Not long ago, I had a day when it felt like I was playing all day instead of working.

The morning started off with a breakfast meeting at a Rotary Club. On my way home from that, I dropped off an item I was donating for an educational foundation’s Silent Auction Fundraiser. Later, I had lunch with someone who’s a former coaching client and now a wonderful friend.

By mid-afternoon, I felt as though I hadn’t really done any work or accomplished anything, and I stopped to reflect on the day and figure out what was going on. When I did, I had to laugh. I actually had been working, and I had accomplished quite a lot. But there were two things that made it seem otherwise. One is that the things I was doing weren’t the kind that generate immediate results. The other is that I was enjoying myself so much while doing them that it only felt like I was goofing off and not accomplishing anything.

The Rotary Club was one at which I gave a presentation last year, and that I hope to speak at again in the near future. While I was there, I learned a lot from the speaker who was presenting that day, and I met several new people whom I enjoyed getting to know, and who may be contacts for future speaking engagements.

The item that I donated for the Silent Auction was a package that included a book I co-authored, as well as private coaching sessions. The woman who was taking the donations was curious about the type of coaching I do, and we had a brief conversation about it while I was there – and one of the things I enjoy almost as much as coaching is talking about it and explaining it to people who are interested or curious.

At lunch, I enjoyed hearing my former client tell me about everything she’s been doing since then, and I also enjoyed sharing with her some of the photos and stories from my trip to Uganda last October. By the time we had finished lunch, she had given me some additional – and unexpected – suggestions and ideas on places where I could do some programs related to my experiences in Uganda.

So I could look at this day in two different ways. One is that I spent a good portion of it eating and visiting and chatting with people. The other is that I spent it networking and brainstorming and exploring different business opportunities. The really nice part is that I was actually doing both. And it’s a great feeling when you have a hard time telling the difference.

A woman I know is a successful real estate agent who loves speaking to students about achieving their dreams. She does so – for free – whenever she can. Another person I know is a popular professional speaker who loves to buy and refurbish distressed properties. For him, speaking is work, and real estate is play. For her, it’s the other way around. But I’m pretty sure they both enjoy both.

I once coached a woman who’s a very talented designer of colorful, whimsical items, but who was derailed by voices from her past that always said things like, “Quit playing and get to work,” or, “No, dear, you can’t color the sky green and the grass purple.” Once she realized there was nothing wrong with work being fun, she had a lot more fun – and success – doing her work.

No matter how you put it, there’s still a lot of “work” in work if you want to be successful. But when the work you do feels like you’re playing, you enjoy the journey as much as the destination. And I can’t think of a better definition of success than that.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February 23, 2012.
© Betty Liedtke, 2012