Can you teach an old dog, new tricks?

Photograph: Galymzhan Abdugalimov

Self-education is something I know well. As someone who left school at the ripe old age of 15 I pretty much had to teach myself most everything I know that got me through my career and other parts of life.

Aside from an advertising course I did that was only for two nights per week over three months, and a one-year recording studio audio engineering course, which only required my attendance one morning and one evening a week, my creative and business education was pretty much up to me.

I believe we can all teach ourselves new things quite easily, either on our own or with a little help from others and also online.

Better still you can teach yourself new things slowly, by taking just a little time out of your day.

Just say you want to learn guitar. If you teach yourself one chord every day of the year you will know 365 chords by year’s end…that’s more than the Sex Pistols ever knew, and many other bands for that matter.

Want to read more? Then start with just one page or preferably one chapter a day. It won’t take long.

Want to be a better cook? Then start cooking. There are enough cooking shows on TV and online to get some tips. You will learn from your mistakes pretty fast.

Want to learn to surf? Then get in the water. With a little perseverance you will be up and riding in no time.

Want to learn a language? Then start learning basic phrases; you can use Google translate which gives you the audio translation.

Want to learn how to write poetry? Then start writing. Carry around a notebook and write thoughts and ideas as you have them. You could even self-publish your own book and send it to friends, then you can add ‘Published Author’ to your resume.

A good friend of mine who is a professional musician decided to try his hand at film script writing just recently, he had never done it before, but he entered a competition and he won. Not bad for a first timer. You never know what you’ve got in you until you try.

He has inspired me to take on some new challenges myself, learn a mix of new things, from languages, to new musical instruments, new art styles, and more.

The key is to take that first step, the baby steps. Sure, you may look or feel awkward trying to master a new skill, but seriously…who cares?

It’s like that line from a well-used quote — Dance like nobody’s watching.

You have to start doing it if it’s going to happen at all, talking about it is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.

Nobody ever started out as an expert or a champion; they had to learn the skills first.

There are many resources these days that can help you, apart from the old school method of reading books on subjects.

There are endless tuition videos on YouTube, and there are sites such as Skillshare, Udemy, Lynda, and Creative Live to name but a few.

Whether it’s learning the oboe or taxidermy I am pretty sure you’ll find something or someone, somewhere to help you.

You may amaze yourself at what you can learn.

The same applies to creative thinking and idea generation, I truly believe everyone is creative; they just need to learn some new skills to develop that side of their brain and bring it out.

I went through a steep learning curve when I transitioned from music to advertising. Yes, both are creative industries and I was a creative soul from the beginning, but the kind of creativity needed for advertising was quite different to music.

Once I was introduced to lateral thinking techniques it help me navigate through a fog of ideas and find new ways of solving problems.

After a while I started to develop my own methods and techniques.

Eventually I was teaching them to others, helping them to find ways to turn their minds into idea generating machines.

I stopped teaching for many years, but I am now restarting that in a new way…stay tuned.

So if you really want to learn something new, do it. The only one stopping you is you. And don’t use age as an excuse; age is but a number. Want proof of that? Then take a look at this story.

That’s it for today; see you tomorrow.


P.S. If you are in New York and would like to attend a small talk I am moderating called ‘Where do ideas come from?’ on September 13 you can see the details here.

Rodd Chant is a Creative Director / Writer / Strategist and a bit more. He also teaches creativity to groups and individuals and makes a mean Thai red curry, or so he says. He also has a penchant for talking in the third person. You can read more of his LinkedIn musings here. You can also find him on Twitter and on Instagram. His official blog can be found here. Or drop him an email —