On Leadership and Hobbies

Whenever I enter a new hobby that involves dealing with other people, I generally go in feeling like I just want to be a part of the group, not in charge of anything. I’m in charge of enough at work that for my free time activities, I’m happy to let someone lead the way. I will just be a little cog in the machine, I always tell myself… But if I’m associated with the hobby for some length of time, I inevitably end up in charge of something. I don’t know how it happens, but it happens every time.

About ten years ago (wow *creaks bones*), during my aspiring novelist phase, I was part of several online writing communities. A friend and I got an idea for a new kind of community and collaborated to get it going, and we ended up working as co-moderators of this writing group for something like four years. It was surprisingly successful, and my energy for it was seemingly limitless. I thought about it any spare moment I had, planning things for the group, and sneaking in computer time at my job to work on it during the day. We got a write-up in a popular ISP’s monthly publication for its users, and found ourselves inundated with hundreds of new writers within the first year. When the co-moderator and I finally decided to close the group down, we were more than 500 writers strong.

Part of the reason we decided to dissolve the group and retire was that all the administrative stuff left little time for us to do any writing ourselves. That was why we got into the hobby (and the group) in the first place: to write more. But, we didn’t. We wrote less and less until we were writing nothing. The extent of our participation in the group was to run in, do what was required of us for that particular day, douse any flames, make sure everyone was happy, and then go someplace else to relax. Somewhere in there, it had ceased to be a relaxing hobby. It was more like a job.

Same thing happened with my most recent hobby (that shall remain nameless, since I’m still casually involved with it and WoW is sort of my dirty little secret, the reason I’m absent from it so much — my escape!). I went into it thinking that I could just be part of it, but the longer I stayed, the more responsibilities I found myself with. At first it was great… there was enough to occupy me for hours and hours when I got home every night. It was a little like I was coming home to a second job that I didn’t get paid for, but it was a job that I loved even more than my real job. I constantly fantasized about making this hobby my real job.

Now I’m totally burnt out on it. I’m relieved I didn’t swerve off my path and make a big career change, because I’m ready to leave it all behind. It feels like a job in a stressful way now, and when I go visit the forums of the community, there’s a noticible spike in my blood pressure. Definitely not a relaxing way to spend my precious free time. Running around Azeroth and hitting things with a stick is much better for my soul. So far, anyway…

I read a lot of blogs by folks who’ve hit level 70 or have taken on a lot of guild responsibilities, and I see them burning out on WoW the same way I burned out on my last hobby. I don’t want this to happen for me, so I find myself actively avoiding in-game responsibilities. I would never want to run a guild, or even be an officer in one. That previous hobby still has so many tentacles on me, so many reasons I could never just quit if I wanted to, not without a lot of guilt, anyway. I want WoW to be a flexible hobby. If I am obsessed and feel like I have to log in and check my auctions once a day, that’s one thing. Ultimately, I’m in control of that, and there will be no repurcussions if I don’t do this. If I decide I want to quit tomorrow, I want to be able to quit tomorrow, and not feel like there are still a hundred things I need to take care of first or a hundred people depending on me to do things for them. I’m happy to help folks in my guild — I’m thrilled to help them — I just don’t want to be the single point of failure for any particular responsibility.

I’m sure it’s inevitable. It’s a cycle. One day, one way or another, I will find myself done with WoW. I will do (and not do) what I can to postpone that, however, and enjoy the game as long as I can. Now that I’m conscious of this habit of mine, of accepting lots of responsibilities, maybe I can avoid this particular reason for ultimately quitting.


4 responses

  1. I personally got to 70, ran a truckload of instances, got lots of gear, and then felt a little burned out, hence my alt.

    Im also a guild officer, and I can tell you, even though its a small guild, full of good people, there are still times when you just wanna kick back and do your own thing.

    So I agree with you that wow can be time consuming, and you can burn out on it.

    Sometimes its not all about CC, the best instance strat, pulling off a sap and a blind, watching omen to manage your threat….sometimes its good to get back to basics. Wow can be as simple as killing boars, or as technical as doing dps reports on various trinkets, and theorycrafting buffs on particular spells.

    For me, my alt is a breath of fresh air.

    That said, theorycraft, and the technical hardcore side of wow can be very fun and rewarding, and is not somthing to be dreaded. Being a guild officer has its benefits in the sense that I get valuable input into how I want the guild to be, what I see it as in the future and thus is rewarding, and ensures that im in a place i want to be.

    I also generally mark in instances, whether on the pally or the rogue, and sometimes its nice just to sit back and let someone else take the reigns….wow this comment turned out long – apologies about that.

    Take wow one step at a time, its fun no matter what you do.

    Just remember if it all gets a bit much , go back to killing boars for a while 🙂

  2. That’s very good advice. 🙂

    The problem with the past hobbies was that I got myself into a position where I didn’t feel like I could just step back and kill boars for a while, not without a tremendous amount of guilt, anyway. That’s just another facet of my personality, I suppose. I gravitate toward responsibility, and then feel such a tremendous sense of it, I have trouble letting go of it.

    It’s not that I don’t enjoy these tasks, or that there’s something bad about them, but I do recognize now that they accelerate the path to burnout for me. Knowing that I can enjoy the game immensely without doing these extra things, however, means that I can stave off the burnout just that much longer.

  3. I know exactly where you are coming from.

    One of the reasons I solo exclusively in MMO games is because I am usually the group organizer at work, and it’s exhausting. So I keep myself out of that role in my free time.

    Except … that somehow I always get pulled into the community in some other way. I like to be helpful, I like to share my knowledge, and then all of a sudden I’m responsible for maintaining a major game site or something …

    Heh. Anyway, I too find it very useful to just toss everything else aside every now and then and … just whack some boars.

  4. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this. For me, I think stepping up into these roles is an extension of what drives me as an achiever. I also really enjoying helping people. Mentoring people was a big part of the last hobby I mentioned, and it was extremely rewarding, but all the time teaching meant much less time doing.

    Sounds like you’ve found a great way to cope with this, by sticking with solo play. I’m glad you made the site though… I found it early on in my hunter’s career, and still go back there quite often. Love it! (Thank you!) 🙂

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