Can Hobbies Teach Life Lessons?

As some of you may know, in addition to all the other stuff I write, I’m something of a novelist. I haven’t put a book out in a while, but I’ve published four full-length novels so far, so it’s something I’ve done.

Anyway, I’m working on another and during my planning, I hit on the idea of the teacher of great warriors insisting his students learn various crafts (occupations of the day, hobbies today, by and large). Mostly, it was because the characters need to earn money, but I needed to come up with another reason.

When I stumbled upon it, though, I realized it doesn’t just apply to fictional characters. It applies to all of us.

One thing that many of us lack in this modern world–and I’m looking squarely in the mirror on this one–is patience. 

We live in a world of instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it right now. More than that, though, we tend to get it.

Seriously, I place an order and a week later, I’m freaking out because it wasn’t here days earlier. I’ve gotten used to Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping, so used to it that anything else is an eternity.

Many of us aren’t used to things taking time. We’re not prepared for the idea that we need to work and struggle and, perhaps most importantly, learn.

For some of us, we get that from training. After all, training isn’t instant gratification, right?

The thing is, when you first start training, it kind of is. 

Oh, you’re not going to bench your body weight your first time under the bar or anything, but no matter where you start, you’ll be stronger the next week. Then again the next. Then the next.

You get feedback and success right away, and you have something to build on.

In fact, you may reach your initial goals in mere weeks.

But when I tried my hands at woodworking, it didn’t work that way. 

You see, I was broke, so I couldn’t afford all the machines and jigs and the thousand other ways you can build projects quickly. I didn’t have space, either.

So, I got hand tools. I could supposedly work with my limited space that way. The downside is that hand tool woodworking seems to have a bit more of a learning curve than power tools.

I did what I could with what I had, but I lacked patience. I wanted the projects done. I didn’t care all that much about the processes involved, I just wanted the end product.

For me, that’s a reoccurring problem. I often derive most of my joy out of the finished product, or the recognition I get from completing that project, but I rarely enjoy the process.

Because of that, I don’t learn anything. I don’t develop any patience.

So what will happen if I take a step back and start learning how to work wood with all the hand tools I still own. I think I lost a couple in a move, but I know I still have most of those tools.

Further, this has got to count as an anti-remunerative activity as described recently. After all, if you’re having to focus on hand-cutting dovetails correctly, you’re not focusing on work, failing relationships, financial woes, or much of anything else.

The key, though, is to learn to enjoy the process itself. Don’t focus on the finished project, at least at first. To start with, just build for the joy of building, so that even if the project is less than perfect (and it probably will be), it won’t matter because I’ve already gotten what I really wanted out of the effort.

The reality is that this isn’t unique to woodworking. Most arts and crafts require this to a certain degree. Sewing, leatherworking, blacksmithing, or pretty much any craft you care to name all have a learning curve you have to get past.

But in that learning curve, you’re going to learn more than a craft. You’re going to learn patience, problem-solving, and perseverance.  We all need that.

The question is, how many people are humble enough to recognize the failings that learning a difficult craft can repair?

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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