A Business, A Hobby, and A Table

There are a lot of approaches how to distinguish what you do as a business or a hobby. Yet most of them are interior aspects, like motivation, seriousness, persistence and so forth. I want to throw in another soft factor, but one that’s coming from the outside.

In both a business and a hobby you interact with people, but what makes the difference is what sides of the table you’re on. What I was thinking the other day is that a business is defined as “doing something for somebody (i.e., quid pro quo, results must be achieved)”, whereas a hobby is “doing something with somebody (i.e., for the fun of it, results optional)”. And when you look closely at business relationships, it’s never really the case you’re partners who are on the same side of the table. We always say that in order to close the sale, convince voters or get a new coaching client, but once this point has been passed, they’re (quite rightfully) claiming that we live up to the promise we’ve made, right?

Which is exactly why politicians’ popularity instantly seems to fall after they’ve been elected — voters start claiming right away.
It’s why your customer or client seems to be unhappy right after signing the deal — she wants you to deliver.
And in all cases, not only do you have to meet, but to exceed their expectations. (Which is hard enough in “real” business, but close to impossible in politics.)

But in a hobby it’s different. You’re there for the fun of it, no expectations set. It’s also why groups like AA feel “good”, there’s no exchange of expectations and claims, only mutual interest (or desires, or problems). A hobby and a business can happen in the same location, a health club for example. With the owner of the gym you have a business relationship, with your training partner you’re sharing a hobby (but not your trainer since she’s your business partner’s employee, thus it’s quid-pro-quo too).

So the two questions to ask to know if you’re in a business or hobby situation are:

  • What are we here for — to achieve results or for the fun of doing something?
  • Does the imbalance of abilities/prerequisites lead to an exchange of claims?

Once you have figured this out, it resets your own expectations and you can act accordingly.

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