A safe investment for uncertain times (1/3) : Knowledge and Skills

This is the first of three posts on ways to invest in yourself during these difficult and uncertain times. The list is short and sweet:

  1. Invest in your knowledge and skills.
  2. Invest in your health and well-being.
  3. Invest in your family and friends.

These are not listed in order of importance, only in the order that the posts will appear. I don’t know which of these will be most important for you (or which has been most neglected), but I believe that all three are more important than anything else that could be added to the list. For that reason, I strongly recommend you invest some time and energy into all three whenever you can, and be sure that these three areas are taken care of before stretching your resources in any other direction.

For this post we’ll focus on the first item on the list:

Invest in your knowledge and skills.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Benjamin Franklin

If you’re work has been affected by the health crisis, and you’ve found yourself with some extra time in your day as a result, consider ways you could be investing this time to develop new skills or brush up on existing ones. Whether your main objective is to be more competitive in your existing role, explore new work opportunities, or just for personal enjoyment, time spent acquiring knowledge and skills is never wasted.

One of the first and most obvious reasons people reach for new skills – especially when they’re out of work – is to gain an advantage in the workplace. It’s definitely not a bad place to start. As you are probably aware, when this global health crisis blows over, we’ll likely be trading it for a global economic crisis. That’s the bad news. The good news is, you know it’s coming. That means you can start today to develop whatever skills you need to be maximally competitive in your field. The more value you bring to the table, the better for you.

Given the shifts taking place in the way people are doing business right now, you may want to consider not just skills related to the services you can provide, but also skills related to the ways that you provide those services.

Is it possible for you to provide services remotely? Would you know where to start? If you haven’t started yet, now is the perfect time to look into alternative ways of doing business, and brainstorm new types of services you can offer given the current environment. In particular, you may want to look at familiarizing yourself with the latest tools and techniques available for providing services remotely. These skills are becoming more valuable by the day.

While it’s true that some jobs are more naturally suited to remote work than others, it’s amazing the kind of creative solutions you can come up when your back is really against the wall. Even industries that rely heavily on personal interaction, even close contact (e.g. personal trainers), are finding new ways to bring value to their customers remotely.

But what if you don’t even like your job? Well, having a forced reset may be just what you needed to launch yourself in a new direction. If you’re going to be spending time investing in knowledge and skills anyways, invest in skills you’d like to use. They don’t need to be related to the field you used to work in. What about the field you’ve always wanted to work in? Whichever direction you want to move your career, adding more knowledge and skills will be vital to your success.

However, advancing your career isn’t the only reason to learn new things. You can also work on skills just for the hell of it! Having a hobby you can escape to is a great way to relieve some stress – and let’s face it, we’re all looking for ways to decompress and stay sane right now.

Got an instrument collecting dust in the house? Pick it up! Want to learn a new language just because you like the sound of it? Go for it! Same goes for any other hobby or activity you’ve set aside for lack of time. You’ve got the time now, so invest it in something that makes you happy. You’ll be healthier for it

If you’ve been stressed about the current isolation measures and the ways they are affecting your life, try to focus as much as you can on the positive ways you’re able to invest this time. I’m not suggesting you simply “look at the bright side”, and neither am I trying to downplay the severity of your situation, as some people have certainly been hit worse than others.

What I am saying is that there is little you can do to change the situation in the outside world, but there may still be a lot you can do to change your personal situation for the better. This storm will pass when it passes. In the meantime, you can choose to wait impatiently or to work productively. I know which one I’m choosing.

In times of crisis and change there are always opportunities to be found. Having extra time on your hands is not necessarily a bad thing. It could well be the best thing to ever happen to you – if you choose to spend it wisely, that is. Invest in knowledge and skills and you won’t regret it.

The next post will focus on ways to invest in your health and well-being.

Until then, happy learning!

// Have you been using this time to learn something new? Please share in the comments – you may inspire someone else to follow your lead!

Finding the good in a bad situation is often as simple as looking for it.

If there’s one thing that the current pandemic has made very clear, it’s this:
There are some things we just can’t control.

That’s a hard fact. No one can wish away a virus anymore than they can wish away a raincloud.

However, that doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless, or that there’s nothing to be done.
Here’s why:
There are some things we can control.

Among these, one of the most powerful is your control over how you choose to interpret any given situation and it’s meaning for you (past or present). You’d be surprised how easily you can find useful lessons and even unexpected opportunities in an otherwise “bad” situation just as soon as you try to see things from a more positive and productive angle. Those are the things to focus on. Especially in uncertain times like these.

“There are things I can’t force. I must adjust. There are times when the greatest change needed is a change of my viewpoint.”

– Denis Diderot

If you’ve been feeling stressed about the situation in the world today, know this:
Your stresses are valid, but they are not the full picture.

Somewhere within the same “negative” situation that causes you stress there are surely positives too, if you know where to look. Focus on those. This is not to deny the existence of any negative aspects in your situation. It’s merely a choice to focus your attention in ways that are healthier for you, and more beneficial. Not only are you likely to feel a lot better, but you may even discover opportunities you hadn’t considered.

Finding the good in a bad situation is often as simple as looking for it.
You may not always think it will make a difference, but sometimes it will make all the difference.

Try it and see.

// What ways have you been able to find the positive in a bad situation? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for something fun to do with your kids? Learn something together!

One of the most fun and interesting ways that you can spend time with someone is to take on a challenge together. When it comes to learning and personal development projects, we often naturally enlist our friends, coworkers or life partners to take up a challenge with us, but what about our kids?

