I’ve been fortunate enough to be playing music since a very young age, in all sorts of venues, at all levels (short of professional), on multiple instruments, solo and in groups, for the last 40 years. It is one of my passions, and as a result of all of those experiences, the music now freely and naturally flows.
One year ago this month, I took up a new instrument: this time with a fret board instead of a keyboard or valves and a mouthpiece. With strong musical experience and training in my past, I knew that learning a new instrument wouldn’t be simple, however, it shouldn’t be all that challenging. But all of a sudden the music didn’t come naturally. And the sounds weren’t pretty. And nothing flowed. And my fingers hurt. And it was very frustrating. All of a sudden I was feeling like I was 7 years old again, sitting in Mrs. Hosner’s living room in a tiny town in Michigan, re-learning all of the basic building blocks of music that I had already mastered in so many other contexts over many decades.
But I wanted it. REALLY wanted it. So I spent time reflecting on past experiences in internalizing new skills and concepts, and at mid-life set out to continue to walk the path of fundamentally new learning. Here are some key take-always, thoughts and reminders for your consideration and comment:
1) Life-Long Learning is the Key to Remaining Relevant, Useful and Vibrant
In my early twenties, a wise mentor nearing retirement once told me to make sure that I got ten years of experience, not one year of experience ten times over. That means constantly adding to your life experiences or skill sets, or refining the skill sets you already have. Over time, the adding of skill-sets tends to wane and the refining of skill-sets tends to increase as we naturally tend toward our personal comfort zone. Keep learning and try something totally new from time to time. It works. And it’s fun.
2) Stick To It – Even When It’s Hard
Sticktoitiveness. Is that a real word? It is to me, at least as it was taught by my parents and at least one of our High School coaches. It’s as real and correct today as it was then. As you have grown personally and professionally, there are probably many things at which you have become quite capable, and it’s comfortable to do those things. To learn something new that requires hard work over time is not always easy, and it’s rarely comfortable as you are climbing the early rungs on the ladder of competence. But keep climbing, even when you feel like quitting. Keep moving forward, step by step, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself in the “flow” of what was once new and difficult, now enjoying the new part of the unique conglomeration of skills, abilities and experiences that makes you uniquely you.
3) Enjoy the Process
Although real meaningful personal and professional growth can often be challenging, don’t forget that the opportunity is a blessing. Don’t take it for granted, and more importantly, enjoy the opportunity along the way. Enjoy when it’s easy, and enjoy when it’s difficult. Don’t take the blessing for granted. You are lucky to have the opportunity and ability to grow. Many people are not so fortunate.
4) The Benefits of Fundamental Change Far Outweigh the Change Itself
Enhancing a skill or experience that is already ingrained in you has material value by refining what already exists. Adding a new skill or experience is fundamentally different: it also allows the possibility to look at what we already know in entirely new ways. This creates a multiplier effect, whereby you integrate a new skill or experience into your personal toolbox while you also create the opportunity to syntopically grow in areas that on initial inspection may seem unrelated. You have the opportunity to grow as a whole, not just in the specific area that you target with the new skill or experience.
5) Just Take a Chance – You Might Like It!
These first four takeaways are important, but in the end, you really don’t need to think about them if you do one simple thing: occasionally just take a chance and try something new. If you like it, maybe you’ll stick with it, and then the first four takeaways will rapidly become obvious. And if you don’t like what you try, that’s OK: just try something else until you find something that catches your attention or passion, and then everything else will come quickly into focus.
I hope you have fun and enjoy whatever path you take through life, and I hope that it contains a more that a bit of Life Long Learning.
Managing Director, FullPeak, LLC