Thursday, February 3, 2011

How to Find New Hobbies

There are plenty of people out there that want to make significant changes in their lives, but don't know where to start. In one of my previous posts, I asked you guys to think about your hobbies, what you're really passionate about, and think of how you can turn that into something greater and, potentially, monetize it. One of the most common refrains that I hear when I tell people this is, "what if I don't have any hobbies?" Some people just sit around all day, watching TV or IMing others after (or during!) work, and then turn around and wonder why they don't have any hobbies.

The answer is that instead of bullshitting over IM, you should use the internet or family and friends as a resource to find potential new hobbies.

There are tons of potential hobbies out there. In fact, since I decided to make major changes in my Thanksgiving Moment of Clarity (TMOC, from now on), I have taken on the following endeavors:

-Started this blog

-Started researching a new non-fiction book

-Started putting together ideas for a new novel

-Started writing two screenplays (see a pattern?)

-Resumed reading for pleasure

-Started discussing two new business ventures with others, one of which actually appears to be viable

-Wrote a transformative Life Plan, to give me a kick in the ass

-Have gotten into wine tasting in a meaningful way, including reading advanced books on the topic

These are just the hobbies that I currently have time for! You'll notice that I don't have TV, video games, or "surfing the internet" on there. I still do these things, but now I consider them time sinks instead of productive endeavors. Though I still enjoy these activities, I recognize that each hour spent with them detracts from what I am ultimately trying to accomplish, and the life I am attempting to construct.

Here are some other hobbies that I want to take up when I have a little more free time:

-Master Spanish

-Learn another language enough to be conversationally fluent (preferably Mandarin)

-Become a proficient surfer

-Join one group that meets on a weekly or semi-weekly basis that enjoys one of my other hobbies

-Become proficient enough at dancing that I don't make a total ass out of myself

-Learn basic culinary techniques without going to culinary school

-Learn to paint

-Start a podcast

-Learn how to ride a bike again (I know—long story for another post)

As you can see, I've created quite the list. But how did I come up with these hobbies and the goals associated with them? By and large, I tried something that exposed me to each of these. I was exposed to wine tasting on a trip out to Napa in 2007; since then I have become much more interested in wine, but without the snobbery that often accompanies it. I always enjoyed reading for pleasure throughout college and law school, but since I started working in a job that requires inordinate amounts of reading daily, that fell by the wayside. During a recent vacation, though, I re-discovered my love for reading, and not a moment too soon, as the book I was reading at the time, Tim Ferriss' The Four-Hour Workweek, has rapidly ascended to the number 1 spot on my "Favorite Books" list. I always piddled around with a blog on the side, but I was afraid of publicly attributing my material to myself for fear of potential professional repercussions. You know what? Now I don't care—writing is an intensely personal endeavor, so not everyone is going to be a fan, but the only people I have denigrated have been public figures that have brought it upon themselves. I realized I had nothing to be afraid of from a professional standpoint, so fuck it. I write what I write.

However, this was not enough, as I sat on some of these hobbies for years without any meaningful progress, as I wallowed away, watching TV and playing video games for a quick fix of fun. The TMOC brought everything into perspective, and got me working on many of these projects. Why is this the case? I was surrounded by family and friends that were home for the holidays and knew who I was. I realized that I wanted to be the person I was around them all of the time, which was slowly slipping away from me. So I resolved to change that. What it boils down to is exposing yourself in a meaningful way to people that love, admire, or otherwise respect you, and ask them for not only what they think you would enjoy, but also what they enjoy, and why. Even this is not enough, as you have to be willing to try some of their recommendations before dismissing them out of hand.

If you're truly alone, and have no one else with whom to speak, reach out to an on-line community that has some commonality with what you want to do. "Isn't this hypocritical? You chastise people for fucking around on the internet all day in one breath, then say they're valuable in the next!" There's a difference—a lot of times, people bullshit with each other on facebook, or IM, or some message board. What I am talking about is for people that have no other choice but to ask around on an online community to determine what they can do for hobbies, not necessarily by any fault of their own. One is a waste of time, the other is out of necessity.

Feel free to let me know any success stories in the comments—I'd be happy to hear if anyone else thinks this is sound advice or not.

Questions? Comments? Off-the-wall hobbies that others would potentially consider? E-mail D.J. at

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