The Hidden Strength and Benefits of Side Projects
Encouragement to explore side endeavors, a better way to hang your jackets, and the value of prioritizing ideas
Two years ago we added a little human to our lives - feeling very grateful for our family and our health!
Happy belated Thanksgiving to you! This week we celebrated once in Portland with family and again in Utah with the in-laws. Always nice to double dip on delicious food and merry conversation.
Alas I learned a bit too late about the sourdough turkey trend - dang it! Well, I could always kick off my own trend of sourdough dreidels for Hannukah coming up in early December…
This week we’ve got encouragement to explore side endeavors, a better way to hang your jackets, and the value of prioritizing ideas.
The Transformative Power of Distractions
I recently finished the autobiography of national champion runner Lauren Fleshman, which really opened my eyes to the challenges faced by female athletes, particularly through their 20’s.
She shares many examples of double standards between male and female athletes paired with wonderful stories of support and kindness. One pivotal moment in her story stands out in my mind and it explains a unique approach that helped to win more races.
Through college and grad school Lauren followed the prescribed athlete path, training many hours per day. She prioritized sleep over socializing and even dutifully lay down from 2:30pm to 3:15pm each day for additional “rest,” even though she rarely if ever napped.
But then she suffered from an injury leading up to the Olympic qualifiers and during her lightened training schedule she turned to writing online. She fought against the expectation for her to exclusively practice her sport. Here’s what she says:
Traditional wisdom held that a professional athlete should remain focused, and pursuing outside interests or working a job were stigmatized as distractions that would prevent you from reaching your potential.
Despite this social pressure, Fleshman’s blog reached thousands of runners with her stories of vulnerability and struggle. And in 2009 she looked past the keyboard and began tinkering with some experimental recipes in her kitchen.
Her husband, Jesse, climbed the rankings in elite triathlons, but he felt awful from the ultra-processes snack bars available. It turned out Jesse had a gluten intolerance, and Lauren concocted a recipe to make better bars at home.
When she offered the bars to another friend (and pro-marathon runner) Stephanie Rothstein, she loved them so much that she declared a business needed to be started.
Lauren partnered with Steph and started making gluten-free bars at home. Meanwhile, Jesse figured out the permits so they could operate out of their kitchen and became the CEO. (”Chief Eating Officer” - hah!)
The side hustle improved Lauren’s energy level as she recovered from another injury. Once back to full strength, she dominated the track at USA Nationals, the qualifier for the Olympics.
Ultimately the business, named “Picky Bars” for their target audience of picky eaters, sold years later to Laird Superfoods for $12 million.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the projects you do in your spare time, filling up nights and weekends, often inject more energy into your day-to-day work.
The research backs this up. A study from 2020 demonstrated that the empowerment of daily side hustle activity enriches full time work.
Your evening tasks instill a sense of progress that carries over to make you more effective at your job. This specifically applies to hobbies or activities that diverge from your main work activity or pursuit.
I love that this translates beyond just office work - it can carry over to creative or athletic pursuits. Consider starting that little project or side endeavors you’ve been considering. Who knows, it might just energize you!
Worthy & Remarkable
Simone Giertz invents a better way to hang your jackets — Coat Hingers on Kickstarter raise $300k!
The Steph Curry documentary on AppleTV is phenomenal and I found inspiration in his workouts with light-up buttons - need more of this in running and climbing training
A different take on the climbing interview from Matt Segal - Climbing & Cooking with V15 Climber, Ethan Pringle
For some inspiring climbing footage, check out Babsi on the Fourth Ascent of Meltdown \(5.14c\) in Yosemite
A hilarious film about “big wall” climbing in upstate New York - The Long Wall - The World’s Longest Rock Climb (H/T to Aaron)
One Thing from Me
I don’t love the founder of Amazon, but one story I heard impressed upon me the power of his clear thinking. On a recent podcast, Emmett Shear, the CEO of Twitch explained that after their acquisition they had a meeting with Bezos, who brought up an insightful idea they had not considered.
It was rare for someone to surprise Emmett on a topic he spent every day thinking about, but he figured, “ok, I’ll give this guy a pass because first time reviewing the larger strategy and he brings a unique set of experiences.”
But then it happened in the next meeting. And in the next meeting. Bezos kept surprising Emmett’s team with ideas and questions they had not considered.
Brilliant leaders like Jeff Bezos can imagine all the chess moves to find insights and ask great questions. What makes them the top in the world is their ability to identify and select the most valuable thoughts to voice and implement.
It connects to a story attributed to Warren Buffet where he tells a young whippersnapper to write a list of his top 10 priorities. He then instructs the guy to draw a line between the most important 3 and the others and consider the seven secondary priorities as his “avoid-at-all-costs” list.
Well, I disagree with avoiding those side activities that might energize you. I mean, hey, you might build a business and sell it to Laird Hamilton!
But I know I could certainly do a better job prioritizing my ideas to ensure I take action on the ones with the highest potential upside.
Wishing you bountiful pie leftovers,