Finding a good hobby
June 18, 2009 1 Comment
I spent seven hours in the sun today. But I wasn’t relaxing on a beach somewhere. Nor was I out on the links with three of my best friends bragging about a shot that I once made. Actually back when I played golf, it might well have taken me seven hours to get through 18 holes!
No, today I took the day off to clear a rather large maple tree that fell across our driveway during a storm last night. I could have easily called someone to come do it for me. And in fact, it probably would have been less expensive to go that route. As a self-employed database consultant, my income is directly related to the number of hours that I work. So there was definitely some opportunity cost associated with clearing the tree myself. But that’s ok; I didn’t do it for to save a buck or two. I did it because it was fun, despite the mercury in the thermometer breaking the mid-90′s F.
It’s not about the money
As a consultant it’s easy to get lured into thinking of most everything in terms of opportunity cost. “I can work another couple of hours tonight and make an extra xxx dollars.” When you think in those terms, the dinner with your wife and kids becomes very expensive.
But when everything comes down to a purely financial analysis, the really important things in life will certainly lose out. How can you measure the impact of helping another person, of leading a Scout Troop, of being there for your kids? How important is the good feeling you get from doing something you really enjoy?
Find a hobby
I received some good advice many years ago. Oddly enough, it wasn’t from someone I know personally. It was from a book. It was written by Bill Gates. At least I think it was. The advice? Don’t underestimate the importance of being well rounded; don’t let work be all consuming for you. Find a hobby. Find something you enjoy and get really good at it. Whether it’s golf or gardening, sailing or soccer, find something that you really enjoy and pursue it.
For me, it’s living out in the country on a small farm. I spend my spare time tending to the cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys that we raise. I enjoy working on my old tractor, mending fences, and providing for as much of our own food as we can. And yes, I even enjoy clearing a big maple tree when it falls.
And I’m fortunate in that my wife also enjoys the lifestyle we’ve chosen together. Just today, in fact, as I was cutting the tree into manageable pieces, she walked down from the house and said “Hi Hercules, it feels good to be out here doing this, doesn’t it?” It sure did!
But I like what I do
Many of you may say that you already love what you do for a living, that SQL Server or some other technology is your hobby. To you, I say fantastic! If you can do for a living what you truly love, you’ve reached the zenith of the work life experience.
But I would also caution you to not let the pursuit of your work be all encompassing, so much to the point where life outside of work passes you by. There’s so much to enjoy in this life; do it while you still can.