Did you know that having fun leads to greater success? Research at San Francisco State University shows that people who have creative outlets outside of work perform better at their jobs. And businesses based on personal pastimes are more likely to turn a profit.
In my workshops I’ve found that expressing ourselves creatively isn’t just about making art. It can also include such hobbies as gardening, fashion, cooking, running, playing hockey…whatever you tend to lose yourself in which brings joy and meaning to your life.
So prepare to be happy and thrive. Here are 22 reasons people with creative outlets are more likely to be successful and you can do it, too.
Who can afford to take breaks these days, we’re all so busy, right? But even billionaire Richard Branson, who is responsible for running over 400 companies under the Virgin brand, makes time for kite-boarding. A study shows that taking breaks leads to greater productivity and a higher quality of work. Artistic expressions such as writing and drawing also increase energy and focus. If you want to get more work done in less time, try picking up a surfboard or a paintbrush.
Having creative outlets lowers stress, increases happiness, and gives us a sense of purpose, which makes us more effective at our jobs. We get better evaluations from managers and customers, and show more helpful behavior at work. That’s a pretty important finding given that only 13% of employees worldwide like their jobs. If you want to experience greater well-being and success in your career, put a date on your calendar to play soccer or practice your drums.
In the early years of Microsoft, co-founder Paul Allen picked up his guitar at the end of marathon days of programming. He still plays in a rock band today. “It forces me to look beyond what currently exists and express myself in a new way.” The same is true for you. People with creative pastimes are more likely to come up with creative solutions to work-related problems. If you’re looking for inspiration, try doing something you love to unwind.
Have you ever noticed how solutions to problems tend to pop into your mind out of nowhere when you’re engaged in your hobby? Albert Einstein is thought to have developed the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. Research at Stanford shows that walking in particular boosts creative thinking. Will Ferrel, who ran marathons while he was part of the cast of Saturday Night Live, noted, “Whenever I’d run, I’d get these great ideas. I love what running does for your mind.” Carve out some space in your day for yoga, swimming, drawing…and watch the creative ideas flow effortlessly.
Walt Disney began drawing pictures at the age of four and kept refining his childhood love of doodling until it turned into a multi-billion dollar business that’s still thriving today. Like Walt, you have a unique gift. Sometimes your special abilities are hard to see, though, because they come so easily. How can you compare yourself to others to find out what talents are natural to you? Make a commitment to develop your innate potential and you will excel.
Meryl Streep knits “to clear her head” on set. By putting herself in the moment she’s able to access powerful acting impulses. What puts you in the groove? It could be sewing, dancing, playing sports—whatever makes time disappear for you. When you’re in flow you do your best work, and the positive effects spread to everything you do.
Having hobbies makes us more resilient in the face of adversity. Oracle founder Larry Ellison says that sailing competitions help him push through his limits and develop a winning mindset. Research shows that simply writing about your difficult experiences heals you physically and mentally and enables you to persevere. When you have a hobby, you’re more likely to find a way around roadblocks and keep going.
Side projects boost your self-confidence and give you greater life satisfaction. Whether it be finishing a painting, running a marathon, or finding another piece for your owl collection, you prove to yourself you can reach your goals and that sense of accomplishment carries over to work.
After Apple founder Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College, he stuck around to study calligraphy. It gave him an aesthetic sense that still distinguishes Apple products today. We all have powerful hunches, but we learn to censor them out of fear and the need to fit in. Following your passion helps you hear your intuition more clearly and act on it.
My friend Peggy Monahan, Creative Director at the New York Hall of Science, builds incredibly cool exhibits that draw huge crowds. She attributes her success to being forced to constantly learn new things, dubbing herself “a professional novice.” Next time you feel stuck, try learning something new, like playing guitar or handball. Or see your product or service through your customers’ eyes. You’ll come back to work with a fresh perspective and find new solutions to old problems.
Some of the best ideas come from fusing work and play. Chuck Hebestreit played guitar at night to unwind from his day working at Gore and Associates (best known for producing Gore-Tex). When he noticed finger oil deadened the strings, two coworkers helped him solve the problem by coating the strings with a polyweb (launching Elixir Strings). I’ve given many innovation workshops at high tech companies that initially hired me to do research. What passion would you bring into work if you could?
