You must have heard (and believed) the saying that “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks”. Unfortunately, many believe this and live by it. We often hear old folks say “I’m too old for this or that” or “That’s only for the young”. Well, I am a 69 old dog and I am writing this to disprove this myth.
I was past my 50th year when our company in Saudi Arabia decided to go modern so they decided to get rid of the typewriters in our office—including my beloved and reliable IBM typing machine. As part of the IBM Company’s after-sales service, they conducted a few weeks of training for our staff. The younger ones among us adapted fast to the new technology. Woe to us old-timers who were used to the Jurassic age office equipment. Getting familiar with light-touch required on the keyboard was a daily struggle. Hitting the wrong keys that accidentally erased my work or suddenly switched off the monitor made my job an ordeal.
However, being the executive secretary to the Managing Director, I had no other options but to conquer this new green-eyed monster assigned to me to do my work (by the way, old monitors were all using green screen at that time). It was possible I might be demoted from my position, or worse, lose my job if I did not cope with this challenge. So what I did was to stay late in the office every night and hired an Indian guy who was computer-savvy to tutor me. I never realized then that now that I am 69, I would be earning my living working on a computer!
I had similar experiences with the coming of mobile phones, but that will be another long story. My point here is that the old saying about old dogs and new tricks is a MYTH!
If you honestly want to learn something new, you CAN. You can adapt to new technology, come up with an innovative product, or improve yourself personally if you put your heart to it. By giving your serious effort and devoting your time, even the impossible will only take a little longer to achieve.
Use the following suggestions to help you get along the way:
• Write down your goal. Putting down in writing what you wish to learn and WHY. This is a very good way to condition your mind to accomplish the goal. As the Law of Attraction says: “What you think becomes what you are”. Set a deadline for mastering it. Any time you get discouraged or meet an obstacle, review what you wrote to regain your enthusiasm and motivation.
• Keep on studying and practicing. Be inspired by people you know who have excelled in the skill you want to learn. They, too, started from square one like you are doing now. Devote extra time in researching, studying, and practicing. Nothing matches on-hand experience when learning a skill so as much as possible, perform the actual skill yourself, however awkward it may seem at the start. This is very important if you are to make progress towards your goal.
• Accept your mistakes. Admit your mistakes and try to improve on them the next time. Committing mistakes can be frustrating, but instead of getting discouraged, learn from these experiences. They are excellent guides to modify and improve your approach. Also, mistakes are part of any learning process use them to your advantage to bring closer to your objective.
• Imagine yourself doing the skill. Whatever other activity you are doing, imagine yourself doing or using what you are set out to master. Mental conditioning is part of any performance-based task. Doing this regularly helps boost your motivation and confidence.
• Try making it a habit. Just like any activity that has become a second nature to us, performing the skill repeatedly makes us a master of it. If you want to learn cooking, spend more time in the kitchen and volunteer to prepare every meal for the family; if you are in into sketching, do not leave the house without your pencil and drawing pad to sketch anything that catches your fancy; the same is true with learning a sport or any new skill. Remember, practice makes perfect.
Embarking on something new to learn is an exciting and challenging journey so let no one tell you it is not possible, regardless of your age. Old dogs can surely learn new tricks if they put their hearts to it.