The tinkerer and the dancer

The work we do falls into one of two camps: performance or experimentation.

Performance is the work we do that creates value for others. It’s teaching in a way that your students understand. It’s building and presenting an analysis for your colleagues. It’s following the set of exercises recommended by your trainer. It’s giving gifts, offering compliments, telling jokes. It’s doing the dishes before your partner gets home. It’s delivering consistently, effectively, reliably, every morning. It’s following a well-trekked path to a beautiful destination.

Experimentation is the work we do to answer our own questions. It’s sending an email with emoji to see how the VP responds. It’s starting a vlog to help potential customers know you better. It’s debuting an unfinished song for your fans. It’s revealing your vulnerability to your friends. It’s staying in instead of going out on Friday night (or the reverse, if you’re over 30). It’s leaping into the unknown, uncertain, unskilled. It’s wandering a foreign city with no map.

Some people prefer performance or experimentation alone, but most of us require both to feel satisfied in our work. Chefs stay up late to dabble in their kitchen; physicists moonlight before a packed comedy club. Should you feel dissatisfied with life professional or personal, perhaps you’re starving to tinker, perhaps you’re thirsty to dance.