2020 Skill Blitz Report
June 21, 2020
Half the year is gone. I intended to write more often – I should have known myself better for sure. In my previous post I explained that my yearly goal is to try six new skills. In the first half of the year I focused on learning to cook, play the guitar, and ride a motorcycle. My intent for the goal is to stretch myself: life felt stagnant. Developing new hobbies is fun and makes life more interesting. I want to reflect on how my goal is going and plan for three additional skills for the remainder of the year.
Playing the Guitar
When I was 10, my parents signed me up for piano lessons. It didn’t come unexpectedly – they did the same thing with my three older brothers. I admit I didn’t care much for it at the time. The lessons stopped when I turned 13. Having grown up in Utah though, my music exposure didn’t stop there. Every Sunday and every other day in high school I would sing church hymns. I never forgot how to read music.
When I turned 16, I wanted to learn to the guitar since that’s what all the cool kids played. Luckily one of my older brothers played and had a guitar. I tried learning from YouTube and failed miserably. I didn’t get very far. I learned a few chords and called it good. I gave up after two practice sessions, but the desire to learn has always lingered.
Eight years later, the desire resurfaced. I started my 2020 goal by relearning the guitar. I found a few websites and YouTube channels to learn from and began at it. I quickly relearned the chords and made a practice plan. I put in my 20 hours and found out that I didn’t really care for it. I wanted to like it, but I honestly didn’t. I learned to play a few songs, but I was never excited to sit down and play.
I anticipated this to happen. Of course there will be hobbies that you start and realize you just don’t care for. The important part though is that you stick to it long enough to pass the ‘beginner’s phase’. Picking up a new skill is hard. With little competency, I have to focus so much – which makes it hard to enjoy the activity. By committing to invest at least 20 hours, I can reach a level of competency to properly decide it it’s a hobby I’d like to pursue more.
Having just graduated from college, my cooking skills were sourly lacking. Before 2020 I was on a heavy rotation between chicken and rice, ramen noodles, canned soup, and sandwiches of every kind. Any variety in my dinner came from cooking with my roommates. My motivation for this came from them.
I started from the basics: I learned how to chop an onion correctly; I learned different ways of cooking an egg; I compiled an essential grocery shopping list to have fresh ingredients on hand; I looked up YouTubers and made a list of meals I wanted to try; and then I went to it. I’m not a master chef only after four months – but my lifestyle has improved because of the goal. I look forward to making dinner and having leftovers for lunch! Most of the meals are simple: but that doesn’t mean they’re not good.
I tried branching out into some unknown territory. The biggest helps have been Gordon Ramsey’s and Binging with Babish YouTube videos. If you haven’t checked our their channels, I’d highly recommend checking them out. They break down the basics and teach the principles of cooking along the way.
My favorite meals so far:
- Sloppy joes
- Tacos (and Mexican food of all kinds)
- Italian foods (especially Carbonara)
- Stir fry
The biggest takeaway for me? I now enjoy cooking and eating with others. It’s a natural way to spend time with people that you care about. Rather than going out all the time, knowing how to whip together a good meal provides more opportunity to connect and talk with others. I save money, eat a healthier diet, and spend more time with friends and family by preparing meals. What’s not to like?
Three weeks into March of 2020 I really started to feel the effects of COVID-19. My original goal was to learn to ride a dirt bike. After thinking more about it, I decided I’d like to start with a street bike more. Learning to ride a motorcycle or dirt bike had been a goal of mine for years. I put it off for years for one reason or another. But because of my yearly goal and the boredom of self-quarantining, I signed up for a beginner riding course.
The class size was small: there were only eight people. I was a bit intimidated at first since everyone in the class seemed to know more than me, but I quickly got over that. I loved the feeling I had while riding. After the weekend course, I got my motorcycle endorsement and started looking for a motorcycle to buy. I knew I wanted to buy a Suzuki SV650 because of r/motorcycles on reddit and Yammie Noob on YouTube.
I browsed the local ads for a few weeks and then finally found the one. I wasn’t a good enough rider myself to know if it was the bike I wanted. I had a buddy test drive it for me and he said it was worth buying. I picked it up, registered it, and have fallen more in love with motorcycling. I still have a lot to learn. I’ve been practicing good riding technique intentionally in line with my yearly goal. So far so good!
Learning to ride a motorcycle is something I wanted to do for years. I should have done this sooner. My dad and uncles all rode growing up. Some continue to ride to this day. It wasn’t a foreign concept to me growing up, but I choked this desire of mine for far too long. Living uninhibitedly is important – that’s what learning to ride a motorcycle helped me to rediscover.
What does the rest of the year have in store? I don’t know. I’m focused investing in myself. I want to discover what I love to do and invest in that. The first half of the year was great – I enjoyed focusing on things that I’ve never done before. For the second half, I might focus on skills that I want to improve in (like rock climbing and skiing). At the same time, it might be fun to try something that I have no prior exposure or natural talent for (like drawing). There’s no shortage of hobbies to try.
What’s a recent hobby of yours and what has it taught you?