Olga Pisarenko

By Olga Pisarenko

The best project you can work on (II): Hobbies

As we try to keep up with our working schedules, sometimes it’s easy to fall into routine. It works for some of us but becomes boring for others. Many people need challenges and are happy trying and exploring different things. Hobbies are perfect for curious minds.


There is a saying – “turn your hobby into work and you will never have to work again”, which I disagree with. This is not about labelling your activities, it is about having something to do where there is no pressure associated with it, no deadlines, you can pick it up or put it down anytime you wish to, there is no result expectation or valuation of what you have done. This is something personal that makes you feel better and can be a perfect stress relief too, if necessary.

People working in finance are usually pursuing lots of hobbies and the more successful they are – the more activities they do at their spare time. This could be anything from playing a musical instrument to kickboxing.

Hobbies are your investment – they are fun to do, will improve your well-being and help to succeed at work.


Cross training the brain (Cognitive Training) is about keeping you mentally fit, aiming at maximizing a variety of brain functions and works just as cross training of your body. Neurology professor Alvaro Pascual-Leone from Harvard Medical School explains: “If you practice multiple things and you get better at any one of them, the benefits of practicing that one skill are not limited and can be transferred”. So, you shouldn’t put all your energy into one single-minded pursuit and have a good variety of them.


Hobbies reflect our true passions. Learning something new is fun, and what you just learned might help in unexpected situations. There are thousands of hobbies that people can pursue: some of them are more intellectually rewarding, some are more adventurous or physically challenging. Whatever is your goal – you will be able to come up with your own list. For the curious mind, the challenges must be a bit higher than average though.


I was curious to find out what successful people do in their spare time:

Playing musical instruments: Einstein played the violin; Bill Clinton plays saxophones and Steve Jobs used to play guitar. I know a successful entrepreneur who started learning playing musical instrument at the age of 55 and few years after this person was not only playing well but also composed some great melodies. It is never too late to start something new.

Running: I would expect most of us know what a magic a good run in the park can do. An amazing stress relief and a generator of a “feel good factor”. Science Research Network showed that “marathon-running CEOs control companies valued between 4 percent and 10 percent higher than those with non-running CEOs.” Quite interesting statistics!

Any type of exercising is great and will keep us fit and looking good. Good looks are not crucial for success but should be leveraged up to a maximum. A thought-provoking paper was published in 2013: Beauty is wealth: CEO appearance and shareholder value.” The findings suggest that the CEO’s appearance matters for shareholder value so putting an effort and looking good will pay off. It is an interesting read, makes perfect sense and is worth spending your time on.

Reading and taking classes: Successful people never stop reading new books and articles, learning new things. Nowadays, we are spoilt with choice of books and courses that are available. You can improve your skills, abilities or health – just to name the few. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you enjoy. Taking a course, you have always wanted, will lead to learning something new, as well as to a new challenge. Should you decide to take it at Saïd Business School, then you will also get the top qualification, meet the best tutors and fascinating people from all over the world.

The list of popular hobbies is almost endless: yoga (Marc Benioff), baking (Marissa Mayer, Emma Stone), sailing (Larry Ellison), knitting (Meryl Streep), meditation (Jeff Weiner), extreme sports (Sergey Brin), tennis (Anna Wintour), bridge (Bill Gates)…


The Psychology of Becoming a Successful Worker (S. Uusiautti, K. Määttä) shows the significance of hobbies and the positive effect from them. A hobby provides “positive experiences and thus enhances happy and balanced life, it will also promote success at work.”

Pursuing a hobby makes us work harder, smarter and more effectively. Productivity increases when the person is both physically and mentally fit. We all know when we are physically unwell but we fail, quite often, to slow down and analyse our mental fitness, which is quite often affected by tiredness and stress.

Because of the “cross-training of the brain” effect, having a hobby helps to get skilled and efficient in all other areas of our life, including our work or business. Hobbies will keep you sane in the world where anxieties and stress abound.

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