The Sawyer Effect


Tom tries to sneak into his room through the window after playing until late at night. But he gets caught by his aunt and is told to whitewash her fence as punishment. Next day, Tom cannot stop sighing that he’s whitewashing on the golden weekends. Then one of his friends approaches him, nibbling his apple, and teases Tom. Feigning ignorance, Tom pretends to be giving a gentle sweep on the fence with the eye of an artist. His friend keeps teasing him, but he says to his friend carelessly.

“Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

This puts the thing in a new light.

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

“No! My aunt said that there is probably not one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

“No. Is that so? Let me just try. Only just a little. I will give you my apple.”

Tom gives up his brush to his friend, and his friend whitewashes the fence excitedly.

This is a story from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a novel by Mark Twain. This is where “The Sawyer Effect” comes from, meaning that work can turn into play and that great achievements and results can be attained through intrinsic motivation.