I used to hate to study for tests in high school. Nothing could have been more boring. But one day Terry Hill and I decided to make a game of it.We decided to challenge each other by making up mock tests for each other. The only rules were that we had to ask 30 questions, and the answers had to appear in the text that we were going to be tested on in the classroom the next day.
Because we were both competitive and loved games, we worked very hard to come up with the most ridiculously difficult questions we could devise. “What was Magellan’s middle name?” “How many of Custer’s children were daughters?” “What is the 23rd word in the GettysburgAddress?” We also tried to anticipate the other’s toughest questions and learn the obscure answers.
On the morning of the real test we presented each other with our own tests, always twice as hard as the real test. As we each took each other’s test there was much happy yelling and laughter. But by the time we took the real test in school, we were more than ready. In fact, we often looked across the classroom at each other during the real test and rolled our eyes with disdain at the simplicity and stupidity of the real exam.
By changing our study into a challenging game, we had taken the"work" out of the task and replaced it with play. Did we work as hard?Harder! But by transforming work into play, we increased our energy and our sense of creativity.
Most people who play a lot of golf or tennis work much harder at their games than they do at work. All people work harder at play than they do at work, because there’s no resistance. Golfers are working harder on the golf course than they are at their professions. They don’t always know this (although their spouses usually do) because it doesn’t feel like work—it feels like fun. They bring more energy, innovation, and zest to what they’re doing out on the course because it’s a game. They also bring an ongoing commitment to increasing their skills. Everyone is interested in getting better at the games they play.
As for the effect of games on energy, consider a bunch of guys playing poker all night. Because poker is a game, people can play it all night until the sun comes up. When they finally come home to sleep, you might be tempted to ask them, “How did you manage to stay up all night? Were you drinking coffee and cokes?” No, they confess, they were drinking beer. “But shouldn’t beer slow you down and make you tired?” Not if you are playing a game! In fact, you’ll also learn that they were probably smoking cigars and eating junk snacks as well. Not generally known as stimulants. What was stimulating was the game. The joy of competition.
Playwright Noel Coward once said, “Work is more fun than fun.” I included that quote in a seminar guidebook for a sales group a year ago and one of the participants in the back of the room raised his hand and said, "Yeah, Steve, who is this Noel Coward guy? I figure with a quote like that he’s either a porn star or a professional golfer."That line got a great laugh at my expense, but it also revealed a truth(which almost all humor does). People believe that the fun jobs are always somewhere else. “If only I could get a job like that!” “If only I had been a pro golfer.” But the truth is that fulfilling and fun work can be found in anything. The more we consciously introduce game playing elements (personal bests listed, goals, time limits, competition with self or others, record-keeping, etc.) the more fun the activity becomes.I recently worked on a project with a young man in Phoenix who was selling three times as much office equipment as the average sales person on his team. He said he didn’t understand his co-workers who got depressed easily, took rejection hard, and struggled with putting their deals together.
“I don’t take this that seriously,” he smiled. "I love all my sales challenges. The tougher the prospect is, the more fun I have selling.There is absolutely nothing personal or depressing in any of this for me.When I meet a new sales prospect, it’s a chess game."Whatever it is you have to do, whether it’s a major project at work, or a huge cleaning job at home, turning it into a game will always bring you higher levels of energy and motivation.