Learn Something Outside of Your Main Focus

A good friend of mine who currently works as a licensed contractor renovating homes for a respectable income told me the other day how she got to where she is today. And let me say, the story is eye-opening.

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After finishing high school, she said, she went straight into working for her friend’s uncle who owned a cleaning business. One of the clients she worked for asked if she painted houses too to which she replied yes — even though she was not an expert at the time, she knew she could pick up the skill fairly quickly. For a while she both painted and cleaned houses until her parents approached her with the idea of putting their house through a full-scale renovation project — renovating everything from the bathrooms to the kitchen to the basement to even the front porch. What choice did she really have in the matter then?

Of course, she obediently answered yes, all the while not knowing how the project would actually benefit her in the long run. From the start of the project, her parents had envisioned it being a collective, family, do-it-yourself effort in which she and her family did most of the renovating work. From time to time they had contract workers come in and do some of the heavy lifting such as replacing the drywall or installing tiles and hardwood floors in the place of dusty carpets. When the contractors were in interestingly enough, they took notice of my friend’s solid work ethic — finishing each task with immaculate attention to detail. One of the contractors was amazed at her work and wanted to know more about her professional training and work experience.

Once he learned that she gained most of her experience with renovation by working on the family renovation project, he knew right away she would need professional training to even be considered as a contractor at his firm. He gave her his card and told her to keep in touch in the future. Running the idea by her parents and bouncing it in her own mind at length, she decided to go for it — she applied for a construction management program at her local college, got accepted and finished the degree in two years. Still working her usual two jobs to pay the college tuition and working with her family on the renovation project, she contacted the contractor interested in her work two years before and presented him and his employer with her new college diploma in construction management. She was hired on about a week after her interview and has been working there for two and a half years now.

My friend’s rags to drill bits story, although fascinating, can teach us something about learning. Learning something that has nothing to do with your main focus, or at least is outside of it, may serve you in life in more ways than one. For my friend, it was her family’s renovation project that turned out to be a blessing in disguise as a burden since she was able to find something that she not only enjoyed doing, but was very good at as well. I have always been a firm believer in the fact that whatever you learn in life will have some sort of benefit to you whether in the near future in two days or two hours or the long-term future in two years or even two decades. Learning skills are like data files: they can be stored for a long-time in one “folder” of your life, but can easily be imported into a new one to change its overall functionality.

My challenge for you today is to take up a skill that you have wanted to learn for a while that has no “apparent” value to your goals in life and simply enjoy learning it. Make it your little goal to learn this skill. Maybe it won’t have some practical application in your life today, tomorrow, but maybe a year from now you’ll be laughing and smiling at a new job, or with a new partner, or simply from just recalling the time you decided to take karate lessons at the local dojo.

Do yourself a favour and take up a skill that is outside your main focus; it may end up being a new focus in your life or simply a fond memory in your mind.

To learn more about me, Elizabeth Ivanecky, you can check out my Twitter page or Linkedin to connect with me there.