Learning something new

August 14, 2018

A few months ago, I took the step to learn an entirely new discipline. This was for a number of reasons; the main one being that I don’t know what a retired website designer or developer looks like.

As this industry is so new, I can’t look at who came before and see how their journey panned out over a lifetime of doing what they did. Sure, we have famous graphic designers and branding agency heads to look at, but the Web… that wasn’t around back then and has only been around now for a comparatively small amount of time.

Having such a brand new industry crop up (which is rare to ever happen anyway) and become this huge, global, money-making machine is a little different to how I thought it might pan out 20 years ago.

I thought the Internet would be this cool little thing for people in the know, and where people like myself could continue designing and building our small little community forums and music fanzines. But today, it’s so much more than I ever thought it would be – but still how does it end for us?

When I’m 65 years old, how is the Internet going to look? Will I still be using Sketch and Photoshop and be laughed at in offices for being the old guy with no clue? Will designers be replaced with robots? Will Wix actually start generating decently coded websites?

I know, some of this sounds frightening, but it’s worth thinking about, right? Can you imagine anyone you know right now in their early 60s, who’s dabbling with Sketch Plugins or using the latest Angular frameworks? I’m sure some of you can, and that’s great – but I can’t. Web design and development is a young person’s game apparently, but none of us know how – or when – this game will finish.

It’s an industry that hasn’t been around for hundreds of years, with a solid back story and history of people who “made it”, then rode off into the sunset that we can all point to and go; ‘I want to be like that guy when I retire’; because it’s just not happened, yet.

Moving on to my second point; I just want to be clear that I love my job, like I love it and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do in life, it’s the thing I was doing at school when everyone else around me was learning about word processing and PowerPoint decks, it’s what gets me out of bed on a morning and it’s what makes me want to continue and grow as a person. I’m lucky to do something I love and get paid for doing it, I think it’s safe to say that that’s quite rare, and so I didn’t learn something entirely new because I want out.

I learned something new because of the unknowns already mentioned, but also to improve myself and to broaden my knowledge.

Call it a back-up plan, a failsafe, a mid-life if you want; but if you have any other interest outside of your main role I’d urge you to take it to that next level – go to a talk on it, sign up to a course, set up a new Instagram just to post specifically about it. It’s all about broadening your skillset and learning about something else that you love.

There’s nothing wrong with improving your main skillset, I’m improving all of the time and that will never stop, but what other skills do you have? Are you a one trick pony? What if your one trick is suddenly no longer required? It’s worth thinking about that and also worth thinking about what else gets you out of bed on a morning and how that interest makes you feel – could you know more about it, could you get better at it? I think you probably could, and it’ll make you feel good about yourself.

For me, the entirely new thing was learning about fitness. I’ve done classes such as HIIT, Circuits and Boxercise consistently (sometimes 6-7 times a week) for over 2 years now and I love it, it’s changed me both physically and mentally.

I enjoy the challenge of fitness, pushing myself through the barriers to improve myself.  It helps with my confidence and how I interact with people, and so I decided one day ‘hell, I’m going to go on a course and get a qualification in this stuff so I can run my own classes’ – why? Many reasons, but I did it mainly because I love it and it’s something completely out of my comfort zone to learn, but something that I have a massive interest in, so why not?

6 months later, after countless hours studying, revising for anatomy exams, gym workshops, a 65-page portfolio and a practical assessment, I’m now a qualified gym instructor with Merits for both my practical assessment and my gym portfolio. I didn’t think 20 years ago I’d be saying that, maybe not even a year ago, but I did it.

Will this make me drop being a designer and run classes? Absolutely not.

The point is, it’s a brand new, entirely different skill to the one I’ve already poured half of my life into, and it took me 6 months to get it and be qualified in it. A new skill that I’ve now got in my back pocket in case I don’t make it to 65 doing the one thing I know and do day in day out – because you can just never be sure where life might take us.

Photograph by Valentine Obasuyi