Swaroop C H

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The difference between fun and work

27 Apr 2009

Reading a book is fun. If you have to do a review on the book for the newspaper by Friday, it becomes work.

Writing code is fun. If you have a deadline next week, it becomes work.

Spending time with that special someone is fun. After tying the knot and having no other choice makes it work (or so I'm told).

Calculating sports match statistics is fun. Spending the same amount of time to balance your checkbooks is work.

Is commitment the difference between fun and work?



P.S. Yeah, I had a Godin moment.


Update : After reading all the interesting thoughts by you folks in the comments section, maybe spontaneity is one of the major differentiatiors?

Comments

srid says:

Is commitment the difference between fun and work?

In my experience, the difference is due to both the feeling of boredom and excitement (which can be reduced and possibly extirpated). Try asking 'how am I feeling?' during those occasions.

cf. maslow's hierarchy of needs

Writing code is fun. If you have a deadline next week, it becomes work.

This is my favorite.. one that I have a lot of success with! Well, yes.. writing code is fun.. but do you also notice the subtle pervasive stress in it? To me, what makes writing code fun is the ongoing sense of achievement while doing it. Deadlines cause boredom (to me) because one is no longer writing code for a personal sense of achievement - rather one is aiming for some external goal (usually defined by the employer).

Again, try asking 'how am I feeling?' in both occasions. I've found that the feeling of excitement and a sense of achievement, that are much praised in the hacker circle, are tiresome and counter-productive for a stable state of felicity. Besides, they vanish when someone imposes, say, deadline.. thus introducing feelings of boredom and what not.

These feelings can be remarkably mitigated eventuating a more stable state of felicity.

Spending time with that special someone is fun. After tying the knot and having no other choice makes it work (or so I’m told).

No comments here, except to suggest that there is far more to investigate as to ascertain just how much fun (i.e., felicitous experiences) there is in this 'spending time' (or, more accurately.. feeling love for someone). This is supposedly difficult to investigate as one is venturing into one's much cherished values.

Calculating sports match statistics is fun. Spending the same amount of time to balance your checkbooks is work.

Here, the feeling of boredom is the cause.

..

All these are feelings. Ring a bell?

anilalur says:

ya ya Godin moment :) more like his blog.

Ranjan says:

We all prefer freedom rather than commitment. But looks like freedom comes only after commitment! :) what say?

Gowri says:

I think the difference is "wanting" to do something and "having" to do something. Former is fun, latter is work.

I don't think commitment will work in all cases - I have a commitment to play with my kids but its definitely fun because I want to do it. I have a commitment to wash the dishes but its definitely work because I have to do it.

Angie says:

I think Fun, by definition has a certain spontaneity and lack of inhibition attached to it.
Once you put a boundary on it, it becomes predictable and loses meaning.
That said, it is also an attitude. Some people will have fun no matter what the circumstances.

t3rmin4t0r says:

All depends on what you've got to lose ... commitment is just a solution to that problem.

If I try playing pool for a million dollars and it'll suddenly stress the hell out of me.

Play it for just two a game and I wouldn't mind losing one.

Chait says:

If you have the freedom at work, commitment will automatically be there. That will be like fun@work.

I see among my friends that pressure from clients, tight deadlines because of poor planning, lack of freedom to pursue their interests at work are some reasons they are not able to enjoy the work.

The_Other_Swaroop() says:

"P.S. Yeah, I had a Godin moment." - Lets hope its the exception not the norm :)

Swaroop says:

@srid I've been pondering over this for quite a while (hence the late reply)... and I agree that the ongoing "felicity" state (as you put it) is far more important. But then the question is whether it is possible to ignore external conditions most of the time? And how do you retain that state of felicity - is it purely a factor of your own interest or is it a matter of concentration? How do we tackle "boredom"?

@Ranjan The problem is maintaining the commitment - that's the holy grail!

@Gowri But what if you had a commitment to drive your kids everyday for 15 km for a dance class or something like that, where does that fall under?

@Angie Well said! The spontaneity is a stark difference.

@t3rmin4t0r Another excellent point - the stakes involved. I guess that's why we are more relaxed when working on our pet projects!

@Chait True

@The_Other_Swaroop Why didn't you like it? :)

srid says:

[Swaroop] I’ve been pondering over this for quite a while (hence the late reply)… and I agree that the ongoing “felicity” state (as you put it) is far more important.

Yes. One realizes its importance even more by experiencing felicity (a general sense of well-being to perfection) on a daily basis.

[Swaroop] But then the question is whether it is possible to ignore external conditions most of the time?

Presuming by 'external conditions', you are referring to the following passage of mine:

"""
[...] Deadlines cause boredom (to me) because one is no longer writing code for a personal sense of achievement - rather one is aiming for some external goal (usually defined by the employer).
"""

then you are effectively asking: is it possible to ignore external conditions (such as deadlines, or goals imposed by one's employer) most of the time?

No. There is no 'ignoring'[1] required in maintaining a state of felicity. To explain: it is the /feeling/ of boredom/frustration/sadness that must be minimized (to the point of extinction). Feelings that arise in response to these triggers (external condition is just one of the triggers).

[Swaroop] And how do you retain that state of felicity - is it purely a factor of your own interest

Yes. From the words of Richard, one has to have the goal of becoming happy and harmless as number one goal in life. But, IMO, one can start form where one is.. slowly increase one's interest in retaining the felicity.. as more and more felicity eventuates (see below).

[Swaroop] ... or is it a matter of concentration?

Assuming one has the sufficient intent (if not as a number one goal), then it is only a matter of having attentiveness running near-constantly. With attentiveness to one's own sensations, feelings and thoughts running near-constantly, it is easy to spot moments when the 'drop' in felicity occur (eg: during the times boredom 'begins' to occur). With the acknowledgment of the drop, combined with the investigation of the trigger of that drop in felicity, one gets back to feeling good.. to feeling excellent.. to feeling perfect.

[Swaroop] How do we tackle “boredom”?

See http://actualfreedom.com.au/actualism/vineeto/selected-writings/investigatefeelings.htm

See here for an example of how this is done: http://actualfreedom.com.au/actualism/path2.htm#Investigatingemotions



[1] ignore: To refuse to take notice of; not to recognize; to disregard intentionally, leave out of account or consideration, shut ‘one's eyes to’.

Shwetha Maiya says:

Well, the main striking difference would be that we have the freedom to do what you like with a time limit defined by us. But if you put a boundary line for this , then it is basically hindering your freedom. Wanting to do something and Having to do something are so totally different. I m not being diplomatic but commitment might mean different things at different places. it basically depends on the mood , kind of work and happiness you experience by doing the same. . What I wanted to say is so explicitly and nicely explained by Srid, Gowri and Angie. .

Wonderful topic for this blog. .

and kudos to your effort . . Your book on Python is still half read by me. Will surely get back. and you make me think and feel that I too can write code, which during and after leaving college which did not go into my head. Thanks for keeping my spirits up. . Keep up the good work. . :) All the best. .

harshit says:

im commited to having fun while im working ,....
how bout that???

Swaroop says:

@srid I'll revisit actualism sometime again.

@Shwetha I'm trying to think of various differences. For example, I'm now of the opinion that spontaneity is one of the major differentiators between fun and work.

And thank you for the big words on the book, am so glad it is useful for you :)

@Harshit That's awesome, good for you!

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