Keith Cowing

Keith Cowing

Product guy. Entrepreneur.
Career advisor. Read bio

The Best Hobby in the World

November 1, 2009

I had the pleasure of attending a dinner last week with a great venture capitalist and one of the entrepreneurs he funded. During introductions, he mentioned that he had the best hobby in the world. So we waited in suspense while he explained. It was a longer story than expected, but definitely interesting and unique.

A number of years ago he sent out a request to hundreds of his contacts: neighbors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, friends from elementary school, students, etc. He asked them all to submit a list of the 10 best books they had ever read. In return, he would compile these lists and send a printed, bound volume to each of the respondents with everyone’s 10 favorite books. He received over 150 responses, compiled them, and sent bound volumes to everyone as promised. Many of the lists were accompanied by notes or personal stories. His friends were touched by the responses and read a variety of books they never would have explored on their own. He started repeating the exercise every year with different subjects: 10 best restaurants, 10 best movies, 10 most memorable places, etc. The responses became more literary as people started sharing personal stories from their lives. He was pressured by his contacts to host a party where they could all meet each other. So he began hosting an annual party, with an average of 150 people coming from all over the country (sometimes the world) and spending the weekend at his house. Many would meet with huge hugs as if they’d known each other for years, even though they had never actually met before. They shared so many stories that many already had a sense of mutual respect and interest.

My explanation doesn’t do justice to the story or to his unique hobby. But throughout the evening, what I found was that above everything else he was proud of the people in his life. He had experienced financial success as an investor, but that wasn’t what made his life fruitful. It was all about the entrepreneurs he had helped, the business partners he had worked with, the family members he spent time with, his neighbors, his friends, etc. Looking at business icons it’s easy to find people who gained the world but gave up a piece of their soul in the process. I am in pursuit of a rewarding career, but I hope to look back at the people and adventures in my life more than any money I make.

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