Taking on a learning challenge with your child is more than just an excellent way to learn something new. It is also an opportunity to establish a love of learning in your child and help them develop healthy learning practices through your example. Besides all that, it’s really just a fun way to spend more time together. What more could you want?

Here are a few ways that you can incorporate a little learning into your family time.

  1. Be their teacher.
    If your child shows an interest in one of your hobbies or skills – that’s great! You’ve got a perfect opportunity to bond over something you’re already passionate about.

    Beyond teaching them the basics, you will be showing your child the joy that a skill can bring to their life, and what can be achieved with consistency and focus. These lessons will set a strong foundation for their attitude toward learning and skill acquisition later in life, whether they keep up the current practice or not.

    Knowing this, you’ll want to be sure to set a good example and practice what you preach. You may find yourself naturally fixing old habits, and making a point of squeezing in a little extra practice time of your own here and there. Don’t be surprised when your own skill improves as a result.

  2. Be their student
    If your child is invested in a skill or activity that you have little or no knowledge about, let them be the one to introduce you to it.

    You’ll get to learn something new, but even more importantly, you’ll gain valuable insight into your child’s life and what’s important to them. After all, the more you know about your child’s interests, the more deeply you can engage with them over those things. The more ability you gain in the activities they enjoy, the more actively you can participate and practice together, even challenge each other.

    Your child will benefit from playing the teacher too (and not just from the extra time they get to spend with you). The act of teaching itself is a powerful and reliable way to deepen one’s knowledge of a subject (known as the Protégé Effect). So, you can help your child to improve their understanding and skill simply by being there and providing them the opportunity to share what they know. It’s a perfect win-win.

  3. Be their learning partner.
    Whether it’s learning to paint, play guitar, or walk on your hands, if you and your child share a common interest in a new skill, you’ve got a fantastic opportunity to team up and learn it together.

    Not only will you have fun learning the new skill, but you will likely learn a lot about the learning process itself as you go. Adults and children have their own unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning, so we can learn a lot from each other by working together.

    Adults are typically more strategic in our practice. We’re better at analyzing new skills and coming up with action plans for learning them. Our downfall, however, is that we frequently suffer from unrealistic expectations, putting too much pressure on ourselves to be skilled right away. This can make our practice time stressful and frustrating, rather than enjoyable, which too often results in adult learners quitting before they ever get out of the beginner phase (perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself).

    Children, on the other hand, are usually better at accepting that they are beginners. They take more pride and satisfaction in small improvements during the early phases, and find their practice more enjoyable and motivating as a result. However, left to themselves, children tend to struggle with a lack of direction. They are less organized and systematic in their approach to skill-building than older learners are, and usually less disciplined about performing activities that aren’t immediately gratifying (hence the need for structured coaching).

    Working as a team, you can better pool your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. As the adult, you can be a model of discipline, consistency, and perseverance. You’ll be the one to teach your child about establishing good habits and creating an organized practice routine. Meanwhile, your child can take on the important role of keeping things light and fun, inspiring you to find opportunities for enjoyment in every lesson. Notice in particular the genuine pride your child feels with each milestone they pass, and let their satisfaction rub off on you. Finding joy in the process is a child’s secret weapon when it comes to learning, and one of the many great lessons they can teach us, adults.

    Whatever skill you decide to take on as a team, the time you spend together will be the real reward. Still, it doesn’t hurt to come out of it with a fresh new skill, and valuable insights into the learning process too.

Our ability to learn is one of the greatest gifts we have in this world, and it is also one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children. When you spend time engaged in learning with your child, whether in the role of teacher, student, or learning partner, you are also helping to establish a love of learning in your child, which will open countless doors for them in the future. I can’t think of a better gift to give to someone you love or a better way to spend time with them.

I hope this post will inspire you to incorporate more learning with your child into your everyday life. Find opportunities to be their teacher, their student, and their partner in learning, and watch as both your lives are enriched.

Happy learning – Always!

// How do you learn with your kids? Please share your ideas/stories in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

So much to learn. So little time. So what now?

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”

– Chinese Proverb

There’s something truly magical about finally unlocking a new concept or skill, and being able to use it for the very first time. Or finding yourself blissfuly lost and absorbed in the practice of a skill you once only dreamed of possessing.

It’s one of the greatest joys in the world, if you ask me.
It’s just a shame there isn’t time to do it all…

I don’t want to have to give up learning a language to make time for exercise…
or drop my training routine to make time to study music…
or give up on music to make time for my work…
or sacrifice time spent with friends and family for any of it!

Sound like a familiar problem?

What do you do when your curiosity and passion for learning are endless, but your time and resources are not?

If I knew the answer to that question, I’d be one happy man. Alas… I do not.

Not yet, anyways.

So, my temporary answer is to create this blog, a place where I can share with you my thoughts on learning and lifestyle design, as well as useful techniques and resources I come across in my quest to answer once and for all: How best to live a balanced, healthy and productive life, while still being free to pursue your passions, whichever direction they may pull.

Therefore, MuchToLearn.Life is more than a blog about learning better; It’s about living better.

More specifically, it’s about living in a way that both supports and is enriched by continuous growth and development, while maintaining a healthy balance between living in the now and striving for the future.

It’s a lofty goal. I know.

So, where does a guy start?

Well, as Lao Tzu once put it so well, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

So I’ll start with step one.

Step one: Post.

See you on the other side.