There is a difference. You’ve probably known a guy who goes to his local music store, spends hundreds of dollars buying a guitar, amp, cord, pedals, etc. just to put everything up on craigslist three months later. Now, it could be that the hobby just didn’t interest him, or maybe he found a new hobby. Or, it could be that the vision he had in his head when he bought that equipment had nothing to do with playing guitar. He may have envisioned himself on a giant stage, spotlights blinding him while droves of screaming fans try desperately to get his attention. Maybe he imagined a line of girls waiting outside his tour bus, desperately hoping that he’ll sleep with them.
The problem with this fantasy of his is that it already assumes he knows how to play the guitar magnificently. He doesn’t want to learn guitar, he wants to know guitar. He doesn’t want to embark on a journey towards mastery over a musical instrument. He wants fame, fortune, and sex. After a month of hardly picking up his guitar, he will throw in the towel, put it all on craigslist, and use that money to go buy DJ equipment so that he can be the next Skrillex. A month after that, the dj equipment will appear on craigslist too. Noticing a pattern? Here’s the lesson:
When you are picking a hobby, a job, or simply looking for something that interests you, make your decision with the assumption that you will not receive any fame, fortune, or recognition for your hard work, other than the enjoyment of the hobby itself.
Let’s look at what this means. Say you’re looking for a hobby, and you think you want to play guitar. Assume that you will never, ever be a rock star, and imagine that nobody will ever get to hear you play other than close friends and family members. Do you still want to learn guitar? Yes? Great, then go get one. You’re in for an awesome journey. People who are excellent at their craft are usually doing it for the craft. The money and the fame may be an additional benefit, but that isn’t the reason for getting into the hobby (or in some cases, maybe it is, but it shouldn’t have been). For example, electronic music has hit mainstream popularity over the last decade or so. DJ Tiesto is an incredibly well respected electronic artist, and because of its new popularity, his concerts are killing. But DJ Tiesto has been making electronic music since 1994, when it only appealed to a small, niche audience. He truly likes making electronic music, and it shows in his work.
So the next time you’re thinking of pursuing something you believe you want, just ask yourself “do I really want this, or do I just want to be known as somebody who wants this”. If the answer is that you really want it, then congratulations, you’ve found a legitimate interest, and you can pursue it to mastery.