By Marla Tabaka
Busy people often engage in hobbies and weekend adventures as a way of blowing off steam, building endurance, and having fun. But there are other benefits: Your hobbies and personal interests could enhance your entrepreneurial and leadership abilities. They may also make you more resilient when you’re facing a stressful situation. What entrepreneur wouldn’t like that?
Have you let your favorite personal pastimes fall by the wayside? Perhaps the findings of a study done by psychologists at San Francisco State University will encourage you to take time away from work and have a little fun.
The research confirms that hobbies help professionals conceive creative solutions for work-related problems. Those more engaged in creative activity often scored 15 to 30 percent higher on performance rankings than those who were less engaged. Kevin Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University says, “We found that in general, the more you engage in creative activities, the better you’ll do at work.” It may also serve you well to encourage employees to engage in a hobby. Eschleman noted that no matter what hobby study participants took part in, these people were more likely to go out of their way to help co-workers.
I checked in with several entrepreneurs to test the theory myself. Sure enough, they all confirmed that interests outside of work have taught them critical skills and made them better leaders.
Here’s what they’ve learned:
Keep going, no matter what.
“One of my lifelong passions is football. My father, Hugo Hollas, played for the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers in the early ’70s and that really had a massive impact on me in childhood. His career in football inspired me to play football on a collegiate level for Colorado State and the University of Tulsa in the early ’90s. It’s an incredibly complicated sport and I love the combination of the physical and mental challenges it demands.
“I’ve found that football prepares me to deal with challenges in other aspects of my life, especially as an entrepreneur. It also taught me to remain focused and to think under pressure. Even when I’m in pain or exhausted, I don’t just say, ‘Hey, let’s stop the game, I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I always keep going. If your company is in financial stress or experiencing other stressful issues, it doesn’t matter–you must keep going.
“I also love that it’s not about individual accomplishment; it’s about the team’s accomplishment. In football a player and his fellow teammates sacrifice for each other for the common good of the team. Business is the same way. If you only focus on what you’ve done, then you’ve already failed. Teamwork and camaraderie are what drive success in business.”
–Judd Hollas, CEO of EquityNet
Execution and attitude win the match.
“I’ve been an avid tennis player and fan since I first picked up a racquet at age 14. What I love about the game is the perfect combination of physical stamina and mental agility. It’s one part boxing and one part chess. And if you happen to be Roger Federer, it’s one part artistry (I do not score well in artistry).
“In tennis, it’s not always the player with the best strokes or hardest serve who wins. It’s the competitor who knows how to execute against a strategy, stay mentally positive, and maintain belief even when they’re behind in a set or match.
“If you want to win in this form of mano-a-mano combat you have to be fully present, able to think on your feet, and change tactics if needed or you are going to get crushed. These same skills are necessary for running a successful business.
“A tennis instructor once said, ‘Either you are on a quest to continually improve your tennis game or you are getting worse. There is no staying the same.’ I believe the same holds true for your career, business, and life.”
–Peter C. Diamond, executive coach and author of Amplify Your Career and Life: 4 Steps to Evaluate, Assess and Move Forward.
Timing is everything.
“Kitesurfing is one of the hardest sports I have learned, as you have to contend with four things simultaneously–the wind, the waves, the kite, and the board. You also encounter other kitesurfers and obstacles that can impact you and make things more challenging. Kitesurfing is no different from starting a business because without the necessary skills, you end up fighting against the various obstacles along the way. It can become very frustrating.
“However, once you finally learn to slow down, remain calm, and allow the rhythm of the wind and ocean to guide you, kitesurfing can be very exhilarating, just like running a business.
“Another similarity between the two is 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, as it can get dangerous very quickly. But the thrill you experience when you’re in control, leaning back, enjoying yourself, and flying across the ocean, is amazing.
“Kitesurfing has taught me how to anticipate challenges, solve problems, and embrace the exciting life that comes with being a global entrepreneur.”
–Scott Picken, founder and CEO of Wealth Migrate.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.