Hobby vs Job

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There is a growing stigma about “work”. Seen as something that you “give-up” everything else for. An attitude that is quite common on the human collective’s consciousness. Are we inherently not meant to work under deadlines, constraints and stress? Have we not found our passion yet? Or maybe found it, made it our job and are watching it die by every deadline.

I once read that, once you stop seeing work as work but as a default state then it stops being work altogether, mind the paraphrasing if you can.

I love programming for example. I spent most of my younger years lost in the jungles of computers and circuits. It was definitely “play” at the time and hence devoid of any obligations to anyone, schedule and other “stress” factors, essentially a hobby.

Today, It’s my job and I’m very thankful for it. What once was a hobby, sponsors my livelihood. Added to the fact that I have a strict schedule to adhere to and responsibilities to my colleagues and the products we’re shipping, there are enough “stressors” around “programming” that would start tainting the “passion” and “love” I have for it. Except that I have carefully monitored and broken down the process by which this “dimming of passion” happens resulting in a very simple solution to protect the “lit candle” of “programming”.

This unintentionally led me to meditate on why the general wisdom advises against making your hobby into a job and it’s quite simple why: Stress.

Stress in moderation is a great motivator but over time, if it is always there, it jades the person from the activity.

Now that we have singled out the influencing variable we can delve into understanding it.


There are countless articles and resources to look up on stress and how to deal with it. Most of them focus on the idea of “leaving” the work area to relax. Although seemingly benign solutions for the individual, they have a negative impact on what we’re trying to deliver, notably our projects and great ideas. When you move your focus from your said creation you are context switching, resulting in reduced depth and a dulling of the razor ingenuity that makes a great timeless creation what it is.

What is left to work on is our “attitude and perception” towards “work“. We can look at the qualities of what constitutes a “hobby” and transpose those to an activity we consider as “work”.

So what are the qualities that constitute a “Hobby”?

What is a Hobby

To begin our investigation let’s start by a definition,

hob·by: an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation. – Source

This definition falls into the trap of not defining what “main occupation” is and why the qualities of “pleasure” and “relaxation” are juxtaposed against the obfuscated “main occupation” without any clarifications. The Merriem-Webster definition doesn’t do any better,

: a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation. – Source

At least the word “relaxation” keeps reappearing which we can assume is devoid in the “main occupation” or “regular occupation”.

So a hobby is something we do as humans to relax. This relaxation and lack of constraints allows comfort in that space which in return fuels the passion and love for it.

The next query to tackle, is: How can we maintain the relaxation in work without switching contexts to seek it elsewhere?

Attitude towards Work

Attitude is key to not building unnecessary or an-excess-of stress. The first word that jumps to mind when I think of an optimal attitude towards work is “gratitude“.

It helps if this attitude is applied outside work in one’s personal life too as it translates more naturally to the job context. In fact it builds momentum and becomes harder to leave that mode which I like to call, The Gratitude Momentum.

Being thankful for obstacles and challenges by looking at them as opportunity packages. These packages have within them benefits for the self and others. For ourselves, it is gained experience, wisdom and knowledge. For others it is added resource which has an uncountable amount of benefits.

There are many techniques for being more grateful and one of the simplest ones is the “Gratitude List” which consists of making a list of things one is grateful for. This can be done on paper or quickly in one’s conscious without necessarily interrupting the workflow.

For example:

Let’s say my job puts work on my plate when I already have plenty. A grateful attitude would see this extra work as a chance to gain knowledge and if already done similar work, then at the very least a lesson in patience and perseverance. For my team’s benefit,  it’s initiative and resource in tackling tasks that may not be appealing at the micro level but crucial in the big picture.

Of course i’m not advocating that you never push-back on constraints set by your job, but before you do, see it from a gratitude perspective. If it’s still unnecessary constraints then you can push-back, and believe me you’ll have the right reasons to do so at that point.

The Gratitude Filter

Gratitude seems to be an efficient filter in distilling stress. Leaving only the necessary and helpful stress that creates a positive forward force rather than a debilitating one. Why is this?

Let’s hypothesize,

Gratitude first and foremost directs our focus towards what we already have. The way we perceive this ownership is not that of entitlement but more about recognizing the amount of chance and high probability that has come our way to allow us to claim ownership over this good or resource. It’s a very logical conclusion taking into account the quasi-infinite universe we live in. Contemplation of the latter fuels this fuzzy warm feeling we feel inside of us after doing this process which is commonly identified as humility. Consequentially when we  internalize this, we are more open to receive new goods and resources and can get excited about what each opportunity package may hold for us.

Closing Thoughts

I hope this article finds you at a time before you have given up on your job or work. And even if you have, it’s never too late to come back to your original aspirations, unless you’ve found new ones!

These are my thoughts and findings and I’m sure, branching techniques and different perspectives on the subject exist or are awaiting to be discovered!

Thank You! ;^)

4 thoughts on “Hobby vs Job

  1. As a senior programmer I understand your sentiment. You have articulated something many people don’t realise until it’s too late and they have their passion destroyed by the relentless yolk of deadlines and politics. You’ve turned that around into seeing problems as opportunities and that’s a mature view. It’s the woodcutter’s nightmare to see the forest he loves badly managed but he himself is part of the wider ecosystem.

    It’s a hard balance, personally I like to explore new ideas and directions because they often prove useful down the line. Yet, at the same time I can only really afford to do so when I’ve pulled more than my weight. We are here to contribute and make things better, we do this best with a mix of pressures, passion and inspiration. Too much freedom is as destructive as too little. Wish you well!

  2. Great article! Indeed viewing work as a challenge and an opportunity to grow and better oneself will inevitably lead to success through the abnegation of the “lets do the strict minimum” syndrome which many white collar and cubicle employees suffer from! Another important point you have touched on indirectly, is the fact that people who view their work as more than just “work” and who feel they have a stake in their occupation through seeing their work as a hobby or owning part of the business they work in etc will inherently have this drive to deliver their best on every task! The key resides in finding the right motivating factor depending on each person! 😉

  3. Great addition! I’m writing an article coming shortly about possibly a new look at motivation and how to make it more deterministic. Motivation is a black-horse because as much as it fuels us, it can also hamper us. Stay tuned! ;^)

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