helpgrowchange

Learn a new skill before your time runs out

When was the last time you truly learnt something completely out of your comfort zone? A new skill that wasn't directly related to any of your current skills?

I haven't written anything new for a few weeks. Why? Because I've been creating my own WordPress theme for helpgrowchange.com. It's been a great journey of self-learning and something you could try out (the self-learning, not so much the development).

Maybe you want to understand the human mind better by learning about social psychology. Learn about a popular career choice such as digital marketing? Or maybe you'd like to finally learn a new language.

But if learning is so awesome, why haven't we done it yet? Time. He is not our friend, right?

Well, the truth is, time won't open itself up for you – you have to make the time to learn.

"Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching."

Cast your mind back to a time when you last learnt a new skill? Remember the feeling of satisfaction and triumph in realising you had now gained something new.

Bring back that feeling.

Where can I start?

There are many, many online course websites offering a plethora of courses for free. Most of them are designed to make it easy for you to begin – no confusing entry or special multimedia requirements.

I've mentioned in a previous article about how I personally used Coursera to learn about business strategy and social psychology, and I have a few more courses added to my shortlist to learn soon.

If you're looking to learn development, one of the most popular learning sites is Codecademy. I started on that a while back, but other learning took priority (heh).

No matter what it is you're looking to learn, with a bit of effort you could probably find a beginner course online for free.

I'm too old to learn

Hogwash.

People change careers and jobs all the time. The people in the article are prime examples of the change you can make for yourself if you continue to learn new skills. And they weren't in their twenties either.

Here is a random Google search of 10 people who changed careers when they were over 50 years of age.

You're never too old to learn. What will you learn today?

What is ‘career-limiting’ anyway?

What does it mean to 'limit one's career'? Why are there preconceived ideas about what we 'should' be doing to progress our careers? Where is this unspoken ladder we talk about, and where can I break it?

Between 2010 and 2016 my career was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I went from database administrator to team leader to service manager to team leader of another 2 teams, then Service Delivery Manager, back to team leader, and finally to middleware administrator.

Phew.

After about 6 months in each role, I started getting itchy feet again and searched for the next challenge. I gained a reputation among my colleagues on when I'd be moving next. It's funny, but not funny at the same time.

My latest role of Middleware Administrator is a technical role again. It's been 9 months now and I still enjoy working on anything I can get my hands on. I've found true joy in my job (which is rare for many people) and I don't foresee any role-hopping in the near future.

What people think

In the eyes of many people I've spoken to, though, they see this as a 'demotion' of some sort and a step backwards in my career. "Why would you go back to technical?" is a common question I get from them.

To add some context, in I.T. a technical role is lowest on the corporate food chain.

I can feel their confusion (and sometimes disdain) about why I went back to technical. I can feel them thinking he's taken a step back in his career or he's taken the easy road.

Career or happiness

Does it really matter how successful someone is? Does it really matter how high up in the corporate ladder we are? Does it really matter how much money is in our paycheck?

I don't believe it does matter. And, deep down, neither do you.

We talk about this all the time. We complain about our unhappiness in our job. We describe how we're under strain due to the extra pressures of managing a team or client. We live for the weekend, dreaming Friday can't come soon enough.

Why?!

Why do we put ourselves through this day in and day out – because we were told it's what we should do? It's completely ludicrous.

What do you want to do?

The big question is: Would you rather be the head honcho, or be happy in your role?

I'm certainly not telling you to 'follow your heart and fly with the birds'. That's just as bad. For me, I still work Monday to Friday – the difference is I want to and I'm happy.

We spend 80% of our lives working in a job. We may as well make it count, right?

Being an unlikely source of inspiration

Although I aspire to be an inspiration, try to help people solve their problems and write articles for this blog, it's just weird (and extremely humbling) when I hear how I am looked to for inspiration or guidance.

I'm just a guy trying my best to be the best I can be. I don't expect adoring fans or monetary donations or my name to be tattooed across butt cheeks. I just want to help.

It brings me great joy seeing the smile on someone's face after they've taken up a suggestion I made. It is fantastic to see how they find life just a bit easier, or are making a difference because of a conversation we had.

But it's not just about seeing what I've had a hand in, it's about helping others and how happy they are.

Helping others helps you

There is a TED talk by Michael Norton (watch it here) in which he talks about a study conducted around how you can buy happiness.

The study gave a little money to a number of people and asked them to spend it on themselves or spend it on someone else. After all sorts of measurements, it was found that when the subjects spent the money on someone else, they were 'happier'.

This is how I feel when helping you.

Thank you for having faith in me. Thank you for trusting in me enough to want to improve your life.

Follow your own advice

Every 2nd post I see on Facebook or Twitter is about self-advice. Articles and headlines such as "5 things for a better 2017", "Be kind", "13 things to stop doing to achieve greatness" clutter my newsfeed.

At first, I think Wow, so many people are bettering themselves. And then 2 minutes later they're posting crap again, or carrying on with their lives while not changing a thing.

How is your life going to get any better if you don't change anything?

"Nothing changes if nothing changes."

(Best. Quote. Ever.)

