Work as Play

William Liao
2 min readJan 2, 2022

“Don’t make a distinction between work and play, regard everything that you’re doing as play. And don't think for one moment that you’ve got to be serious.” — Alan Watts

The concepts of Work and Play are popularly conceived as mutually exclusive activities.

Play is often synonymized with fun and joy. Play isn’t done in exchange for anything, but rather it’s done for its own sake. You play to play.

Work is for ‘serious’ stuff — not typically seen as fun. Work is done to earn, which, in turn, allows you to play. You work (the not-so-fun stuff) to play (the fun stuff).

The difference between someone who perceives their activities as Work and someone who perceives their activities as Play is night and day.

Actions seen as Play tend to invigorate.

Actions seen as Work tend to drain.

Of course not all things can easily be seen as Play — some activities are genuinely dreadful, and there’s little hope for reappraising them otherwise.

However, there seems to be a large grey area amongst the things we do wherein what one might see as Work can conceivably be reconstituted as Play.

As a project manager, you can see your docket of meetings as stressful and soul-sucking (Work), or you can see yourself as an ambassador of progress for the team — someone who shows up to navigate the complexities of stakeholder management to nurture ideas into mature products (Play).

As a sales representative, you can see your list of numbers to cold-call as sheer monotony (Work), or you can see the list as an opportunity to meet someone with an unmet need and to be the person who rises to the occasion to meet that need (Play).

Suffice it to say, there is more than one way to color in the quality of what you do.

And to increasingly find a way to frame more of your effort as Play instead of Work is an undeniably better way to experience life.



William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (