OPINION: Jump into new hobbies without fear

Scott Rainey (New)

Scott Rainey

I spend a decent amount of my time in the presence of accomplished photographers. When they talk about photography, I often have no idea what they’re saying. They discuss the minute details of each photo, the lighting, the type of lens, the editing. With that, they use a lot of big, fancy words only they understand. These guys are more or less experts in this area.

As someone who doesn’t know the first thing about photography, I don’t know the first thing about photography. But I could. I have an incredibly powerful computer in my pocket, and I could use this to learn just about everything there is to know about photography — for free. I could also use it to take the pictures, but I’d rather learn every last detail about focal points and lighting arrangements first.

Although this is one of the greatest things about our lives in the 21st century, there is a weird paradox attached to it. I’m not sure if everyone is like this, but if I want to pick up a new hobby or skill, I tend to try to gather as much information as possible before I decide to actually do anything.

This is a way to know a lot about something and to sound interesting when talking about it without actually doing the work associated with the knowledge.

Fitness is a good example. How can I go for a run before I research proper running and breathing technique? How can I go lift some weights or do some pull-ups without knowing exactly the number of calories I’ll burn or what will happen if I don’t immediately consume protein? We know all of these questions can be answered at the click of a mouse (or trackpad), but the more time we spend doing research, the less time we spend actually trying to improve our fitness. You’ll be able to spit some knowledge at someone when talking about fitness with them, but you won’t be fit!

You don’t have to know everything before learning a new skill. When I was a kid, I didn’t know the first thing about hockey before trying it, but I tried it. If I wanted to pick up photography as a hobby, I really should just pick up my phone or a camera and do it. Instead, I’ll likely end up five pages deep about the differences between two $3,000 cameras as if I will ever have the means to seriously consider that decision. This is because we feel that the next source of information will be the one that unlocks the secret to the skill.

We should just go for it without the fear of looking like a novice. All we really need to know are basic concepts and principles, and then from there we can learn more information as our skill increases. All I need to know about fitness at first is this: if you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight at some pace. If you lift heavy things and rest properly, your muscles will grow. It’s not immediately necessary to try to maximize your efficiency before you even start. Every skill, hobby or activity we learn can be boiled down to a few fundamental principles or rules. Finding these basic rules and then acting upon them is key to developing in any area.

Scott Rainey is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].