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Staying Young Takes Skills

Before starting, allow me to introduce you to Darreaux. 

Darreaux is the son of a respected muralist, and a very respected writer.  He received a PhD studying the effects of the economy on artistic expression, which (once you learned of this) he was quick to explain the nuances behind how a recession leads to more zombie movies, and a bull market leads to more stories about the aristocracy being disconnected from reality.  Seriously boring shit.

Darreaux was also the first to inform you that he grew up in the city.  What city?  Know one knows.  If you deigned to ask, he would adjust his designer horned-rim glasses and tell you if you don’t know, then you wouldn’t understand, even if he tried to explain it.

In meetings, Darreaux would sit, leaning back in his seat with his hands folded in a pyramid that extended from his nose, breaking only to let out an occasional, interesting, I see, or a disinterested mmmhmm… The meeting would ultimately be followed by his task list, that included work for everyone but himself.

In short, Darreaux was an asshole.

What does Darreaux have to do with this article?  I’ll get to that in a minute; first, a question for you dear readers.  When was the last time you learned something new?

I’m not talking about the “today I learned that the shortest war ever waged was the Anglo-Zanzibar War, which only lasted 38 minutes,” I’m talking about learning a new skill, taking on a new hobby, or studying to get that certification you keep talking about.

Why Should I Learn Something New?  I’m a Grown-Ass-Adult!

An article by Harvard Health breaks down how learning a new skill can help keep your mind sharp.  Why the fuck should you care about that?  Well, most of our readers are business professionals, and we all know that business professionals are idiots (kidding), but it doesn’t have to be that way!

It got me thinking, is the perceived issues that many have with those in business rooted in the stagnancy that afflicts us all as we age?  Is the softening of our brains as we age causing us to lose our rooting in what actually matters?  Is the difficulty that many executives experience in communicating with those below caused by a dulling of the mind?

With that I say… well I don’t know, I’m not a fucking psychologist. 

But if Harvard says that being mentally active can boost communication between brain cells and prevent me from becoming one of “those” people, then why not at least give it a shot?  Right?


Is Use it or Lose It an Actual Thing?

I don’t know, I’m not a fucking neuroscientist.

But talking about the Harvard article, and hearing about the fate of Darreaux, got us all talking.

You see, someone who worked with Darreaux clued me in on what happened to him.  You see, over the course of many years, he had moved into a position where it was difficult for him to hide behind pseudo philosophical psychobabble.  People noticed two things; that he was always able to cover up that he was kinda dumb, and that he was becoming dumber by the minute. 

When asked what he did over the weekend, he would say “just spent time out on the boat,” and nothing else.  His work was being completed by his assistants, and really no one knew what he did other than exist in an office and talk during meetings… oh and spend time out on his boat.

The common joke was all the time out on the ocean was sun bleaching his brain.  Now, in his mid-50s, he struggled to understand the most basic of things, he got easily confused, couldn’t remember things, and would frequently find himself staring off into space because he completely forgot what he was just doing.

Honestly, I was kind of sad when I heard it, and then, I remembered how much of an asshole he was, so fuck him.  Or, at least that’s what I thought.  You remember that doctoral thesis he worked on that I said he loved talking about?  Well, when asked about it he couldn’t remember too many specifics, but remembered that it was a big deal at the time.

I then started thinking of my own parents (now in their 80s) who are living the same life as Darreaux, confused, and seemingly incapable of stringing two brain cells together long enough to have a coherent thought.

It’s just a sign of aging then, right?  Wrong!

You see, while we were talking, Christina shared that her parents are in their late 70s and have the mind of a 20-year-old (separately, they aren’t sharing the brain of a 20 year old), “but,” she said, “they are extremely active, and are always learning new things, taking classes at the JC, etc.  In fact, recently, her father became certified to scuba dive.”

It’s the Age of the Autodidacts

I became obsessed with the idea that simply learning a new skill, whether you use it or not, can help keep your brain young.

Was Darreaux an idiot because he never had to learn any skills?  Was his smooth brain a result of being able to pawn work off on others, sit on his boat all weekend, and little else?  Could I be like Christina’s parents and learning how to rebuild a Datsun when I’m an octogenarian, just because I’m bored?

I spent the next few hours thinking about the juxtaposition between people like my parents and Darreaux, and stories of people in the arms of the Grim Reaper who are still living life like they are on spring break in Lake Havasu. 

Is there something to that Harvard article?  If we keep our brains learning new things, can we have a long life without “senior moments?”  Maybe, maybe not, but shit, why not try it?

So, we issued an office challenge.  To learn a new skill.

  • Mike decided to learn how to surf, since he will be living in Hawaii for the next year. 

  • Christina is finally learning how to bake (pastries, pies, cakes, etc).

  • Josh is learning how to knit.

  • Bevin (you’ll meet her soon enough) is learning how to sew.

  • And I’m learning about metal work.

At first, we figured this would just be something between friends, but after thinking about it, I decided that we could bring everyone in.  So, dear reader, we offer this challenge: over the next few months learn a new hobby or skill.  It can be anything: a hobby you’ve been wanting to try out, a new skill in a hobby you already do, getting a new certification, anything. 

Will it actually keep you young, and prevent the brain rot that affected Darreaux and my parents?  Maybe, I don’t know, I’m not a fucking neuro-psychic.

Over the next few months, we’ll have a check in with all of those involved as a way of supporting us all in our venture to learn something new.  If you decide to join us, send us a message, and let us know how things are going.

1 comment

1 Comment

May 29

I'm in!

My son has been wanting to learn Python. I'm 49 with no programming experience, but I'll be learning with him. Wish me luck

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