Now Is the Time for Low-Stakes Hobbies

We’re often surprisingly good at things we don’t care that much about

Gray Chapman
Published in
4 min readMar 16, 2020


Rear view of a woman in a red dress playing the piano.
Photo: Ariane Hoehne/EyeEm/Getty Images

SShould you suddenly find yourself with more time on your hands, perhaps for pandemic-related reasons, consider this: Studies have found that enjoyable leisure activities are actually good for your health.

In this cultural moment when we’re all trying to be really good at a lot of things, it can be deeply freeing to just do something we don’t care that much about. For one, we tend to be better at those things.

I’ve heard plenty of other anecdotes from people who didn’t care about being successful in a particular area, only to find that disregard helped them nail it, from playing video games to folding fitted sheets to playing the dulcimer. Katy Kelleher, a Maine-based writer, once went skeet shooting on a whim. She wasn’t particularly invested in the outcome, yet she turned out to be the best shot in her group. “Our old Mainer guide who ran the class told me that women are often great at this sport because they don’t try as hard,” she said. “Apparently with skeet shooting it pays to just shoot your shot and not worry too much about aiming.”

“I definitely notice this dynamic more with people who want to be good, and struggle with it,” says Erica Lanier, a state park ranger who teaches archery lessons to kids and adults at Panola Mountain State Park in Georgia. “We have people who are striving for perfection, and archery is not one of those things that’s easy to perfect.”

The art of “not caring” is part of music teacher Deidre Struck’s personal teaching methodology, especially with older students who might be more susceptible to their own egos and inner critics. Struck is a New York-based musician with an undergraduate degree in piano performance and pedagogy, and over 20 years of experience teaching both kids and adults. “With my adult students, I try to help them get to a place of not caring, so that they can break through and play,” she says.

But it’s not as easy as simply deciding not to care. Denise Shull, founder of the ReThink Group, is a performance, strategy and decision advisor whose clients include Wall Street hedge fund managers and professional athletes — high-stakes performers who, for the most part, are…