Ep 4: How Your Hobbies Enhance Your Work

The responsibilities of typical working adult life can make hobbies seem like a thing of the past. Part of a childhood that is long forgotten, that we’ve “grown out of”. Not for us. In fact, we see our hobbies and interests as something that makes us better at what we do as solopreneurs… or as human beings, really! It’s all about drawing connections between different areas of interests, and allowing them fuel your creativity at work.

Show Notes

Case studies mentioned in the show: Pokemon by Satoshi Tajiri, Under Armour by Kevin Plank, yarn bombing art by Magda Sayeg, the iPhone by Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney.

Questions or feedback? Email us at hello [at] solosync [dot] xyz or slide into our DMs on Instagram.

Transcript

[Prologue]

Jean  00:00

They could find writers, good writers, and they could find people who were experts in the F&B industry, but they couldn’t find people who could do both. Like write about, and have technical knowledge as well. So I think sometimes when you pick up hobbies, you discover these intersections. And I think that sometimes that can really make you stand out.

Sarah   00:16

I think sometimes our hobbies can also do more than just help us in the work we do. For some people, it becomes the work we do. I mean, we know entrepreneurs who turn their hobbies into a business. There’s Satoshi Tajiri… he combined his childhood bug collecting hobby with his later passion of video game design. And when he pitched his video game idea to Nintendo, they took it on and we now know that game as Pokemon! You know, that tagline? “Gotta catch em all”?

[Start] 

Sarah   00:46

Hi, there. It’s Sarah and Jeanette. Welcome to Solo Sync, a podcast for the curious solopreneur where we discover simple solutions to keep enjoying what we do together. 

Sarah   00:56

So at the time of recording this in Malaysia, where we’re based has gone back into a conditional movement control order, the CMCO, due to a third wave of COVID-19, I must say Jean, being encouraged to stay home again reminded me of things we would do to pass time when we were all stuck at home during the second wave earlier this year. It kind of gave us the chance to slow down a little bit more and make time for the things that we were interested in. Aside from work, of course.

Jean  01:22

Yeah, I did find myself with a lot of free time during that period. I think it was fun to sort of like, explore and rediscover all hobbies, or like find out new ones.

Sarah   01:32

Yeah, like suddenly, you had a little bit of a hit space for even just areas of interest that you have, right? Like you’re not constantly thinking of shuttling to and fro from work and stuff like that. What were some of the hobbies that you found yourself picking up again?

Jean  01:45

Um, well, definitely The Sims 4. Every time I find that I have a lot of hours on my hand, I do go back into the game and start playing it again. I started coding even more again, as well as looking more into UX design. 

Sarah   02:03

I love how those are your “hobbies”. They sound like work to me!

Jean  02:08

I think it’s because most of my work involves writing. So things like coding and using my brain in a different way feels like hobbies to me.

Sarah   02:15

Something different. 

Jean  02:16

Yeah. But of course, the other obvious hobbies that I’ve been practicing since I was young would be things like reading. I also rediscovered my love for music. I did some music writing and singing and recording with a friend. What about you?

Sarah   02:31

I got a chance to pick up weaving again. It’s really therapeutic. I just wanted to find things that would help me like stay away from the screen. So you know, stuff I could do with my hands, more tactile activities, like playing a guitar… garden quite a bit. But yeah, I think you’re talking about just areas of interest that I had more headspace for? I enjoy like reading up about interior designing a bit. I always say that, you know, if I could go back to studying again, it would either be history and religion, or I would take up interior designing. I really enjoy reading up about movies and about the TV series and really going deep like, Oh, you know, what is it that inspired the writers to use that particular idea or concept for this story? And then before you know it, and like last down the rabbit hole, right. And I know this sounds a little strange, but I think I really enjoy collecting kids toys and books. Especially pop ups! Hey, they are super creative!

Jean  03:32

They are. They are. They are.

Sarah   03:33

But you know, remember a time when we really didn’t need a lockdown to remind us about stuff like this. It’s called childhood?

