Hobbies are Underrated - The Case for Heart-Centered Entrepreneurship

I have had the joy of being an entrepreneur for close to 6 years now.  It has been one of the most enjoyable and transformative experiences of my life. As a result, I have become a sort of “evangelist” for the cause of entrepreneurship.

In addition to running my own business, I blog, speak and teach on this subject. I am uber-passionate about it for a variety of reasons.

People often ask me what it takes to be an entrepreneur. “How do I get started?”  “What do I do?”

I usually respond with a question like, “do you have a hobby?"

I have written about many aspects of the entrepreneurial journey – the metaphor, the mystery and the back-story to name a few, but one of the most important, critical and soulfully satisfying parts of the ride is what I refer to as the "Hobby Phase". If you would have told me that Keyhubs was just a hobby back when it was, I would have been slightly offended. I fully intended it to be a real company. But, in retrospect, the reality is that it was "just" a hobby for the first four years of its existence.

While the idea for Keyhubs was planted in 2006, it wasn't until a full year later that I did anything about it. And it took another year before our efforts translated into an actual product. Even then, Keyhubs was still "just" a hobby. And it hobbled along this way for another year and a half or so, before I made the leap.

The Keyhubs Journey

[You can read about other phases of the Keyhubs journey here: Leap of Faith, Traction and Momentum]

The point here is that the "hobby phase" was a critical part of the journey. It allowed me to dabble, explore and test ideas with very low risk and investment. Things moved extremely slowly. Believe me, I wanted it to move faster, but there was only so much I could do in my free time. I spent about 1-5 hours per week "watering", "weeding" and "fertilizing" not knowing if or when this little seedling would bear fruit.

That said, taking it slow gave me time for the idea to germinate, incubate and percolate, in my own mind, and in the minds of our potential customers. While nothing much happened above the surface, underground, roots deepened, building a stronger foundation for the long days ahead.

The hobby phase also tested my staying power. How serious was I about this idea? How passionate was I? Did I love it enough to stick with it regardless of how much money it would bring in?

Most would agree that hobbies are about doing things for the love of doing them, yet the phrase "just a hobby" does a huge disservice to what I would consider one of the most potent methods for launching something of meaning and lasting value. Hobbies are channels for creative self-expression, personal development and purpose in action. These are the very building blocks of true motivation and the forerunners of successful, sustainable and transformative ventures.

Here are 3 examples of hobbies-turned-ventures that are changing the world:





See any common threads? These examples embody to me what I see as a growing and especially fulfilling genre of entrepreneurship - what I would call heart-centered entrepreneurship - entrepreneurs that grow something out of pure love and creativity - through passion, purpose, persistence and patience. In essence, by nurturing a hobby. Through it all, these entrepreneurs obtain a kind of profit that is priceless beyond measure.

Based on these inspiring stories and our own experience, we continue to operate with a hobby point of view. Every new innovation that we create starts as a hobby. We currently have several hobbies in our pipeline that we expect will find expression in the form of new innovations - two, five maybe even ten years from now.

We are in no hurry.

In the legendary business book "Built to Last", the authors assert that many of the worlds greatest, longest living ventures of all time started slow. "Like the parable of the tortoise and the hare, visionary companies often get off to a slow start, but win the long race."

I wonder how many entrepreneurs and investors side-step the critical hobby phase in favor of quick returns, only to short-change their long-term viability? I wonder how many people talk themselves out of following their passions because it is "just a hobby"?

Keyhubs wouldn't be where it is today if it were not for those four years of tinkering, reflecting and moving at turtle's pace. We want to enjoy the process, not just reach a destination. I want to spend my days absolutely loving what I do each and every day. It is from this place of love, heart-felt love for the work we do, that true magic happens.

What do you love doing? What are you hobbifying? It just might change the world.

Vikas Narula (@NarulaTweets) is Creator and Co-Founder of Keyhubs (@Keyhubs) – a software and services company specializing in workplace social analytics. He is also Founder of Neighborhood Forest (@trees4kids– a social venture dedicated to giving free trees to kids every Earth Day.

Vikas is passionate about heart-centered entrepreneurship and teaches on the subject at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

This article was originally published on the Keyhubs Blog.


* indicates required