Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hobby or Avocation

Michael Masterson writes in Ready, Fire Aim:

My neighbor Bob is bored. He has been extremely successful in everything he does and yet he finds himself sometimes bored to depression. I usually tell overachieving people like Bob to spend their extra energy getting fit and pursuing hobbies. But Bob is already super fit and a scratch golfer. I told him his boredom was the result of having too much capacity - in every area he pursued. But I didn't have a solution for him. I was stumped.

After sleeping on it that night, I had an idea I suggested to him the next morning. "For a guy like you," I told him, "golf and exercise aren't enough. You need an activity that is infinitely challenging."

Naturally, he wanted to know what I meant by infinitely challenging. I wasn't actually sure but I knew it had to be something that, like golf, can never be done perfectly and, like fitness, was enormously important. "It's not another hobby that you need," I said. "It's an avocation."

What's the difference?

A hobby amuses you. An avocation enriches you. A hobby can be entirely a selfish pursuit. An avocation benefits other people. A hobby can be short termed. An avocation is usually a lifelong pursuit. A hobby can satisfy some superficial aspect of your personality. An avocation needs to be driven by your core values. A hobby requires less of you and gives you less. An avocation requires more but gives more.

Playing golf is a hobby. Running an annual golf charity event can be an avocation. Watching documentaries is a hobby. Making documentaries is an avocation. Reading poetry is a hobby. Writing poetry is a avocation.

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