I learned to love running! I never in a million years would have put those words together.
Linda Descano, CFA®, President and CEO,
As I hope you’ve inferred from reading my articles and blog posts, I frequently turn to friends, family, colleagues, and connections for ideas, insights and inspiration when tackling a topic. So, as I was putting together a series on the topic of "developing skills," I decided to reach out to a randomly selected subset of folks and find out what, if any, new skill they’ve been working on. I was blown away by the diversity of efforts and inspired by the gusto of each undertaking—I thought you might find them inspiring as well and I hope you will share your story with us.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? About a decade ago, I joined the 92nd Street Y’s Broadway Chorus group to sing and perform. To participate, one isn’t required to sight-read music, which is hard for me, but it helps. So, I used this activity as a way to improve my proficiency at sight-reading. I haven’t yet mastered this skill, but I’m much better at following along with new music.
How did you go about it? I tape-recorded our practice sessions and then followed with sheet music to get a connection from sound (easy for me) to sight (hard).
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? I always figure anything that lots of people can do should be attainable.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? I learned a new series of metabolic exercises geared to increase strength and burn calories.
How did you go about it? I heard about this new program at my gym and decided to give it a try.
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? I wanted to get stronger, plus I find the classes inspiring.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? I learned how to play the guitar after I turned 40.
How did you go about it? I signed up for lessons at a place that had a great reputation for getting you started playing with chords vs. having to learn to read music.
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? I tried to learn guitar when I was about 28 and it didn’t work—wrong instructor, wrong everything. I was still holding onto my dad’s first guitar, probably 30 years old, and it was staring at me. I always wanted to play some of the songs my dad played when I was a kid. So, I decided to try again, it seemed like the right time, and it was.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? Just over a year ago, when my son Ben was born, I learned how to change diapers. I literally had never changed a diaper in my life, as I am an only child and never did babysitting, etc.
How did you go about it? I started learning in the hospital under the guidance of the nursing staff. When we went home, I immediately put my newly acquired skill into practice and learned pretty quickly from, shall we say, the diapers that were too loose or improperly fastened. Today I can change a diaper with one eye closed. Incidentally, it was exactly the same for swaddling, though without the same "risks," and now he doesn’t need that any more. It’s become a joy, as it gives me a great chance to tickle Ben and hear his wonderful laugh!
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? The motivation was to care for him, but also to support my wife as it would have been unreasonable to expect her to change every diaper until Ben was toilet trained.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? I learned the art and science of public speaking.
How did you go about it? I volunteered to guest lecture at universities and led trainings on subjects that I knew well.
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? There were so many great public speakers at my previous employer. I knew that it was critical for me to become comfortable speaking in front of large groups.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? I learned to develop vertical applications using cloud-based IT services as a delivery platform.
How did you go about it? I built my knowledge base in this area a couple of ways, through research on the web (blogs, vendor websites, etc.), books, technical journals, and social media (LinkedIn and Twitter, etc.); attended industry conferences; met with sales and technical experts from various vendors; undertook Proof of Concept (POC) projects to test and validate the approach; and networking and information exchange with other start-ups. The low barriers to entry (i.e., cost and simplicity) of cloud based technology made this particularly easy.
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? I was excited by how Amazon Web Services (AWS) actually delivers on the promise of cloud computing today. At the risk of using an overused (even abused!) term, cloud computing actually does represent a "paradigm shift" in how business solutions can be delivered to customers because it increases agility and at the same time reduces cost. Incumbents who have to support a legacy application are at high risk of being replaced by new, nimble competitors not burdened by older infrastructure and processes.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? I learned to love running! I never in a million years would have put those words together.
