9 reasons why you should learn a new skill even if you don’t need it!

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There often comes a time when you can ask the question- ‘why am I learning this? It has no use for me’.

Even though learning something new has no direct use in your life, it has benefits that are invaluable!

(I’ve also added a small section at the end describing my reasons for when you shouldn’t learn a new skill.)

9 Reasons why you should work on new skills:

1. Learning any skill stimulates the brain and adds to what psychologists call a ‘cognitive reserve‘. It is that residual effect of learning that keeps your neural connections strong and densely connected. You will literally be making new neural connections to acquire that skill thereby strengthening some areas of your brain. It is one of the strongest defenses against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. It also helps you counteract the cognitive decline due to old age.

2. Engaging yourself in any new skill is a period of self-discovery. You may experience a wide variety of mood states ranging from feelings of accomplishment to frustration. All in all, the experiences count. Isn’t that what humans crave?

3. The transfer effect: Learning something new may hone certain minor skills useful in other domains. I am a lazy psychologist, and I learned computer programming mainly for the fun of it (I also tend to acquire some skill in as many domains as I can). I learned that naming the variables in a very disciplined way made me organize my work better. I kept my computer clean, renamed files in comprehensive ways, made my computer work very systematic, etc. I came to understand a programmers point of view, and as a matter of fact, I can think in flow charts. That saves me a lot of mental energy and even helps with clarity. I haven’t used python programming professionally even though I spent 6 months learning it. Totally worth it.

4. You never know how you may use your skill in the future. Perhaps, it adds more credibility to your profile making you seem worthy of more money in a job setting than the average expected.

5. Skills are usually acquired because there is a demand for them. But the underrated flip-side is that a lot of skills are used because someone has them. These are seriously valued. For example, suppose, in your professional group of lawyers, you have someone who can edit videos properly. Your team is likely to adopt your video skills in presentations and events. If you acquire forest survival skills even though you are an administrator, that one time you go on a trek, you will have the most rewarding experience!

6. Socializing: Your new skill is a place to meet new people, have new conversations and perhaps make you stand out from your peers. You never know when you might just be the most valuable player/person in your group due to that one skill you acquired.

7. Creativity largely depends on what you know in one field and how you can apply it to another field. Just by learning something new, you are potentially making yourself more creative in every other domain you possess skills in. For example, knowing how to do origami through instructions create a set of mental heuristics and representations of shapes & structures that may have high value in thinking about architectural projects.

8. Even though you could be happily engaged in a full-time job, a new skill, although unrelated, lets you prepare for the worst. Perhaps, your company gets acquired, and your position is lost and way too many people are already fighting to get into other companies. A new skill makes your options wider. I know someone who got a degree in the fine arts (exceptionally skilled) but could not make money off it after a while; and a 20-day experience in planning an event made my friend land a high paying, art related job with the core skill of planning.

9. It is a lot of fun to explore and accomplish something just for yourself. Learn a skill and enjoy.

Learning skills even if you don't need them

Reasons why you shouldn’t work on a new skill:

  1. You don’t have the time to commit. Perhaps, you can attempt making time. Now that I’ve at least partially convinced you! Haha.
  2. Other (more important) domains like your married-life suffer.
  3. You don’t have the money. Although, A LOT of learning can happen for free: People help in person, offer free online lessons, portals like Quora, youtube, Coursera, etc. are a rich source of free information. At the moment, I am trying to learn how to juggle 3 balls.
  4. You have a good life, and you’d rather spend your time doing other things you like. Chances are you will soon acquire new skills on your own. Skill building is a source of satisfaction in life.

Imagine a future where someone one speaks of you exclaiming, “Remember that man, who knows everything? I really want to be like him/her!”. I’d like to think that anyone can be that person.

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