Monday Musings 272 – Pick a hobby; Win the Nobel
A study by the University of Michigan as quoted in the book called ‘Originals’ by Adam Grant found out something so utterly bizarre, counter intuitive – and perhaps heresy to most middle class Indian parents; that your chances of winning a Nobel prize as a scientist become increasingly more if apart from the field of study you also dabble on the side with an artistic hobby. The odds become 2X greater if its music, its 7X greater if its Arts, 12X greater if its writing and a whooping 22X greater if it is Performing arts like an amateur actor or a magician. Now who could have thought that!!
What should we pursue – the lifelong pursuit of only one craft or vocation and the desire of becoming a virtuoso or picking up alongside the core pursuit of our lives and dabble in a sundry interest here and there? The classical view on this one appears to be in the favor of the former; the latter are reviled tastefully under the burden of aphorisms like ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’ – as if the whole point of being a stone is to gather moss! So should be pursue depth or breadth?
The debate on depth or breadth is akin to the coffee-toffee debate of yesteryears around the candy ‘melody’ – and most would stand for the stance which is closest to their own experience rather than a serious study of the subject; and would offer the jingle of the TVC as the answer to this depth vs. breadth conundrum – ‘’melody khao; khud jaan jao’.
There is also something called ‘Prison of prototypes’ – we process new information within the framework of what we already know. Hence the more width we have, even if it is not deep mastery, the more are the chances that we can process the new information and new perspectives. The question I am holding is whether our adult lives is spent heeding to the import of this nuance or do we perpetuate the dogma of ‘one life – one pursuit’? The emphasis is to carve out time for a deliberate expansion of experience to newer fields, however unrelated and however amateurish they might be in the beginning, not necessarily to gain anything material out of it, but just for the childlike joy of doing something new. The point to be made is that one never knows when and in what ways does this come to play a pivotal part in your current pursuit – and if this Michigan study is to be believed that more often than not it does increases your odds at succeeding in your core pursuit. It is now a folklore for the Apple fans to quote Steve Jobs own admission that his passion for breathtaking product design was greatly influenced by a course in calligraphy that he had undertaken just on the side.
I am sure there is more to this that what is postulated – and we shall approach this basis our own intuitions and biases. Irrespective of our current stance – we must think about it and while we take some time to arrive at a definitive view, pick a small hobby on the side – to play an instrument or sing or write or perform. It just increases our bets to win a Nobel you see!!