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Monday, 8 February 2021

You need to learn how, not just what

It’s not enough to read about something new to stay fresh in middle age and beyond — you need to learn to DO something new, too. One of the best things about being a journalist (or a research analyst or investment banker or CEO) is that you’re constantly learning something new: A new company. A new industry. A new regulation. A new problem to solve. This results in a building up of what’s called “declarative knowledge” (knowing that or what), and it helps keep us mentally fresh.

But it’s not enough — we need to learn HOW, too. How to play tennis in our late 40s. To learn to paint in our 50s. To pick up Lightroom in our 60s and learn the digital version of the chemicals-and-paper darkroom you hung out in back in high school. And don’t just learn in the abstract: Set out the be the best master’s player, the best sculptor — or to be fully fluent in a new language.

If you do nothing else tonight, go read Is it really too late to learn new skills? in the New Yorker. The answer (not much of a spoiler) is “No,” as this thoughtful meditation-as-book-review proves. In fact, doing it “might feel like a whole new beginning.”

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