By: Vivienne Forstner

They say that the best time to learn something new is before you’re ten years old. This is when our brains are still developing and best absorb new information. This is especially true for learning new languages, instruments, and other skills that require many hours of practice. However, our interests seem to develop in our teenage and early adulthood years. Many people gain interests that they feel they will never be able to pursue due to their age. While it is technically more difficult to learn a cognitive skill after that part of our brain has stopped developing, it’s certainly not impossible.

Many people are discouraged the first time they try a new activity. Since it’s nearly impossible to start off perfect (unless you’re some sort of prodigy), the blunt truth is that you will be terrible. There is no way to speak fluent Finnish or shred through Van Halen’s “Eruption” without any practice or prior knowledge. You will most likely start off with the simple stuff. 

These basics can be found anywhere. There are many good sources on the internet to help navigate your way through the rough beginnings. For instance, I used nothing but YouTube and a good internet connection to learn guitar. Granted, the internet isn’t always the most reliable source. There is a good chance that you might learn something incorrectly, and it’s harder to unlearn a bad habit than it is to learn a good one. Lessons are a good investment if they are both affordable and something that you believe you would genuinely benefit from. They aren’t necessary, but they will certainly help you learn the correct techniques the first time. You’ll also be able to progress much faster and they’ll keep you on track. Using these sources consistently is key to improvement.

The next step in mastering a skill is practice. I’m fully aware that that is what corny cat posters and motivational calendars say, but it’s true. Practice really does make perfect. Even if you only work on one subject for an entire day, that subject will be ingrained in your mind for future use. If you take so little as thirty minutes a day to improve, then there will generally be noticeable results. 

In order to learn something, you have to be able to push yourself. You need the ability to break through the barrier of self doubt and discouragement. With practice and determination, it’s never too late to learn something new.