Just Because You’re Good at Something…

So, let’s say it’s just another Saturday night. You invite a few friends over with no real plans in particular aside from hanging out. One of your friends notices your plastic guitar sitting in the corner and suggests firing up Rock Band on the old Xbox 360. Everyone agrees this is a good idea, as it’s been a few years since you’ve all played together. You bumble through a few songs with everyone showing a few signs of rust on the guitar, and singing off-tune on vocals. It’s all in good fun.

Then, your friend Karen takes her turn on the microphone. She picks “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence… and she blows everyone’s mind with her incredible voice. Truly, it’s out of this world how good she is. Everyone is in awe, as they’ve never heard Karen sing before. As the song ends, everyone rains down their compliments on Karen, telling her just how breathtakingly talented she is. Karen blushes. Your friends then say that Karen should totally give this singing thing a real go. She should start a YouTube channel, she should enter competitions, she should try to break into the music business.

But should she?

Wake Me Up Inside?

What if Karen is perfectly content with her day job in human resources? What if she already finds her career to be richly rewarding and challenging and engaging? Should she really consider turning this “hidden talent” into a potential business or career?

I realize that this might sound counter-intuitive coming from a blog that talks about living the “dot com lifestyle” and smashing the conventional mindset around “trading hours for dollars” and “life-work balance.” However, there is absolutely something to be said about having a hobby that has nothing to do with your professional endeavors whatsoever. This separation can help to deliver greater joy, fulfillment, and contentment in your life.

Don’t get me wrong. There is an incredible appeal to taking a hobby and turning it into a business. That’s part and parcel with the “do what you love” way of thinking. However, what you’ll find is that when you turn a hobby into a business, it oftentimes starts to feel a lot more like work and a lot less like play. And you still need play in your life.

Welcome to the Program

Allow me to provide another example, this time from real life. A good friend of mine has been running an online interview program (we’d call it a podcast today, but it wasn’t really called a “podcast” when it started; he calls it a “program”) for a great number of years. He’s been very successful at it, connecting with lots of publicists and other people in the industry. He usually chats with authors, as well as other notable personalities. The people in the business know who he is and he’s well-respected.

Several years ago, right around the time I started taking my blogging and freelance writing more seriously, I asked him if he had any ambition to take the program to the next level, and also to monetize it a little more aggressively. At the time, and to this day, the only real monetization he has is the Amazon affiliate link for the books written by his guests. The podcast has never had a paid sponsor and he has no intention of ever seeking one. To him, the program is a hobby. It’s a passion of his, something he does for fun because he enjoys doing it.

It’s possible that it is BECAUSE he has never really treated the program as a business that he has been able to stick with it for so long and with such enthusiasm. He’s a professional, through and through, just not in the monetary sense.

It’s Okay to Have a Hobby

The take home lesson here is this: Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you need to do it professionally. You can sing your heart out for fun and never post a video on YouTube hoping to be discovered. You can bake delicious cakes without ever thinking about opening a bakery of your own. And you start a blog with no ambition to ever have a paid writing career. Of course, the option is always there, but it is just that — an option.