (29:12):

Yeah. I don’t think there’s much dif­fer­ence. I real­ly don’t. Yeah, sure. Do kids get paid for play­ing games? No. And we get paid for work. Yes. That’s the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence between the two. But the same is true. Busi­ness­es exist to make mon­ey. That’s why they exist. Some­one had an idea and they thought, I should build this prod­uct, or I should launch this ser­vice and peo­ple will pay for that ser­vice. And because they pay for that ser­vice or prod­uct, we will make mon­ey. That’s why it start­ed. There was a clear goal in mind and there was a clear path to that goal. And ide­al­ly the busi­ness own­er or the busi­ness founder or what­ev­er knew how to do it or had an idea exact­ly about how to accom­plish the goal. It’s no dif­fer­ent than when one of my kids, whether it’s my sev­en-year-old or my ten-year-old or my five-year-old, they pull out a board game and they’re like, let’s play.


They got the same thing in mind. They’re not think­ing, let’s play. I hope you win, right? Let’s play. I’m going to win. Right? That’s why they’re play­ing. They want to set up, they also spend time with me. So just, I don’t want to ignore that aspect. There is a kind of com­mu­nal aspect to this, but they want to achieve some­thing that — they’re feel­ing as though, Hey, I want to accom­plish some­thing today, so I’m going to blow out this game. I’m going to play with my dad and my mom, or both or what­ev­er, and I’m going to try to beat them. I’m going to try to win. There’s no dif­fer­ence. And we start­ed this com­pa­ny that we start­ed Fringe, and where’s our goal? Hey, we got an idea. Nobody’s doing this, right? We’ll get out there. We’ll own the cat­e­go­ry. We’ll win. And win­ning means dif­fer­ent things. It’s own­ing a cat­e­go­ry, it’s hav­ing a plat­form. It’s mak­ing mon­ey, it’s hir­ing peo­ple. A lot of things that you can dump into the cat­e­go­ry of what does win­ning look like. But in the end, we just want­ed to win. We just want­ed to win at a game. There’s no dif­fer­ence at all.

Jason (31:22):We got beat up by a few games before that.

Jor­dan (31:24):Yeah, exact­ly. Right. Yeah, total­ly. And it depends on your per­son­al­i­ty, but some­times the more you lose a game, the more you want to play it.

Jason (31:34):

So I find the idea of think­ing about our kids pulling out that board game, want­i­ng to play. One, not only do I res­onate with that and how that fuels and expe­ri­ences I had when I was a kid, but that same sense of can we cap­ture some of that feel­ing and dri­ve and kind of bring it into our work con­text where it’s like, yeah, I want to do it for the sake of doing it. I mean there’s a com­mu­nal aspect, like you said. And yeah, it feels like in play there’s a rela­tion­al aspect to all of it at some lev­el. Because you’re not going to just mean, there’s very few things that you play sus­tained by your­self for a long peri­od of time that are as enjoy­able as things that you can play with oth­ers. And so I think it’s just a real­ly cool idea to think about how do we bring that into the way that we approach our work or think about our work.

Jor­dan (32:30):

I think that sounds like the next episode of How Peo­ple Work. Does it? I think it’s what it sounds like to me. So let’s wrap up. Let’s end this episode. Let’s get to the next one next week. But before we fin­ish, you need to give me a word of the week for next week so I can be pre­pared for this.

Jason (32:49):I do. So the word of the week is going to be recuse.

Jor­dan (32:55):

Recuse. All right. I’m like you 90% sure I know what the def­i­n­i­tion of that exact­ly is. I will Google it before we get start­ed on record­ing next week. But thank you so much for lis­ten­ing to how peo­ple work. I feel like we ask our­selves one or two ques­tions this week, and then we talk for half an hour. So some­times that hap­pens that way. Hope you enjoyed lis­ten­ing. If you want to reach out to us, get on LinkedIn, find Jason Mur­ray, find me, Jor­dan Peace, send us a ques­tion. We’ve had some folks do that already, which we real­ly appre­ci­ate. It helps prompt us in terms of ques­tions to ask each oth­er, or even top­ics for unique episodes that we’ve yet to record. So please do reach out if you get a chance to do so. Thank you so much for lis­ten­ing. Bye-bye.

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