I’ve got a little project I’m working on (more to come in another blog post) and part of that is to take note of things I appreciate about certain companies. Yesterday I took the time to listen to Andrew Warner’s interview with Jason Fried over at mixergy (highly recommend mixergy by the way, it has replaced This American Life as my preferred gym listening). While there are many things in this interview I enjoyed, and there are definitely a lot of great lessons in here for any entrepreneur, the thing that really hit home for me was Jason’s cultivation of his employees hobbies.
At 37 Signals they believe very strongly that a good programmer doesn’t become a better programmer simply by spending every waking moment reading, learning, and talking about programming. Instead they believe you become a better programmer by becoming a better all around person, and part of doing that is pursuing things (usually outside of your focus, in this instance programming) that you find interesting or exciting. In the interview Jason mentions that one of their employees really wanted to become a pilot, so the company encouraged him to pursue that by paying for half of his lessons. It’s truly a win/win for all. The hobbies are cultivated by the company, the employees get to do all sorts of things that interest them (and may have never fully pursued otherwise), and as a result they are much happier, more well rounded, curious, and loyal employees. Sounds like exactly the kind of people we’d all want to be and work with. Seems well worth a few thousand bucks per employee per year.
I’d like to be in a similar situation someday as well. I’d like to add the idea of encouraging people to pursue a trip or experience at least once a year that gets them out of their comfort zone a bit. For example, when I did improv classes a few years ago, I was incredibly uncomfortable…and a few months later I walked out with a whole new set of skills, excitement, and overall aliveness (partly due to conquering another challenge). I think that’s a feeling we should all have the opportunity of having at least once a year.
I think for us the lesson is that pursuing our hobbies (and challenging ourselves a bit) can go a long way to not only making us better at our professions, but just happier in life overall.
Anyway, check out the interview.