Earlier this year, I started a new hobby. Not crossfit, brewing craft beer, or some other trendy, cool hobby. No, I started knitting socks (which, I think, is VERY trendy and cool).
At school, I was always quite good at all kinds of crafts (in Finland, knitting and crochet are part of a mandatory crafts subject). I have always seen both of my Grandmothers knit and last year, I even knitted a very misshapen blanket myself.
However, I had never really thought about knitting a pair of socks because 1) I had always been told that knitting the heel is very difficult, nearly impossible, and you will need to be a master knitter to succeed, and 2) I was stuck with the idea that I will not succeed in knitting two socks in the same size. This was perhaps because the one mandatory sock that I had to knit in elementary school was a misshapen Christmas stocking.
But early this year, I was spending a lot of time with my Grandma and saw how much she enjoyed knitting. So I decided to give it a try. I bought pink needles and blue and white yarn, and told my husband that I would knit him socks. If nothing else, I would have a hobby in common with Grandma for a while and we could laugh about my ill-sized, heel-less socks.
Well, as you may have guessed, my fears have not come true, quite the opposite. Not only have I managed to knit a pair of socks for my husband but also 29 other pairs of socks, 1 pair of mittens, and 1 sweater. I have put together and knitted a unique lace pattern and I am working on a sock knitting course for beginners. But most importantly, I have found a fun hobby that makes me happy and helps me relax. And it has also taught me things I was not expecting to learn but which apply to so many other areas in life, too. Here are four of them:
Don’t Let Your Fears Decide What You Can Do
Some fears are useful because they help us survive. Like if you see a bear in the woods or if you are too close to a cliff. But so many other fears are not useful at all. I feared knitting the heel because I had been told that I would not succeed and I feared I would not manage to knit two socks in the same size because of a bad experience in the past. These fears prevented me from starting to knit. But once I decided to try, I realized that 1) knitting the heel is NOT difficult, anyone can do it with clear instructions, and 2) knitting two socks in the same size is also not difficult. If you follow a few basic guidelines, it would probably be more difficult to knit them in different sizes.
I think this applies to so many situations in our working life as well. “I should not apply for that promotion because someone once told me that I had poor leadership skills.” “I should not learn about that new area because it is probably too late and I will never become as good as other people.” “I should not try starting a business on the side because I might fail.” Most likely, you SHOULD do these things! Creating the life we want starts with making decisions that feel good to us. Sometimes, this means being scared of something but doing it anyway. Yes, it is possible that it won’t work out. But what is there really to lose? You will probably still learn something and try doing it differently in the future.
Countless times I have been happily knitting a sock only to realize later that I had made a major mistake early on. Then I have to unravel hours of work and start all over again. At first, this used to frustrate me. All that work for nothing. Then I realized that it was NOT for nothing. I had learned something new and I would not make that same mistake again. I also learned that unraveling is just a part of the process. This was especially true when I was putting together the pattern myself instead of following someone else’s instructions. Some things didn’t work out so I figured out how to do it in a different way.
We have these same situations in the professional world all the time, especially when creating something new. This can cause stress, if you are under tight timelines or budget constraints. But if the organizational culture allows you to try something new, fail, and try again, you will probably come up with well-functioning and innovative solutions.
Imperfection Makes Perfect
There have also been times when I have noticed that I have made a minor mistake earlier in the sock. Like there is one wrong kind of stitch in the wrong place among the hundreds of stitches I had knitted. I, of course, notice it, but most other people probably won’t. And to be honest, most of the time that one stitch doesn’t matter.
All my life, I have been very good with details. In my work and studies, I have always found it very important to get every nitty-gritty detail right because otherwise the whole thing looks like it was hastily done. And I know I am not the only one. I have worked with so many wonderful people who always thrive for perfection. Sometimes, it is necessary. You probably wouldn’t send an important report or a job application without proofreading it. But I have started to think that maybe other times, it is not necessary. It doesn’t make any sense to unravel the entire sock to fix something that doesn’t have any importance and nobody will notice. Actually, it makes the result even more special. Good enough can be more than enough.
It’s about the Journey, Not the Destination
You may be great at performing specific tasks. Accomplishing something and then moving on to the next thing. When you start something, you finish it, and preferably as quickly as possible because unfinished projects stress you out. I have definitely been one of these performers.
The fun part about knitting is the journey. Yes, it is great to see the end result, especially when you give the new pair of socks to someone and it spreads a smile across their face. But the process of knitting is the creative and relaxing part I really enjoy. It is also the complete opposite to the performer in me who wants to finish things as quickly as possible. I usually have at least one unfinished knitting project waiting to be finished at all times. Sometimes, there are multiple and I always have a pile of socks that need to have the yarn ends weaved in (my least favorite part of knitting…). Of course I still sometimes find myself performing while knitting but I am becoming better and that’s good enough for now.
What skills have your hobbies taught you? I wrote earlier about professional skills that kids can learn through little league ice hockey and I find this topic fascinating. I would love to hear your experiences! And if you want to check out my knittings, you can do so on Instagram: @knitwithanni