Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Teaching old dogs, learning new skills, learn blogging

The Revelation

I’m sitting on the couch with my then-boyfriend on New Year’s Eve. We are with his mother a petite and loving woman who I respect and trust. Someone mentions my eighteenth birthday which is about a week away and right then, I get smacked with a realization: I have no life plan.

People considered me artistic because all creative stuff was easy for me. Classmates said my name in the same sentence with “famous artist” a lot. But no one hands you the playbook. No one had the slimmest notion of how an artist becomes famous.

When the strobing Times Square ball drops, I feel rising panic during the countdown. The spectacular landing has everyone whooping “Happy New Year!”

I explode in tears.

“What’s wrong?” his mother asks.

“I’m graduating this year and I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life!”

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young.” ~Mark Twain

Today, sitting in the bright afternoon of a beautiful day, I think back to that younger me. No one ever asked me if I wanted to be an artist. It was tacked onto me early in life until it became the rote answer. What’s really funny? That wasn’t what I spent my free time doing. I spent it writing. At that time, not much about life made sense to me and I lacked any sense of purpose. I had no clear vision for my life. The person who led me to my true calling was not yet born and would not arrive until my late 20’s. It would be 13 more years until my purpose crystallized. I would, however, continue closet writing.

Like many kids her age, my daughter became involved in cyberhoods like Facebook, Myspace and online journaling. It was all new and confusing. Curiously, I wanted to learn more. What do people write on a web log? She helped me set up a blog and it sat forgotten for two years. My daughter found a writing group. I went once and was hooked. When I (re) discovered my true passion–writing–life started making sense.

I developed plans. (Learn how to be a great writer.) I had a goal. (Get published.) I developed layers and evolutions of plans. Who knew the computer age would make so much sense to me? But, that very thing, casting words into The Net through blogging, fueled the next phase.

What’s next for you?

It’s never too late to start learning. Consider your own life. What abilities do you possess? What abilities do you want to acquire? Each new skill lays the groundwork for learning another. By seeking out people who can teach us what we need to learn, it’s possible to learn more very quickly. It might not seem like much forward progress. Then one day it opens the door for an unexpected opportunity. Those opportunities can change our lives.

When I learned to type, (not pecking but real typing) it opened the ability to jot down ideas while observing, being a transcriptionist (it pays!) and not hunting letters on my keyboard. The ability to type means faster transition from idea to intellectual property. (Writing books, stories, blog posts, white papers, case studies.) All the abilities I’ve learned over the last 10 years (how to blog, tweet, chat and Uber conference) I now use in my work life. These were not available the day I graduated from high school, but I determined to keep reading and educating myself.

What if I had believed that old adage, You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? 

The key to a fuller life, discovering your potential is being curious and the desire to keep learning. What is it that you’ve always wanted to know? Always wanted to try? Today, make a quick list of items. Have you always wanted to paint? Write? Wanted to take up kayaking? Photography? Who knows what magic awaits by just taking the first step.

Share your list with us. We’ll encourage you and cheer you on!

Dreams Like Strings of Lights

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Whatever it is you’re dreaming of, take the next step.

It has long been my goal to work for myself, but in my early years, I had been trained that a person got up before the sun, went to work for eight or nine hours and came home beat. For this, you got a paycheck at the end of the week. All the fathers on our street did the same. When our growing family needed more income, my mother traded her night hours tor work in a thankless factory.

All my life, one model: Trade your hours for money.

Then my dad lost his job. After two years he found another job that would pay the bills, but he began dreaming about owning his own business. After a few years, he partnered with my brother and launched. The business did alright for many years, but he didn’t foresee desktop publishing. The business dwindled and found himself again trading hours for dollars, working with my brother in another industry.

Along the way, the mega companies and corporations began to buckle and fold. The idea of being totally loyal to one entity began to sound like putting all your eggs in one basket. You could give a lifetime to a company and instead of retiring fully funded, you might lose your pension, retirement benefits and health coverage.

My dad often spoke about another business model, one I had not really seen up-close. Multiple streams of income. Creatives are largely familiar with this model as they pursue their artistic endeavors. Office jobs, food service, collections, or those other jobs that pay a tiny hourly because they receive tips or commissions. Pursue your painting, crafting, dancing or talent until it financially overshadows the main source of income. Teach your craft to someone not as far along as you are.

There are pros and cons of each, to be sure. As a hustler, you are responsible for everything including taxes paperwork and the next paying gig. As a creative, not wanting to be defined by hourly work, I always had a side hustle and occasionally, the side hustle carried us through between hourly jobs.

How to develop three streams of income? Or four? Or more? There are far more forward thinkers than me. Lots of great people to read, learn from to help you gather steam while stoking your own fire. Ideally, income streams that could be checked on every now and then and earn money without constant attention. In essence, making money while doing other things,  these things allowed you to multiply your efforts.

My goals were simple. I wanted to help others in some way, double my income and stop trading hours for dollars, working by the project for a pre-named chunk of money. Right now, my writing pays for my (part) of the bills. My next stream of income will not only pay for itself but pay me.

It comes down to this: Just start. Start something somewhere. Begin. Take the next step and then figure out the next step. My dad went on to other dreams and started other businesses. He and my brother launched a second business and my brother runs it to this day, nearly 10 years after my dad passed away. His products have traveled the globe. After a few false starts with various enterprises, my intellectual property has graced four countries. I’m pleased with the progress. It seems one leads to another, dreams like strings of lights.

Write down all that you dream of doing. What can become an income stream. Choose one. It doesn’t have to be the easiest, but maybe the one you’re most excited about. What’s your next step?

I’m listening if you want to share. I will cheer you on.

Under Construction

Turn offI had embarked on a few “simple” updates for my website. Over the last week you may have been sent broken links, pages that looked promising only to find that they were not available. I want to take a moment to apologize for the confusion and probably annoying stream of emails for a lot of updates.

I confess that I like learning about technology and at times it leaves me baffle, and sometimes being a DIYer there is fallout. Some people around here didn’t get fed on time (sometimes not at all) and I was grouchy and not much fun to be around until I could get pages straightened out and the lost ones found.I would have liked a button like the one above so I could work without disturbing you. Will you forgive me? I think we have this all figured out now. If you get to the site and find that you hit a wall, please feel free to let me know. I value your feedback.