What if all our Mondays were like Saturdays?

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said “either do something worth being written about or write about something worth being done.” A group of artists is doing something I think worth being written about. Part of a series of art projects called “MONDAY MORNING,” their goal is to bring some joy and happiness to the world through a series of creative art endeavors.

In Kenya, more than 10,000 bright yellow balloons were given to commuters on their way to work on a recent Monday morning with the sole request that they hold on to the balloon until they arrive at their jobs. Kenya has seen more than its share of violence and misery over the past decade and the artist Yasmany Arboleda wanted to bring some joy to the streets of Kenya. When you look at the picture, can you just imagine how this must have transformed the streets if only for a brief time?

About a year ago, a book was published called “Thank God It’s Monday” by Roxanne Emmerich. The subtitle was “How to create a workplace you and your customers love.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if every one of us could go to work each day (particularly Mondays) with an attitude of joyous expectation? An attitude that said “I can hardly wait until I get to work because I love what I do and I know I can make a difference to the world.” What if students, workers, managers and leaders all loved their job so much that they felt this way every day of the week? Impossibly idealistic? What would it take to make it happen?

Richard Bolles wrote a popular book called “The Three Boxes of Life.” The theory is that we live in 3 boxes that create a separation problem. The boxes are work, education and play. We work but it is not much fun and we do not receive much education. We play but we do not get paid or learn much. We go to school to get educated but we do little if any meaningful work and it is not much fun. What if we could put these three boxes together? I asked this question to a bunch of hard hat miners during a training session one day and I will never forget the response I received. One grizzled old timer raised his hand and said “Well, I wouldn’t know if it were Monday or Saturday.” I was stunned by the profundity and the implications of what I had just heard.

I can find all sorts of complaints about the state of American education, about the productivity of the American labor force and about the rising income inequality in the US. Solutions seem to pour forth from politicians on a daily basis. However, I do not think any of them really hit at the core of the problem. If we want to get back on track again, we need some radical thinking. What could be more radical than thinking of putting these three boxes together for every man, woman and child in our country? Can you imagine a school where students get paid to do what is fun and meaningful? Can you imagine a workplace, where learning and play take place right alongside relevant and important work? Can you imagine when play time is synonymous with time that involves learning and pay and not just watching the boob tube?
If we could put these boxes together, we could transform the nature of education, play and work. We could create a world where no one any longer cared about clocks, weekends or time off. People would be having so much fun and still paying their bills. “Thank God it’s Friday” would become an anachronism.

Do you think it cannot be done? What if we tried? Can we create a school system where kids are not bored to death? Can we create a workplace, where people are so engaged they do not want to go home at the end of the day? Can we create playgrounds all over this country where people also go to learn and get paid? Why not? Are we perhaps stymied by a Failure of Imagination?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 16:21:56

    I worked in a state employment office for many years, talking with people who were looking for work. A few people were able to find jobs that were very fulfilling for them and they often said “Don't tell anyone, but I would do this for free.” They found a lot of intrinsic reward in what they did for a living, and for them there was no distinction between work and play. But the overwhelming majority did not like their work and did it for the extrinsic rewards (money, a social role, something to do). I think it should be the goal of a good society to find ways to expand the sorts of jobs that will find willing, enthusiastic workers, but there are always going to be a lot of things that need doing but that are unpleasant enough that few will find them intrinsically rewarding. I think underground mining and dairy farming are both examples of incredibly demanding jobs. For these things, we will have to give rewards to get people to do them. If we find out that somebody gets a big kick out of doing X, what's to stop us from cutting back on his pay?
    As for the other box, education, I think that people learn job specific things in almost every job we have, and that probably more real education occurs in workplaces than in schools. So I am hopeful that those two boxes merge.

    I have suffered from a sort of neurosis in my life centered around not liking to be under an obligation to do things. I can work quite hard, but I don't like to have to. Often I have come across things that attract me, that I like to do. But as soon as it becomes part of a job or part of a formal educational effort, I find myself not wanting to do it so much. Crazy? Yes. Self-defeating? Definitely. But my foolish habit is probably a common one.



  2. John Persico
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 02:31:57

    Bruce, I hope more people have the merging experiences that you refer to above. I actually worked with miners from INCO for 7 years and you would be surprised how many actually liked the job due to the camaraderie and teamwork. Your comment on “cutting back on someone's pay is interesting. Do you think many people or companies do that or would if they felt an employer would do the work for free? I felt like that for my first seven years in the consulting industry and was highly paid to boot. I think you are right about many jobs do merge a form of training but I would not say training and education were the same.



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