You need a hobby that works for you
(The 5-Minute Recharge is now on a twice per month summer schedule as I pursue my hobbies...)
“Look guys, I'm kind of looking for hobbies here, you know? Something I could actually draw.” - A caricature artist from the TV series 'Hacks'
In Season 2, Episode 5 of 'Hacks,' a caricature artist asks Ava and Marcus what they do for fun. Ava responds with “Writing” (her job) while Marcus answers, “I own and manage several rental properties…”
Does this sound like you?
When somebody asks me what my hobby is I usually respond, “Working out.” This answer always gives me a mental pinprick, as if I’m also the kind of person who enjoys holding my breath until I pass out, and flossing my teeth until my gums bleed.
I envy Charlie Montoyo, the manager of baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays who has a hobby that is 100% pure fun. He loves salsa music, and plays a variety of percussion instruments, including congo drums, bongos, and maracas. On a Saturday night when his team is playing an afternoon game at home, you might find Charlie at Toronto’s Lula Lounge playing a güiro, a percussion instrument that looks like a big zucchini...
“He uses music to relax a little bit, and think,” says Montoyo’s Blue Jay colleague Hector Lebrun.
The most notable example of a musical hobby in the business world is Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon, also known as EDM (electronic dance music) DJ D-Sol. Solomon, who will be performing this July in Chicago at Lollapalooza, is unapologetic about his hobby. He finds joy and relaxation in his music and believes that a well-balanced life makes for a better career. When colleagues suggested that his hobby might hurt him professionally, Solomon thought about it and responded...
“I enjoy this, I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m having fun… it makes me feel good...” - Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon/DJ D-Sol
But what does the science say?
A symphony of research leads us to this harmonious conclusion: playing music—however incompetently—engages cognitive, sensory, motor, and reward systems that can make your brain work better. A musical hobby also helps your brain resist the cerebral shrinkage that accompanies advancing age. “I call music hitting the jackpot,” says neurobiologist Nina Kraus who plays music for a few minutes every day.
My experience with musical instruments is a duet of exuberance and shame. I once brought home a clarinet from high school and made it squawk like a large extinct bird as I played a joyously cacophonous improv to Rockin’ Robin. My parents, who had a low tolerance for cacophony and improv and especially cacophonous improv, encouraged me to explore other, quieter talents, preferably outdoors. It never occurred to me that becoming listenable to others would take a lot of work. Birdsong only comes easily to birds. I never picked up another musical instrument again.
If I could play an instrument, it would be the drums. The drummer always seems to be the person in the band having the most fun, and playing the drums seems to be the closest thing in music to a workout. But I can’t do drums to my husband who already puts up with the continuous drumbeat of my quirkiness. Singing qualifies as playing music, so I’ll be grabbing my karaoke mic later today, being a rebel just for kicks, and singing along to my go-to singalong song, “Feel It Still.”
What’s your hobby? Music is one of the best hobbies for overall brain health, but any form of recreation that immerses you in a playful world of delight is good for you and will make you a more interesting person to the people who share your hobby, people in general, and especially caricature artists.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” - Rumi
Get Fully Charged on a (Musical) Hobby
“How to Find a Hobby,” by Tara Parker-Pope, Smarter Living Guide, The New York Times
“Your Brain on Drums,” by Mike Kessler, Men’s Health, December 2021
“Goldman Sachs CEO David ‘DJ D-Sol’ Playing at Lollapalooza” by Lydia Moynihan, The New York Post, March 21, 2022
“Don’t Stop” DJ D-Sol, YouTube
“David Solomon on Moonlighting as a DJ and the Wonder of the Musical ‘Hair’” The Sound of Success podcast, December 2021.
“In the Club and the Clubhouse, a Coach Adds Some Flavor,” by James Wagner, The New York Times, June 10, 2022
DJ D-Sol, aka Goldman Sachs' CEO David Solomon...