Lifelong Learning

I want to learn how to draw, but  I have absolutely zero artistic aptitude.  For example,  I would like to be able to look at something (for example a tree) and be able to produce a reasonable facsimile of a that, rather then my current child’s drawing that could possibly be a tree or an elephant or some other unknown object (Hint:I am not a good partner to have playing Pictionary).

I am also a bit of a fantasy-book nerd and get envious when people can read a book and draw a character based on what they read (I realize this is weird, but this is something interesting that totally defeats me).  Drawing and art is the exact opposite of everything I do in the rest of my life, which generally involves a lot of numbers and analysis and might be the reason why I want to learn how to do it, to get out of my comfort zone.

I was speaking with my brother last week who has a seasonal job, which generally involves him being laid off for 2-3 months of the year.  He was talking about finding another career that would involve more steady hours, rather then 60 – 80 hour weeks in the summer and minimal work in the winter.  With that in mind I came up with a couple of careers/trades that I would probably do if I wasn’t working where I was beyond my new interest in art.  The added benefit of these jobs are that the skills could be applied to my own life, which would save me significant dollars.

1.) Auto Mechanic: I spend between $2,000-$4,000 per year on car repairs, probably half of that is labour.  If I were to take a few courses or learn how to fix my own car, I could probably save at least $1,000 per year by doing the work myself.  If I were to drive for 30-40 years, that works out to a lot of money.  I realize that this is a very skilled trade and requires some specialty tools, but even if I could learn to fix my car some of the time it would save me money and fill up some of my days when I retire early.

2.) Finishing Carpenter: Having just bought a house, I have muddled through several home improvement projects (mainly by viewing You Tube videos).  Yet I can honestly say I really have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.  A lot of the skills learned in this job could be used around my own house, which could both save money on hiring as well as add value to the home through better craftsmanship.

There are probably other similar skills I could learn, but these are the ones I could come up with and are most applicable to my life right now.

Since I graduated from University seven years ago, I have continually taken at least three courses per year from Universities or Professional organizations.  To me, the alternative to learning would be playing video games or watching television.  I could get involved in a less structured learning environment (through self-teaching), but my workplace pays for me to take courses that are work applicable and at this stage in my career.  My intention is to gain skills that I don’t already have in order to allow for greater employ-ability from both internal and external job postings in my field.

How about you, do you have any skills you wish you had, or have learned as an adult that you wished you would have had earlier in life?

12 thoughts on “Lifelong Learning”

  1. I agree with you on the value of taking classes. All of the skills I wish I had are athletically-based. I wish I was a better tennis and squash player, had kept playing basketball and (field) hockey when I left high school, etc. I think this is a function of spending most of my time sitting at a desk in an office. I do work out and play tennis in the summer but there never seems to be enough hours in the week. Honestly nothing career related appeals to me in a take-a-night-course sort of way at the moment, I’ve done too much of that in the last decade.

  2. « To me, the alternative to learning would be playing video games or watching television. »

    Considering the low quality of the most programs on air, and the «XBox Live addiction syndrom»… yeah I do really prefer investing my time in classes!

    I am currently studying (part time) to get my master degree. Much better investment than a TV or videogames. Those will never get me a better job or higher income 😉 as they will certainly help my brain cells to die faster lol! Personnally I prefer to keep my brain in good shape hi hi!

  3. I enjoy learning and taking classes. I seem to learn more in a classroom environment versus online training. I gain a lot hearing the experiences of other people. I would love to job shadow some different careers I always thought I would do well at – i.e. financial planner or chef.

  4. At the moment I’m focused on just catching up on the financial knowledge I need to make the career switch to accountant. I think that financial knowledge will help me a great deal with my finances.

    Do you think it’s time for a new car? Your average of 3000 per year or $250/month could probably get you a 2 year old domestic with very little maintenance required. After it’s paid off you’d have a huge savings.

    I just wrote a posting on this and plan to buy a 2 year old domestic and keep it for about 8 years (or it gets more expensive then replacing it. Sounds like you reached that point.

    Just my 2 cents though.

  5. I’ve been into drawing for years…on and off. Now that I am retired I have more time for it.

    We all have a natural ability to draw. Look for “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” in your local library. It will show you yours.

  6. I’ve also been very envious when I’ve seen what people are able to draw, but have learned to accept that I’m mediocre and that’s the way it is.

    Instead I’d like to learn to speak with a variety of accents. I think it would be a great skill to have for making jokes and general social interactions.

