I love learning! It’s something that started young and never went away. I loved going to school too, but as an adult with bills to pay, going back to school isn’t always a realistic option, or a necessary one. Through the years I’ve studied English Literature and Multimedia at UBC (while on the Varsity Ski Team), started the Salmonbellies Women’s Lacrosse team, completely renovated our home, started a business, learned to paint in watercolor, opened my Etsy Shop, and now I’m starting to learn photography. I only had teachers in my university days, and since then I’ve applied a few key points to my process of learning new skills and teaching myself.
1. You don’t have to like it, but you have to try it.
My courage to try all things new stems from having a Mom who was a teacher, and fabulous cook. Starting early, my Mom had my brother and I cook one meal a week each. Because I really loved homemade mac and cheese, we couldn’t make the same meal more than once a month. She also put us through “Weird Wednesdays”, when she’d make whatever recipe was in the food section of the newspaper.
The rules where clear: You had to try it, every time.
If it was gross you could politely say, “Thanks Mom, but I don’t really care for this one” and make yourself a PB&J. There were some disasters and Mom would through everything in the garbage and called Pizza Hut, but there were a lot of gems too.
This weekly practice created two adults who are fearless when it comes new things, especially food. We know we can conquer any recipe or make something tasty on our own. And, because we began eating sushi in elementary school, by the time university-late-night all-you-can-eat-sushi-marathons came into play I was getting “ewws” at my love of sashimi and scallop rolls, while helping everyone else learn to use chopsticks.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my mom was teaching us to be courageous not just in the kitchen, but with everything in life. Thanks to her I know that trying new things is hard, not always comfortable, but it can be very rewarding (and yummy too!).
2. Re-creation is a process of discovery, not plagiarism.
If I hadn’t opened a little box of watercolor paints 2 years ago and tried to “re-create” a piece of work I couldn’t afford to buy, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog post. Some of you may have just gasped and thought “she’s a cheat and a plagiarist”, but I assure you I have never tried to pass one of these practice pieces off as my own work.
Re-creation, not plagiarism, is a way to practise getting better at something without a teacher. When I first became interested in painting, I spent time looking at the work of others, much like I had back in Art History at UBC. Instead of interpreting the political or social purpose, I examined color and technique. I choose work that inspired me and challenged myself to re-create those works, and in the process learned the skills to create my own work. Failing to mix the colours I expected taught me how to create others I hadn’t expected, and the discovery I experienced in this process was intoxicating. The re-creation process only made me more eager and excited to apply a combination of skills—learnt from the works of various artists—into my own work and to start to develop my own style.
3. Believe you already are who you want to be.
I think I heard that line on Oprah but it really struck a chord for me. I remember the beginning of university when I spoke up to all my high school friends and asked them to please call me Kait and not Kaitie moving forward. It might seem strange, but I was only Kaitie because there was another Kate in my elementary school class. I had a new opportunity to present myself as who I wanted to be. So I did. Everyone respected my wish, and I felt great. But then university ended and the question “who are you” became, “what do you do?” For lawyers and doctors it’s easy to know that exact moment they became a doctor or a lawyer. It wasn’t so easy for me. I had to force myself to say, “I’m an artist”. In fact, many of my friends referred to me that way before I’d even considered it. I thought I was missing some certification and would offend “real artists”. Then one day I realized, if I don’t say who I am, how will anyone else know? I had the power to present myself as the person I wanted to be, I just had to do it. I was scared, but I put myself out there and I felt great again.
4. Stick with it.
Starting new things isn’t always rainbows and lollipops. In reality it’s usually pretty hard work. So if you ever want to succeed, it’s importa
nt not to be a quitter. If you start something new, set a time line and see it through.
Whether it’s one new cookbook, one season of soccer, or one online business course, stick it out until the very end. No one likes a quitter and you won’t feel any better about yourself for giving up. You don’t have to sign up again, but you can walk away feeling good about yourself for following through.
The truth is not all new things work out, and that’s okay. If you put in a solid effort and it’s not a good fit at least it’s one thing off your bucket list and another story to tell at dinner.
5. The learning process never ends.
I love Morgan Freeman’s quote (and his voice):
“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”
We should always be pushing the limits of what we can do to making the most of the present.
Learning new skills isn’t just about finding new w
ays to make money, or more of it. It’s about constantly moving forward. Make the most of your time and make sure accomplishing something, even if it’s just a good time, is a priority.
Learning gives me a sense of self-worth that I don’t find too many other places. Through the process I achieve a sense of accomplishment and of hard-earned self-worth. These things keeps me positive. I suggest you give it a try!