What is “Real” Work?

Yesterday was a bit of a hard day. It just took a long time and a lot of brain power to work through a solution. Thankfully by the end I was able to use Princess Peaches healing jump in order to stay alive just long enough to kill the 9th fat bunny carrying a furnace on it’s back. Mario and Rabbid Luigi didn’t make it, but the final throw of the exploding rubber duck from Peach won me the level.  Let me tell you… that was some hard work…

That’s not a joke.  I actually spent an over hour trying to figure out how to get out of that level in Mario + Rabbids, and it was some real “work”… At this point I’m sure many readers are going to start unleashing a stream of snark, but hold with me for a moment.

So I’m a 20 year tech professional with a college degree, military training, a raft of certifications, and a wide gambit of experience who to be clear makes a good living off of content creation.  In this modern world one of the weirdest disconnects I see is how tightly people hold on to their old ideas about what “real” work is.  There is an idea of what is real work, and what is fake work.  As someone who is 41, married, has a house and a CV that’s relatively impressive I’m finding the biggest block in showing young people the possibilities for success currently is their inability to reframe their concept of “real” work.

  • “Real” journalists work for media companies
  • “Real” educators have fancy degrees and tenured positions
  • “Real” trades people have calluses on their hands and bad backs
  • “Real” technology professionals swap hard drives and run cable

These concepts of what is “real’ work are outdated, and people’s insistence on standing by them is harmful.

Yesterday I spent time:

  • Watching Boogie2988 on YouTube
  • Playing Mario + Rabbids
  • And weeding

That doesn’t sound like “real” work.  Someone will snottily laugh that I think I should get paid for this, but there’s value in those tasks.

Watching Boogie2988 shows me a way that a non technical person is using technology to revolutionize communication.  Have no doubt Boogie2988 is on the forefront of something great, and that I’d argue is far more interesting and useful than blockchain.  He’s learning to communicate with MILLIONS of people around the world, and explaining his actions through his view, while grounding it all in topics that people can relate to.  He talks about video games, and pop culture which brings in viewers who then stay to listen to his story about going through bariatric surgery.  Millions have been able to watch as he decided to get it, prepared for it, went through it and now recovers.  This isn’t some glamorized fiction, this is watching someone that looks a lot like someone we all know struggle with decisions and actions.  It’s may seem like a tiny thing, but imagine the revolution if more people are able to communicate honestly to people like them about why they do what they do.  Why did you choose to go to a bootcamp instead of college?  Why did you get a CS degree instead of going to law school?  The documentation not of a single moment in time, but rather the longitudinal results of what transpired.  Imagine an 18 year old being able to watch 10 years of a tech professionals trails and tribulations.  To see the problems, the thoughts, the solution, and then how the solution worked out. Boogie2988 can be dismissed as a fat, video gamer, blabbering into a camera,  but to me he’s one of our generations Kerouac’s.  Instead of “On the Road” we’re seeing “On the Net” as it is written.

Mario + Rabbids seems like a toy to many.  Something kids would play, but if you look at the game industry a generation that grew up on Mario and Donkey Kong does not see video games as the trash the previous generation did. I stopped playing games on consoles when the market no longer seemed to care about folks who didn’t want first person shooters.  With the Switch there is a very real shift in the gaming paradigm.  I look at what is it about the UX that makes it so I’m happy to play my Switch, but never play the PS4 I also own.  I think about why I prefer to see Rabbids vanish in a flurry is prismatic colors, whereas I genuinely dislike headshots and such in Call of Duty. I think about how when I play a console I feel separated from my wife, and others.  That the console experience has me take over the living room, whereas when I play the Switch I can do it beside my wife as she reads a book. I get to think about what makes something enjoyable.  Is it the specs, or the experience?  The PS4 beats the Switch hands down in power, but I hate it.  As computer systems become more integral into everyday life these UX and UI questions bring real professional questions.  This is before we even start talking about the blurring of lines between games and reality…

Weeding my flower bed is more than a chore.  It allows my body to physically work through questions.  Stupid, repetitive, movement puts my brain into a particular state.  Every pull of a weed is like the chug of a steam engine.  The mass of thoughts I’ve had throughout the day is trimmed down to what’s important.  As I dig in the dirt the brain focuses on what seems most relevant and interesting, and as I move along thoughts are refocused and refined.  This dumb chore allows my brain to put things into order so that when I sit down to type a blog post, or sit in front of the camera it already knows what it wants to talk about.

This is just another thing to think about as you progress as a professional.  I see so many folks trying to be snide and define what is, and what is not “real” work. The issue is that as the world changes the skills and ways of doing work will change with too.  The people who stay stuck in their old definitions are the ones that will lose at the end of the day.


  1. Hate the PS4? Sure you just hate the games you got for it? There is a game like mario + rabits for the ps4 called xcom 2. Just substitute mario and crew for the entire human race banding together to rise up against the alien overlords (a truly progressive game). Truth be told The PS4 isn’t a tablet that you take with you for when you don’t have a TV to play with, so I get the appeal.

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