You heard it here first. Serious work is about to become a thing of the past. Not because of robots and cybernetics but because a serious work ethic is an outdated approach to the exigencies of our time. And you, as an ever-adaptive human are going to have to start playing more to survive.
Sapien means wise and homo means guy: Homo sapienswere the wise-guys of their day. That day was 30,000 years ago when humans shared the planet with Neanderthals. At birth, human and Neanderthal brains are similar. During the first year of life, however, the human brain begins to experience more growth in neural circuitry. Although this doesn’t mean that Neanderthals weren’t as intelligent as humans, the brains of Homo sapiens developed to support higher-order functions, such as active learning and communication. And we were diligent. We worked long and hard to expand our caves into homes…homes into villages… villages to cities… and ultimately cities to civilizations.
But it turns out that even nature tires of a wise-guy.
Toward wherever end we were trudging back then, it appears we have arrived. Now it is time to raise our eyes to the horizon and discover the next iteration of our species: Homo ludens – the human who plays.
What is play? Hard to define, play is self-evident – even your dog knows the moment you get playful. Unlike work, wherein we expend energy in pursuit of a specific result, play is non-outcome oriented. Play is a spontaneous expression of human energy and imagination. Play is fun. Play is exuberant. Humor is a part of play, but humor is not play. Humor is a glimpse of the crack in the cosmic egg. Play is climbing out the crack and actually leaving the damn egg behind for a while.
Work demands human sacrifice in the name of an external reward. In play the return is intrinsic – found within the activity itself. Play is exploration. Play consists of activities with no serious outcome in mind.
Adventure is play.
Legendary mountaineer Lionel Terray – whose exploits include the first ascent of Mt. Fitzroy – titled his autobiography Conquistadors of the Useless. The name lets us in on the joke: beyond personal fulfillment even the most daredevil climbing exploits have no genuine purpose. “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts, says Richard Branson adventurer, business success extraordinaire and quintessential Homo ludens. “My general attitude to life is to enjoy every minute of every day.”
Perhaps the best example of the burgeoning Homo ludens personality at work is Steve Jobs. From Indian ashrams to Cupertino boardrooms, his aim was never to conquer the world but to enjoy it. As Jobs put it, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow you heart and intuition.
Whether at our jobs or on an expedition, when passion ignites our soul there is no danger of burnout. When the joy of living warms our hearts and we meet each other in a playful place, there is no danger from fundamentalism and factionalism.
As GK Chesterton famously said “The reason angels can fly is that they take themselves lightly.” Feel like flying awhile? Ask your self this question: How lightly can I take myself today?
Play, and the whole world plays with you.
Grump on, and you grump alone.