Statistically speaking, my oldest son, Max, is what you might call an achiever. He carries more or less a 4.0, he scored well beyond what was necessary on his SATs to get into Harvard, he has debate trophies above his desk, and is the finance chairman of his robotics club. Robotics, if you’re curious, is a big deal in Seattle public schools—at least according to Max. He wants to get a degree in marketing and then go make a lot of money. More power to him. But Max is also a firm believer in what he calls derping. To derp is to do nothing in particular. To derp is also to troll around the Internet in search of interesting stories or facts. To derp is to pace around the back yard and think about interesting stories or facts and turn them into more interesting stories. If what you think is particularly interesting, you might have to say it out loud. If what you are saying is really, really interesting you might even begin to run a little.

Max does not believe in studying for tests and Max does not begin his homework until 10:30 PM. He cannot start until then because he has too much derping to do. I used to get on him about all the derping. I used to tell him it was getting late and maybe he should quit pacing around the backyard and do the homework already. Except the more he derped, the better his grades got. So that was that.

I knew a waitress once who claimed to be a friend of Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s lyricist and longtime collaborator. I might not have believed her if she hadn’t told me that while visiting him he had once politely excused himself, explaining it was “time to work.” He then went out onto his deck, sat in a lawn chair, and closed his eyes.

I don’t know how long Max will be able to successfully derp. I don’t know if the Madison Avenue advertising firm he imagines himself running will frown upon him pacing his office and talking to himself. But I do know this: work can look a lot like play when the one doing the working his enjoying himself. Sometimes, it even looks like dreaming.

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