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Decompression is a lost art. Come to think of it, it is highly disputable that humans have ever found a way to relieve stress on a consistent basis. For men in the modern world, stress is the silent killer. In the long run more men wind up dying or (in a more realistic and dreary scenario) living miserably due to overriding amounts of stress. Our modern emasculating society has been telling you from day one to seek help. To look for problems within yourself and to try to solve them via therapy, medication and other forms of self-alteration.

You have been told to go to therapy. Perhaps to medicate yourself. To anally look for tidbits you may have done wrong here or there and to vigorously attack them with mantras and self-improvement theories. This last one is probably closest to the road most guys choose to take. We choose to dwell on minutiae and drive ourselves nuts trying to correct that one fatal flaw. It is no surprise that we live shorter lives than women and that by middle age, so many of us have a permanent scowl on our face and the hunched over trudge of a broken man.

Having lived the sort of life where I have experienced both penthouse and outhouse, I will tell you something you may not like hearing...The successful, upwardly mobile career man is consistently trounced by his poorer, less successful and (in more than a few cases) less law abiding brother in the enjoyment of life category. This is perhaps to be expected. As stature increases expectations created by ourselves, our parents, our peers and society at large, tend to weigh more heavily on men. I can understand this view but I see it as a mere rationalization and do not accept it.

What I have experienced is that men without strong ties to careers, goals and achievement explore something which the successful achiever does not for the most part, even think about. The idea that success and goal oriented behavior should consume all senses is patently false and many guys who don't make that much, or frankly for that matter, do that much prove it every day.

So what separates these happy faced clowns from you and I? What is it that allows a dude making very little scratch and with next to zero social standing to live a better life than you, the penultimate success?

It is a simple theorem which becomes difficult in practice...in practice. These men all have a hobby. Dare I wax poetic and call it a passion. Something active which they enjoy and which is not tied to rewards of any external sort. They all do things for themselves that they like and are not tied to their career in any way. This may seem like one of those no shit sherlock sort of deals and I can imagine that more than a few of you are rolling your eyes. But that is precisely the point, life is not complicated or difficult. We make it so. We tangle ourselves up in webs of mystery and intrigue, we chain ourselves with the boundaries of goals and ambitions. We create our own stress, our own fear and our own anxiety.

The way we do this is by living externally. That is to say, we make our focus in life someone else's hopes and dreams. Many of you guys live this pathetic loser lifestyle on a daily basis without even knowing it. You rationalize that you need money, success, acceptance, etc...but really don't care about and don't like the things that you do. Now, I understand the need for all that I have mentioned in passing. Nobody is telling you to quit your BB FO gig and head to Tahiti to play Tetherball. All I am saying is that you need to spend more time thinking about what you truly, genuinely enjoy doing.

This is not as easy as it might seem. When I look at most guys I know between the ages of 18 and 45, the hobby/interests category is startlingly similar. We all like to go out, grab a drink with the boys, some smoke cigars, some are foodies, a surprisingly large chunk can't do without video games or television, about 1 out of every 50 actually reads books, but that is about where the similarities stop.

As a gender, we are very limited in our approach to having fun. I fear that this is just another low key example of today's gender role reversal and how modern men are beginning to resemble medieval women. Though it may not seem obvious at first, many of the activities I have listed above can be in some way compared to women of yesteryear who could not see life beyond their spindles and stove pots... and didn't want to.

I find this puzzling. As a boy, I was literally taught to crave action and excitement. I am always up for trying new things no matter how ridiculous they may seem. As I have aged, the ranks of willing compatriots for these adventures have dwindled by the year. Lately, seemingly by the month...if not the day. Every other day somebody's starting a new job, getting married, having a kid, accepting more responsibility, under more stress, needs to sleep more, needs to relax more, need to kick their feet up, needs to have a drink...alone...at home...in the dark.

If I haven't been clear with who I think the culprit is by now...allow me to specify:

Gentlemen, we are at fault. You, me...all of us. None are exempt.

