Thursday, May 21, 2009


I've been reading Pat Kane's The Play Ethic: a Manifesto for a Different Way of Living and he spends a chapter describing the work ethic, its role in the "new economy" (global corporations, erosion of pensions, rarity of lifelong careers in one company, etc.), and how people have tried to recast it or modify it for the post-industrial world. And he spends the book describing an alternative "play ethic", as the title suggests.

My question(s) for you is this: what is your work ethic? What is your play ethic? What is your learning ethic? How are these related, if at all? Would you say you have a "strong work ethic"? How about the others?

Don't plumb the depths here -- just answer what occurs to you. You can answer one, some, or all of the above. You can answer a question I haven't come up with. I just want to hear what you think about these terms and what they mean to you.

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Bob said...

Here's my answers, which aren't any better than anyone else's, but in case you're curious:

My work ethic is that employers and employees should uphold their promises. I don't think I have a very strong work ethic -- I don't feel compelled to go above and beyond what my employer expects of me. But I'm consistent in my work ethic as far as it goes. As I think about it, I don't think I've ever taken a sick day without being sick, for example. But when expectations are vaguer than just "presenteeism" (as opposed to absenteeism), I'm not a proactive, self-starting, productivity-generating kind of worker in general. It's got to be a task that I care about or am interested in on its own terms for me to put energy into it "above and beyond".

My play ethic is that fun is good, fun is almost always social, what's fun for the group produces fun for me. I love playing games, and I'm not just about the winning (although if you're not playing to win, you're sort of not playing). I try to make opportunities to play (usually games), to excite people into playing, and I try to make the playing enjoyable for everybody, because I think that produces more fun in the long run. I think I have a medium to strong play ethic -- I feel a strong need to socialize, and play is the medium I feel most at home socializing in.

My learning ethic is that more knowledge/wisdom/skill/etc. is always good. That all kinds of learning are worthwhile and deserve respect. I'm always interested in learning new things. I enjoy learning, and I feel validated when I demonstrate my learning to other people. I try to do this in an unpretentious way -- I hope that I am sharing knowledge, not trying to show off how smart I am. I think humility and an understanding of what you _don't_ know is critical to learning. I think I have a strong learning ethic -- I regularly devote a lot of energy to learning something, and I'm not satisfied with only learning it "well enough to get by".

I think learning and playing are closely related -- playing is like experimenting, and the process of finding out how a game works is an enjoyable playing/learning experience. I have tried to choose work that involves ongoing learning and (sometimes) playing, because "work" as a concept itself doesn't excite me. It's only when I feel like I'm learning something and/or playing/probing/experimenting/discovering that I feel like the work is worthwhile as an end in itself.

Bear in mind that I thought about this all day before I posted. I just want your ideas -- they don't have to be paragraphs or whatever. Although I don't want to discourage that either! Just tell me something!

Rebecca said...

I've heard that you should do what you love and then it doesn't seem like work, but I think that there are very few jobs where there isn't some work. I think that the payoff is that you get to do some of the things that you like and the price that you have to pay is some of the 'work'.

In general, I mostly like what I do, so most of doesn't feel like work. Of course, some days I would rather stay in my pjs and read magazines. But, I think that my work ethic is good, largely because I enjoy my work and I find it satisfying to get things done.

I think that my play ethic is not so good. I like playing games but am often reluctant to take the time for games. Also, since most of the day is spent thinking, coming home and playing games that require thinking and concentration is not enjoyable. I also find that I rarely watch tv while not also doing some other task (grading, dishes, laundry, etc.)

My learning ethic is good. I like knowing things. I think that learning sometimes comes through work and sometimes comes through play and both are valuable.

In my mind, if it's related to my job then I classify it as work, but that doesn't mean that I find it unpleasant - I largely enjoy the things I need to do to get the results expected of me.

I view cleaning chores as work, but I do them because I like the results. But, I definitely don't enjoy the process.

And there you have my incoherent thoughts.

Bill said...

I have a strong work ethic, and a strong learning ethic. My play ethic exists, but it isn't the most powerful of the three...