I came home in tears one spring day when I was 9 or 10 years old. The experience would turn into one of my most valued lessons; but, at the time all that mattered was that my science-fair project was due the next day and the prospect of finishing it that night was overwhelming.
An elementary school science-fair is one of those projects where parents do much of the work. But the amount of work remaining meant there wouldn't be enough time for me to finish my project and play a computer game that night. I wanted to do well on the project, but at 9 or 10 years old the prospect of going an evening without playing is enough to stop the world from turning.
My father has been my role model for most areas of my career; the lesson he taught me here was one of the earliest cases. As we start to put the science-fair project together, I continue to feel overwhelmed. And so my father takes a CD from my collection, he turns it up loud, and he begins dancing around.
With a warm, fatherly smile, he tells me that there would come times in my life where there wouldn't be enough time to play and to work. And so it would be up to me to find ways to make work fun.
We continue to assemble the poster-board and prepare the cue cards. All the while we are listening to a CD blaring 90s EuroPop; we are laughing and dancing about. To this day, any time at work that I'm asked to come up with a solution to a seemingly overwhelming question, I can actually hear 90s EuroPop playing in my head.
Having fun with work was easy because all I had to do was model my behaviour from my father. Looking back on the experience, the moral continues to be clear: my father was teaching me about personal responsibility -- throughout my career it would be up to me to ensure that I was having fun.
Having fun with work is more than just a 'feel-good' for its own sake. There is powerful research supporting the link between enjoyment of work and improved job performance, efficiency, and a host of other benefits. And for all of these, I have my father to thank.
To my colleagues: I'm sorry that during the occasional all-nighters you can probably hear 90s pop playing from my office.
To my father: Thank you - I owe you more than I will ever be able to express. As well, happy birthday, Dad.