All You Need To Change Your Life Is One Idea

It will probably come to you when you least expect it

Enjoying a meal in Cambodia. Me on the left, Kether on the right. Photo credit: AngkorHub.

“Kether, what do you think of learning three new skills alongside me this month?”, I asked my friend who was also living in Cambodia at the time.

“Not for me,” he said bluntly.

“Well, suit yourself,” I thought to myself.

I was sure it would have been something he’d be into. After all, we both enjoyed learning new things, so why not do it together? That was my thinking. But he didn’t feel like doing it, so I decided not to let that stop me.

I would give it a try without him.

It was a hot and humid October day in Cambodia. I had been living there for two months at that point. It was 2017, and I was in the early days of my nomadic journey. I was apart from my wife for six months and had nothing else to do but explore the world and work on my business.

Up until that point, it had mostly been the latter. I was working 14 hours a day, six to seven days a week. Apart from going out to dinner, I wasn’t doing much else. But I loved it. I was living for free at a friend’s place and I was working full-time on my business. What else could I need?

The only issue was that I had been working on the same project for four years. It felt like I wasn’t learning anything new anymore. I hated the stagnation. That’s how my idea of learning three new skills for the month came to be. I simply had to try different things.

And I did.

The day after my brief discussion with Kether, I started brainstorming which skills I should try to learn. I decided to slash two hours off my work to focus on learning and working out. That gave me 30 minutes to practice each skill daily.

The month before, I had tried mediation with another friend living there. I failed miserably and quit. But this time was different. I was determined to push through no matter what. For my first skill, I decided to try to learn something I never thought I could do: drawing.

In addition, I picked “Categorization using Machine Learning” and “Spanish for the workplace”. All very different skills. I thought this would keep things interesting.

I started waking up every day at 5 am without fail. First, I’d work out from the co-working space downstairs. At 5:30 am, I’d start drawing, following tutorials online. Then I’d jump on categorization and Spanish. I had breakfast at 7:00 and started my workday at 7:30 am. Only two people from the co-working space were awake by that point, but I had already accomplished so much.

When I first starting drawing, the results were bad. Really bad.

But that was to be expected of a software engineer by trade. I didn’t mind it. I was learning. Every day was a small win for me. After eight days, I already started feeling impressed by my results.

That was it. Eight days was all it took to shatter my belief that there were things I couldn’t do. And that was just by practicing the same skill consistently. My motivation was through the roof for all the three skills I was learning — but also, for my work.

I finished the month with the greatest amount of energy I ever had. That new habit was the start of a new life. I craved learning more and more, and so I decided to continue the habit for at least another month.

Fast-forward three years, and I still do it.

In those three years, I’ve learned over 80 skills. Some of them I now use daily, like writing in English (my first language is French). I became good enough in a few skills for others to start calling me a polymath. Think that I didn’t even know what the word meant at the time!

The idea I shared with Kether changed my life in more ways than I could ever imagine. By doing so many new things, I raised my confidence. I also got a lot more topics to talk about with other people. No longer could I only have good conversations with software engineers. Suddenly, I could talk about anything to anyone.

I never planned for this to happen. Yet, there was something I did differently from others: I was ready to embrace change and get out of my comfort zone. Kether is a kickass designer and web developer, and he’s also great at many other things. But I feel like he dismissed a good idea too quickly.

Learning three new skills in one month is a lot of work. Some may consider it a distraction. But really, most people, are just too lazy to do it. Why start something from scratch again when you’ve worked so hard to get where you are?

In my book, that’s exactly why you need to pivot. Life is too short for being good only at a select few things.

People use learning as a means to get something. I’d argue it’s not the right approach. Learning is the end, not the other way around. It’s also a lot more enjoyable when you learn for the sake of learning. If I could, I’d learn for a living. That would be a dream job for me.

Life is fun when you grow, not when you stagnate. Learning three new skills every month is ambitious, but I wouldn’t have it any other way anymore. The more I learn, the better I perform in everything I do. It’s the one thing you can never waste time with.

You simply keep gaining.

Learning three new skills every month is the one idea that changed my life. You might not feel the same way about it. But I’m sure you’ve experienced moments in your life where you had one idea that changed your perspective on things.

You can trace a line back to that moment and say: “This was my life before, and this is how it looks now.”

Most of the time, you don’t plan for this to happen — it just does. That doesn't mean you should just sit around and wait for your breakthrough. You have to do things and make decisions.

That October day in Cambodia, I chose to take action on my learning. Kether didn’t.

What decisions are you not making?

What actions are you not taking?

You can’t choose what will change your life — but you can fabricate your luck through the actions you take. Life will happen out of your control, and you know what? That’s exactly what makes it interesting.

You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. That’s what I call exciting. Embrace it. You don’t live long enough not to.

— Danny

At Big Self School, we believe that outer impact starts with inner growth. To start living from the inside out, download our free checklist 7 Soul Needs You Must Meet To Avoid Burnout.

dannyforest.com <- my new home. I don’t write on Medium anymore.

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