Why do most stories of “successful people” seem full of struggle, despair and burnout?
The myth of the successful person is that they made stunning sacrifices for their dream. They did a staggering amount of work. Eventually, they were rewarded with a modicum of success and become a minor celebrity.
Then the reckoning. Divorce. Despair. Addiction. Depression. They spiral into breakdown.
Eventually, they discover some sensational principle, achieve bliss and write a New York Times best-seller about it.
These stories are real. Sometimes the books are helpful. But is this nightmare necessary to live the life you want?
These books will teach you great principles like “get into therapy,” “watch your diet” or “practice Sabbath.” Read them. Do what they say.
But there is one surprisingly simple method to avoid burnout and save you from disaster.
It works just like Archimedes dropping the crown into the bathtub. It’s so simple that you may run naked through the streets shouting “Eureka!”
Get a hobby.
It seems that there was a time where everyone had a car in the garage they were tinkering on, or a softball team or membership in the elks club. In today’s world we binge on Netflix, avoid our neighbors and eschew formal membership in institutions.
We’ve made idols out of our careers. We focus on our personal success to the detriment of our families, neighborhoods, and eventually ourselves.
Somewhere along the way, we forgot about hobbies.
I define a hobby as a non-necessary task that energizes you.
The specific hobby doesn’t matter. The key is that it is removed from your job, career ambitions or family responsibilities.
A hobby could be helping with a local service organization, building a widget in your garage, gardening or writing a novel.
A hobby is something you do for fun. It’s something that is so much fun you’d spend hard earned money on it. You don’t need to be good at it. You do need to feel better after working on it.
Think about the most happy and healthy people you know. They work hard. But they also play hard.
Or maybe it’s the other way around?
When Archimedes dropped the crown in the bathtub, the water was raised. This is good news.
A hobby is like the crown. The water is all the stuff in your life, the necessary tasks you can’t escape.
When you drop the crown in the bathtub, some of the water splashes out. Hobbies keep you from filling your life with crap.
Make time and money for your hobby a cornerstone that other things are built off, and you will be forced to spend the rest of your life on things that matter.
Chances are, you’ll be just busy enough, doing things that energize you that you’ll avoid burnout altogether.