Don't turn your hobby into your job

October 9, 2016
Consultancy life

A bit over a decade ago, I went from Amateur Infrastructure Tinkerer to Professional Infrastructure Engineer. I turned my hobby into my job. Cool right? Some people think it’s a dream come true. Utopia even. Turning your hobby into your job must mean every day at work is a pleasure. Everything is awesome. You must be extraordinarily happy. Right?

Well, it’s not bad. But I certainly wouldn’t call it ‘Utopia’.

Your hobby is yours

Your hobby is something you deeply care about. You invest lots of time in it, and maybe even lots of money. It’s a hobby, after all. I used to have some infrastructure projects going on at home all the time that would take both time and money. But those projects were mine. I decided what I wanted and how I wanted to do it. Deadlines didn’t really exist. Budgets were only limited by my own bank-account, and time was free so I could invest as much as I wanted. I could decide to not sleep for a night or two, and nobody would care. I could abandon a project, or just focus on something else that seemed more interesting, and nobody would care.

But work is different…

Your job is not

At work, a project might be assigned to you, or you might have come up with it yourself, but it will not be totally yours. You’re either realizing someone else’s idea, or using someone else’s money to do it. Or you have (potential) customers to think about. Deadlines. Time-to-market. Budgets. Politics. Team mates that view things different than you do, or who you feel aren’t as competent as you are.

Suddenly there are things that might hold you back, or force you to work on things you might not really care as much about. Or you may have to compromise on quality. You might decide that you can make up for a team mate’s shortcomings by putting in some extra hours, or working a bit faster and taking on more than your share of work. Only to find out that your well-intended actions might not be in your team’s best interest.

Even becoming ‘the boss’, or your own boss, doesn’t fix that. You still need to worry about budgets, customers, politics, deadlines, time-to-market. About shareholders, employees and their families, about your own income, etcetera.

You need a new hobby

I absolutely haven’t lost interest in technology and infrastructure, but I don’t really consider it my biggest hobby anymore. On average I work between 40 and 50 hours a week, and I spend anywhere between 4 and 16 hours a week on infrastructure and technology outside of work. Just to keep my knowledge up-to-date, or do the occasional tinkering. But the focus has changed. I don’t just focus on whatever I think is cool, but I focus on technology that is relevant for my job. The approach is way more professional and thought-out than it used to be.

It’s not really a hobby anymore..

Not that I really don’t tinker with stuff anymore, but it’s different now. Nights that started at 7pm with “hey, that looks cool” and ended when the sun came up the other day, after hours of hacking, tinkering, and a bit too much caffeinated liquids.. well, those nights don’t really happen anymore, and honestly, I don’t really miss them either. I’m lucky in that I can work on the latest cutting-edge tech in infrastructure at the office, and that’s great. But it also means that when I get home, I’m saturated. I’m done. I want to do something simple and, if possible, away from a computer screen.

Life is full of obligations, rules, expectations, and complications. Everyone deserves a hobby, something that’s completely theirs.

I picked up cycling, and I have no desire to turn that into a job. Cycling is mine. Nobody will tell me what to do, what to focus on, or how much time/money I can invest in it. Nobody cares about my cycling performance but me. It’s my escape from work, it’s where I can be completely free.

Don’t turn your hobby into your job. Unless you have another hobby.