    I’m also very interested in continued learning but haven’t got spare time for classes. Instead I’ve turned to audiobooks & podcasts. While working or doing other things I’m often able to also listen and learn tons of new and interesting ideas. Besides books from audible or bittorrent you can listen to great instructors from Apple’s “iTunes U”, The Teaching Company.

    I’m actually an audiobook junkie, I’ve listened to over 300 books now. I can’t get to sleep very easily without my ear buds and an audiobook.

  7. @ guinness416 – I can relate to being burned out on career-related courses, I don’t mind them, but at the same time there’s only so much of one thing you can learn – I figure learning something more manual (like how to fix my car) would be interesting and useful.

    @ Mama Zen – I try to control my Xbox Live addiction, but there are some game-fuelled weekends that are just lost. Good luck on your Masters!

    @ Steve Zussino – I’m not sure how some places would be, but I might approach a few businesses to “job-shadow” – I can’t really see a downside to the employer, especially if you do it for free just to learn.

    @Financial Student – A lot of the repairs are sort of general maintenance on the car, but some are just things wearing out. For example, last year my major expenses were:

    Front brake rotors and pads ~500 (have to do this about once every 18 months or so)
    Front Struts ~ 900 (Need replaced ~ every 120,000 km)
    A/C Line ~ $500 (I’m guessing this is due to age)

    None of these seem worthwhile to replace the whole car (These plus general maintenance). Although the expenses are higher, my current car is essentially fully depreciated. If I purchased a new/newer car, it would work out approximately the same if depreciation was included into the cost of the car.

    @ Canadian Money – I hope I have some natural ability in there somewhere, I will look for the book. Thanks!

    @Jordan – I’d never really thought about accents, but that would be a very unique skill that most people wouldn’t think of having.

    I’m right there with you listening to audiobooks. I work in a loud office (lots of people on phones). I find it easier to concentrate on my work listening to books then listening to other people’s conversations. I also listen to several podcasts (Adam Carolla, Keith and The Girl, This American Life are a few I would recommend for humour and general interest)

  8. @Canadian Money

    I agree 🙂

    @ Jordan

    Perhaps you should try to understand your «right side of your brain», maybe it’s starving to expresse itselfs but doesn’t know how yet… 😉 when I get feeling that I have no artistic side and have a particular talent getting and maintaining axious feelings, I get back to this humoristic video:

    keep smilin’!

  9. @Dave

    If you’re not planning on selling your car then I wouldn’t include depreciation into the cost. It’s a false savings.

    My car is 8 years old and is just starting to show signs of age. My maintenance savings every month is $60. Last year I had to replace the shocks and struts which like you said is part of the required maintenance.

    This year is the first year I spent really money on it to re-build the transmission, replace the clutch, and front brakes. If I had to do this every year it would be time for the car to go.

    So I’m assuming you’re over-stating your costs to make your learn to be a mechanic point.

    I plan on paying cash for every new vehicle after the next. For less than $140/month I could by a 2 year old domestic every 8 years. So when your costs exceed that it’s time to move on.

  10. @Dave

    I work at home and have a 5 & 3 year old running around me playing and screaming while I work so I imagine that’s pretty similar to your co-workers 🙂

    I’ll checkout those podcasts.

    This American Life is great, NPR also has Planet Money which is a little short but also really good. TEDTalks (video) is absolutely amazing. It’s also handy to listen to the global news going on without having to sit through the commercials.

  11. @Dave
    Thanks! 🙂 don’t worry about Xbox week ends… as long as they don’t become Xbox everyweek end! 🙂

    @Financial Student
    according to your estimations, my car is due since a big year now… :S but I am not ready to buy another one!!! Last year and this year, it cost us about 3000$… on 12 months, it represents 250$ per month of maintenance and repair. Well… thanks I’ll have to seriously discuss this with my husband.

  12. A simple ways to see a demonstration of one’s natural ability to draw (the main lesson in the book)…

    Find a photo of something in a magazine or newspaper such as a person, animal, bird etc. Don’t look at it too much. Turn the picture upside down and draw it while it is upside down.

    This technique “fools the left side of the brain”. While the photo is upside down… the mathematical, logical and critical left side of the brain can no longer recognize what you are seeing.

    After making your sketch turn the picture back right side up and compare to your sketch.

    You can do this simple self-test during a coffee break (s) or during TV commercials.

    Pen or pencil and any paper that is handy.

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