Like many cities, Las Vegas has an annual Housekeeping Olympics with teams from different hotels competing in challenges such as laundry folding, bed making and the ever popular obstacle course. The coveted prize? The dirty toilet brush. 


This year’s competition was nearly canceled due to economic considerations. Happily, sanity prevailed and the event went on as usual. Teams dressed in matching uniforms cheered wildly for their mates as they zipped through their events. When I saw the story on our local news, I couldn’t help but think this had to be a highlight for the participants and a real bonding experience for coworkers. There’s not much that seems playful about the work that they do everyday.


My grandchildren arrive later this week so I’ve been thinking about play more than usual. One of the great gifts that children bring to a family is granting their adult kin permission to play, to be silly even. I still have a huge cardboard box that was transformed into a hospital, house and veterinary clinic the last time Zoe visited. I had no idea that a box could hold so many possibilities for the imagination.


When I was growing up, I suspect my German relatives were equally delighted  when playing with me. At the same time, a popular family slogan––repeated in German––reminded us that work must come before play. Arbeit kommt zuerst dann Spiel. It  sounded like a warning that we must keep our priorities straight. Play was not at the top of the list.


Don’t tell that to Stuart Brown, MD, founder of the National Institute for Play. In his brilliant new book, simply titled Play, he writes, “The opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression. Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.”


Dr. Brown goes on to say we need both. “Work and play are more like the timbers that keep our house from collapsing down on top of us…The quality that work and play have in common is creativity. In both we are building our world, creating new relationships, neural connections, objects.”


How does play figure into your life? Are you giving it its due? If not, I highly recommend tracking down Play and letting Dr. Brown convince you.


As for me, I’m heading for the beach with Zoe and Zach later this week. I’m sure it’s going to be very good for business.



Now check out this brilliant article from Zen Habits on  Work as Play: Turn life into one gigantic playground.