Anyone can learn most anything in two years. In 4,000 hours of dedicated study you can speak a new language, learn to code, master social media, learn pretty much any new field this side of rocket science and brain surgery. It’s true, you will most likely not be translating Mandarin at the UN, but you will be able to speak and read the language well enough to conduct business, maybe even banter with Uber drivers in Beijing. You might not be the #1 hacker on earth, but you can be at a level of coding to get a job as a competent software engineer.
As a college student, I assumed that I had an impediment to learning languages (French was the only C I ever got). But what I found was that as I have gotten older, I can pick up a new language rather quickly. What has changed? My ability to focus, concentrate and devote myself is far greater than when I was 20. I am not hungover, I am not obsessing about my latest crush or something I missed out on. Studies say our brains are working more slowly now than in our 20s. But we are able to use them much more efficiently. I think of the massive 350cu V8s that powered American cars in the 60s. An efficient four cylinder car today will outperform them in every way other than its ability to consume fuel.
It’s not about how big or fast our cognitive abilities are, it’s what we are doing with what we have that counts. I am not saying that learning to code is easy for someone who has never been exposed to it, what I am saying is that it is doable. Our biggest limitation is ourselves and not believing that these things are possible.
I now run a media company with a global audience and major global brands as clients. The complexity of what I’m doing today would have been beyond my imagination even four years ago. It’s hard work learning new skills, and today maybe 25 percent of what I do I’m still in the infancy of learning. This is the new normal. If we want to have fulfilling lives going forward, no one is going to make that happen for us. We need to do it. It is hard work learning new skills, and maybe we thought we would never have to do that again. But then, the word for that is fossilization, and what fun is that?