We are those who have made our own lives so pathetically boring that we seek shelter and counsel in anonymous chat rooms. We are the ones who have erected walls of misery on our paths to happiness. We are the ones who listen to what society tells us to think and do. We are the damsels in distress. Captives of fears, anxieties and voices which most often do not exist outside of our own heads.

So instead of criticizing further, I will offer a self made cure for every man willing to try his hand at low level wizardry. This is not a call to arms or a revolution, but a call to calmness and cool. A call to a conversation with yourself, devoid of smart phones, chat groups or societal judgments. This is a suggestion that smart men who are suffering will take as an order.

Look into yourselves and find what it is that you yourself enjoy. It will not come over night. You will not close your eyes, open them and then proceed to carve wooden boats by hand. It is not that simple. Understanding what you enjoy means confronting your delusions about success and fitting in. Many of you guys (though highly capable of intellectual thought) are regurgitating robots without an original thought in your head. Spitting out test scores and hash marks of success. In order to get you moving in the right direction I will shoot you a list of answers which some of my friends listed as their hobbies.

I will argue that none of these activities are actual hobbies as they are all tied in some way to fulfillment of desires expressed upon us by society. Take a look and see how many of your favorite activities are present and whether you are beginning to understand why you're stressed out so very often and increasingly so.

Favorite Hobbies That Aren't

1) Investing in Stocks

Making money is not a hobby, it is an existential pursuit no matter how much you do or don't need it. I don't care how much you enjoy absolute returns or what story you've concocted in your head to rationalize about love of problem solving and analytics. If that's the case... Sudoku, motherfucker. Anything where wealth gain or loss is dominant, you do not have a hobby.

2) Entrepreneurship

Sorry, guys. Working for yourself might be cool, but it sure as hell ain't no hobby. I have worked for myself for most of my adult life. It kicks ass. It's also a giant shit ball of stress and tension. Exhilarating stress and tension. But stress and tension, nonetheless. Not everything that feels good is a hobby. Remember that.

Leading us into...

3) Sex, Chasing Girls, etc

It's always easy to get guys unnerved when women are brought up and I've seen that in many of your comments this week. No harm, no foul. We have been killing each other over women since before we had organized society, no reason it shouldn't verbally translate into the digital age. Just remember...unless you are a certified pimp, a rock/movie star or a mad genius hypnotist who makes panties drop at the snap of a finger: absolutely nothing related to women can be considered a hobby or even...FUN. Women have been our greatest test as men, since the beginning of time. Most of the time, we fail...even when we succeed. So very much of what men do is directly or indirectly aimed at pleasing, winning over and impressing women that it is borderline suicide to confuse the pleasure of intercourse, with the wholesale headache that is dealing with broads.

4) Hobbies Du Jour

I've got nothing against part time MMA fighters, Halo 3 overlords and social media mavens. You can enjoy all of this stuff. Some of it is pretty damn cool, but most of it is so commercialized and forced down your throat, that it can never be timeless.

Yes, timeless...in case you haven't figured it out yet, that is the keyword. Something that you will be able to enjoy a week, a month, a year and a decade from now. Sorry, but if you think you're playing GTA and going cage fighting on the weekends for more than the short haul, you are wrong. If you figure out a way to do it over the long stretch, however, I am more than willing to eat my words and follow your lead.

5) Sports

A sport be a hobby, but usually is not. It is a bonding activity in most instances. A function of the human animal's need to conform to group activity and social interaction. It is almost like a job. Sports are a function of our need to share time with others and to be active. I can already hear the comments about jogging, weight lifting and other individual activities and yes, these can be hobbies, if they are all about you. If you are lifting or jogging to get toned up for the beach season, however, you should be aware that in spite of the serotonin dump, you are still stressing yourself.

The purpose of this last example is not to disqualify sporting or physical activities from the hobby realm, it is to suggest that this popular choice is way too easy and that you should challenge yourself to find something outside of the mainstream. Not to be trendy or different. But to invest in the procedure of finding something special to you, which will always give you joy. Something that will be yours and only yours.

