Acquiring new skills keeps you sharp but…

It’s dang difficult to learn anything new because your mind and body are so good at resisting change. So much so that they’ll let you believe that you’re always ‘doing something new’ or ‘don’t have enough time’ or the ultimate — ‘you don’t need anything new since you’re already doing too much.’ There may be a tinge of truth in all these statements but in all likelihood it’s keeping you away from learning new skills that could literally change your life.

Alright, it may not be as dramatic but I’m pretty sure learning a new skill has a great carryover to your professional and personal life. If that pumps you up to sign up for a new ‘online course’ on coursera or udemy or wherever you get to binge watch a series of videos, stop! That’s not what I meant.

Our age is cursed with too much content. Way more than we would ever consume. And the proliferation of content platforms has for various reasons (mostly wrong) led us to believe that chronic content consumption (of the ‘right kind’) helps us gain more knowledge which equals to new skills. Sadly, that’s not true.

Just like hanging out at the gym wouldn’t make you strong or muscular, binge watching content wouldn’t help you acquire new skills. More knowledge, yes, but mostly unusable because you haven’t battle tested things yourself! And believe me, you won’t ever get paid to be a great theorist. Experts have those battle scars that you don’t. (And it’s unfortunate that most of these experts have built an industry around selling their knowledge as information products. But then we’re stupid enough to buy them and think consuming content would make us experts too!)

Here’s what I’m getting at — instead of consuming endless content, invest in learning a new skill that’ll have you do the work. Pick up a language/sport/martial art/dance form/art/writing/public speaking (and a hundred others, get creative) that’ll push you to not just learn but also practice that skill over and over again. Until you get proficient and don’t make the mistake of sticking around though you will be tempted to because most of these skills can keep you occupied for the rest of your lives. Thankfully, you won’t have to invest as much time as you initially did because most of the learning after this stage happens passively. So, you’ve got to push yourself to learn yet another skill.

That’s how skill acquisition happens. By getting things done. If this makes you uncomfortable, clearly, you haven’t been serious about learning yet. And like most hard things in life, it never comes easy.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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