Have you ever met someone successful in their profession, who also happened to be pretty impressive with a creative skill? It’s common in the entrepreneurial world – many of the most famous business leaders spend serious amounts of time pursuing hobbies that don’t have anything to do with their main profession.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett started learning the ukulele as a teenager in the late 1940s. He often plays at shareholder meetings or during television interviews or charity events. Nithin Kamath, founder of India’s most popular online stock brokerage Zerodha, enjoys singing and playing guitar with his family.
Others prefer more physical pursuits. Brian Roberts, CEO of the American telecom giant Comcast, is a competitive squash player. Richard Branson once ran in the London Marathon dressed as a giant butterfly.
The examples are endless. You might be wondering why these founders, executives, and massively accomplished professionals make time in their loaded schedules to practice chords on an instrument or swing a racket.
The reason? They’ve all learned an important concept: diversifying their skills. Whether you pick up a hobby just for fun or you actually want to apply what you’ve learned professionally, there are some great reasons to learn a skill outside of your primary professional discipline.
Unlocks different parts of the brain
The common myth of “right brain vs. left brain” – which describes the left side of the brain as logical and analytical and the right side of the brain as free-spirited and creative – has been mostly debunked. But neuroscientists have identified real physical changes in the areas of the brain, depending on the type of task you are working on. For example, the “Imagination Network” refers to components of the brain deep inside the prefrontal cortex and temporal (or middle) areas of the brain. These parts are active when you try to imagine what someone might be thinking, or predict a future scenario.
Similarly, parts of the brain activated during a creative or physical discipline – painting, playing an instrument, or riding a horse – are much different than any areas used in your day-to-day work life. Even if you work in a creative field or for a cutting-edge company, you won’t be able to emulate the specific mental challenge of playing the right keys on a piano, or swinging a cricket bat to make perfect contact.
By pursuing these types of experiences in situations outside of work, you can help your brain fire up these areas in unexpected situations (more on this below).
Helps you think about problems differently
The main benefit of activating different regions of the mind as described above is that it gives you a broader perspective on challenges at work. For example, think about the way you might overcome an obstacle or impediment related to playing an instrument. Most expert instructors would suggest you isolate the areas of weakness and work on them very slowly, helping you put it together at full speed.
Having this experience can be helpful at work: you might try to isolate specific areas you are struggling with and work on fundamental fixes for them. In other situations, you may realize that you have to bring in some sort of outside help to navigate around an issue, whether it’s a coworker, supervisor or a mentor.
Even if you aren’t aware of it consciously, the practice gained from solving creative challenges will carry over into your office to help as you brainstorm solutions in the workplace. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology observed a positive relationship between job-related outcomes and the pursuit of creative hobbies. Keeping your mind sharp in one area may be correlated with successful outcomes in completely different ones.
Many people today are feeling overworked and burned out – especially since spring 2020, when the onset of COVID-19 made remote work and restrictions on gatherings more common in many parts of the world. Restrictions on the ability to see friends and family are a natural source of stress and anxiety.
Even prior to the global pandemic, people starting a new career or switching to a different profession experience a tremendous amount of stress. These are significant events, milestones along your professional path that will have a huge influence on the rest of your work life. It’s only natural that you feel some stress about the way things will turn out – but you can’t let this stress interfere with you working to achieve your goals and dreams.
Having a skilled hobby outside of your profession will help you process stress in a natural, healthy way. It will help you get your mind off the problems you face at work and put your thoughts to work in a positive way. Those who enjoy participating in more physical hobbies like running, strength training, cricket, football or basketball will also reap the many physiological benefits of exercising. These kinds of hobbies can improve your health on top of the previously-mentioned career benefits.
Broadens your network
Participating in a creative hobby is another way to bond with others. If you’ve fallen in love with sculpting, you can connect with others to exchange ideas and techniques about the art. If you’ve decided to take up a team-based game or sport, it’s natural to want to connect with others since you’ll need to participate with them.
Thanks to the advancement of technology, meeting people with shared interests in this way is easier than ever before. There are many different online communities and forums where people congregate to exchange information about hobbies. In some cases, all you need to do is search a particular hashtag on social media to find like-minded peers.
It’s always helpful to broaden your social circle in this way, so that you can connect with others through more than just work or family relationships. You may run into people who can help you with your hobby as well as your professional pursuits.
Now that you have a better understanding of why you should pursue hobbies outside of your job, the next step is to identify which hobby to choose. If there’s something you enjoyed doing while younger but had to stop when you got older, you might consider picking the hobby back up again. If you want to try something completely new, spend some time checking out lists of the most popular non-work hobbies. If possible, try to dabble in two or three to decide which ones you like the most.
Learning multiple types of skills can help you with work as well. At Stoa School, our student curriculum is designed to prepare startup specialists who have a generalized set of skills that can fit in at any quick-growing venture or cutting-edge tech company. Not only will you get to learn and sharpen the skills startups want in their new hires, you’ll also become a part of Stoa’s community. It’s a vibrant group consisting of current and former students, advisors, and lecturers who all come together to bounce ideas off one another and offer advice to help solve problems.
Interested in finding out more and filling out an application to our latest cohort? Fill out this simple form on our website to download a brochure and learn the specifics of our online StoaMBA program.