Old Dogs Learn New Tricks

We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
George Bernard Shaw
Take a moment and think about last year at this same date. Does it feel like a lifetime ago or does it feel like if it was yesterday? Have you changed much or not at all? Has your life? How about 2 years ago? How about 4? If you have kids, do you remember how big they were two years ago and feel like they are so much bigger now than they should be?

Time will pass, no matter what you do. How much do you have to show for it?

I ask these questions because every time I tell someone they should pick up a new hobby, learn a new skill, going back to school, or making a lifestyle change; their immediate reaction is usually “I’m too old to start now” as if we only have a limited amount of years for self-betterment.

I know that as we grow older, we are less likely to deal with becoming a novice again, the notion of realizing just how little we know, how much work we need, and just how much help we require. But that’s the beauty of time, it passes whether you want it to pass or not. How long does it take to learn a new skill? A week? A month? A year? If that time will pass anyway, are you willing to put up with being a beginner for a short period of your life, one that will pass anyway, to become more?

The other typical excuse is just how hectic our lives are. Let’s assume that you would take up a hobby, is your schedule so packed and complicated that you can’t take a couple of hours off a week to go to class? How long is your commute? Instead of listening to random babble on the radio, you could take that time to put on a conversational language lessons. Instead of dozing off in the metro, you could read a book on the topic of your interest. Your day’s full, wake up an hour earlier and practice before your usual chaotic life starts. Instead of cooking any old thing, add in half an hour to the prep time and try out a new recipe. Get on that treadmill or work out while watching TV, or simply turn off the TV for a bit. The reality is that forcing yourself to take a break for a couple of hours a week from your usual rat-race will actually help you perform better in your daily routine.

Instead of thinking about the time it will take, which often seems daunting, consider how long it took. Waiting a week often seems like a long wait, yet last week doesn’t seem that far off. Start considering time in the past sense instead of the future sense. Just think how far into that exercise regimen you would be if you started last Monday instead of waiting till next Monday. Consider how skilled you would already be if you registered for that class last semester instead of putting it off till the next one.

The reality is that you are never too old to learn or too busy to take time for yourself. It’s all about priorities. If your priority is to feel old, then yes, you are too old to learn. If your priority is to feel busy, then yes, you are too busy. But if your priority is to grow as a man, then neither age nor time will never be a barrier.

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