If you’re an entrepreneur looking for the next big idea, your hobby could give you a clue. Jim Jannard noticed the handlebars on his motorcycle got slippery when he sweated and designed a better grip. He founded Oakley, which today produces a wide variety of sports equipment and eyewear. What about you? Is there an everyday problem you encounter in your side project that could turn into a winning book, song, or product? Get deeply, intensely curious and see what you can cook up.
Mistakes sometimes turn into popular products when we see the bigger picture. Spencer Silver tried to make a stronger glue at 3M but failed because his adhesive was weak. Four years later his colleague, Arthur Fry, had an “a-ha” moment while singing in church. Frustrated that the marker kept falling out of his hymnal, he realized his friend’s weak glue would solve the issue. Together they created Post-it Notes. Initially, penicillin and chocolate chip cookies were accidents, too. How does your life outside of work help you see possibilities that others don’t?
When you live in two worlds, you can bring them together in ways that spark cool ideas that are greater than the sum of its parts. Beto Perez was a fitness instructor in Columbia who forgot his aerobics music for class one day and ran back to his car to grab whatever music he could find from his personal collection, which was mostly merengue and salsa. This started the fitness craze we now know as Zumba. How can you merge your passion with your job to create a synergistic effect?
Many skills cross over from your creative outlets to your job. For example, according to Judd Hollas, CEO of EquityNet, “A football player and his fellow teammates sacrifice for each other for the common good of the team. Business is the same way. Teamwork and camaraderie are what drive success in business.” If you play on a sports team in your off-hours, you’ll naturally be a better team player at work.
When you develop the ability to do things at exactly the right moment from your creative outlets, it transfers to your work. Scott Picken, CEO of Wealth Migrate, says kitesurfing is just like running a business because it gives you good timing. “You have to wait for the right time to launch. When you’re riding the waves, you must also be on a constant lookout for changes in the environment.” How does your passion project (e.g., fishing, playing bass, performing standup comedy) help you fine-tune your timing?
In my improv classes I learned to trust the first thoughts that pop into my mind and run with them, which makes me be a better speaker, performer and author. Peter Diamond, author of Amplify Your Career, says tennis helps you “to be fully present, able to think on your feet, and change tactics if needed. These same skills are necessary for running a successful business.” What about you? How does your side project help you improvise in other parts of your life and work when necessary?
Business magnate Warren Buffet stays sharp at age 84 by playing ukulele and online bridge. Research shows that having hobbies bolsters cognitive functioning, stems the advance of dementia, and allows us to live more vibrant lives by increasing our brain connectivity. What hobby can you engage in to keep you on top of your game? If you don’t have one yet, no worries. Constantly learning new things improves your brain health.
Many successful people stay fit through physical activities such as swimming (Beyonce) and kitesurfing (Richard Branson). But artistic hobbies like writing and painting are also good for your physical health because they boost your immune system, reduce the symptoms of diseases, and increase longevity. You take fewer sick days and are more vital at work. So next time you’re too tired to play tennis or practice your violin, remember that not only will you feel better afterwards, but you’ll live a healthier and more successful life.
Oprah loves to read books because they inspire and challenge her, and then shares the books that make a difference to her with her audience. It’s a simple and powerful way to give back. Whenever I learn something new about innovation I always try to include that little tidbit in my next talk, workshop, or blog. What creative outlets do you have that could help others? Spreading joy is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your life.
If you’re ho-hum about your career, your hobby may provide clues about what you really want to do with your life. Terry Finley felt unfulfilled selling life insurance, but loved horses. In 1991 he bought his first horse, Sunbelt, for $5,000. He later attracted investors and eventually ended up with 55 horses and a revenue of $6.5 million annually. How can you turn your hobby into a job? Perhaps you can teach what you love to do, speak or write about your hobby, or repair cherished items.
Businesses based on hobbies are more likely to turn a profit because these entrepreneurs don’t do it for the money. They persevere during tough times, even if they don’t make money initially, because they love what they do. Today more people are entrepreneurs than ever before. If that lifestyle also appeals to you, ask yourself how you can you turn your hobby into a business you love.
Don’t worry. Your hobby can stay a hobby. No matter whether you work a 9-to-5 job or you’re an entrepreneur, having a creative outlet feeds your soul and helps you stay fresh and inspired. When you do something you love you’re energized, happy, and focused, and it rolls back positively into your work and all aspects of your life, including your relationships. So the next time you’re afraid to take some time off to have fun and express your unique self because you think it’ll hurt your career, remember that the opposite is true. Start writing or running again, or learn something new. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more successful as a result.
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