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How To Be More Impactful: Top Three Tips To Consider When Learning A New Skill

Anyone that knows me well, knows that for the last fifteen years, I have been playing at Futsal Oz in Melbourne every Thursday for my beloved Hammers FC – it has been a wonderful constant in my life. Futsal Oz has been fantastic for my overall wellbeing and keeping me socially connected. I love the process of developing the skills required to playing competitive futsal (even if my development has plateaued for a few years!) – though I consistently strive to improve my game. Playing smarter, not faster.
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The “pop” sound was bad news.  I thought someone kicked me from behind, but there was no one there when I turned around.  My ability to play futsal consistently changed when I injured my hip playing futsal and went in for surgery to repair the damage late last year.  I will return playing, but it will take more time.

How did this impact me?

It meant 2021 kicked off slowly for me.  It has been a slow steady recovery but doing really well.  The negative impact on my physical fitness was clear – it’s short-term though, I get it.  To my surprise, my focus at work was a little scattered, my productivity and problem solving reduced, and it was not resolving itself by working longer hours (I tried that) or taking my dog for another walk (sorry Archie!). Whilst I’ve missed the physical release of playing futsal, I underestimated the positive impact of consistently focusing on and improving on a skill that was unrelated to my work.  Futsal was the healthy hard break between work and personal time. It kept me fit, more socially connected and reminded me that leadership impact is what we take back into our community and not just what “we do” at work.  Something needed to change.

So, over the Easter long weekend, I took the opportunity to relax, reset and work out what I was going to do differently. What was the one small change I could make to my routine to improve my productivity and be more impactful?

The solution was not that obvious. However, what I expected to be a more involved process turned into a simple exercise of looking within for the best next step.  I decided to learn a new skill that is unrelated to work.
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E A D G B e…Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye eddie’…and with these six words, lesson one was complete.
I’ve started to learn how to play an acoustic guitar and step one was complete – memorising the six strings of a guitar.

What this has done for me is focus my attention to the activities that keep me refreshed and happy, but I can be restless. So here are my top three tips to keep you engaged when learning a new skill:

  1. Keep it easy, simple and find a buddy (that’s probably two tips in one!)
    If getting set-up and maintaining momentum gets complicated – your interest will fade. 
    Schedule and pay for lessons in advance, find a buddy to join you – this shared experience means you have committed to a time, place and friend and you’re less likely to find a last-minute excuse that you’re too busy.
  1. Align your new skill to your personal interests
    Sounds obvious.  Then finding a new skill to learn may not be that difficult.  If you list your top three hobbies and then deep dive into each, you’ll most likely find a micro-skill you can immerse yourself in.  Personally, I love music. From rock, pop, country, classical and rap…I don’t discriminate. I listen to all and listen often.  It became obvious through this process, that I’ve been “wanting” to learn how to play an acoustic guitar for many years.  No more excuses – I purchased my new guitar and organised lessons within 48 hours.  Once the decision is made, you need to move fast and not overthink it.  
  1. Aim for a moderate degree of difficulty to keep you engaged long-term
    If learning the new skill is too simple, you get bored. If it is too difficult you can become disheartened or lose interest. Find something that challenges you, but it does not overwhelm you.
    Find something where the experience provides consistent and steady rewards and motivates you to keep going.  Make it fun.  Personally, I set myself a challenge: for the next 30 days, I’ve committed to 30 minutes of daily guitar practice.  I want to observe the impact it has on my focus, energy and skill level.  It’s not going to take much to improve, given I’m starting from zero.  I’ve seen second graders at school recitals sound like Hendrix compared to me – but I’m in it for the long haul. 

Typically, personal development is associated with building capability in your current role or preparing you for a future role.  Shift your mindset, find a new ‘hobby’ skill, set yourself a goal, immerse yourself and watch the benefits trickle into your professional work. 

One week into the 30-day challenge, I must admit, it has been a hard slog getting my fingers to move in weird and wonderful ways – all about muscle memory, they say.  Whilst I’d love to join the Foo Fighters as their new guitarist tomorrow, I do need to start somewhere right!? Dave Grohl, look out for my resume soon…

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