Jean  03:42

Yeah, we weren’t always thinking about getting from A to B or meeting some deadlines.

Sarah   03:47

Exactly. What were some of the things you used to do as a kid? I mean, other than reading,

Jean  03:51

I have to say I think I was quite a boring kid. I spent a lot of time daydreaming, I could literally sit in a chair and stare into space for like hours at a time.

Sarah   04:02

You know, I think that’s quite a skill. I don’t really think kids today get much opportunity to do that.

Jean  04:08

Yeah. And they always, they always have things to do right

Sarah   04:11

 To occupy them. Yeah. And that gives you room for kind of building your imagination or… having a sense of imagination.

Jean  04:19

I suppose. So yeah, my brothers and I used to talk about our secret garden all the time.

Sarah   04:26

I remember. So we grew up together, right? And there was this thing that your brothers and you and me used to do where we would create our own games. On notebooks. You remember that? 

Jean  04:37

Yes. 

Sarah   04:37

So we were kind of like draw out like we had this map on our notebook, which had no lines on it. And it will be this little ball that will kind of go through a maze of sorts. When you reach the edge of the page, you have to choose path A or path B, right. And then whichever you choose will kind of lead either to the next page or like three pages later. Yeah, to kind of find out your fate.

Jean  04:58

Yeah, it’s like an illustrated version of a ‘Choose your own adventure’ novel.

Sarah   05:02

Yes! Yeah, it was fun! it helped our imagination kind of go wild. I think when you’re a kid, you may not realize it. But the whole idea of play exploration or having an interest in something, it’s really quite a crucial part of our development, right?

Jean  05:16

Mm hmm. Yeah, definitely. Even now, as adults, I think that play is actually something really important as well. It shouldn’t be something that you pressure yourself to do, because you think it might have some value to it, or it has some kind of implications for your work or life. But I think it’s something that you can I, as an adult… I think it’s a luxury.

Sarah   05:39

Okay, if you had to give yourself an adult reason to do it… having hobbies and interests outside of work does have a lot of benefits. Well, I find that it helps you grow your patience, because when you’re learning something new, you have to be patient with yourself. You know, you kind of develop something new and you know that there is going to be a learning curve, you kind of get a chance to learn how to build your concentration as well. 

Jean  06:05

Yeah, you also develop that discomfort of being new to something again. And I think it jolts you out of that comfort zone, you know?

Sarah   06:14

Hmm. I think that’s really important. Sometimes we take our work for granted. I mean, I’m just saying what, because that’s really what we do as… the adult experience. It’s so refreshing sometimes to not know something, in a way. I think that helps with confidence as well, for two reasons. So it helps you like be familiar with not knowing and be okay with that. And then when you do know something outside of your usual scope, you just feel a little bit more confident. And you know, I guess it’s fun to talk about. 

Jean  06:42

That’s so true. I remember when I first started learning, coding, it was something so unfamiliar and I was so new to syntax, and how to even like, I’m not very good with tech, to be honest, because I have some memory issues. So being that uncomfortable with some really new topics sort of made me feel like you know, since then every time I encounter something new again, I’m like, oh, I have this, you know, I can actually get through it. I can figure out a way to make this work.

Sarah   07:12

Yeah, we need to give ourselves opportunities to feel that way. So that when it does happen in our work context, we’re not like all panicky. It gives us the opportunity to have more to work with where we need to connect ideas or come up with new concepts. Okay, I know, I’m like going back into work again. But it’s true when you’re trying to explain yourself, you know, when you’re trying to come up with a good metaphor for something, I think that having areas outside of what you usually do, what your scope of work is, gives you more to work with when you’re trying to explain something. And people need that they don’t need the technical jargon. They need things that they can relate to in everyday life, you know, simple things like painting or gardening, you can draw so many metaphors from that to kind of express yourself.

