7 Days, 7 New Skills

 

I’m coming to the end of an experiment that I was running last month, which had me taking some time each day to question something that I ‘knew’ to be true, and imagine how the world would look different if it weren’t.

The experiment I’ve started today is a little different: for the next 7 days, I’m going to try and learn one new thing – using resources I find on the Internet – each day.

For example, this morning I pulled up a YouTube video on how to juggle.

It sounds silly, but this is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m fascinated by anything that helps increase your manual dexterity, and it has always seemed like a fun challenge. Also, I know how somewhat useless skills can be a lot of fun when you just need to turn off your brain for a few minutes and keep your hands occupied.

So I took an hour and 3 little bean bags that were lying around, and I learned.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m really still quite terrible at juggling – but now I CAN juggle. Three bean bags. In a total of one hour and two minutes (one hour of practice, 2 minutes of video watching) I was able to get a basic level of proficiency in a skill that I’ve been wanting to learn for 10 years, and the rest will come with practice.

And that’s the point of this: to achieve a level of proficiency that will allow me to practice and get better.

The most difficult part of learning a new skill is generally the initial hurdle of picking up the basics.

In the case of juggling, throwing one ball back and forth enough that you feel comfortable making a standard arc takes a little while, and then it takes just as long to get comfortable with two balls and to move on to three. Once you’re past that barrier to entry, though, it’s just a matter of doing it over and over again until you get faster and are able to add more balls (or beanbags).

Day one has been a success and a lot of fun. Let’s hope day 2 goes just as well or better.

Any suggestions as to what else I should learn? Keep in mind that the ideal skill won’t require any equipment I don’t already have.

53 comments

  1. I tried for a lot longer than 2.5 hours and still couldn’t get a good arc with my left (non-dominant) hand. Eventually I managed to string together maybe 10 throws. Took me a couple of days though.

    I wonder if I still have those hackey-sacks somewhere.

    • I’m at 6 throws with 3 balls now, after continuing my practice for a few days. Want to get to the point where I can just keep them going indefinitely, but I get the impression it may take a while!

  2. Congrats on learning your new skill! I taught myself when I was in high school and working at the grocery store (gotta do something with that rotten fruit we have to throw away). Took a lot longer than an hour, though.

    Some suggestions:
    Become ambidextrous (or just learn one skill with your non-dominant hand – eat, write, or throw)
    Learn calligraphy
    Do a cartwheel
    Play a new game – can be done online – cards or board game

    • Haha, I learned to do yo-yo tricks while working at a bookstore while in high school. Ah, the skills we take away from minimum wage employment :)

      I like the idea of becoming ambidextrous. I’m left-handed, but do some things right handed (computer mice, kick with right foot, etc) already, but I can’t write or draw with it.

      I think I can do a cartwheel already, but it’s been a while. I wonder how much damage I could cause trying it indoors (snow covering the ground outside)…

  3. I know a guy that can recite the first 1000 numbers of pi – that’s a pretty cool party trick ;)

    • Yikes, that might be a little more than I can undertake in a day, but memorization of some kind might be fun. Maybe learning to memorize better using mnemonics?

  4. -Learn hip-hop (dancing)
    -My roommate does this thing where he shuffles cards then flicks one in the air and it spins around a bit then he catches it.
    -Photography with manual focus (although this might need equipment if you don’t already have this option on your camera)
    -Join an improv group. You’re probably fairly good at it already, since you seem to be good at thinking and talking at the same time.

    Congrats on the juggling. I can juggle 2 beanbags in one hand, but I’ve never been successful with 3.

    • I already know a bit about manual photography, but improv would be a lot of fun. I wonder if I can find one locally that meets this weekend…

  5. My suggestions:

    -Speed reading (very useful, especially since I know you love to rip through books)
    -Meditation (though not really a skill; it is very useful to relax and clear your mind)
    -Breakdancing
    -Magic tricks?

    At this point I’m out of ideas. Speed reading is invaluable and I’d be surprised if you didn’t know how to already, while you’ll find meditation pretty useful as well. Breakdancing’s amazing fun (according to those I know who can do it), so I think it’d be worth it if you picked it up.

    • That could be cool. I took a look around and found a how to on making a gun that fires out of paper, but it turns out they use a lot of tape and it fires rubber bands, which is kind of cheating and eliminates the point of making it out of paper in my mind.

      Might check in on the swan thing, though. I seem to remember making one in elementary school, but I couldn’t make one now to save my life.

    • Hand stand seems to be popular, so I’ll add that to the list for these last three days.

      Hacky would be fun, too, though I think it would be more fun with someone else (though I have seen people do some crazy stuff all by their lonesome).

      I actually looked up some dance moves and came up with the Dougie, but the only video teaching how to do it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind :)

  6. Corn rowing what hair you have. . . ?
    It could be cool. I mean, what if you end up in the bush of Australia or Northern Nambia for four months?
    I’ve used a great YouTube vid for this if you need it.

