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Something I’m trying hard to recover when working on projects is a sense of play.
It’s one that’s easy to lose because it doesn’t rank high in making a project feel worthwhile—productive, profitable, or prestigious, feels much more important. We’d certainly make time to work on those kinds of projects rather than playful ones. Starting something for fun to see where it goes feels like an indulgence at best, and usually a waste of time.
Recovering a sense of play is hard because it means trusting ourselves and our intuitions to locate what is fun and flow-inducing for us. Notice how productivity, profit, and prestige are determined by everything outside ourselves. Playfulness is determined by our interests and experience, no one else’s. There’s a self-care and self-centering element to play that we’ve been trained to think is self-ish.
Just spend some time with children to see what I mean. Since New York reopened, I’ve been reunited with friends and their children. Getting to play with them, you can see how they have no problem being completely engrossed in the smallest things—touching it, picking it up, dropping it with bright-eyed wonder. If something is fun, they want to do it again, and again, and again for no other reason than it’s fun to do. I like how Paul Graham describes it:
Remember that careless confidence you had as a kid when starting something new? That would be a powerful thing to recapture…
Kids bounce, or are herded, from one kind of work to the next, barely realizing what's happening to them. Whereas we know more about different types of work and have more control over which we do. Ideally we can have the best of both worlds: to be deliberate in choosing to work on projects of our own, and carelessly confident in starting new ones.
There’s probably a long list of ideas and projects you haven’t been able to get off the ground because they don’t meet the standards set for them; a set of standards that meets everyone’s requirements except yours.
So, go start the thing you thought wasn’t worth doing. The one that feels “stupid,” “dumb,” or “I could never be that creative so why even try?”
Maybe it starts with a bit of dreaming because it’s been so long since you’ve asked what makes you feel alive. Start somewhere. It’ll be worthwhile.
Follow Along Upstream
And feel a little less alone on your quest to your most courageous work.