Football has always been a part of my life. I played it when I was younger, my son has played it, and my whole family enjoys watching the sport. So it was only natural that, many years ago, we started tailgating at Candlestick before the 49ers would play. And when I say tailgating, I'm not talking about a Coleman cooler and hot dogs on a Hibachi. I'm talking multi-course meals. Why not, right? We're a family that also loves good food--so we combined that passion with our love of football, and the Finnigan Family Tailgate was born.

Before long, people knew who we were and would flock to us in the parking lot. They'd bring their friends. They'd ask if they could help out. We became an "event." And, although I was an executive in an office Monday through Friday (and sometimes Saturday), I became a gourmet tailgate chef on Sundays. It's a role I still hold today--even though our team has a new stadium, and we sometimes throw our parties at home. I just love to cook a good meal with my family and watch a game. It makes me happy, and it's part of who I am.

I'm sharing this "hobby" of mine with you because, just as I think it's necessary for people to be passionate about what they do in work, I also think it's imperative for people to have passion for doing something outside the office.

Here's why:

You need a focused outlet for your downtime.

In a world of anywhere/anytime mobile access and incessant information flow, you only get so many hours away from the so-called "rat race." If you don't have something specific to do during that time, something that engages you, it's too easy to get sucked back into answering emails or reading reports. When I'm out there cooking with my family, I'm not thinking about work. That doesn't mean it's not an important priority of mine; it simply means that, for the moment, I'm focused elsewhere. And that's okay.

You're learning and building skills that will carry over into your work.

When you do something that makes you happy, something creative and fun--whether it's tailgate cooking or waterskiing, as another member of my team does--you're not just idling away the minutes. You're accomplishing something. Trust me, it's not easy to have a gourmet meal in a parking lot! Everyone in the family plays a critical role. My son does the guacamole. My brother sets up the truck with the right materials (he's supplies and logistics). I'm definitely the master chef, and my father helps with the acquisition of the ingredients. You put this thing together enough times, and you get good at it.

This is true for any activity, even if it's just a hobby: The more you apply yourself to the task, the better you get at it. The skills I've learned coordinating the Finnigan Tailgate effort-- working in a family team, sharing and delegating responsibilities, remembering our common passion--extend beyond the Candlestick parking lot and into my office, every single day. I challenge you to find a hobby that doesn't generate some kind of worthwhile talents.

Happiness is magnetic.

I tell folks all the time that the reason it's so important to be passionate about what you do--in and out of work--is because people like to be around happy people. That's why our tailgate drew the attention of crowds and grew over time. We were having a blast, which made people want to join in--and when people want to join in, they want to know how they can contribute. They come to you. It's not unlike starting a business. If what you're doing is fun and meaningful, people want to be a part of it and help grow your efforts. I hope someday my employees look back at their time working at Jobvite and feel compelled to call me and tell me how much fun it was, because people were happy there. Happiness counts.

That being said, we all know that work is work, and it's not easy to maintain an infectious level of enthusiasm day-in and day-out. When you pursue fulfillment outside the office, you're effectively recharging your batteries and building that happiness quotient back up, so you can continue to make yourself more "attractive" to others--whether you meet them at a football game, while you're out waterskiing, or in a conference room.

A final note of advice: Don't let yourself get hung up on whether or not your hobby is a "worthy" pursuit. If it makes you happy and you're passionate about spending your downtime engaged in that activity, then go for it. I wish I could say I was an Iron Man! But I'm not. I'm a tailgate chef, and a pretty darn good one at that. Maybe someday I'll share a recipe.