We recently went to a wedding where we got into a dinner conversation with our seatmate about balancing business responsibilities with appropriate time for leisure or fun. While we could have directed our seatmate to our post on work-life blending and been done with it, we have been mulling over the passing conversation ever since, as it highlighted a related but slightly different point.
It seems there are three basic schools of thought regarding work and play. Some draw a hard line between the two (i.e. do you live to work or work to live?). Some try to inject fun into work via a variety of creature comforts and other perks. And then there is Bill Belichick, for whom it seems, work is fun.
The Belichickian approach has been in the news recently amid reports from former players about a lack of “fun” playing for the Patriots. Former player Cassius Marsh lamented, “They don’t have fun there…. There’s nothing fun about it.” Lane Johnson, offensive tackle for Philadelphia Eagles, piled onto the commentary, noting: “All these guys talking about ‘I’ll take the rings.’ OK. You can have your rings. You can also have [expletive] 15 miserable years,”
Of course, this isn’t earth shattering news. It’s not as if anybody previously thought Coach Belichick was a super fun guy to begin with. Predictably, Coach No-Fun responded to the player critiques saying, “We feel what’s important to us is to win. So that’s really what we’re trying to do.”
The heart of this conversation is what one considers “fun”, particularly in a work context. As Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay noted, “there’s a larger issue here, about the definition of success in the 21st century. Workplaces everywhere are struggling to find the sweet spot between productivity and having a good time, and there’s a lot of mythologizing the notion of fun.” While the Merriam Webster dictionary defines fun as “what provides amusement or enjoyment,” there is quite a large amount of variability around this definition, as some consider fun to be more oriented towards leisure and social experiences while others find enjoyment in the work associated with achieving a goal. Patriots player Dont’a Hightower provided some insight into this mindset:
“It’s definitely harder than most places, but I mean, that’s part of it. A lot of guys know that when they come here. But in the locker room, it’s not Bill’s job to make this fun and this atmosphere fun; it’s the guys around it. Every guy in that locker room, I love like a brother. We have fun, whether it’s out here struggling together — blood, sweat and tears — or we’re back in the locker room or we’re hanging out outside of football.”
Hightower’s framework resonated with us as the Chenmark team falls more into the “work-in-pursuit-of-a-goal-is-fun” camp. Some of our most cherished memories and relationships, whether professional, personal, or athletic were formed in environments that were decidedly un-fun in most normal contexts. However, our reading this week was a good reminder that not everybody agrees with our definition. We have a long way to go before we win any Small Business Super Bowl rings, and we hope we can rally a similarly-minded team around us to produce long-term winning results, but we also recognize that there may be room for a few laughs along the way.