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101: Hobbies > Side Hustles

It might seem stupid, but legitimately one of the best ways to counter burnout is to get a hobby. You know, an activity you do during your leisure time for pleasure?

Jason Shen
Jason Shen
4 min read
101: Hobbies > Side Hustles
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Cultivating Resilience is a weekly newsletter about we ignite change in the face of adversity by Jason Shen, an executive coach, product leader, and 3x startup founder.

🧠 Fight Burnout with a Side Project, Not a Side Hustle

If you're feeling exhausted, dejected, or in state of high anxiety at work, you might be at risk for burnout. I recently spoke to an internal group at Meta where org changes and external pressures had the team feeling pretty crummy.

They asked for concrete tips for gaining a sense of resilience. I gave them a couple exercises, which I think seemed like more work. (People who are struggling often want quick, low effort fixes, which never really works).

I then told them something dead simple and boring: get a hobby.

It might seem stupid, but legitimately one of the best ways to counter burnout is to get a hobby. You know, an activity you do during your leisure time for pleasure?

Hobbies give us a sense of control, of progress, and of enjoyment. We do them not because someone is expecting us to do it, but because we want to. And we can go at our own pace, and we are the primary ones judging our output.

Having a hobby or having fun in general might feel self-indulgent in a moment when we are burdened with so many expectations, demands, and responsibilities. But that's exactly why they matter.

We are not machines built to work until we drop. And while sometimes we wish we could just collapse so everyone would cut us some slack and appreciate how hard we're trying, the truth is, it never works the way you want.

You have to have the courage and self-compassion to make space for something that doesn't have to produce some kind of professional or financial gain.

I'm not talking about watching TV, gaming, or reading books. Too consumption based. I'm talking about photography, making music, throwing pottery, fixing bikes, writing poetry.

I'm also not talking about side hustles or your nights-and-weekends business. If you treat it like a professional / work activity, with deadlines and stakes and pressure, then it's a second job. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it—maybe its exactly what you need—but it's not a hobby.

Hobbies restore us and remind us that we are more than just resources for generating more and more output. It gives us a place to make decisions and pursue our curiosities without expectations. And doing that regularly can help fight burnout and boost your sense of well-being.

For me, this newsletter is mostly a hobby, I do care what you all think, I don't depend on your responses or engagement in any way. My TikTok channel is definitely a hobby as I never get more than a few hundred views. But it's a fun way to express my creativity and try new ways of communicating ideas.

What about you? What's your hobby? How does it restore you?


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Founder, exec coach, and product leader help people foster the conviction to take bold leaps in their work and life—so they can get closer to what really matters.