I believe fun gets a bad rap. It has become synonymous with the quick-and-easy activities that provide instant
gratification—or at least easy gratification, and certainly nothing serious or meaningful. It has seemingly lost any relationship with ideals such as commitment, accomplishment, hard work, or sacrifice. Today, fun has become a default response, very similar to “Fine,” the standard response to, “How are you?”
“How was the party?” “Fun.”
“Do you like your new job?” “Oh, it’s a fun place to work.”
“What do you want to do tonight?” “Let’s just go out and have some fun.”
The inference here is that fun is relegated to the trivial; it’s not associated with actions of value, or anything worthy of our dedicated time and effort. That then suggests that if great success or great art is only achieved through hard work and commitment, then those activities cannot be fun. They can only be tedious, strenuous, dull, and boring. But the truth is just the opposite. There is great fun in committing oneself to a worthy goal, pursuing that goal through hard work, and then enjoying the harvest of that labor. Yes, fun is the right word to use when we are talking about achievement and success. We just have to reclaim it.
A colleague of mine told me about a basketball coach who, on his first day of practice, made sure that everyone trying out for the team understood that they were not there to have fun. This was going to be work—hard work and nothing but work. He was going to knock all the fun out of them through serous drills, wind sprints, and pounding into them their game plays and strategies. On his team, there was no room for fun.
Those comments reinforce my contention that fun is a complicated word that carries with it many levels of interpretation and, often, stigmas. I believe this coach, like many people, has a limited and seemingly negative view of what fun is. He views it as contrary to a strong work ethic or a serious attitude.
“If you want to work—great. But if you want to have fun, get off my court.”
He saw fun only as being silly, goofy, and counterproductive. I see fun as being rich, satisfying, and deeply rewarding. I see it as part of the work, not separate from it.
Let me offer up a contrasting story about fun and seriousness, shared with me by Jimmy DeVita. DeVita is a professional actor with over thirty years of experience on the stage, spending the last twenty-one of them at the American Players Theatre (APT) in Spring Green, Wisconsin, playing many of the great Shakespearean roles. He also stars in his original one-man show, In Acting Shakespeare, which had a successful run off-Broadway and later toured Ireland.
I had a director friend who beat the seriousness out of me. He was a really tough coach. He said, “You have no idea how to rehearse. You come in with things planned. You come in and you do it. I don’t see you playing. I don’t see you risking or daring something or trying something different. Learn to rough the edges up a little bit.” I stopped planning out every moment before rehearsal. I still did my work, I’d know what my actions and objects are, but not plan how I was going to do that.
The Point: Fun is found in doing meaningful work well.