Work is essential. Doing your job pays the bills, and doing it well pays for family vacations and early retirement.
But work isn’t life, and life isn’t work. Our nonstop, hyper-connected culture may try to convince us otherwise, but don’t be fooled. While our careers rightfully occupy a large chunk of our lives, allowing them to dominate our lives is dangerous and even destructive.
It’s vital to dedicate real, purposeful time to family and friends as we seek a healthy work-life balance, but I believe it’s nearly as important to carve out time for personal interests outside of work, the passionate pursuits and creative endeavors that stoke the embers of our heart in a way work simply can’t. Unfortunately, we too often talk ourselves out of those ideas and interests because we believe we don’t have the time to pursue them, they won’t amount to anything or, even worse, we aren’t skilled enough to reach our goal.
I speak from experience. As someone with a host of creative interests outside of work, I’ve had plenty of ideas pop up on my radar only to convince myself in many cases that they weren’t worth the time and effort. But what if that weren’t the case? What if we all had the vision, determination and courage to chase after our passion projects the way we chase after the next promotion or a Christmas bonus?
Finnish photographer Vesa Lehtimaki did just that with “Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy.” My son brought Lehtimaki’s beautiful book home from the library recently and I was immediately intrigued by the Lego Star Wars snow trooper pictured on the cover, flying through the air on a pair of skis. The pages are loaded with similar photographs of Lego toys belonging to Lehtimaki’s son set in all sorts of creatively fun and brilliantly constructed scenes that would captivate any fan of “Star Wars,” including my two sons and me.
As I flipped through the book, the designer in me fell in love with the crisp, clean, minimalist layout; the photographer in me appreciated the creativity, planning and execution that went into each scene; the writer in me laughed at the captions Lehtimaki included with his photos; the “Star Wars” fan in me got a kick out of all the different characters and locations that were pictured; and as a dad, I got to share something creative and unique with my kids. In other words, “Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy” felt like a book I could have created, conceptually speaking. It also felt like the kind of idea I would have likely talked myself out of not so long ago because it would have seemed silly to spend so much time making a book about toys.
But here’s the kicker: Lehtimaki shared that he initially created the book as a gift for his son, a simple, personal project that he never dreamed would turn into such a “lavish” finished product. Even better, it turns out Lehtimaki consulted on “The Lego Movie” after the film’s creators found “Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy” and asked the photographer to share his vision and approach while putting the book together.
I just love that. Here’s a guy who wants to do something fun for his son, who faithfully follows his vision of the project, who taps into his creativity in his personal time to pursue a pet project that many people would scoff at or outright dismiss, and it ends up turning into something far bigger, far more impactful, than he ever dared to envision.
I wonder how many of our own passion projects would take on a life of their own if we chased after them the way Lehtimaki chased after his. Or how many would even just provide the kind of creative outlet that we so rarely find time for in the midst of our chaotic schedules. That idea you’ve had rolling around in your head may not turn into a consulting gig on a major motion picture, but it may help you scratch a creative itch that your job just can’t reach. That alone makes it worth exploring.