Just Deploy It!

How to keep learning:


I have a lot of interests. A lot.

Everything from the origins of the universe to how to tie a highwayman’s hitch.

As a wannabe polymath (a person of wide knowledge and learning), I have struggled my whole life dancing between subjects. My colleagues smile with amusement as I list off another curious career path – I want to be an author! An astrobiologist, a deep sea diver! I adore film music and costume design, how can I learn to be a sailor, a mountaineer? Hey, aren’t you guys totally fascinated by fungi and trees? Do you think if I learnt enough computing I could get into MI6? I have at least 4 languages running on Duolingo, two on Codeacademy, and no less than 56 tabs open on my computer.

To put it plainly, I can very much relate to the old saying, ‘Jack of all trades master of none.’

Indeed, in my short experience, I have always felt disappointed that I am pretty mediocre at most things. The perfectionist on my shoulder asks why I cannot do every sport to olympic level and claims I do not possibly know enough about the writings of Plato.  There are simply not enough hours in the day to achieve everything I desire – perhaps there is no use in trying at all?

As I have reached the official quarter life crisis in this respect, I have decided I’ve had enough of worrying about this. Worrying is, after all, a sure fire way to speed up the aging process.

The best tips I can advise in order to stop worrying and start doing?

Number one:

Remember there is no ‘right’ or ‘best way.’ Just options!

Every decision will open up all kinds of doors, and every decision can be followed by another if you change your mind. It is better to just start something than be frozen in fear of choosing the ‘wrong’ thing to start.

Decision anxiety is common in perfectionists for fear of not choosing the ‘best’ path, or starting and not reaching a perfect standard. This results in procrastination and disappointment when you get 3 years down the line and realise you’ve just stagnated.

Every now and again I have to stop and ask myself: would you rather know basic conversational French or no French at all for fear of not being fluent? Would you rather have taken a mishmash of one dive course, a surf lesson and a riding lesson or have done none for delays trying to choose the ‘best’ skill to learn and perfect?

Remember: any change or new experience can teach you something. Waiting for a sign will, at best, teach you the true meaning of boredom and at worst leave you with a life of ‘what ifs.’

Number two:

Trust the process.

If you do anything with any level of dedication for a few months you will likely be more knowledgeable than a large percentage of the population so just go for it.

I remember setting myself the challenge of reaching blue belt jiu jitsu after reading an article that boldly stated that a blue belt can beat 99% of the population in a fight. It took me one lesson a week for a year. That’s approximately 52 hours of core training time, or just over two days. (Sadly I moved house just before my grading so I am still officially green belt, but intend to find another dojo to continue training!)

You might not feel like you’re achieving a whole lot, but you’ve got to be learning more than if you just give up. Progress is sometimes slow, and that’s ok.

Number three;

You are your only limit.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you are or are not capable of. You know yourself better than anyone else – be a product of your own attitude, not everyone else’s.

I used to fear pigeonholing myself in one area whilst simultaneously panicking that if I didn’t, I would never be competitive for jobs. The rhetoric of society seems to shout ‘get exceptionally good at one thing and then get paid for it.’ Sure, I may be making my life slightly harder by spreading my interests and skill set but I truly believe in the value of multidisciplinary skill sets and don’t believe you must sacrifice your fascinations for success – it is your life to live after all, you may as well enjoy exploring it.

For me, I have learnt that I am not content to settle with a small number of skills or interests, I simply have too many curiosities. So I have decided, when one surfaces I shall dedicate those few months to it, be present in it and see what possibilities arise. Perhaps I am aiming for the impossible, but I will take a leaf from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: ‘Sometimes I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

So far with this attitude I have gained my green belt jiu jitsu; spent three months living in Malaysia exploring marine biology; gained PADI Advanced Open Water dive qualification; learnt how to build a website; learnt holiday spanish; had my first riding lesson; learned the basics of Python 3; gained strength to do negative handstand pushups; learnt seven essential knots; gained botanical and fungal ID skills; run 10 miles when I could only run for a minute previously; collaborated globally on research and citizen science projects and made friends from Iceland, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Malaysia, US and UK. The list goes on.

Life does not wait for you. Find what brings you joy, invest in your curiosities and keep learning! A jack of all trades is master of none… but better that than a master of one!