How did you go about it? I found myself constantly in motion balancing very long days between work, the schedules of my three children, community work and everything life tossed my way. What was missing was “me time”. So I started getting up earlier in the morning, to enjoy a cup of coffee, catch up on Facebook, read the newspaper… that then lead to tackling exercise during “me time”… so I started going for a walk and one thing lead to another as I thought if I am out here walking, why not run…
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? Being outside in the early morning is incredibly beautiful. It’s so peaceful and quiet. As I transitioned from walking to running, I found myself thinking about the million things I needed to tackle that day, and before I knew it I was running miles…. Without even realizing it! Even better I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment mentally and physically. I maintained a log and I am well past the 1,000 mile mark.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? Even though I have no background in gymnastics or anything super physical, I decided to take up flying trapeze after turning 30. I never dreamed 2 years later I would be training regularly with a 30+ year veteran of Ringling Brothers surrounded by professional circus arts students!
How did you go about it? I was a bit nervous, so I waited to sign up for a class for the first time at the Trapeze School of New York when an adventurous friend was visiting from out of town. I read a lot about it before, as I wanted to be comfortable about the safety aspect. I’ve since progressed to taking classes at Circus Warehouse as well.
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? When I was younger, I focused so much of my time studying music (flute) that I didn’t have the opportunity to try out as many types of physical activities. Additionally, I grew up in Alabama and went to school in Mississippi. You tend to find extreme sports like trapeze in larger metro areas, so I’ve tried to take advantage as much as possible of these opportunities now that I’m here in NYC. I’d only planned on trying it once or twice, but over two years later, I’m still going weekly with no plans to stop anytime soon. Every time I learn something new—like turning around mid-trick, a more independent variation on my take-off, or even swinging out of lines, I’m nervous and challenged and it’s almost like starting over. I find the continual challenge exhilarating!
What skill did you recently learn/develop? Yoga (actually—an ongoing skill development for about eight years).
How did you go about it? Weekly classes (90 minutes) and independent practice. I even occasionally take special classes when traveling on vacation. And, I’m just beginning more advanced (and difficult!) Ashtanga Yoga.
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? Staying in shape, becoming more limber, better posture —and helps balance out other exercise (aerobic/strength) activities. It’s also somewhat meditative.
I learned to love running! I never in a million years would have put those words together.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? I spend a lot of my work day synthesizing and personalizing equity content for clients so I decided that I wanted to develop my creative writing skills as a natural extension of what I do every day. Moreover, I have had a long-time passion for writing stories for children and, as such, I hope to have my first children’s picture book published by year-end 2012.
How did you go about it? I have done a couple of things to help achieve my goal. First, I took a creative writing course at a local college. Second, I set aside personal “me time” at home each week to work on developing my stories. Third, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) which is a 501(c)3 organization for writers and illustrators. The resources available to members who are either aspiring or established writers and illustrators are invaluable. Through SCBWI I have been able to connect with freelance editors, copy editors, and illustrators, etc. Lastly, I put together a simple business plan for my first story which details the publishing houses who I think might be interested in my book but it also includes an alternative plan for allowing me to self-publish my book if I determine that is my best course of action.
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? My children have inspired me to take this step. They are a daily source of inspiration and are my greatest fans and source of ideas for my stories. In fact, my first book entitled, “Fabulous Farrah and the Sugar Bugs,” was inspired by my daughter, Farrah. When she was three years old, getting her to brush her teeth was very difficult. As such, I thought that if I was having such a problem with getting her to brush her teeth that a lot of parents globally were likely dealing with the same issue. “Sugar Bugs” is a fun and creative story about the importance of brushing your teeth and hopefully should entice kids to brush. I hope to follow my first book with a series of bug books which will help to teach kids about good health and hygiene.
What skill did you recently learn/develop? I wanted to be better at photography.
How did you go about it? My digital camera has a lot of functions on it that I never took the time to figure out, so I decided I would make learning my camera fun by taking a day-trip with a friend who is great at taking pictures. Having a more experienced photographer show me simple ways to understand the advanced features of my camera helped accelerate my learning curve.
What motivated or inspired you to take the step? Taking photos had always been an interest of mine, but nothing that I had ever formally been trained on. One weekend I was walking through a park near where I live and there happened to be a community photo education fair taking place. I went home and grabbed my camera, and came back ready to learn as much as possible. Taking that first step got me excited about putting into practice the new techniques I’d learned.