Teach Yourself a Skill You’ve Always Wanted to Learn (184/365)

About two years ago, I decided that I wanted to learn how to play the piano. I didn’t do this for any other reason than personal enrichment.

Prior to that, I had never played a musical instrument in my life. I had no knowledge at all of musical theory. I couldn’t even read any sheet music.

These are skills I wanted to have, so I jumped in.

We had a keyboard in our basement that my wife had picked up at some point, so that became my teaching tool (I also used some pianos available for use in the community). I found lessons and sheet music online. All I needed was time and patience.

Teach Yourself a Skill You've Always Wanted to Learn (184/365)

Besides playing the piano, some of the skills I’ve worked on teaching myself over the last decade include French cooking, knitting, go, some car repair tasks, some home repair tasks, several computer programming languages, and attempts at learning French and Norwegian. I’m actually working on speed memorization as a skill at the moment.

Learning new skills is a great way to spend your time, for several reasons.

It’s usually inexpensive. You can learn to knit with a few needles and some yarn. Car repair and maintenance? You usually just need a few tools. Computer programming? You can learn a lot of languages with free software. Games like go and chess can be learned for free online, too.

What about instruction? YouTube offers an enormous array of videos that will teach you almost anything that you wish to learn.

It’s usually fun, particularly if it’s something you’ve always wanted to try. In each of these cases, I thoroughly enjoyed learning the skill. In some cases, it became a long-time passion, one I returned to often over the years. In others, I was simply glad to have learned the skill.

Learning and practicing isn’t always fun in an immediate sense, but there is often pleasure in it because you feel yourself progressing to a higher level. I find that very enjoyable.

It generates a new skill for your repertoire. Once you’ve built up a skill to a reasonable level, it can become something you can draw on in social situations, list on your resume, or utilize to save yourself money.

Try filling an hour each day for a month picking up a new skill. You won’t become a master, but you might find yourself going down a new and interesting path.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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