Jean  07:58

Yeah, I like what you’re saying about connecting ideas and coming up with concepts as well. Earlier this year, I read this book called range by David Epstein. And he was talking about how specialists within one single field actually find themselves going back to the same tools over and over again, even when that specific tool might not be the best one, to use in a situation. So for example, heart surgeons would always look to surgery as the first solution to a chest pain or something like that, when that’s actually not the first course of action that should be taken.

Sarah   08:34

It’s about thinking habits, right? Developing the right thinking habits, and allowing yourself to have more than just one.

Jean  08:40

Yeah, like you have a whole toolbox to choose from rather than just a hammer. And you know, that saying right, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Sarah   08:48

People always say, oh, you know, having hobbies makes you a more interesting person. So that when you go, you know, when you go for drinks, or when you hang out with people, office parties, you have something to talk about. But I think it’s more than that. I mean, why do you think like when you go for job interviews, sometimes they ask you oh, so what do you like doing outside of work? Right? When I was a fresh grad, I used to feel a little bit afraid, when that question came. It really wasn’t a test, or it wasn’t a way to say like, oh, so that’s what you’re gonna be doing when you’re not working, you know, but I think people just really want to get to know a little bit more about who you are, and the stuff that you enjoy out of pure passion and pure interest really do say a lot about you. And if you don’t have anything that says a lot about you as well!

Jean  09:29

I wonder what it says about me, but like my hobbies mostly involve other forms of work, or what other people think of his work and reading.

Sarah   09:37

Well, we’ll come to that in a second! Yeah, anyway, I think as a freelancer or creative consultant or entrepreneur in general, just recognizing that last bit is really so useful. I mean, we constantly work with different industries, and it’s impossible to be a subject matter expert at everything, but you definitely can bring more value to the table when you draw from different places. 

Jean  09:58

Definitely, definitely. 

Sarah   09:59

To me I think it’s also about cultivating like, we talked about that earlier, the ability to connect dots across different areas of interest. I mean, especially in today’s world of endless possibilities and sudden changes, people don’t really care about what you know, but about how you can use it. I think the question here that we could ask ourselves is, how can we draw inspiration from what we love to bring a new level of creativity and innovation to what we do?

Jean  10:32

Earlier, we were talking about how creativity is essential to successful entrepreneurship. When was the last time you realized that something you were interested in outside of work came in super handy for what you were working on professionally?

Sarah   10:44

I think earlier this year, when we had the MCO, you know, lockdown in our side of the world. Something that I was doing with a team, we had to bring whatever physical plans we had, we had to bring that online. And that involved designing a virtual simulation to create a brand experience for a group of people. And so I had to write a storyline. And that involved quite a bit of gaming mechanics? And I found that the notebook games that we used to play when we were younger, yeah, came in really handy at this point, because it was very much based on that build your own adventure concept. The storyline also evolved a bit of fantasy, which I felt was perfect, because I was drawing from my interest in fairy tales and movies. And I also had to look into character development. And I’m not a fiction writer, but I’m a huge MCU fan, Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I find myself thinking about all these characters that I love so much that I resonate with. Really kind of breaking it down, you know, just watching videos and asking myself, what is it that makes these characters so lovable? How do I build good characters in my story that people can resonate with as well. And it was just so much fun. And I felt at that moment, Oh, my gosh, I am so thankful that I had all these interests, these areas of interest to help what I’m doing now.

Jean  12:01

Because every time you watch a movie or TV series, you would go down a rabbit hole of like discovering more about the characters and the setups and things like that, right?

Sarah   12:09

Absolutely. Like just nerding out on it, right. I’m really, I’m not a game designer. And I’m not even a fiction writer. But thank God, I just had, you know, those few things to draw upon just to kind of eat my creative work to deliver what needed to be done at that point of time. What about you?

