Is it really just a hobby?

Asset Coach, Richard Boylan looks at the importance of something that is often seen as ‘just a hobby’ or ‘just an interest’ and how focusing on a person’s talents and interests can have life changing consequences.

Asset focused, strength based.. What does it all mean?

Mayday Trust and the Personal Transition Service is certainly gathering momentum and changing how people view the system. Strength based, asset focused, thriving not just surviving – but what does that all mean? How can focusing on someone’s talent, passion or hobby really change their lives? I can’t speak for others, but I can certainly tell you how it changed mine…

Surviving, but definitely not thriving

A few years after leaving school I started to reach the stage where I wasn’t really doing a great deal with my spare time. For someone who had been quite sporty at school, I felt as though I had lost some of my sporty physique and should really get back into shape, I had after all reached the grand old age of 19!

I went and tried out a few gyms, but they weren’t for me and I found myself becoming bored after a couple of weeks. On one afternoon, after yet another uninspiring gym session, I bumped into my dad who said he was off to a local Karate club, it sounded interesting so I agreed to join him on his next visit.

So, the following week I turned up in my psychedelic jogging bottoms and mullet, as was the fashion at the time – psychedelic jogging bottoms that is, not the mullet!

Being accepted and building connections

Straight away I felt relaxed, the other students there were friendly, as was the instructor and after the hour session they invited me to join them for a drink, which I eagerly accepted!

After leaving at the end of the night, I knew I would be returning the following week. This is how it went for the next couple of years. I trained hard 2 to 3 times a week, worked my way through the grades and gained new friends. It was at this stage that a couple of things happened.

Build on strengths, grow positive relationships and the rest will follow

I had another group of friends that I had known since leaving school and over the years we had started to travel down a path that wasn’t going to end well. Looking back, we were all young men and didn’t know who we were supposed to be, or our place in the world. We reached that ‘coming of age’ stage that young men do and felt that, in our own way we were failing. We had no self-esteem or self-worth and as a result we started to go off the rails.
But I had changed, I had grown as a person and gained some self-esteem and confidence. Some of this was down to the martial arts training, but mostly it was the new friends I had made. They were funny and supportive and genuinely liked me for who I was, this was new for me.

This acceptance allowed me to come out of my shell and I really liked the person that appeared! So, I made the decision to leave my old group of friends behind and over the next couple of months I saw them less and less, until I no longer saw them at all.

Time to thrive

The second thing that happened was my Karate instructor asked me if I wanted to teach some of the lower grades during the lessons. This was something that a couple of other students had done. I had never envisioned that I could teach, I didn’t have enough confidence, so I turned him down.

Twice more he asked if I fancied having a go at teaching and twice more I declined. It was then that he took me to the side and told me that he had watched me train over the last few years and felt it would be a good next step for me. He felt I would be good at it.

This was something completely new for me, I was around 21 years of age, living at home and working as a delivery driver, the thought of standing in front of a group of people and teaching was not something that I had ever imagined doing. But teach I did, my first lesson was a bit of a disaster and didn’t go well, so I sulked for a week or so. But I eventually got back on the horse and had another go, which went a lot better! Teaching then became a regular occurrence for me.

Gaining responsibilities and confidence

Another couple of years passed and I had now gained my black belt and was teaching at my instructor’s club on a regular basis. It was during this time that my instructor had to go away, the timing wasn’t great as it was just before the students next grading, but it was a family emergency. He left the club in my hands, let me make the decisions on who I felt was ready to grade and who wasn’t. This was a huge responsibility and marked a high level of trust as the club was his livelihood, it was a hobby for me but a living for him. Fortunately, it all turned out well!
It was after this grading that I realised I was good at teaching and wanted to run a club of my own, so that’s what I did. I joined forces with another student and together we opened our own martial arts club and ran it successfully for 8 years, even training black belts of our own.

So much more than a hobby

Those years teaching were some of the best of my life and I learned a great deal about myself and what I was capable of. I had also changed careers a few times throughout these years, each job change was a move onto something that was more challenging and rewarding.

So, what is in a hobby? Or an interest? Or a talent? Mine literally changed me as a person and changed my life, without it I would certainly not be working as an Asset Coach for Mayday Trust, in a career I love, giving the people I work with the same opportunities I was so lucky to have had.

Without exploring and developing my hobbies I honestly don’t think that I would be living the rewarding life that I currently do.