Chris McCann's Personal Blog

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Attn: Startup Founders, You Need a Hobby

with 27 comments

Running a startup is hard. I say that even though my own startup, StartupDigest, has been kicking ass growing from 22 to 42,000 subscribers in less than 28 weeks. It’s grown from a small side project to a serious media company & great community service to the startup ecosystem. I can’t even imagine the stresses of running a startup that’s not growing or stuck in the trough of sorrow.

Much of the difficulties actually doesn’t come from the business or product itself, but from the psychological stresses and relationship issues of co-founders. If you haven’t read this Paul Graham essay about the reality of startups, I would read it now.

To cope with this extreme uncertainty and stress, you need a hobby outside of work. This can be anything you enjoy: swimming, reading, yoga, meditation, ultimate Frisbee, or any activity you enjoy for the activity itself. You need a hobby to get your mind off of startup life and for mental clarity.

But what if you don’t have a hobby? I was in this exact same position a week ago. I was having a beer with my friends Abraham, Krutal, and Brendan and I asked “what are your hobbies?” hoping to get some ideas of activities I could take up for myself. Instead everyone around the table sat with a puzzled stare, and the best we could come up with is partying. At this point I realized neither I, or most of my founder friends actually had a hobby they cared about.

That weekend after a talk I gave at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo I had dinner with some close friends outside of the startup world who were telling me about some of the activities and adventures they had been on. I started writing down some of the adventures they had been talking about on my notepad and getting more ideas as the time progressed, shortly I had a notepad of 25+ adventures I had always wanted go on but never had enough time to do.

This list quickly turned into my new hobby, I want to go on each of these adventures I had wrote down before a conclusion of StartupDigest has been reached. Below are my adventures:

Update 1: Based on some of the comments I’ve received so far I agree that the list below aren’t open-ended hobbies I could do in a lifetime. Rather my “hobby” or what I enjoy doing is going on adventures & having experiences with close friends. Some of these I intend to do more than once while others I would be comfortable accomplishing them once.

Update 2: John Knox wrote an awesome blog post in response to this one detailing why it is important have multiple hobbies and bulding a diverse portfolio of non-occupational experience. He explains what I was trying to get across much better than I could, read the full post here.

  1. Indoor Skydiving at iFly –
  2. Four Wheeling in the Sand Dunes
  3. Ice blocking
  4. Skydiving
  5. Snorkeling
  6. Air ballooning
  7. Ghost hunting
  8. Make fire
  9. River rafting
  10. Trampoline world
  11. City pillow fight in SF
  12. Full moon party in Thailand
  13. Track driving in a Ferrari
  14. Sing I’m on a boat while on a boat
  15. Meditation weekend
  16. Machu pichu – inca ruins
  17. Diving scuba with sharks
  18. See a coral reef
  19. Visit Galapagos island
  20. Spelunking in new Zealand
  21. Go on zipline through downtown SF
  22. Hang gliding
  23. Fly in a Wingsuit
  24. Snowmobiling
  25. Watching the Northern Lights
  26. Visit and active volcano
  27. Rock Climbing

If you have any additional adventures you would like to suggest or if you want to do any of these with my, leave me a comment below!


Written by Chris McCann

May 11, 2010 at 3:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

27 Responses

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  1. Way to go! Have fun skydiving, I go on a regular basis to skydive Hollister ( Perfect way to set aside the all the work thoughts.



    May 11, 2010 at 3:50 am

  2. ooo this looks fun, thanks for the recommendation. When I go skydiving I will have to check this out.

    Chris McCann

    May 11, 2010 at 4:08 am

  3. how about watching the northern lights?


    May 11, 2010 at 4:11 am

  4. You can borrow some of mine:
    * Motorcycling
    * Woodworking (build a chest of drawers)
    * Cycling (eg push bike)
    * Surfing (depends where you live)
    * Wakeboarding
    * Remote control planes/ helicopters (planes are a lot easier!)
    Makes me sad to think how little time i spend actually doing any of these things i used to do.


    May 11, 2010 at 4:19 am

  5. I’ve done cycling, surfing, and woodworking but I’ve always wanted to race Ducati’s around the track 🙂 adding it to the list!

    Chris McCann

    May 11, 2010 at 4:23 am

  6. How about doing something for others? I think one of the biggest things to remember about doing a startup is that you will need an unlimited supply of compassion for others: your co-founders, your employees, even your investors. You’ll go nuts without developing that within your leadership skills.

    Chris Dawson

    May 11, 2010 at 4:54 am

  7. How about you build a boat? There’s a whole series of boats called “instant boats” which take just plywood and epoxy to make. I’m setting up plans to make this:

    Any kind of creative, easy work is good. Wood is best.


    May 11, 2010 at 5:08 am

  8. Threesome.

    ’nuff said.

