It’s the craziest thing.
In my time in the tech industry, I have never heard of someone with time on their hands. We’re all busy. Our calendars are nuts. We all optimise our daily routine to be able to do more with less.
And yet, pretty much everyone has this ‘one thing’ they do on the side. This one thing they enjoy tinkering with. This one thing they spend time on — time they don’t even have.
The mother of all motivation
I have been thinking about this question a lot. What makes us spend time we don’t have on projects that don’t pay us anything? If you posit that you actually enjoy your day job, it’s a crazy idea.
I read this interesting article by Jake Prins yesterday which answered part of the question.
His thinking is side hustles breed creativity and faster learning. As a developer, he believes building something ‘for himself’ allows him to apply stuff he couldn’t in his day job. I have to say I’ve heard this before.
My colleague @joedixon brings that one up all the time. I am not a developer but I can understand the thinking behind it. When he and I thought of launching ZeroToGrow.io, I’ve never seen him so excited about CSS. This side hustle allowed him to play with this new framework (and eventually got him to chat with its creator, which got him all the more excited).
Of course, the idea is then to use this learning to power your day job. This loop benefits everyone in a healthy way.
Is that all? I personally believe there is higher motivation to all this. Something that dominates creativity, learning, or even potential capital gain.
I think freedom is the key.
Again, postulating we all love our day job, we all still have a need for personal freedom. As I was listening to Tim Urban on Ferriss’ show the other day (fantastic episode, by the way, listen to it), his thinking seemed to align with mine.
When he started WaitButWhy, one of the most read blogs on the interwebs, his primary motivation was freedom. He didn’t think anything of it at the time. It wasn’t to make money. It wasn’t to become famous. It was all because he wanted to write stuff that interests him in the very weird, unique, and quirky way he is now known for.
Tim even goes as far as saying his productivity increased because he didn’t have to do anything.
Freedom is what drives us. This is why we spend time we don’t have launching this random idea we had in the shower the other day.
Sure, it enhances creativity. Of course, it allows you to learn new stuff. Clearly, you could make money from it at some point. But, all this pales in comparison to the satisfaction of doing your own thing — no rules. Just you.
The lesson? Nurture (your) freedom
There are two lessons to take from this.
The first is for people: keep side hustling. It’s good for you. It’s healthy. It’s how you learn, it’s how you discover, it’s how you grow. Think you’re bogged down on a singular project at work? Make a 180 turn and start something completely different on your own time.
The second is for businesses: nurture your employees’ freedom. In the long run, this benefits everyone. Gmail used to be a side project at Google. Counter-strike used to be a side project at Valve. Even if your employees don’t come up with billion dollar ideas, your company will benefit from this healthy habit. Run hackathons. Allow time for your teams to ‘do their thing’.