Thursday, 20 October 2011

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

. . . or so they say.

But I’m certainly no puppy and I’ve had to learn a lot of ‘new tricks’ since I started selling my designs nearly two years ago.

I’ve learnt a lot about greeting card design without really noticing that I was learning. Learning about setting things up online and about marketing on the web has been much more of a challenge and it’s not easy to know whether the latter has been useful as one reads so much contradictory advice and it’s nearly impossible to know what really works and what doesn’t.

Just recently, I’ve had to accelerate my learning about photo-editing skills, which as a painter, rather than a photographer, were sadly lacking. The reason? Greeting Card Universe began offering Photo Greeting Cards which the customer can personalise online; and I wanted to be in on this innovation reasonably near the beginning.

“Learn as much as you can while you are young, since life becomes too busy later” - Dana Stewart Scott

How true! So many other things had to be put on hold while I fathomed the mysteries of Photo Card-making!


On the other hand, it seems it’s worthwhile to make time to learn something new, however old we are –

The man who is too old to learn was probably always too old to learn” Henry S Haskins

In fact, contrary to the widely held ‘old dog/new tricks’ adage, it appears that older people learn just as well as younger ones. I read about some research into this that found that while students in their late teens and twenties learn faster, over-fifties learn in more breadth and depth and that’s why they appear to learn more slowly.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80”Henry Ford.

Of course there are different kinds of learning. There’s the deliberate setting out to learn a skill, either by reading, attending a course, or by trial and error – my favourite! And then there’s the learning of facts, in my opinion the least useful sort of learning, unless you spend a lot of time playing Trivial Pursuits or aspire to winning a fortune on a Game Show.

The third type of learning is learning Life Lessons from our experiences and there’s really no reason why that shouldn’t continue throughout our lives.

“You learn something every day if you pay attention”  - Ray Leblanc.


Though for many years now, the concept of ‘Lifelong Learning’ of the ‘new tricks’ variety has been promoted by international and global bodies such as the World Bank, Unesco, the OECD and the European Commission, who define it as:

"All learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence, within a personal civic social and/ or employment-related perspective"

It may seem strange that such institutions take an interest in Lifelong Learning – surely that’s a matter for the Education Department or even a Health concern, as it is known that people who continue to learn new things when they retire, generally stay healthier and live longer. While this is true, the need to regard learning as a lifelong habit is now essential from an economic point of view, when more jobs are knowledge- or skills-based, job security is becoming a rare luxury and the need to retrain at an older age is commonplace.

That can seem tough on us Oldies who thought we’d put all that learning behind us when we left school or college! And sometimes it can seem just too much to be expected to ‘Carry on Learning!’ when the things we need to learn, in order to survive financially, come too thick and fast. Not so long ago I broke down in tears when my family expected me to learn how to operate my new Sky Box with my ‘little grey cells’ already overloaded with other Things-to-Learn!

So it’s important to avoid overload, especially as we get older. But as long as we can pace ourselves, there can be huge rewards for opening our minds to learning new skills.

“Ah, mastery . . .what a profoundly satisfying feeling when one finally gets on top of a new set of skills and then sees the light . . . under the new door these skills can open.” - Gail Sheehy

I learn best by trying out new things for myself and if I get stuck, I ask someone who is ahead of me in that particular area, So I clicked on buttons in my photo-editing program that I'd never thought of exploring and it really was like new doors opening. If I couldn't work out by trial and error how to use these new features, there were plenty of videos on the internet to help me. It was an exciting experience, if also frustrating at times when I couldn't work out what to do next. 

But eventually, I'd learnt all I needed to know in order to make photo cards and it left me with that 'profoundly satisfying feeling' - until the next challenge comes up!



Ulla Hennig said...

I think you're absolutely right! Approaching the sixties I might consider myself an "old dog" too, but I love to learn new things. I am discovering the worlds of digital painting and vector graphics. There are days when I am a bit frustrated because things don't work as I want them to, but sooner or later I find a way to solve the problem. Learning is fun!

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Ulla - lovely to see you over here again and glad you agree :)

Country Mouse Studio said...

It's so true I've know both those who stopped and those who didn't and I'd rather know the ones who didn't they are much more interesting, cheerful and seem younger. I'm so glad to see them. You did an awesome job these are very beautiful.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Carole - and yes, I think you are right about people who carry on learning seeming more interesting and younger, even.

Viagra Online without prescription said...

I think that's just a myth because I've teach new tricks to old dogs if you want I could give you some tips to reach it.