There's about twenty other non-hobby hobbies that come to mind which I won't get into. Now as I said, many of you will not agree with my assessments and that is fine. What's good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Be your own man. If you say that buying a 1,000 shares of GOOG is a hobby, well then may the Lord Bless your wayward ass. Your pacemaker merchant will thank you kindly down the line.

For those who are interested in further exploration, however, take the following brief guidelines about hobbies to heart. They should be something you can do alone. Nothing wrong with sharing them with others, but a good hobby should be there for you when nobody else is. They should relieve your tension and not raise your heart rate. They should be readily accessible. They should not require any sort of significant financial outlay, as that pushes them into acquisition territory and thereby achievement mode.

The key definition of your hobby should be that it is your thing and your thing only. Find one and you will find a graceful outlet for stress and something that you can truly call your own. In time, you guys will realize that this feeling has more value than any sort of equity stake.

For the record, since I know many of you are curious...my hobby is finger painting. I love it. Now go ape shit with that one and share your own if you'd like.

Comments (40)

  • Aragorn's picture

    I play the drums. There's nothing more liberating than smashing a series of pots and pans with sticks. You can actually go ape shit with that one.

    "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." - DT

  • veritas14's picture

    Over the last 2 years, I've improved my life immensely with the following steps:

    1- Threw out my TV. I occasionally pull The Office up on Hulu. TV is a suckhole. That includes live sports (and I played D1 athletics!). Be honest, what do you really remember about even the Super Bowl?

    2- Bought a stack of books on Amazon.com. I read when I eat breakfast, on the bike at the gym, on the subway/train, before I go to bed. Nothing written in the last 50 years. Fiction and non-fiction. Also subscribed to a stack of well-written magazines/journals: no crappy Newsweek or People.

    3- Exercise EVERYDAY for at least 30 minutes. I still hit the weights, but some days I just want to go for a jog, or ride a bike or do yoga or walk Central Park. or hit the sauna. Do these things with a friend.

    4- Learned to cook. Do it with or for friends.

    5- Visit a museum once a month

    6- See a documentary or independent film once a month (no American Pie Part 14)

    7- See live theater or a concert once a month (no cheesy musicals or pop concerts, only serious artists in command of their skills)

    *********************************
    “The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher.” - Oscar Wilde

  • SDBall22's picture

    MMM, more thoughtful post than the beat down one. Thanks.

    I think the camraderie of sports can be uplifting though. I'm not super-competitive anymore but I am still semi-competitive and enjoy pickup and organized basketball leagues. It's a good way to exercise and accomplish something as a team with other people. Have some brewskies after and have some laughs with people not from work.

    I also enjoy playing live poker. I agree with you that if you are doing it for the money then it is not a hobby and more of a job. But if you consider it entertainment (buy in to a tournament for the same amount you would spend on a nice dinner) and can easily let go of a loss then it is pretty fun.

    When you have kids, watching them pursue their interests can become your greatest joy in life.

  • In The Flesh's picture

    My longest-running, stress-busting hobby has definitely been heavy metal music. I love the stuff. I can listen to it for hours on end and not get tired because it's so rich and diverse. 95% of my other friends don't get it, but in my mind, they're the ones missing out, not me. In fact, that idea is what makes it so appealing, in a way--we metalheads really do believe we have the greatest music on the face of the earth, and nobody else knows about it.

    Honestly, I've got a broad range of hobbies--like you, Midas, I love trying out new things. Heck, I'm not even above putting my life in danger--I've done that whitewater rafting, spelunking, and climbing mountains. The only things I will not do involve drugs, unhealthily huge amounts of alcohol, or anything that would get me in trouble with my church--no seances, ouija boards, or any of that crap.

    Everything else is fair game.

    Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

  • Frieds's picture

    Well, I'm a cinefile, so I do need the TV, but I try to watch classics, indies and foreign films somewhat regulalrly. I'm a die hard hockey fan, and have found that it is a hobby as much as it is a passion. The same holds true for college football. I love reading and am quite happy I have a Kindle as a result. I can't tell you enough how picking up reading as a hobby is a great way to relax.

