Hobbies to Habits to Skills
“You always need a hobby more complex than your job.”David Rowe, Ph.D.
If during the course of a casual conversation, you ask someone what their hobbies are, you may hear responses ranging from vapid to inspiring and everything in between. Most often the answers occupy resemble some type of leisure. “I like to shop, read, watch tv, listen to music, or travel.” All of these, it could be argued, have their merits. But, to be honest, when we ask that initial question we are looking for something deeper. We are delving into what moves that person to create anything, privately and outside of what they have to do as part of their normal life.
Not wanting to sound to elitists, but I believe all true hobbies should be the type of thing that improves us, has us create, or drives us to explore beyond our comfort zones. Therefore, I think we need a better term than hobby to describe extracurricular pursuits. David Rowe’s quote that I referenced at the beginning highlights the concept of Settled Work. This type of work, consists of the interests you pursue outside of your day job or school. With time and mastery, it could produce additional income if you wanted to or simply be the one activity that pieces together all of your life experiences by way of the output it produces. It should be a hobby, with enough complexity that enforces the bigger goals; such as life long learning and personal growth.
Don’t confuse schooling with education.Elon Musk
A formal education is great. but it is not the only way to learn. So long as you can read and digest information, you can learn. So read what you are interested in and let those topics organically lead you from one subject to another. You will learn naturally without pressure to keep up with a curriculum. This approach is known as Interest Based Learning. Many home schoolers are familiar with this style of learning but it is atypical for all other styles of formal education. I wasn’t home schooled, but can see how this environment is great for picking up and diving deeper into new subjects.
Let’s imagine though that we start with just a hobby, and we wanted to educate ourselves about it and turn it into more. We first need to design our own sort of curriculum. From 100 level courses to 400 level. We have to structure the way in which we want to learn something new the same way we learn a field in school. If it is gardening than 100 level would be simple house plants and 400 level would be managing your own green house. But we can’t just jump from 100 to 400. We should design stages along the way with mastery assessments along the way for each level. This approach keeps the learning interesting and makes sure we are actually getting good at what we set out to learn.
None of us learned everything we know all at once. It all builds slowly over time. One subject on top of another and indirectly enriching the other. So when we take up a Hobby that could become Settled Work, we need to chunk up our effort into small bites. Again, go from 100 to 400 over time. Sprinkle In Hands On Help, Sign up for a Course that Tracks Progress, or learn from someone who is an established expert.
You may have a Yoga interests that becomes a daily habit of 10 minutes a day. That habit gradually becomes a regular practice of 3-5 one hour per week sessions. And ultimately becomes a teacher certification that may or may not become a full-time profession.
You have a writing interest that becomes a daily habit of writing for 5 minutes a day. Which then becomes a blog. Which can morph one day into a book you write slowly one page at a time. That will likely never be published. The mere completion of it being more than you had hoped for at the beginning. Or maybe, it does get published, Oprah endorses it, and you are now famous.
Or you have a wood working interest. That becomes a daily habit of reading a book about woodworking. Which becomes a hobby of attending Home Depot classes and workshops. Which becomes a series of thrown away “pieces” that you make in your garage. Which become better with time and become your own style of bookshelves that you start to sell on Etsy.
I have a friend who started his career in graphic design. Over the decades he added in skills that were self taught in audio/video editing, web development, and writing. Year after year he has stacked on another skill on top of his existing one. He now generates more passive income from the combined application of these skills than anyone else I know.
After a hobby becomes a skill, you can stack it with our other skills, we can combine them to enrich our existing profession or create a whole new one. It is at this step that the effort really pays off., where we have created Settled Work for ourselves that we pursue for the rest of our lives. I personally work at three specific hobbies that I hope that become strong skills over time. I devote 90 days at a time to one of the three and rotate through them over time. What it will amount to, I am not sure yet, but the journey has created experiences and enjoyment outside of work that I can see myself doing forever.