Can any new skills be completely mastered after the age of 50? (#AskMichaelaFree)

Most every skill. Some exceptional skills take a long time, but hey, you’ll have increasingly more time over the next thirty or more years. My husband is 88 and having a wild ride through life with plans and projects. So why not give it a try?

Some skills greatly benefit from early training, and some careers contextually only provide jobs for young people. Think ballet dancers or modern gymnasts. That doesn’t mean you can’t try and enjoy these things when you are older. It just means you are not likely able to do them professionally. But things are changing in many fields. We now see mature models on runways, for example. So, it might be worth a try if you wish to battle ageism.

In all other fields, you could spend five years in any university and take up a whole new profession. At 55, you could embark on likely more than ten years of doing something you genuinely like. With retirement age moving ever so slightly, you may have a long career in just about any field that isn’t physically taxing.

There is one magical keyword that should give you courage but also discounts any excuses – neuroplasticity. For a long time, scientists (and hence also teachers, employers, doctors, and the general public) believed that the brain is developed in childhood, and once adult, it generally remains the same. In 2016, scientist Michael Merzenich received the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience “for the discovery of mechanisms that allow experience and neural activity to remodel brain function.” It was the last drop of knowledge in the slowly filling cup that said – ‘Wait! The brain changes and learns all the time, even in adulthood.’

Sure, it might take a bit more effort, but your brain is highly adaptable to any activity you choose to train and any thought pattern you frequently repeat. This became the basis for self-improvement techniques while ending excuses that we are “too old” to learn and master something. If you throw in our ever-expanding knowledge of how to work with the subconscious levels, re-program the brain, meditate, train focus, etc., you have unprecedented tools with which to learn something.

Also, the proverbial 10,000 hours to master a skill is a mirage. That may be true for complex skills like learning to play the piano. But I just learned to crochet scarves. To master the one pattern I like took a few weeks. Sure, if I put in 10,000 hours, I could be like my teacher, who can knit without looking at her hands. But do I need that to crochet scarves well? Nope.

So, it’s also a matter of depth, scale, and intensity – what do you mean by mastering it? Who are you comparing yourself to? And why? Who sets the bar? And, do you have to excel and win awards in that activity, or just be good at it and enjoy it? I would choose the latter, and perhaps you may achieve that excellence.

Can any new skills be completely mastered after the age of 50? (#AskMichaelaFree)
Tagged on: