In his newsletter, Mike Sowdon shares the story of Sarah Merker, and her quest to document the best scones. He then tries to explain why so many of us will react “meh” to this story because we don’t get “why.”
“This is really about what I call the tyranny of usefulness: where the value of doing a thing, the “sense” bit of “it has to make sense”, goes back to two things.
Firstly, the old economic-based model of productivity that’s been haunting us since the industrial revolution – does it help me produce more widgets and therefore make more money and maybe help me retire a bit earlier? You know: “useful” stuff, not for “fun”.
And secondly: we can quantify the usefulness of it in advance. We’re doing it because we already know what we want to get out of it.”
I’m not going to tell you that I was fascinated by the details of her quest for scones. I wasn’t. That’s OK. She wasn’t doing that for me, she was doing it for herself. Maybe other people who love scones might find it interesting as well but that’s sort of beside the point. That’s the part of what Mike wrote that fascinated me.
Because I recognize it. I’ve looked at the world that way more than once and it was never to my benefit. The first time I remember it wasn’t because of work either. It was church. It was living a life where everything had to have a point. I had to be building relationships, having fellowship, studying, or attending a church-related event, not wasting my invaluable time doing something by myself just because it was fun. That was selfish. Rest was lazy. You only had a limited time on Earth in which to make a difference. Don’t waste any of it.
By the way, when introverts live with the expectation that spending time alone is selfish, bad things happen to them. Without the ability to recharge, this lifestyle is not sustainable. This is a lesson that many in the business world should take t heart as well. People need rest and fun. They need to have things they enjoy just because they enjoy them. No ulterior motives, just because we are human beings and we are allowed to enjoy our lives.
More recently, I’ve been feeling this pressure since being laid off from work. Time spent on anything other than job-searching, networking, learning new skills, or building my own potential business is a waste. I can’t afford to have fun. But, that’s not true at all. In fact, not taking some time to do something just because I have fun doing it, has caused me to struggle with manic thoughts, anxiety, and a lack of sleep. If there was anything that would make it harder for me to find work, that’d be part of it.
I feel like this is something that has gotten continuously worse over the years too. Kids who never get to just play, but are fully booked with one after-school activity after another. Teens are under constant pressure to spend their time doing things that look good on college applications. College-aged young adults are about filling out the resume or getting into the best graduate school programs, only to graduate into jobs that expect them to always be on call, to learn and grow themselves on their own time, all while social media culture tells them they should also have a side-hustle or three.
Having fun is time that could be spent on any of these accomplishments.
I’d flip that around. What’s the point of all of those accomplishments if you never have any fun?
Do me a favor. Go do something fun this week, just because it’s fun for you. No one else needs to get it, and it doesn’t have to serve some higher purpose. Having fun is purpose enough.