The Learn a New Skill Fast Challenge

A childhood friend of mine once called me a “jack of all trades and master of none.”  I said, thank you.  He said it wasn’t a compliment. I wish I had known the term renaissance man (a person of many talents and areas of knowledge) at the time.  I could have come back with that as a defense.  But at the time I had no reply.  Guy stuff, he won that round.

As it turns out, he was right on.  Nothing is more exciting to me that learning new skills.  But once I have, I get bored and am ready to move on to something else.  Therefore, I never master any of them.  Wait, except for maybe one … learning new skills quickly.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become world-class in any field.  Working 40 hour weeks, that is close to 5 years of dedication to a particular field of study, or 20 hours a week for ten years if you are in no hurry.  I’ll bet I’ve done 5 hours a week for 40 years of learning new skills, that math works too.

Anyway, I am always at my happiest when I have learned and am able to demonstrate a new skill.  There is just nothing like the feeling of accepting and successfully completing a difficult challenge.  Proving to yourself that you can do something that you had your doubts about will make you happy too.

In fact, whenever I am feeling a little down I choose to learn a new fun, interesting, and challenging skill.  It takes my mind off of whatever is troubling me, and serves to restore my confidence that I can overcome any obstacle.  It will work for you too.

I actually believe that the ability to learn new things quickly is an essential life skill.  It helps you to build your courage to try new things, your confidence as you experience success, and your ability to become your best and share your best with others in order to make the world a better place.

So without further ado, I hereby challenge you to learn a new skill … this week.  I’ll give you my simple formula for success below.  Oh, and good news, it will only take you one hour a day or less.  Can you spare 7 hours this week to learn a new skill that you can use for a lifetime? Yes you can:-)

I’ll give you the basics below, four simple steps.  It occurred to me during this writing that I have enough information on this topic to create another book.  But then I thought, why not learn how to do something you haven’t done before? So I have decided to develop a comprehensive on-line course instead.  I’ll let you know when it’s available and provide it to you free of charge for being such dedicated readers.  Thank you for that by the way:-)

Okay, here we go. You can do it!

Step 1 – Know Your What, Why, and Goal

Decide what skill you want to acquire, why you want it, and specifically what you will be able to do in order to declare success.

For purposes of this challenge I’m going to give you your why:  To provide a fun distraction during this strange time in history.  As long as so many of us are self-isolating to avoid the virus, we might as well put the extra time to good use.

The what you are going to learn is up to you.  I suggest it be something that you have wanted to do for a long time, but that you never felt you had the time for.  Something that you might not think is important, but you know would be fun to know how to do.

Choose something that will amaze your family and friends.  Something that you have seen others do and thought, “wow, that’s cool, I wish I could do that.”  Like juggling, twirling a pen, or a fancy dance step like the moon walk.  Or maybe you already play an instrument and you want to learn a new song.  Or enhance your skills with a ball or racket. Learn a card trick or fancy shuffling.  Choose something you know will make you smile when you succeed:-)

Take a few moments to brainstorm a list of skills you would like to have.  Now choose one that you think is possible to learn in a week.  It should be challenging but not impossible.  And you should be able to do it on your own and have ready access to the equipment and supplies required.

Now set a specific goal.  Define what you will call success.  Like, I will spin a basketball on my finger for 10 seconds, or juggle three balls twice through the rotation without a drop.  Make your goal a double D, difficult but doable.

Moving on … steps 2, 3, and 4 all start with the letter P to make them easy to remember: Probe, Practice, and Play.  Taken together I call them the Tricycle system since there are three steps which are designed to be cycled through as needed until you successfully accomplish your goal.  Plus, anyone can learn to ride a tricycle quickly, as can anyone learn a new skill fast.

If you have the Playground Heaven book you can read more about the system in Chapter 15.

Step 2 – Probe

Start with an internet search of “how to fill-in the blank with your desired skill.” Take a Goldilocks “just right” approach to this step. Learn enough to understand the basics, but not so much that you become overwhelmed.  Learn to the point of feeling, “I can do this” and stop before you get to, “Wow, this is way harder than I thought it would be.”