Jean  12:25

I guess mine is a little bit more technical, I guess one of my interests in the last couple of years has been food and drink. I’m not so much interested in the trying new foods. I mean, I am interested in trying new foods, but it’s not about going to new restaurants to eat and writing reviews and things like that. So I’m more interested in the culture of food, the politics of food, and I was also very interested in drinks, especially. So in the last year, I explored bartending for a bit, I actually worked at a bar for awhile, learning more about spirits, how they are made, how they’re used in drinks and the whole basics of like, how do you build a good cocktail, right? Sometime last year, I started working for some clients in the F&B industry. And what I heard from them was that they could find writers, good writers, and they could find people who were experts in the F&B industry, but they couldn’t find people who could do both. Like write about, and have technical knowledge as well. Yeah. So I think sometimes when you pick up hobbies, you discover these intersections. And I think that sometimes that can really make you stand out.

Sarah   13:23

Yeah, that reminds me of a story of this other friend of mine, she graduated with a degree in architecture, if I’m not mistaken. And she really struggled, you know, just going from one firm to another. But on the side, she enjoyed writing, she enjoyed just expressing herself in writing. And eventually she ended up working with a magazine title that covered news on architecture and interior design. And she found that that was perfect, because she could bring her knowledge from her vocation in that sense, and pair it with her passion. And it was like a perfect match. I find that you know, sometimes the things that you’re interested in, and the thought process that goes behind the work you do for one client can sometimes benefit another project that you’re working on. We’re not talking about being lazy about your ideas and kind of like copy pasting. But we’re talking about an ecosystem. I guess when you find your why then you find that the clients that you work within and work that you do, kind of support one another. What do you think about that?

Jean  14:17

Yeah, if I get clients on, they’re usually within one industry. So I don’t look for like another client within the same industry. Or even if there are, I would probably not take them on. But I do have clients that are industries that sort of support each other. So for example, I recently worked on a report about aging in Malaysia. And then I have this other client who is working on a retirement village in Malaysia as well, that kind of supports each other because the information from the report can be used to inform work that I’m doing for the retirement village, right. 

Sarah   14:50

Yeah. 

Jean  14:50

And then I do some work in artificial intelligence writing as well. And recently I had someone come to me he’s in a health care industry. He’s looking at building AI powered robots, or machines for elderly care. 

Sarah   15:04

Wow. 

Jean  15:05

So that’s like total ecosystem going on. 

Sarah   15:07

It’s like some synergy… happening. It makes your work easier as well. 

Jean  15:11

Yeah. And if it’s something that you’re interested in, why not right?

Sarah   15:14

Yeah, I think sometimes all hobbies can also do more than just help us in what we do. For some people, it becomes the work we do. I mean, we know entrepreneurs who turn their hobbies into a business Kevin Plank, he had this desire to find a solution for his daily workout needs. He was a football player at the University of Maryland. And that desire became what we know today as the athletic clothing brand, Under Armour. There’s Satoshi Tajiri… he combined his childhood bunk collecting hobby with his later passion of video game design. And when he pitched his video game idea to Nintendo, they took it on and we now know that game as Pokemon! You know, that tagline “Gotta catch em all”? 

Jean  15:53

Yeah, like bugs, right?

Sarah   15:55

Yeah!

Jean  15:55

I guess the obvious ones as well, like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, you know, who turn things that they were interested in into multibillion dollar empires?

Sarah   16:04

Mm hmm. I think Steve Jobs is a really interesting case study as well. He was interested in philosophies of Zen and Buddhism, how did that help him again, with what he built for Apple?

Jean  16:14

The whole design of the first Apple computer was influenced by his Zen and Buddhism sort of philosophies as well as the influence that he got from his father, who would build things in the house. And one of the things I remember reading was, he always said that the inside of whatever you’re building needs to look as beautiful as the outside. So there’s no A side and B side, but there’s just an A side, you know, from however you look at it, it looks good.

Sarah   16:40

That is absolutely true of the iPhone that we hold in our hand today! I was thinking about all these entrepreneurs, and I’m like, they’re all men okay.

Jean  16:49

Yeah.

