Play for Pay

What do the world's finest and most outstanding athletes and entertainers have in common? It seems that irrespective of the sport or channel through which they excel and provide enjoyment, they all possess an untamed quest to be their best. Even when they find themselves being acclaimed and recognized as exemplary, they continue to condition themselves.They train, practice, rehearse, engage coaches, and study the heroes and history of their field. They can often be seen or heard practicing in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. They forego current consumption and postpone some niceties of life they could otherwise experience. In baseball, athletes like Derek Jeter and Miguel Cabrera come to mind; in soccer, we think of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo; in football Tom Brady and Bo Jackson; in music Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger; in acting Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Their preparation for excellence seems like hard work and, in many respects, it is. However, in the minds and psyches of these achievers, it is not. Instead, they are all able to transport themselves in their minds and find enjoyment in what is otherwise avoidable work. They are able to muster an inner playfulness that makes it possible for them to have a positive expectancy and anticipate delight. It is this capacity to reframe discomfort, denial and difficult work so that it is construed as "play" that makes them outprepare, outpractice, and eventually outperform their counterparts, even those with more talent and ability. There is much that those of us who are seeking excellence in our careers or business can learn from these outstanding athletes and entertainers. Time away to reflect on our youthful sources of excitement and enjoyment could provide a useful start. Whatever we discover, it is surely a good idea to allow ourselves quiet time to explore in our minds ways in which we might reframe our lives to find a sense of purpose and significance. Similarly, we might also reinterpret and redefine the idea of "work" and the many tasks and activities we do on a daily basis so that they become merely little drills and rehearsals, practice and preparation for the performances that lead to triumph and applause. There will be further enjoyment when we discover that we were able to "play for pay."