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More Career Tips for You

How Your Hobby Can Influence Your Career

Career Advice |

Even though I hail from one of the most active cities in the world, I’m not necessarily your most athletic type of gal. Five years ago I had just started at a new company and there was an email that came out about dragon boating—a Chinese-originated sport in which a boat of 20 paddlers, a caller, and a steers person race against other boats. Practices started off early in the spring when it was pouring rain out, but I bundled up and gave it a shot.

Five years later, dragon boating has become something more to me. I’ve learned to trust my body, push myself to try to things, and leverage my teammates and coaches while focusing on the moment. This, in turn, has greatly influenced my career. These are the top five things I have learned from my own personal hobby:

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” –Henry Ford

Naturally I’m more of a book worm, and rather clumsy. I never thought that I could have a hobby that was so active, but I’ve learned to trust myself and my body, and through practice I’ve gotten better. Forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone introduces you to a whole new world of people and experiences. Working toward new goals adds strength to your character and expands your skill set.

Why not stay static doing the thing you know you’re already good at?

Don’t set limits for yourself—give yourself permission to fail. Just like in the boat, as in my career, some things you don’t pick up straightaway, and that’s okay. The important thing is to keep trying. Reach out to your teammates, co-workers, coaches, or mentors at work. It’s through failure and attempting to get better that you can begin to master new things.


Dragon Boating is a team sport. There are 22 people on the boat, and timing is everything. That’s only way to make a boat move is when everyone is in sync. You need to listen to your caller, follow your lead strokes, and trust your steers person.  Each and every person in the boat is core to making it move.  It’s important to know that what you do individually contributes to the bigger picture.

Preparation is key.

It could be raining, or it could be sunny. Dress in layers, wear a hat, and bring plenty of water. It’s important to do your research and have a back-up plan. I never show up to a meeting without doing the ground work first and coming fully prepared. You don’t want to show up to practice in shorts and a t-shirt in February just the same way you don’t want to come to a meeting in jeans without a plan A, B, or C.

Live for the moment.

My coach emphasizes the importance of the moment. When we’re in the middle of a practice, he’ll yell to us that all we have is that moment; nothing matters but what we are doing in the moment. Whatever happens after will happen, but you have to give everything to the moment. In the chaos of life, it’s easy to get caught up and to constantly think of what will happen next. Focus on the moment and don’t let it pass you by.

What’s your hobby? What does it do for you personally, or professionally? Tell us in the comments!

Ask Margot Gerritsen, Director of the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering at Stanford, what her hobbies are!

Photo with permission from Katelynn Bailey

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1 Comment

These are such great, tangible tips, especially the part about the need to be in sync with your teammates, whether they're in your hobby or in your office. Love that!

Jennifer Bailey

Jennifer is a west coast writer from Vancouver B.C. She has her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of British Columbia. She is an avid dragon boater, hiker, and craft beer enthusiast. On her blog, “When I’m Not Chasing The Rabbit” she writes reminders on the importance of taking time to enjoy the small things, and not being consumed by the machine of life. You can follow her on twitter @jennbaylee.