Learning Something NEW is Brain Exercise

Category: Weekly Columns

Brain Exercise

There’s a point in most people’s lives that they resist learning new things OR learning new things is so hard that they prefer to avoid it altogether. I remember, both fondly and sadly, how my parents struggled learning how to program their VCR. Cell-phones were just too out-of-reach for them. But, for me, I’ve found that working through that learning anxiety can enhance your life!

In my case, there were two things I’ve learned in the past decade that were difficult but ultimately invaluable. One was purely mental – Social Media and better computer skills, including switching to Apple. The other was golf, which is certainly mental but also encompasses coordination and physicality!

Michelangelo quote

I’d resisted the latter for many of the years that I’ve been with my (second) wife. She’s an avid golfer and I just didn’t think it was the sport for me. I totally got the game, its skill, and its difficulty, but I felt it wasn’t a match for my Type A+ personality.

However, a couple of years ago my wife finally prevailed and got me on the range with an instructor. It was NOT easy and, given that I’d excelled in other sports, starting over with a difficult new one was a struggle. The golf ball is stationary. I don’t have to run after it like all the racket sports I’d excelled in my entire life from tennis to table tennis!

Computer learning comic

Hitting the golf ball was completely in my control. That drove me crazy at first. Stilling my mind was not as difficult as I’d anticipated and, ultimately, I found that the game was almost a tonic for my hyper-manic personality. You CANNOT play golf and be distracted (much). Ultimately, I found playing golf actually relaxed my mind and indirectly forced me to not think about other things.

Social Media was another thing altogether. Why did I need Twitter or Facebook, I thought? I used email, I surfed the web, I downloaded songs from Napster “back in the day,” and I NEVER watched porn. The Internet was great for online dating – I met my wife online – and for travel, some purchases, and directions and phone numbers but the social aspect? Really, I need to know that “you” are eating at such-and-such a restaurant.

Mark Twain quote

My idea of Social Media was biased from the point-of-view of one who really knew nothing so I judged it from that ignorance. When I began writing my column I knew that I had to embrace this outlet to some degree. I had NO IDEA that the “degree” in which I’d “embrace” it would become all-consuming and actually revive my dormant brain.

As good luck would have it, an old friend (@LindaSherman) moved back to Los Angeles and reached out to say, “Hello.” We’d stayed in touch and she was happily married and had begun a new career, which included Social Media consulting. I ended up using her for nearly a full year to teach me the ins and outs of this brand new world.

We met twice a month at her apartment. We’d sit side-by-side with our laptops next to one another. Our sessions lasted up to two hours and usually would end a bit short because I would declare that I was on overload and that my brain could not take in anymore.

She’d give me “homework” and I’d “work” on those things we studied in the times between our sessions. She was accessible by phone and email for short questions during those breaks.

Bible quote about trying new things

I resisted almost everything. Most of all, I fought learning Twitter. She finally prevailed and I began to “get it.” She then wanted me to participate in a Tweet Chat called #BlogChat. I resisted that, too.

Ultimately, I embraced not only Twitter but became a regular on #BlogChat, which led to my creating my own Tweet Chat, #DadChat.

Teaching Kids new things cartoon

By writing as much as I now was, by using my brain in the same way we use our muscles at a gym, I felt my mind expand. I actually felt that my vocabulary was improving and, when I ended up doing a live radio show too, I found my speaking was also improving.

This ALL happened because I took on things new and things initially difficult and hard for me to comprehend.

Taking a leap - learning new things

I certainly haven’t become any Social Media expert and I most certainly have barely gotten decent at golf, but adding both of these activities to my life has given my life added dimension.

It’s so easy to stay stuck in a rut. It’s comfortable. That is one of the many reasons “old people” get OLD! They stay stuck. Don’t let that happen to you. Learn something new. Take up a challenge and don’t quit at the first setback (and there will be plenty). Trust me on this!

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