Around my 26th birthday in 2010 I happened to read a book that changed my life. It was a cookbook. The author was Maya Angelou. In between her southern recipes, she told stories of her life. From her life stories I realized two things. The first thing I realized was every life needs play. When I say play I don't mean running outside, though that's healthy. I mean taking up activities that are joyous, fun, challenging and rejuvenating. Ms. Angelou tells a story of how cooking helped her get through writer's block and overcome self-doubt, long after she was a successful author. No matter how old or young, it is important to have hobbies and diversions to balance out work life. At no stage in life should it be acceptable to work and sleep only. We are not machines. So, it is important to develop a range of skills that promote our well-being in a variety of ways.
The second thing I realized is that many successful people are multi-talented. In my earlier adulthood, I felt very confused about my life's direction because there were so many things I wanted to do all at once. I couldn't choose one career, so I created a million different narratives for my life to pretend I had some solitary direction. I wish that I could tell my younger self that it is normal to need numerous forms of self-expression. But I learned the lesson after a while. Ms. Angelou helped. To read that a renown poet was also a talented cook, a dancer, and a singer (and so many other things too, I'm guessing) helped me acknowledge a pattern about people: people who are good at one thing are often good at other things too. Jack Johnson was not only heavyweight champion of the "world" in 1910, he was also a bass guitarist who earned money by performing across the country between fights.
So, we are led back to point number one: Play. Play is good, both in the short-term and in the long-run. When we play, we honor our brains and our capacity for continuous growth. We expand our skill sets. We become clever, sharp, and experienced. And we are happier. So I encourage everyone to find time to play in 2011. Pick up a hobby you always dreamed about. Practice a skill you stopped years ago. Be well-rounded and go forth in life with an adventurous and curious spirit.
Many blessings to you in 2011. Happy New Year.