    Kevin Xu

    May 11, 2010 at 5:25 am

  9. Chris – I totally agree with what you’re saying about making a list of adventures. I had a similar round of beers with a friend a few months ago that resulted in a list we called “30 by 30” – 30 things that we wanted to experience while we are young, single, and relatively unencumbered by things like mortgages and children. You can find the list of all 30 (along with some discussion on the merits of experiences vs. possessions) on my blog at the URL below, but I also excerpted a couple of my favorites…

    30 by 30

    – Learn guitar well enough to play cover songs for tips one night in a bar.
    – Get lost for a summer weekend in the Rockies with only a tent, sleeping bag and camping stove.
    – Attend a party at a rooftop bar with a view in New York City.
    – Sail for a week in the Bahamas, on a rented boat, without a guide (become good enough sailor to accomplish this).
    – Beat one of the old men in the park at chess.

    Hope you enjoy my 30 by 30 list, I liked reading yours and will definitely be borrowing a few of your adventures.

    – Bill

    Bill DAlessandro

    May 11, 2010 at 6:27 am

    • Awesome list! I’ve done a good portion of the suggestions you had but I’ll be adding in the two below (with a minor tweek). Thanks for the ideas!

      – Learn guitar well enough to play cover songs for tips one night in a bar.
      – Sail for a week in the Bahamas, on a rented boat, without a guide (become good enough sailor to accomplish this).

      Chris McCann

      May 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm

  10. A lot of those look expensive, but fun (good motivation to monetize early!)

    To add some other cheap things:
    * Mountain biking on trails
    * Paintball
    * Tactical shooting class
    * Jetski or watercycling
    * Downhill or cross-country ski
    * Hiking in each season
    * visit Angor Wat
    * visit Taj Mahal
    * visit Egyptian Pyramids
    * visit Petra (Jordan)
    * visit Pueblo villages in USA southwest
    * visit Red Square
    * Computer History Museum (MV, CA, USA)
    * Lunch at various big SFBA companies with different people

    Ryan Lackey

    May 11, 2010 at 6:30 am

  11. Hey Chris, nice to hear you speak at IQ on Friday. Serendipitous to see this on Hacker News today!

    I have a suggestion for you: visit an active volcano.

    Plus, it’s also a great excuse to go to Hawaii!

    Reed Morse

    May 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

    • that would be awesome! definitely adding that.

      Send me an email if you come up to the bay area anytime soon, always happy to meet fellow IQ people 🙂

      Chris McCann

      May 11, 2010 at 8:45 pm

  12. Those aren’t hobbies. That’s a list of attainable goals.

    You list as examples: “swimming, reading, yoga, meditation, ultimate Frisbee” which are all hobby activites. They’re open-ended. You could spend a lifetime exploring them and having them inform everything else you do. There’s a sort of Zen to each of them, actually.

    A checklist isn’t the same thing at all.

    Obsessive note-taking and other sorts of documentation might fit the bill, though.


    May 11, 2010 at 9:07 am

    • Some of these, like the meditation weekend, I intend to do outside of the list for longer periods of time. But I agree that this is more a hobby of doing adventures as opposed to hobby activities.

      Chris McCann

      May 11, 2010 at 8:48 pm

  13. cool idea but those arent hobbies those are activities. hobbies are things you practise and get better at, like painting, climbing, playing cello, etc.


    May 11, 2010 at 10:47 am

  14. My hobby is flying RC helis. Also building and fixing it can be pretty fun.


    May 11, 2010 at 11:42 am

  15. Great list. Checkout mine: You might notice I added a few of yours to my list – thanks! Can’t believe I missed Flying in a Wingsuit!


    May 11, 2010 at 6:01 pm

  16. Those are mostly activities, not hobbies. Try ice hockey, woodworking, genealogy.


    May 11, 2010 at 10:57 pm

  17. […] […]

  18. […] Attn: Startup Founders, You Need a Hobby « Entrepreneurial Activism (tags: startups entrepreneurship) […]

  19. […] To cope with this extreme uncertainty and stress, you need a hobby outside of work. This can be anything you enjoy: swimming, reading, yoga, meditation, ultimate Frisbee, or any activity you enjoy for the activity itself. You need a hobby to get your mind off of startup life and for mental clarity. via […]

  20. Nice hobby … if you’re rich

    Jonas Huckestein

    May 12, 2010 at 7:05 am

  21. As I am fond of saying, an active lifestyle is overrated. If running your startup is so dull that you need some X-Games bullshit to feel alive, something’s wrong. If the goal of the hobby is to counteract daily stress perhaps good books, good music, and quiet contemplation are more appropriate.

    But, this is just my opinion. I could be wrong. (To borrow from Dennis Miller.)

    John Chawner

    May 12, 2010 at 12:50 pm

  22. You gotta add a visit to Easter Island. IMHO, it tops the Galapagos in a big way. It’s a profoundly mystical experience.

    Austin Gunter

    December 6, 2010 at 6:10 pm

  23. […] that is similar to the role that hobbies may play for founders. Quoting from Chris McCann’s blog, who runs StartupDigest, “Much of the difficulties actually doesn’t come from the business […]

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