    Beer - but not in the traditional sense. When I say beer, I'm talking about the brewing of it, not the drinking of it. In college I took up home brewing. Now that's a labor intensive passion of love. If you stick with it, you will find yourself enjoying it. When I finally have the space, I plan to pick it up again, as I miss the experience of doing it.

    Building furniture - Again, it is a space intensive hobby, but when I was younger, I found myself in my dad's shop building furniture him and even creating a few pieces of furniture for myself. When I finally have the space and capital, I plan to pick this up again, as nothing says pride more than putting your hands to work and creating something that shows both beauty and function.

    Still, there are a number of things I want to learn, like how to fly fish, cooking and cinemetography just to enjoy my own passions even more or find new ones to expand my horizons.

  • MBAApply's picture

    (1) Play in a band; few things are more therapeutic than plugging in a Les Paul into a Marshall stack and just cranking it.
    (2) Cars or bikes -- learn to fix cars, race them, mod them, etc
    (3) The gun range, clay shooting, hunting (if any of that floats your boat)
    (4) Shop craft (woodworking, metal) - as someone mentioned, building furniture, building musical instruments, etc
    (5) Beer or wine making
    (6) Team sports in a community league - I'm sure running is fun, but playing team sports allows you to feel like a kid again doing something fun with the guys. Could be ice hockey, baseball, basketball, curling, rugby, MMA, boxing, whatever.

    Or just about anything that is physical - that involves making stuff or doing stuff with your hands. In my view, finding *active* activities where you're involved as a player or doer and not just as a spectator.

    This is especially important for guys who work in office jobs where you're not really engaged in much physical activity. And having something outside of work where you're making/doing stuff with your hands that produces something very tangible is an essential counterpoint to the sedentary aspect of working full-time in an office. Otherwise, it's real easy to get up in your head, and end up a neurotic curmudgeon.

    Alex Chu
    www.mbaapply.com

  • derivstrading's picture

    wtf, how are sports not hobbies or something that relieves stress? The theme of this post is good but you can't really try and be an authority on what is a hobby and what isnt. How can you say entrepreneurship isnt a hobby for some people? People are different, and therefore the list of things that YOU dont think are hobbies should be labeled as such, instead of some prophetic existential statement.

    Midas, you seem to have a huge resentment for anything that may have a connection to society. Its all nice and pretty to think what life would be like as someone who is careless, but I would argue that most people on this board get utility from success and achieving goals, regardless of whether you think this is society driven or not.

  • San Ford's picture

    So many people list the same "hobbies that aren't" because they're all safe-plays from the standpoint of fear of ridicule or rejection from some cookie-cutter group. That's why we have the derisive term "guilty pleasures" for those things we secretly enjoy, but feel we must self-deprecatingly label in order to dismiss them and not appear different or dorky or, god forbid, unmanly.

  • In reply to IlliniProgrammer
    Midas Mulligan Magoo's picture

    IlliniProgrammer wrote:
    Do what you truly enjoy. A hobby that gives you a good excuse to get out of the god-forsaken city is usually a good hobby- but make sure you can afford it first.

    Some pal you are. I make a post secretly hoping you'll come in here and discuss your cool hobby in detail...meanwhile, you're all up in my Geodon stash running through them like they are Skittles.

    EDIT: then he removes "voices in head" nullifying my humorous response...ouch!

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    Shhh, I am trying to keep the dragon-slaying that went down at 40th and West Side Highway secret- the archangel Julia told me to. But WisconsinEngineer just felt the need to come out and post it in all caps using my account. I thought I'd deleted it in time. I'M NOT A MUGGLE!!! I HEAR THE VOICES!!!

    Translation: Midas caught me trolling again before I had a chance to delete my post.

    As for my favorite hobbies? Let's see...

    -trolling WSO with weak attempts at humor that I later delete.
    -Hang Gliding (up in the Catskills)
    -Dungeons and Dragons
    -wreck diving (generally on the Jeanne)

  • In reply to San Ford
    derivstrading's picture

    San Ford wrote:
    So many people list the same "hobbies that aren't" because they're all safe-plays from the standpoint of fear of ridicule or rejection from some cookie-cutter group. That's why we have the derisive term "guilty pleasures" for those things we secretly enjoy, but feel we must self-deprecatingly label in order to dismiss them and not appear different or dorky or, god forbid, unmanly.

