Learn new skills



September 2020

The pursuit of learning is one of the most important changes you can make in your life. Developing skills is vital to becoming a happier individual. Kids are becoming painfully addicted to technology, and it’s limiting their enjoyment to other parts of life. Watching YouTube and playing video games for 8 hours daily takes away so much time from enhancing different skillsets and interests. I learned this the hard way, and only changed once I left to travel on my own.

Learning is too general of a word, so in this post, I want to clarify what I mean. I’m talking specifically about learning new skills and broadening interests. Everyone knows that learning new ideas and concepts is important, but I’m writing about developing tangible skills which could range from physical activities like archery or gymnastics to more mental hobbies like programming or filmmaking.

If you have even the slightest interest toward a new activity, start it now and and commit to reaching a certain threshold of competency. Don’t just dabble in it because that doesn’t add much value. Initially, you have to learn the basics, which might be boring. but once you become good at a skill (which doesn’t mean mastery), you’re able to express your creativity within that skill. That's where the fun begins.

That’s why you shouldn’t quit an activity too early either. If you quit before you can express yourself through that medium, you might’ve missed out on something great. If you had that initial spark of interest, remind yourself of why you were interested in it in the first place. Use it as motivation during the hard times because those times will are inevitable.

Learning different skills also gives you a new appreciation for the people who do it professionally. Take filmmaking for example. I have no clue what it takes to create a good movie, and so I have no true appreciation for the difficulty of that profession. I want to learn how films are created not just because it sounds like it would be interesting creatively, but on top of that, it would change my appreciation for filmmaking as a whole.

A recent example I’ve actually gone through was learning to code. I started it last year and had no clue how deep it goes. There are so many different subsets and pathways you can go down when learning to code, and it’s so complex. From basic web design to back-end data manipulation to cyber-security, I had no clue how overwhelming it can be when trying to learn all the different pieces. Not just the logic, but how everything connects from front end to backend, while using different query languages and databases. And that’s just the beginning. I may not be a complete beginner anymore, yet I still feel like one. Now, whenever I look at a website or piece of software, I automatically admire how well built a site is or the complexity it must have taken to develop certain apps. That never would’ve happened if I didn’t pursue this skill.

You also develop different perspectives on the world. You can tie previous things you’ve learned with newer skills you’re learning. I tried learning photography and drawing (I haven’t fully pursued them just yet because I was juggling too many things at once), and when I was reading a book on depth perception for drawing, I realized how you can implement the same technique in photography. Now that I think about it, it’s pretty obvious since they’re both artistic and creative expressions just through a slightly different medium, but previously I never thought of them as being remotely similar.

Learning new skills also has the benefit of compounding. You learn skills much faster because once you understand how you take in knowledge, you begin to figure out more efficient ways to learn a different skill. Take language learning for example. If you’re a native English speaker and decide to learn Spanish and become conversationally fluent, it will have been much harder to go from English to Spanish rather than taking up a third language after that. Learning Portuguese will be easier because you can connect the dots significantly faster since you already have a good foundation to build off of. And then learning a language from an entirely different family like Arabic would also be easier because you now know what the first steps of learning a language are.

While learning takes time and effort, it changes your entire perspective on different parts of life. Each skill or profession you dig into, you find an entirely new world you’re now a part of. You connect with people on a level you wouldn’t have previously and gain an appreciation for how great and complex life is. It’s worth the struggle.

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by Amaan