People think winning is fun. But they're wrong, it's the challenge that's fun. Don't get me wrong, losing isn't fun, but winning without a challenge isn't fun either. Knowing you stepped up to a challenge and overcame it – now that is satisfying. (And challenges are also what keeps life interesting – it's what we talk about when we tell stories. It's what we watch in the movies.)
A bit of career advice I've gotten several times is to pay attention to when you're having fun. Then you'll really know what you enjoy doing. (And I find it's best to check during the task. It's hard to think back and remember if you had fun while you were doing something.)
Some times it's really obvious …
A couple of weeks ago, I played an entire shift of 4 on 2 in hockey – as part of the two player team. (Two of my teammates were in the penalty box.)
He said "I'm going to mumble-mumble-mumble."
"Ah, ok." (mumble-mumble-mumble??) "What do you want me to do?" (We only had seconds and I really didn't know what I was supposed to do or I would have asked about the mumble-mumble-mumble part.)
"Chase the puck."
"Chase it??" (That didn't seem very wise to me … I mean there were four of them.)
So I did. I skated like a ball bouncing between cat's paws from one skater to the next, getting there just in time to block a direct shot on goal and time to chase the puck to the next guy …
What stood out for me was the comment one of my teammates made afterward. "I was so glad it wasn't me out there, but you were grinning the whole time!" And I realized it really was fun. It was hard, it was even a bit scary, and I skated harder than I ever had before in a single shift and every move counted. But it was fun – much more fun than making a couple of assists and a goal.
And it was fun because it was a real challenge. And Jeff, the goalie and I stepped up to it. And even if they had scored (they didn't), I still would have had fun – I was grinning because I was playing hard and it was fun, not because we were winning. But I played harder because it was a challenge and I was having fun, and that's part of the reason we won.
Photo by Eduardo Amorim.