In one of my recent articles (Of skills, talents and gifts) I wrote the following:
“I don’t believe that our gifts have an expiry date. Clearly, as we get older, it is more difficult. Sadly, most of us consider the idea of re-engaging our gifts or our passions as impractical.”
It doesn’t need to be that way!
Mitigating circumstances aside, it’s never too late to embrace our passions.
Years ago, I taught guitar lessons to about 60 students. Most of the students were pre-teens. The others ranged in age from 13 to 70. Often, the parent of one of the younger students would tell me how they had always wanted to play the guitar, piano, or some other instrument. I would offer to teach them but they would all inevitably say the same thing; thanks but I am just too old to start playing an instrument now. Some of these parents were in their 30’s!
It’s never too late to embrace our passions. Whether it’s playing an instrument, taking up a sport or perhaps even going back to school to study a subject that has always fascinated you, it’s never too late. Engaging any of these will exercise your brain and create new neural pathways. This is beneficial to all areas of your life. In short, it makes you a sharper you and I believe it makes you a happier you!
Suppose it’s the guitar you want to play. If your hands are willing, you can do it. If all you want is to be able to strum some songs that you can sing along too, with a bit of dedication and half an hour a day of practice, you can achieve that in about 3 to 6 months. If you want to play the blues and improvise a bit, it will take a bit longer. If classical music is your thing, it will take longer still, but you can do it. If your hands are in some way compromised, you may still be able to do it. Consider Django Reinhardt. A brilliant guitar player, he is considered one of the most renowned jazz guitarists of all time largely due to his unique and distinctive style of playing. You see, due to severe injuries suffered in a house fire, he played using only two fingers.
What about sports? Maybe you wanted to take up martial arts or golf. It’s never too late. Sure, you may never become Bruce Lee or Tiger Woods, but you can do it. Just be the best you can be!
If you have read some of my other articles then you know that I started karate at 47 with a back that’s prone to injury and two bad shoulders. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes! I am in the best shape of my life and doing things I didn’t think possible. Was I able to do this because I am gifted in this area? No. I was able to do it because I believed that I could do it.
I once played a round of golf with a woman in her mid sixties. She had some upper back issues that only allowed her to take a half swing. Though shorter in distance due to this handicap, every shot she took was straight up the middle of the fairway. She finished the round 8 strokes over par. I finished 22 over par. She had learned later in life to play a game she loves to the best of her abilities. She told me after the game that she was the captain of a sizable woman’s golf team. Clearly, she is an inspiration to her teammates, a fine example that we can all achieve our dreams if we will but try.
If pursuing education is your dream, it’s never too late. Phyllis Turner, a 94-year-old great-great-grandmother who left school at the age of 12, may be the world’s oldest recipient of a Master’s degree. Or consider Nola Ochs, who at age 90 in 2004 received a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. Then of course, there is Steven Hawking. Though afflicted with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, he nonetheless is one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists who has ever lived. Age and/or disability do not have to stop us from reaching for our dreams.
It’s never too late to embrace your passions. Here are some ideas to help you get there:
- Find a good teacher who will motivate and inspire you.
- Beware of teaching methodologies intended to keep students for a long time. These are often designed to line the pockets of the institutions that offer them at the expense of the student’s progress, and wallet! Do your homework. Talk to teachers and students, ask many questions and make informed decisions.
- Set little goals and build on them. If it’s music, play one good note and build from there. If it’s golf, hit one straight drive. Soon you will hit two, then three.
- If a guitar is simply too difficult for you to get your hands around, try a mandolin, a banjo, or a ukulele. You could even consider a bowed instrument like a cello.
- If karate and kung fu are too demanding on your body, try tai chi. There are many forms of martial arts to choose from.
- Don’t let early failures defeat you. Playing a stringed instrument requires that you develop little calluses on the tips of your fingers. It also requires the development of some new motor skills. Persevere! In short order, you will develop those calluses and motor skills.
- Don’t let a little pain stop you. Your first sports activities will cause muscle soreness. This will pass. You will get stronger and you will improve your skills!
- Don’t be afraid to steer a new course. If you take up guitar and 6 months later realize that the flute is really what inspires you, shift gears and play the flute. If you started studying anthropology but discover that archeology is far more interesting to you, then move in that direction.
I wish you all the very best as you embrace your passions! If you have additional thoughts or can think of individuals who have overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams, please leave a comment and let us know.
Tai Chi Young and Old © Peter Harrison – Wikimedia Commons
Steven Hawking Star Child © Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons
Originally posted at synaptici.com September 4th, 2009