What seems to happen is people read these fanciful quotes and smile at some or other inspirational picture, have a brief thought about "yeah that's nice", and then they do nothing.

Nothing at all.

The next day they're complaining about some crap in their lives that they wouldn't be complaining about if they followed their own advice – the advice they shared on social media just yesterday.

Stand by what you say and put it out to the world.

Take control of your life.

Decide to make the change and own it till it's done.
(Or at least own up when you change tact again, but that’s a whole other post.)

It’s ok to be selfish sometimes

Remember the time when you took a few hours for yourself? That time when you did want you wanted to do? Left the children with the partner, or the house chores for just a little while? It was probably ages ago, right?

I think it’s about time you did something for yourself.

All these years you’ve given pieces of yourself to your partner, your children, work, the house. It’s been a never-ending maelstrom of ‘things that need to get done’. You’ve organised lives and ensured everything and everyone else is ok.

Everyone but yourself.

I think it’s time to change that. It’s time for you to rediscover yourself. It’s time to immerse yourself in activities that you want to do like crafting, going for a walk, or learning a new skill.

The household will do fine without you for a couple of hours. I promise.

Your family won’t think less of you. In fact, you might find the opposite. Because you’re taking time for yourself, you will begin to feel refreshed. As you accomplish your own personal goals, your confidence and self-esteem will increase. You will be happier with yourself, and in turn, this happiness will overflow into other areas of your life – like your partner, the children, and the house.

You will find that everyone else who you’ve been looking after for all this time can actually look after themselves (for a little while at least) – taking further pressure off you in which you felt you had the need to do everything now.

So, what’s it going to be today? Mop the floors or begin that new online course you purchased a week ago?

Apparently, it’s not that simple

After my wife read this post, we had a ‘healthy discussion’. It revolved around how being selfish is not as simple as I make it out to be. Her argument was that there is ‘Dad’s life’ and ‘Mom’s life’. And this solution of mine appears simple to me because I live a ‘Dad’s life’ where everything is done for me while I go about my business.

My argument with this statement is that there is only a difference between the two because someone chooses for it to be that way.

With a change in the way we think, a bit of planning, and some changes to the family schedule – we can fit anything in.

The point I’m trying to make in this article is that if a choice is made to do some self-improving activity, take action on it, work with your partner and give your family a chance.

No matter what might, or might not get done, you deserve to do what you want to do.

(and yes, my wife and I have ‘agreed to disagree’ on this point 🙂 )

Picking up past projects

I read an interesting article the other day about how Isaac Asimov could write as much as he did. One of the main points that struck me was how he wouldn't stay "stuck" on any one thing. If he did feel like he was stuck, he'd simply move on to another project he had on the pile.

With my renewed focus on writing and planning some future pieces, I decided to look through my unfinished projects to see if anything came up. This snippet of a fictional story I started about 2 years ago stuck out, which I think you might find quite interesting.

I would love to know what you think?

Sam couldn’t wait to get out of the soaking rain and into the air-conditioned train. She couldn’t handle the rain matting her hair and ruining the collar of her favourite work blouse. Once aboard the train, she located a row near the back of the carriage where a tired looking, dark haired man sat by the left window, trying to fall asleep. An old man in a beige trench coat sat at the right window. She decided to sit next to the old man, thinking that she wouldn’t have to contend with snoring, or awkward positioning from the potential sleeper leaning over in his sleep.

Sam usually didn’t mind sleeping passengers on her commute, she just didn’t feel like it today. She had had a rough night with her toddler. He had come down with a fever yesterday and tended to overreact when he wasn’t well. After being woken up throughout the night, Sam was not in the mood to contend with discomfort.

“Good morning," said the old man with a smile as she sat beside him. Wow, what a voice, she thought to herself. She smiled and replied, “and to you”. “You look a little tired this morning, bad night?” he continued. Soothing, like honey on a warm slice of toast. “Yeah, my 3-year-old son is sick, and has a tendency to keep the household awake.” “That’s a shame,” he said. “I remember when my boy was that age. He would be very similar to your son.”

A crystal-clear image of a young boy emerged in her mind. This man’s voice. It’s rapturous. Why do I have such a perfect image in my head? The man continued with his resonating, pure voice “He would cry and cry. In his eyes, his mother was the only person who could comfort him”.

Just then, Sam was sure she heard a crying child – softly, almost as if it was at the far end of the train. The crying died down to a whimper, and a mother’s soft soothing murmur could be heard. Out the corner of her eye, Sam thought she saw a woman sitting in the empty seat across the aisle. She rocked gently, whispering soothing words in this child's ear. But when she turned to look, there was nothing. What the hell? She shook her head telling herself that the lack of sleep must be playing with her head.

The dark-haired, sleepy passenger across the aisle opened his eyes as Sam was watching. He glanced at the seat beside him, just where Sam's vision had been, shrugged his body uncomfortably, and closed his eyes again. Did he notice it too? Surely not, she thought.

Who is the old man? Why is his voice so captivating? Did Sam really see the woman and child?

Intriguing, I think I might just carry on this little project.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this snippet. 🙂

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