“Are you having fun in Hollywood today, princess?” I say to the children. “You have? What’s been the best thing so far today?”
Usually they reply with the name of a ride, a show, or a character. But the other day a little girl looked up at me and said, “What we’re doing right now!”
Everybody in earshot laughed, but the girl’s mother praised her for her good attitude, and I gave her a couple stickers because I don’t think I’m ever going to get as good an answer to that question as the one she gave me. That little princess was the embodiment of a mindset I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which I think of as the “Chicken Man philosophy.”
Chicken Man is a children’s book by Michelle Edwards. It’s about a man who works at the chicken coop of an Israeli kibbutz. Every day, he sings as he works, making it clear that he enjoys his job. Soon the people around him start to think that taking care of chickens must be a very fun job, if their “Chicken Man” is so happy to do it. So someone else requests his job on the work list, and he’s sent elsewhere – to milk cows, iron clothes, take care of children, etc. But everywhere he goes, Chicken Man sings and has fun and makes the best of it, while the people who take on the jobs he leaves behind find them not all that inherently fun. Eventually, everyone realizes that it wasn’t the job that made him happy. It was Chicken Man’s attitude about work.
A few people have given me the advice, “bloom where you’re planted.” The idea is to be the best at any given role that you can be. Personally, though the idea is similar, I don’t like that saying as much as I like the Chicken Man philosophy. The implication that comes along with “bloom where you’re planted” is that someone will eventually notice your “bloom” and “pick” you to go somewhere better. But there is no guarantee that that will happen, and it’s easy to get burned out if you’re only doing something well because you think it will get you somewhere else that you’d rather be. Chicken Man has no lofty goals, though I have no doubt that if he happened to find something that he loved more than tending to chickens he’d be fine staying there. Like the princess I met in the bathroom, he knows how to find purpose and happiness wherever he is and no matter what he is doing. I find that admirable.