6 Ways to get your learning curve on crack | SIXbirds Financial
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6 Ways to get your learning curve on crack

May 28, 2013 4 Comments

skillsAmericans are loaded up and ready to party with their non-skill-having selves these days.

To be sure, if I queried 100 18-year old adults at random, my totally judgmental, biased, and grumpy Coastie alter ego would likely cull about 87 of them. The other 13 would get a barrage of F-bombs to move faster. Sorry, it’s just who I am.

Here’s what a lot of people can’t do in terms of basic skills:

Can’t fix a small engine. Can’t paint a ceiling. Can’t start a fire. Can’t sew. Can’t cook. Can’t identify a single tree. Can’t balance a checkbook. You get it — we’re starting to suck. And — no, there is not an app for that.

But, Holy Kraaap — can these guys text! They can sniff a hack like a brown bear in a garbage dump. These guys could slam down a youtube video like screen door in a hurricane. You get it — we’re good at (using) tech.

Here’s the thing, though. The many people I encounter all really WANT to learn and master something useful, but often don’t know where to start. In my view, America is producing some highly educated people who just don’t have a clue about how things are made, repaired, maintained, etc — especially in the large, urban areas. Ignorance creates dependencies and over-specialization. Modern Americans are not dumber than they were 100 years ago – they’re just over-specialized, over-stimulated, and over-confident. These symptoms eventually lead to financial instability, as people head back to college during low employment periods to achieve higher and exceedingly more worthless degrees.

Turns out, what they really needed was an apprenticeship and a few thousand hours learning a skill that will feed themselves without going into debt.

Fortunately, there is no expiration on self-improvement. This is a phenomenon you can engage until the day you die, and the resources for gaining new and useful skills are becoming cheaper and more prolific. At this point, it’s more of a question of focusing your attention.

Here are some resources:

1. Coursera

Coursera is a free system that offers online courses from top universities. I took a free (my second favorite F-word) class on coding in Python through Coursera, and it worked dandy. Once I learned what I wanted to learn, I stopped doing the exercises and moved on — which was amazing. There is no tuition, feeling bad about not completing everything, or accountability except to yourself [hmmmmm.... the way education is supposed to be?]. Although, I’ve only participated in one class through Coursera, I notice these tend to be more academic and less skill-based unless you’re interested computer science. If you want to learn about Applied Multivariate Mathematical Database Modeling, then Coursera might be for you, but don’t expect to learn how to make screamin’ salsa through there. I’m signed up for a Linear Algebra class this summer — yes, for FREE.

2. Maker/Hacker space

I learned to wire a circuit, TIG weld, and get the beer soda machine to accept my dollars all at a place called 3rd Ward in Brooklyn, NY where I was a member for almost 2 years. These types of collaborative, shared environments dump nitrous oxide into your Learn Machine because it is largely peer based (with cheap intro classes), and almost 100% hands on. Maker space is the future, and they are popping up in response to the demand to stop the sucking. I encourage everybody to learn SOMETHING that involves using safety equipment.

3. Skillshare.com

Haven’t tried Skillshare myself, but for $20 or $30, you can get a bite of something new without getting hurt. Well – unless your delicate TouchyFeelyPants get hurt by learning stuff. I’d say, rather than dump a few grand at the local community college for a computer science semester, at least slog through the open source universe and crank out your own app that estimates the amount of feelings that get hurt by confronting your own Kraaap Factor. Bonus if you can sell it for $2.99 per download.

4. Build a list and execute daily

Just google search “skills everybody should know,” and you’ll get list upon list of mostly good stuff. Here’s one such list to get you started. The next step is to stop reading this blog, get up, and start DOING something. Even just 20 hours spent doing something new gets you to a level of proficiency that will surpass probably 70% – 80% of the rest of the Suck-Prone Society. Your deal is to just do it (Thanks, Nike for stealing my shit). Or, build your own list. Go for it! Sit for 15 minutes and brainstorm everything you ever wanted to know or think you should know. There’s a movement afoot that is combating the ridiculous voids in our personal skill level that would make a lumberjack from the early 1900′s point and laugh at us. Don’t let it happen to you.

5. The United States Coast Guard

I love the US Coast Guard – especially for young people who lack a clear direction, academic calling, or desire to spend years fighting wars in deserts (although there’s opportunities to do that too). If you’ve been bored most of your life, jump aboard a cutter and head to Alaska where you can at least get paid to be bored (about 90% of the time, at least) and have the opportunity to learn and see something that demands your complete dedication. I have been thrilled over the years to literally watch people open up and thrive in the real world of life-and-death challenges and become true masters of a craft [dabs tears from the corner of eyes, sniff-sniff]. But, fair warning — like most things, it requires your time and energy. Don’t show up to my Coast Guard expecting anything handed to you.

The Coast Guard made me an expert in navigation, seamanship, and smartass comments. It can help you too.

6. Etsy

Just cruise the hallowed halls of some really strange handmade items, and you will probably be more confident in your ability to produce something somebody actually wants. I got into etsy because I saw some stuff being sold for $89 that I know took about $7 in material and 10 minutes to complete. Since then, I’ve made about $1,200 on Etsy with very little investment of time. It’s fun, and keeps me tuned up with a few dollars in my pocket to support my coffee addiction plus I like keeping options open. I know that if I hustled this angle hard, I could make considerably more money.

Now Get Going

Alright, there’s 6 ideas to help unpeg the Suck-o-Meter. Your mission is to do something today, and get your hands and mind engaged in developing a new skill. The key is to push just past the point where you really feel like quitting.

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About the Author:

My goals in life are to not have a job and to work my ass off. I give your choice of virtual high five, cyber hug, or electronic fist bump for meaningful interaction.

Comments (4)

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  1. Wow, the Etsy angle is very impressive–sounds like an enjoyable and marketable creative outlet for you. Can you link us to some of your items?

  2. So awesome that you laid the gauntlet down and provided resources to back it up here. I really hope that people are checking your stuff out. Your writing gets better every week, man.

  3. cj says:

    As I read, I thought to myself that I am one of those people. I know how fix or understand how very few things really work. I am getting better, but I noticed that it takes time and now that we cut our work hours way back, I can figure shit out – like the bathroom sink in my last post. Thanks for a great list of helpful sites, but what I may need is for you to Skype me that steady stream of F-bombs while I try to acquire new skills;)

    • Patrick says:

      I would be proud to open the bomb bay doors and do a thorough strafing run. It’s about making the world a better place. It’s a skill.

      You said it… the key element is time. Nobody seems to have enough of it, so we’re obsessed with maximizing it. But, we tend to get really good at shit that truly doesn’t matter. For instance, I’m excellent at using a piece of irrelevant software where I work. Thankfully, I’m moving on. It’s the moving on that scares the shit out of everybody – something the two of you seem to have conquered.

      Paul Grahm wrote the best essay ever on creating wealth. He talks about fixing an old car and selling it at a higher price. That’s what fixing your sink does — it creates wealth; adds value.

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