I suggest browsing first and then honing in on a few articles and videos that you can easily relate to.  Make sure they break down the skill into its basic steps.  There are usually a few key steps to being able to acquire a skill.  Knowing those critical few will accelerate your ability to succeed.

Personally, I go to YouTube first.  I am so thankful for all the people that take the time to share their skills and know-how with the world.  I learn the fastest by listening to advice and seeing a demonstration of the skill from others who have already succeeded.  If I need more detail I then move on to reading articles or books.

Step 3 – Practice

Practice makes perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.  Practice makes progress.  Common locker room signs.  I like the last one best for our purposes.  We are not going for perfect. Our goal is progress, gradual improvement, getting better every day until we achieve our goal.

First, make a plan.  What are you going to practice?  When?  Where?  How, and for how long? And Goldilocks again, not too little or too much.  I prefer brief and frequent practices to long extended sessions.  My advice, do whatever you are in the mood for at the time.

Next, make it easy and convenient to practice.  Whatever skill you have chosen to learn probably requires a physical object of some sort.  Place that object in a place where you will see it often.  Move it around with you.  Always have it nearby.

I recently learned how to spin a basketball.  I made sure the ball was always close at hand.  Whenever I had a moment with nothing better to do, I would give it a try.  Little by little I made progress.  Then as I got closer to the goal, my practice time increased.

Do what works for you.  Just make sure you are consistently practicing and making progress.  If you need more instruction, go back to probe for a while.  You may need other sources of information based on your practice experience.

Bottom-line, get started.  Take it slow, step-by-step.  Be prepared to fail.  Every failure is one step closer to success.  Be patient.  Repetition is key.  Keep tying.  Push through frustration.  Take breaks and come back later to surprising new abilities. And never ever give up.

Step 4 – Play

When you are feeling ready, demonstrate your new skill to someone else.  Play to an audience.  Even if you have not yet completely reached your goal.  Share you progress with others.

Knowing that you will eventually have an audience helps with your practice motivation.  You don’t want to hoard your talent like your toilet paper, do you?  Of course not, you want to share it with the world.

Here’s another good play option if you are not feeling ready for a live audience; video record yourself attempting your new skill.  It is so easy nowadays with our fancy phones.  Viewing a recording is a great way to get a reality check of where you are with your new skill development.  You will likely recognize ways in which you can improve quickly.

Finally, go back to probe and practice as needed until you are ready for prime-time.  When the time is right, record yourself again and share it on social media.  Challenge others to learn something new as well.  You can share this article to help them out if you’d like.

Okay, go!  Have fun, and share your new skill with the Playground Heaven Living Facebook Group when you’re ready.  If you aren’t already a member of the group, please join us.  All you have to do is request to join here.

Live Happy, Scott

3 Comments on “The Learn a New Skill Fast Challenge

  1. I have only read the first two paragraphs of your new post today. I immediately looked for and found several paragraphs I wrote about your grandmother Annable. My folks both took classes from the Des Moines Public Schools adult education offerings. For Dad I remember him taking conversational Spanish. He took several semesters of it. He also took instrumental music classes (like a small band) after he no longer could play in the Moose Band.

    Mom mostly took classes in crafts of one kind or another. The one I remember best was one to make a Christmas Tree. The tree was made with two glass triangles with a slit cut in one to slide the other to create a stylistic tree. Then the glass pieces were stood upright in a polystyrene base and decorated with sequins glued onto the glass. When finished, this was added to our traditional Christmas decorations for many years. She also took a class in making Christmas Tree Balls. Once I asked her why she didn’t make more glass trees or more balls. She replied, “Well, now I know how to do that. I’d rather try something new.”


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Scott…our killin me…I am still working on your last book challenge….TO BECOME A SAINT…it is taking a lifetime…no time to learn how to juggle sir! The end is gaining on me!

    Liked by 1 person

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