– Ben Martens

Learning Hobbies

Hobby time is precious when you have a young one in the house. Given that, I continue to evaluate my various hobbies to understand what I get out of them. Lately I’ve been thinking about what I learn from each hobby beyond the physical skills.

  • Trap Shooting: Performance under pressure.
    Once you get the hang of it, trap shooting is a hugely mental activity. Sure there are lots of physical aspects to keep in mind and to analyze when you get on a bad streak, but when you’re in the zone, the hardest part is focusing on one shot at a time. It’s easy at the start of the round, but once I start getting close to a perfect round, it’s incredible how my body reacts. My hands get clammy, my mind is racing with what kind of victory dance I’m going to do, and my arms literally start shaking. With experience, I’ve gotten better at controlling it, but the last time we were out and I hit 24 straight, my last shot was almost comically bad. This feels a lot like my (very) old days of high school baseball. Standing alone on the pitchers mound in high pressure situations is another mind game. I’ve thrown tens of thousands of pitches, but I had to overcome the mental pressure to throw one more.
  • Woodworking: Sometimes perfection is required.
    Over the past 5-10 years, I’ve become a big proponent of “done is better than perfect.” There are so many cases where you simply being done is a lot more beneficial than taking it from 95% correct to 100% correct. Woodworking isn’t usually one of those cases. Small errors along the way pile up into bigger and bigger problems until I just wish I could go back to the beginning and start over. A well-done project is a wonderful reward and a constant reminder that sometimes it pays to spend extra time and get closer to perfection.
  • Remote Control Flying: Failure is ok as long as you learn from it.
    You can’t fly RC planes without experiencing crashes. Lots of them. If you’re lucky, your crash results in a quick repair, but sometimes you end up with bits of plane scattered across the field. If you can’t pick up the pieces (literally and emotionally) and still want to keep going, this isn’t the hobby for you. It takes a different mindset to watch tens of hours of work explode in a couple seconds. But if you stop there, you probably WILL get fed up because you’ll keep repeating the mistakes. Each crash has something to teach me. Loose connection? Incorrectly configured transmitter? Lapse of focus? Misjudged the conditions? It’s fine to fail once, but repeating the same mistake over and over again is not only painful and costly, it means you’re not taking the opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
  • Skiing: Be humble and keep pushing.
    As people get into skiing (including me), they seem to progress from someone who knows they are a newbie, to someone who thinks they are awesome because they can ski circles around everyone they see, to someone who finally realizes that there is more to life than the groomed runs and there are a LOT of people who are infinitely better than you. Going to that last phase is humbling but it’s awesome. You realize that you can never master it all so you pick one area and try to improve until you decide to move on to another area. Once you’re in that phase, the challenge is continuing to push yourself. It’s so easy for me to stick with what I know and enjoy instead of doing something that makes me a little nervous or is just a little beyond my abilities. There’s a popular saying, “If you’re not falling, you’re not learning.”

I think you could take any one of these and easily see how the lessons from the hobby are easily extrapolated into general life. These lessons are an added benefit to the physical enjoyment of the hobby and hopefully help us improve ourselves beyond the skillset that we’ve learned.