Sarah   16:50

I hope that, you know, maybe in a future episode, we could cover one on all women. Need a bit more research on that. And like you said, earlier, we were talking about this, that’s like a whole issue in itself, right. But this woman stood out to me a little bit, and this name might not ring a bell Magda Sayeg. She was a math major who became a textile artist. That’s crazy, right? Like two different things. And if you’ve ever noticed things in public being wrapped in knitting like colorful wool. I’ve seen that in parts of Australia. I’ve even seen it in parts of India, like trees that are wrapped in wool, or like stop signs on the street. That was her contribution. She started by covering her door handle with something she knitted. And before you know it, you know, people kind of caught on to that. And they were asking her to come and do this strange new artwork for cities to kind of brighten up cities, and very soon it caught on worldwide. She would start seeing it in different parts of the world. It’s called yarn bombing. And at her TED talk in 2015, she asked the audience to imagine what we could accomplish and create if we drag ourselves away from our devices, or whatever it is we do on a daily basis, and what hobbies could end up being our next passion and a business. A hobby that you love, could grow organically into a new future for you and your career. I mean, this is something for those who are still employed full time. If you’re wondering how to branch out and eventually work for yourself one day, perhaps this could be a great start.

Jean  18:16

I think even Marie Kondo she took her hobby of like cleaning up stuff and organizing things and turned it into a book and a whole business now you know? 

Sarah   18:25

A whole religion? 

Jean  18:27

Yeah. Konmari.

Sarah   18:29

Yeah. Well, this whole idea of allowing whatever you absorb, through your interest to enhance what you do professionally, might start to make some of us have a little more respect for our hobbies. I mean, maybe it’s a whole new concept to make a habit of. How does one begin to let that happen a bit more? What are some small takeaways or, you know, little thinking habits that we might encourage to get you started on this trajectory?

Jean  18:53

I guess one thing we can start with is to stop feeling so guilty about having hobbies. We shouldn’t feel the need to be working all the time. But even as we pursue these hobbies, I think we shouldn’t take them for granted. Yeah, we can also be more aware of what it involves, like what goes into it and what we can take out of it as well.

Sarah   19:12

I think being mindful right, about what you’re doing. I think that being said, you also don’t have to pressure yourself, you know, to find a hobby that will directly translate into your business life, because that’s… yeah, that’s gonna happen organically. 

Jean  19:24

Yeah, it needs to be fun. It needs to be something that you take pleasure in, I guess. 

Sarah   19:28

Yeah. And I think this whole ability to connect dots and connect ideas is very useful in today’s world. Maybe you know, that might not be something that comes naturally for people, but I think it’s okay, you start somewhere. So maybe you could start by practicing creating your own metaphors and conversations, connecting back to what you love doing. And also with any new area, or interest or hobby, you’re obviously learning something new, yes. But I think while you’re in the process, you can ask yourself, what else can I learn from this? So for example, I picked up gardening again, doing the MCO, the lockdown in Malaysia, and I find that gardening is such a great reflection of our development as human beings, I found it a time to reflect and really feel like, Oh, you know, if this plant can grow just a little bit more in the past week, have I grown? How have I grown in my own way in the past week? Stuff like that.

Jean  20:18

So I guess the takeaways that we can get from this episode would be… One… 

Sarah   20:23

Don’t feel guilty about your hobbies, because they’re important?

Jean  20:26

Yeah, you need them. Number two, don’t take your hobbies for granted. Your hobbies and areas of interest can be a way for you to grow.

Sarah   20:34

Yeah, and don’t force it. I think the idea is to just be open to the possibility that your hobbies can enhance the work that you do. I mean, it all starts with awareness. Right? That’s the fourth point, I guess, a realization. You could ask yourself, What do you love doing outside of work? What were you interested in as a child and even now as an adult? And how can you connect the dots and use it to bring value to your work?

Jean  21:08

If you’d like to get in touch with us to suggest a topic for an upcoming episode, or if you have any questions or you just want to chat, feel free to email us at hello@solosync.xyz.  Our Instagram handle is @solosyncpodcast. Until next time!

[End]

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