    Or maybe because those are things people do enjoy. Ever think that popular things arent just popular because they are safe options in terms of how society views them, but because their popularity stems from those activities actually being enjoyable.

  • In reply to IlliniProgrammer
    The.RealDeal's picture

    IlliniProgrammer wrote:
    Shhh, I am trying to keep the dragon-slaying that went down at 40th and West Side Highway secret- the archangel Julia told me to. But WisconsinEngineer just felt the need to come out and post it in all caps using my account. I thought I'd deleted it in time. I'M NOT A MUGGLE!!! I HEAR THE VOICES!!!

    Translation: Midas caught me trolling again before I had a chance to delete my post.

    As for my favorite hobbies? Let's see...

    -trolling WSO with weak attempts at humor that I later delete.
    -Hang Gliding (up in the Catskills)
    -Dungeons and Dragons
    -wreck diving (generally on the Jeanne)

    What happened to parasailing? Thought you were huge on that? You actually got me interested enough to do some research. Will definately get into that one day.

    Either way, my hobby is collecting coins. Sort of fell into it in college by accident one day after searching for the world's most expensive coin and the rest is history. I went to the mall a couple weeks ago and as I was walking by the food court I saw 3 seniors just sitting there without saying anything and checking out each other's coin collections. It was 10 a.m. on a Saturday. I wanted to join them but I was running late somewhere.

    " A recession is when other people lose their job, a depression is when you lose your job. "

  • In reply to The.RealDeal
    IlliniProgrammer's picture

    The.RealDeal wrote:

    What happened to parasailing? Thought you were huge on that? You actually got me interested enough to do some research. Will definately get into that one day.

    Parasailing as in a chute behind a boat? I don't think I mentioned that. I might have mentioned paragliding in passing once (paragliding is the cool unpowered airsport these days), but I've always been more interested in hang gliding. It's a lot safer- relatively speaking- in the bumpy northeastern air.

    Quote:
    Either way, my hobby is collecting coins. Sort of fell into it in college by accident one day after searching for the world's most expensive coin and the rest is history. I went to the mall a couple weeks ago and as I was walking by the food court I saw 3 seniors just sitting there without saying anything and checking out each other's coin collections. It was 10 a.m. on a Saturday. I wanted to join them but I was running late somewhere.

    Cool. I think at one point I collected all of the mercury dimes except for 1917-D. Any particular series you're working on? It's gotten kinda expensive in the past few years with silver prices up.

  • Tar Heel Blue's picture

    I can understand not counting some sport-related activities, but I think golf has all you could want in a hobby. Now it certainly would depend on your motives- if you go out every Saturday morning just to deep throat the boss/clients that's one thing. If you really enjoy the game (basically meaning you're willing to go out there by yourself, put time into practice), there aren't too many other ways I'd like to spend four hours. You can enjoy the outdoors, play a game you will never master, spend time reflecting, and relieve a lot of stress. Of course it can cause it's own stress, but it's a good kind of stress. It's also something that you can be passionate about your whole life. Walk, rather than ride, whenever possible- I feel like those walks alone up the fairway are some of times when my thinking is most clear. It's not quite the same if you spend half the time with your buddies in the cart trying to throw down some beer. That's when it's not a hobby, and also when I want to hit into you.

  • In reply to veritas14
    James Hunt's picture

    In 1976, James Hunt broke the sound barrier through Eau Rouge only to retire before the event finished... following the race he had sex with three Belgian nurses at the clubhouse near La Source.

  • In reply to James Hunt
    veritas14's picture

    *********************************
    “The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher.” - Oscar Wilde

  • In reply to veritas14
    James Hunt's picture

    In 1976, James Hunt broke the sound barrier through Eau Rouge only to retire before the event finished... following the race he had sex with three Belgian nurses at the clubhouse near La Source.