Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Doing and Playing are Two Very Different Things

"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

I know way too many people who play all the time. Of course, like anyone else, I like playing too. But there comes a time when we must all "do" and not "play."

I suppose, in this example, my use of the word, "play" could also be used interchangeably with "pose." There are far too many poseurs around.

People think they understand the difference between "do" and "play." But allow me to explain the big difference here.

I learned a great lesson about not "playing" when I was a student. In High School, I was president of the Science Club. I don't really remember how I got that title, it's just that a Biology teacher thought my grades were good enough and the other geeks decided that they'd vote me in as president.

Being president of the Science Club was sort of fun, I guess.

As president of the Science Club, I was King Geek. In Science classes and Biology, I didn't have to attend classes like the other kids did. I was the guy who assisted the Science instructor with handing out Petri dishes and feeding the pets in the Science Department.

I also learned that the cutest girls in my school were basically stupid in Biology so they were nice to me so that I would tell them the answers to test questions. I thought that this would translate to me being popular outside of Science class but I was totally wrong on that front.

While the classes were going on, I'd get to sit in the back room and do "experiments." Mr. Holts, my biology instructor allowed me to do any sort of experiments that I wanted to. I grew plants, did experiments with bacteria and learned all sorts of things about feeding and breeding animals and fish.

I learned stuff like most lizards won't eat food when they are in captivity so you have to force feed them. I also learned that mice are so freaked out by snakes that if you put a mouse in a snakes cage or terrarium, often times the mouse will freeze up and just sit there in fear.

Well, back to the difference between "do" and "play"....

One day, I was bored out of my wits as I sat in the back room at the Science department. There, I spied a cockroach and some silverfish. I captured them as I intended to use them for lizard or fish food... As I was searching for a container to put them in, I spotted a large glass beaker and, to my surprise, a bottle of Hydrochloric acid.

That gave me an idea... The devil horns slowly creeped up on the sides of my head.

I put the insects in the large beaker and saw that they could not climb up the sides. They were trapped. I then pulled up a chair and took an eyedropper and squeezed out a drop of acid and dropped it into the beaker.

The cockroaches and silverfish would run as mightily as they could towards the top of the beaker trying to get out. But run as hard as they may, they would give up and slowly slide back down the sides of the glass until their tails hit the acid at which time they'd take off again, full speed, up the sides of the glass.

They did this over and over. 

To make a lame o excuse for my deliberately torturing some of god's creatures, I found it interesting how and why the insects seemed to run as hard as they could up the glass but then "get tired," give up and slide back down. I mean, insects don't have muscles! How can they get tired.

Well, as a twisted little high school brat (and president of the Science Club) I got my jollies torturing these insects (I was probably laughing like a mad scientist too) when a big hand slapped right down on my shoulder. It was Mr. Holts. He said to me,

"Mister Rogers! You have so much talent and ability but you waste it. Do you know what your problem is? Your problem is that you don't want to "do" science; you want to "play" science. There is a big difference."

He was right. I have never forgotten that moment. 

I think about that and I can see his face whenever I see people doing crappy work. Or people whose primary concern at work (mostly middle management people) having the protection of their position as the number one priority over the success of the project. I can also hear his words whenever I feel that I am not doing my best and letting other people down.

Life is too short for us to waste it on dead end efforts. In my thinking, there is no such thing as a dead-end job. A job is a dead-end if you make it that way. If you view it as a opportunity, then how can it be a dead-end if you use it to motivate yourself for bigger and better things? 

Never sell yourself short.

Remember to always do and not play.

1 comment:

Andrew Joseph said...

That's a valuable lesson, Mike. My father told me a long time ago before he quite his six-figure job back in the 1980s at the age of 42. Screw money. Find a job you like doing and enjoy it. Thanks to my dad, I am a writer and I enjoy doing. Still, I'm pretty sure I would have been happier with a six-figure income rather than owing someone six-figures. Regardless... excellent story. That Yoda is one smart sunuvabitch. I find myself quoting him/it a lot when I try to teach my son the value of doing.