The Business of Pleasure

I remember asking my dad why he never became a professional musician.  My first memories include him at the piano playing an old song called Green Onions.  Later, I’d notice that he often played piano at weddings and other social functions, sometimes at church, and still often at home.  It stood to reason that if he liked something so much, he’d do it for a job, right?

ray-bill-blind-singer-and-jazz-pianist-ray-charles-performing-in-concert-at-carnegie-hall

Instead, my father got his DDS and spent his days hunched over peoples’ mouths.

Dentistry and music seemed completely unrelated to me as a child (not to mention the fact that I had no concept of job security back then), but as I’ve gotten older, I see traits and skills which Dad regularly uses in both his piano hobby and his dentistry profession.  First, the need for precision.  Anyone who’s ever been to a dentist who was lacking attention to detail can attest to how important precision is.  And anyone who’s ever heard a musician tickling the ivories while they’re just a touch off key can claim the same.

Despite Dad’s natural ability to pay close attention to detail (and work well with his hands), he still chose dentistry over music.  When I went off to college at 18, he mentioned to me that he’d begun as a music major.  “Why did you switch to dentistry, then?” I asked, almost incredulous.  Choir had been my favorite subject in High School and the memory of it was still fresh.

“Because it wasn’t fun anymore,” Dad answered simply.

I thought of a friend of mine who was studying music at Oklahoma State, intending to become a professional vocalist, and wondered what it must be like to have to sing every day, to make music your entire life whether your mood was with it or not.  I admired her absolute dedication.

I learned a decade later that she became a doctor after receiving her BA in Vocal Performance.  Go figure.

So now that my father is retired from dentistry, he’s got some time to devote to another hobby: gardening.  Here, too, he draws upon his experience as a dentist and a musician, bringing attention to detail and a sense of art to his craft.  I confess I had to twist his arm for a solid 18 months before he’d consider selling any of his plants, and another 6 months before he’d consent to selling his produce.  I could understand why — if he was forced into his hobby, like majoring in music, it would likely not be fun anymore.

On the other hand, maybe I could figure out a way to make Dad’s hobby profitable without taking out the fun.  After all, I suggested the business as a way to help supplement my wages as employee and bring in revenue for any new projects Dad might get ideas for, so the wheels in my brain started turning.  I applied everything I had read about living a dream life and came to the conclusion that the key to making a hobby profitable was to simply figure out how to get paid for doing what you love.

Not forcing it.  Just doing what you love as you usually do and letting the money roll in.  That way, you get to continue to love what you love, and bonus! you get to get paid for it.  Infomercials talk about this all the time.

dream-job

There was only one problem with Dad’s gardening hobby: he hates business.  He even dislikes the idea of charging someone for his product.  Maybe it’s because he’s so into what he’s doing he doesn’t think it’s right to accept money for what he’s created.  After all, work that’s fun hardly feels like work, even if it still is.  Perhaps there are other reasons.  Notwithstanding the why, how does one marry business and pleasure?

That’s where I come in.  I’m not a natural businesswoman per se, but I am interested in interpersonal communication and have an eye for social problem solving.  Dad’s got an eye for problem solving, too, but it tends more to the practical side of gardening, like what to plant in that shady area or how to maximize every inch of soil that he has.  Me, I want to see if there’s a way to approach selling a hobby that doesn’t feel to Dad like he’s all of the sudden traded something he loves for a chore.

The first thing I thought of was to put myself completely in charge of the financial end.  That way, I remove my father from the business end completely (except as adviser, approver of advertisements, and last word on expenses).  And you know the cool part about this arrangement is that I don’t hate business.  So, Dad gets to do what he loves, I get to do something I’m good at, and we both get to work toward a mutually satisfying goal: more gardening for him, a continued source of employment for me.

And also fresh garden food.  Need I say more?

What I really love about the challenge of turning pleasure into business is the need for community.  What I mean is, the idea that you don’t have to do stuff you hate in order to turn a profit.  Dad doesn’t have to handle the financial end of Frost Produce, but in utilizing a resource that is naturally inclined to see the business end of things and create accordingly, he doesn’t have to.  And as much as I love gardening, there’s no way I could spend from dawn until dusk in the fields, so I don’t have to do something I dislike, either.  As Frost Produce grows and other needs become apparent, reaching out into the community and utilizing resources that are already naturally inclined to do the tasks we need done, my father will be able to preserve the passion behind the product without having to sacrifice his fun for an extra dollar.

Because let’s face it:  Dad’s garden is so awesome because he loves to garden.

It follows that keeping the flow of that fabulous love would be a sound financial investment.  Sure, it pulls on my creativity to figure out a way to keep the master free to create, but hey… that’s what I’m good at.  And when we find a need that arises unexpectedly, we can call on our sense of community to make sure it gets met instead of assuming that we have to turn what we love into a chore.

dream-job

Maybe this is what the infomercials are talking about.  Getting paid to do what you love means 1) sharing your love, 2) keeping that loving energy at a solid, uninterrupted flow, and 3) when you find a need that has to be met and you don’t love it, find someone who does and watch in amazement as people who come together doing things that they love produces a happy hobby and a profitable business.

Suddenly, business and pleasure become one and the same.

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