5 Skills You’re Never Too Old to Learn
Have you mastered them yet?
How to Swim
Swimming is an essential skill, but millions of adults don’t know how to do it. That’s because the most important part of learning how to swim is learning to feel safe and comfortable in deep water. Most traditional swim lessons are geared toward kids, who don’t feel the fear that adults do and can jump right into the mechanics of how to move their arms and legs to do the different strokes. Adults who worry they’ll drown can’t start learning strokes until they first learn not to panic. Ask the instructor, “Do you teach that comfort in the water comes first?” If he or she can’t answer the question, chances are it’s not a good fit.
— Melon Dash is the founder of Miracle Swimming for Adults. She lives in Sarasota, Florida
How to Code
I love computers, but everyone discouraged me from using them when I was growing up, because I’m female. When I was 38, I decided I’d learn to code. Through online classes and an in-person boot camp, I’ve expanded my understanding of the world—and of myself. I love the languages and rules of HTML and CSS; they quickly let me create something that’s often very beautiful. To learn, start online and get a taste of the tech community by looking for gatherings on meetup.com. Let yourself explore so you can discover who you are now, rather than believe you will always be the same as you were.
— Letta Raven is a tech support specialist who lives in Portland, Oregon.
How to Turn Stress Into Joy
The ability to find joy in your daily life is highly teachable. Here’s an easy way to practice during a tense moment: First, secretly identify someone around you. It can be anyone—your challenging coworker, the driver who just cut you off in traffic, the person you’re serving a meal to at the local shelter. Then take in one slow, deep breath, giving full attention to the feeling in either your nose or your belly, and maintain that focus as you slowly exhale. As you exhale, think, “I wish for this person to be happy!” Sincere goodwill is picked up unconsciously by others and creates trust that leads to more positive interactions.
— Chade-Meng Tan, one of Google’s first engineers is creator of “ Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness course. The author of Joy on Demand, he lives in the bay area.
How to Dance
I learned to dance a lot later than my peers. Most of them started as children and were able to get great technique and incredible fundamentals that way. I went to an arts high school for theater. One day, in rehearsal, I watched a dance number. I saw my classmates in the dark theater telling such a beautiful story without moving their mouths. I thought, “I want to do that.” If you want to learn to dance, even just socially, surround yourself with other people who are good at it and whom you enjoy being with. It’s all about the environment and the vibes. Find a studio where you like the people and they make you feel comfortable, and watch them closely. I believe that observing is just as effective as practicing—it’s the best way to pick up an impressive move or two.
— Tyler McKenzie is a dancer who has appeared on Broadway in Mamma Mia, Matilda, and Hamilton. He lives in New York City.
How to Tell a Joke
There are so many people who have a great sense of humor who don’t think they have the confidence to make people laugh. But telling a joke is a great icebreaker. The one thing to keep in mind as you’re getting started is that you don’t have to tell your own joke. As long as you give credit where it’s due—“You know what Margaret Cho says, right?”—there’s nothing wrong with sharing someone else’s joke in your own funny way. Joke telling is a kind of public speaking; build up your confidence by practicing on your coworkers, friends, or family. It’s a strange experience to suddenly be the center of attention, but people love to laugh. And the stuff that makes you laugh tells people who you are.
— Lindsay Goldwert is a writer and comedian based in Queens, New York.