Never stop learning, always keep improving and developing yourself. There is never a time when you “know” enough, nor is there ever a time where you are “too old” to learn and try new things. Life is about learning, from beginning till end.
Many don´t fully understand this and reject learning new things after the formative “school years”. Society dictates that you learn when you are a child and only execute from then on.
This is of course wrong. You should always be learning. You should always be building new neural connections.
You should always find happiness and contentment in trying new things.
You should always stay competitive by acquiring new skills.
This does not just mean going to school or doing a course though. This means learning new skills on your own. Learning new skills by studying others, practicing and doing.
Follow these steps for guaranteed success in your pursuit of new skills.
No matter what you want to learn there is bound to be tons of books in it. Read them. Listen to Audiobooks of it. Find articles about it. Stock up on as much information as possible to get insight into your area and tips, tricks and hacks that will speed up your learning process. Be sure to be critical in what you read as well though. Try to find highly rated material in your field, and make sure to find sources with different opinions.
Find a course
And not necessarily a university course. I would actually advise against that for the most part. Instead, find a 2-week sprint course, a once a week for 8 weeks program, a club, or whatever is relevant to the field you want to learn and commit. You can always learn from peers. Try to find something where you have to contribute some kind of investment as investing works wonders for your sense of accountability.
Try stuff, make mistakes, learn from them. If you are so afraid of making mistakes that you don´t try anything, your progress will be slow. Make mistakes to fast-forward your development.
Find a mentor
Find a mentor. Learn from them. But never treat them as a guru. A mentor doesn´t have to be an expert in the area or skill you are trying to develop. A mentor should be someone who can and will challenge you and provide with guidance when you are without direction.
Find an accountability partner or group. If you are training for a marathon, find a running partner who will wait for you so you have to go out and run, even on those cold dark mornings. If you want to practice public speaking, sign up for a Toastmasters group.
Learn from everyone
Learn from those that do what you want to do well, and those who don´t do it well. You can learn a lot from studying what people in your chosen field do well. And to learn from them you shouldn´t just look at them for inspiration, but actually study their movements, results, patterns, and habits. You can also propel your own learning by looking at people who don´t do what you want to learn very well and study their movements, patterns, and habits.
Goes without saying really, but you need to practice if you want to improve. And to make sure you practice sufficiently and correct, you need to plan it out. Practice your skill as you would practicing for running a marathon. Develop a training regimen. Execute it.
Measure and track everything
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”
— Peter Drucker
The above quote is of course not correct. Everything will improve if you keep at it, regardless of whether you deliberately track your progress or not.
It does get a lot easier to spot progress if you track, however, and it also gets easier to identify what to work on to improve further.
It can also greatly improve motivation if you track even small things as it means you register a lot of smaller “wins” along the way you would otherwise not have noticed.
Create a reward system for yourself
Give yourself rewards for achieving smaller goals on the way to you achieving your new skill. If you are trying to improve your overall health through diet and exercise, allow yourself a Mcdonalds and Mars bar feast when you reach a set goal. Preferably stuff yourself till you feel sick, offsetting any future urges.
If you are practicing self-confidence, track your encounters with people and how you feel in written form.
Rate your progress
Every day rate your improvement today from 1 – 10. Reflect on why you reached that number. What went well and what didn´t.
Plan how to improve
Plan how to improve tomorrow, don´t leave anything up to randomness. If you in the previous step rated yourself a 5 on learning how to play the guitar, and your reflection showed that you spend too much time on Facebook to practice properly, plan how to mitigate that tomorrow.
Write about it
This might be the single most important step. Writing about a subject teaches you immensely about the subject, for a number of reasons. If you write about something you have to articulate very clearly what it actually is about, clearing the steps in your own head. The research you do when researching for writing is also a lot more valuable than normal, as you suddenly research with the point of view having to explain this on in writing. Lastly, if you can write about a subject, you start thinking about yourself as someone who knows the subject, and sometimes all you need is a little confidence boost to take you to the next step.
Teach others about it
Completely same principle as above, however with a much more direct consequence if you don´t know your stuff. Therefore you should use all the steps above to reach this step. The Feynman technique dictates that to understand something well you need to be able to explain it simply. Albert Einstein agrees with this. Therefore, use this as a guide to your progress. Try to explain it to someone else and you will identify the weak points in your knowledge.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Stay honest with yourself
Maybe the most important step. If you are not true and honest with yourself it is going to be very hard to learn anything new. It is not enough to just talk about it, you have to actually do it. Remind yourself often “why” you are trying to learn this new thing, and use that as a guide.
Be consistent. Building new habits and skills is easy to START doing, but hard to actually follow through to the end. Consistency is key. If you want to learn a new skill you need to follow all of these steps, consistently for a prolonged period of time. There is no other way.