As I watched the first Sunday of NFL football yesterday, I started thinking about the fact that these grown men actually play a game for a living. They study the game, practice the game, prepare to perform in the game, and condition to perform well in the game. In addition, they study their opponents to get a deep understanding of how they play the game in hopes of uncovering some insights that will provide an advantage.
Game – noun – a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or enduranceon the part of two or more persons who play according to aset of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators.
If you have any interest in advancement, recognition or increased compensation and you think that work isn’t a competitive activity with spectators, you are kidding yourself. The people above you are watching you perform on the field next to your peers every day. While we talk often about the utopia where every employee puts the interests of the company or the greater good before their own, the reality is that we work to provide our self (and our families) with a quality of life. And, most people want more than they are getting from the company at any given moment (regardless of whether they are willing to do more to get it). In order to get more in most companies, you have to outperform or maneuver the person next to you in a way that gets the attention of the “management.” That sounds like a game to me.
In addition, there are certainly rules to this game. As a member of the HR community, I can attest to rules because we create most of them. Rules for how and when you can get promoted. Rules for how performance should be measured. Rules for what differentiates a good employee from a bad one. These are all written rules. Then there’s the unwritten rules of culture, history, and status quo. All of these provide walls within which you must play this game as you work to get ahead.
So, work really is and should be viewed as a game. A serious one, but a game none the less. If you approached your “game” in the same way and with the same rigor as professional athletes do, I suspect you’d find yourself getting promoted in a hurry.
The other upside of taking a “game” mindset to work is that most games are truly for your enjoyment or amusement. I love it when pro athletes get interviewed and talk about how blessed they are to “get to play a game I love for a living.” This is what we should aspire to. Find a game (i.e. job) you love to play and then play it with reckless abandon. Study, practice, prepare and condition to be the very best at your game. The rewards will be great if you do.
Playing a game you love and getting paid to do it is a blessing. I wish that blessing on everyone.