It’s Never Too Late to Learn

Last week I celebrated a huge milestone birthday…that’s right folks, I am now part of the “over the hill” 40 club. And like most new members, I’m not happy about it. I’ve felt this milestone creeping up with the beginnings of fine wrinkles, the first (hundred) grey hairs and those awkward moments of forgetfulness. Getting older is not my favourite thing.

All these aging downsides are magnified by the fact that I’m trying to break into an industry that favours the young. A lot of the time I feel it’s an uphill battle to compete with 20 year olds who have all the time, energy and freedom to become amazing animators. It can really get me down when I am feeling overwhelmed with adult responsibilities such as parental duties, household chores and endless bills.

But one thing I know for sure is that I can’t let this be an excuse for my progress. A couple weeks ago, I came across this inspiring story that Mark Mason shared on his facebook page. It has resonated with me in a huge way and I wanted to share it with you here, just in case some of you might be frustrated with your own progress.

It’s easy to fall into a trap of excuses at every stage of life. And it’s easy to get caught up in what others think of your decision to embark on new adventures. But this story is enough to motivate anyone to keep going. Small steps add up to huge accomplishments, even when beginning something brand new at age 60 (or 40). And, by the way, learning at a mature age does have some advantages…

We are patient. Anyone who has had to potty train a toddler or deal with a temper tantrum on any level has learned how to stretch their patience. Having been around the block a few times gives us perspective and wisdom to keep going. Nothing comes easy and as I get older and I am feeling more at peace with the idea of no such thing as easy street. We all have to pay our dues, no matter how much “natural talent” one might have.

We are well on your way to reach 10,000 hours of mastery. I think we are all familiar with this statement by Malcolm Gladwell. I may only be starting my deliberate practice with animation and motion graphics, but I have a lot of hours logged in other areas that will certainly contribute to my progress. It takes years to develop an eye for colour and composition. Two things I’ve worked with extensively in my many years in video games and so far has helped boost my freelance animation work.  My point here: don’t discount your previous expertise and experience.

We have focus. Most of us are juggling a family, a career and some pretty hectic schedules. We know what it’s like to sacrifice our time and energy for the ones we love and we do it, without question, everyday. What this means is the small pockets of time we have for our work is laser focused. I am amazed at how much I can get done in a couple hours with no distractions with only my work in front of me. Before life with family, it would take me twice as long to get the important work done; mainly because I had the luxury to slow down and meandre. Juggling many responsibilities has forced me to be judicious about my time and energy. I try to schedule each part of my day so I can squeeze out every productive moment I can find. This discipline is a result of practice and understanding the uncompromised value of time. These are two things I believe come with age.

No matter what age group you are part of, there are certainly obstacles and challenges to get through. It’s human nature to find every excuse we can think of to avoid learning and practising. But if we want to progress and get good at something – such as a new skill or career – we must find the positive areas that are working and keep moving forward. This story about the 90 year old piano player is a huge inspiration for me to keep going and stop using my age and the responsibilities that come with it as an excuse. I hope it helps you too. Keep pushing forward!