    • Haha, THAT would be a valuable skill in some parts of the world! People were paying good money to have locals cornrow their hair in Thailand, so I could set up shop anywhere I go!

      Not sure I would want to use myself as the test dummy, though…

    • Ooo!

      Might give this a shot. It’s on par with the auctioneer chant, probably, though that might be my ignorance talking.

      Either way, I’m sure the neighbors would get a laugh (or a cry).

    • Handstand would be a good one (could do it when I was very young, but I was more reckless and small then), and it doesn’t require equipment.

      The one arm pushup would be interesting, too, though I imagine if I can’t do it already, it would take a good deal more than a day to get to the point where I can.

    • Interesting! I’ll take a look around and see if there’s a video or how-to that could show me the basics.

      I can do it a little already, but I use my thumb, which I imagine is a newbie mistake.

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  8. Quick update, so far I’ve:

    -Learned how to juggle
    -Learned how to partake in Acem Meditation
    -Learned how to ramble in a basic auctioneer’s chant
    -Learned how to tell the difference between fake and real jade

    Browsing through the comments now to find a good one for today and the weekend!

    • Okay, and the final recap is as such:

      Monday I learned how to juggle 3 balls.
      Tuesday I learned the basics of Acem Meditation.
      Wednesday I learned how to do a basic auctioneer’s chant.
      Thursday I learned how to prospect jade and tell the difference between the real stuff and a fake.
      Friday I learned a few ways to help myself become more ambidextrous when it comes to handwriting.
      Saturday I learned to Dougie (the dance).
      Sunday I learned how to do a better handstand.

      It’s been an awesome week, and I may expand upon this project in the future. Thanks for all the great suggestions, folks!

    • Okay, and the final recap is as such:

      Monday I learned how to juggle 3 balls.
      Tuesday I learned the basics of Acem Meditation.
      Wednesday I learned how to do a basic auctioneer’s chant.
      Thursday I learned how to prospect jade and tell the difference between the real stuff and a fake.
      Friday I learned a few ways to help myself become more ambidextrous when it comes to handwriting.
      Saturday I learned to Dougie (the dance).
      Sunday I learned how to do a better handstand.

      It’s been an awesome week, and I may expand upon this project in the future. Thanks for all the great suggestions, folks!

      • If I knew, I’d show you myself! Alas, my futile attempts have wrought nothing but a bruised head, back, but thankfully, not in spirit. :P

        Quick! Ninja Turtles: who’s your favorite of them all? And don’t tell me Splinter because he’s not a Turtle, though he can fairly whip them all in good shape, wise ‘ol chap that he is!

  9. Remember last year Colin when I commented to you that I was thinking of changing my name to Edward Hurst?
    Well i did :). I did it on my 22nd birthday. It’s part of a list of 22 things I want achieve this year. Another two things on my list is to learn origami and how to do the Rubik’s cube, as I’ve always wanted to learn them. I volunteer at a primary school, and the kids LOVE it. Around 8 of them stay in at lunch to participate, and in teaching them, am learning myslef even more.
    I picked it up in a few minutes (with a book of course) and it’s really quite fun. Highly recommend it. As for memorising the Rubik’s cube, i’ll keep you informed :). Good luck!

    • I do remember! Congratulations for making the change, Edward!

      I saw a Rubik’s Cube at a store a few blocks away, trying to decide whether it’s worth $22 to pick one up (oh, Iceland prices). It would be fun to learn, though! Find any resources you can pass along in that department?

      • Cheers Colin :). It’s a nightmare and impractical change, but I’ll be moving away from little old Liverpool in the near future, and the people I meet along the way will only know my new name, which will be sweet!

        On the Rubik’s cube, the official website is good and offers a free guide- http://www.rubiks.com/.

        Other than that, I would suggest youtube. There’s kids on there that can do it quicker than I can tie a shoe lace, no joke.

        I’ll drop a comment when I start to learn it. I’ve had a quick go and it’s harder than I imagined, so good luck :).

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  11. Learn to meditate, if you don’t know already. It’s easy to become proficient enough in 15 minutes to be able to practice later on and it is a great daily practice!

  12. i see people mention backflip a lot, ive wanted to learn for a while and just recently learned. i would say go to a gymnastics facility and try them into a FOAM PIT, and proceed with progress as you feel comfortable.

  13. you should practice balancing beer bottles on top of each other.  If you can get to 7, I’ll be impressed (that’s my records).

    Strangely enough I can only do this after 2 or 3 beers, never when stone sober.  

  14. you should practice balancing beer bottles on top of each other.  If you can get to 7, I’ll be impressed (that’s my records).

    Strangely enough I can only do this after 2 or 3 beers, never when stone sober.  

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