The well-worn idiom states that You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks—stating the impossibility of changing personal habits or the equal improbability of learning a new skill—but this Old Dog disagrees. I am even wearing my holey socks to prove my point.
The lazy part of me wishes that I were still in my warm bed, slapping the snooze alarm one or two more instances. The time is 5:44am and through the inky black morning, the headlight from my train carves a tunnel from within the darkness. Bound in my light jacket, I adjust my purple necktie for the hundredth time: tightly, cinched around my neck, neatly tucked under the collar. The length is too long, but only by a half inch so I won’t fuss with it any longer.
I board the train into town, an hour earlier than usual, to talk with a man that I’ve never met, about the summary of my professional career. This is the second instance within a week’s time, so the interest level is legitimate, and simultaneously alarming. But on the way into the city, as street lights and closed storefronts streak by, I wonder to myself if this Old Dog is capable of learning New Tricks, some of which would be required elsewhere.
I must not doubt myself, but remember why I choose to better myself and the circumstances of my family. Of course this Old Dog can learn new tricks, I’m wearing my semi-lucky socks—the black ones with a checkered white and green pattern, well-worn and threadbare in some spots. Sometimes all you need is the encouragement of a trustworthy pair of socks.
I find myself early to the meeting, as is my preference, sitting outside of a giant monolith of steel and glass. Illuminated pinpoints of light are peppered through the trees. An early-to-rise crew is assembling the yearly platform that will display an enormous tribute to the Christmas Season. An odoriferous homeless woman, stationed in a state-of-the-art, mobilized wheelchair holds the pedestrian crosswalk for ransom, her index friend prompting you to get closer and closer as to read her sign. I keep my distance.
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young ~ Henry Ford
As the revolving doors transplant employees from the chilly morning air to the warm embrace and aroma of brewed beans, I recall the number of new tricks that I’ve had to learn in the past. With a formal education in the Arts to transformation of a formal occupation as a web developer, I chalk one big tally in the column of Things That I’ve Learned. I adopted my current professional role, from a two decade self-employment spree, so I add yet another tally. I’m haunted by the notion that it’s always reassuring to stay in a job that is most comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, and the promise of continued comfort can be a hinderance. First tally for the Can’t Learn New Tricks column on my assessment.
The truth is that I am more capable of accomplishments than I give myself credit for. Of all the years in my life, this has been the most persistent finding of my introspective Project 365. One of my personal goals for the year was to learn a new programming language, not of necessity or mandate, but of personal curiosity and desire to increase skill sets within my occupation. After several months of focused learning, I can claim knowledge in the realm of a new programming language: Python.
I’ve read numerous books and completed endless projects designed specifically for the process of Old Dogs learning New Tricks. From programming salary calculators, space invader games, payroll reports, and choose your own adventure scripts, I’ve loved it all. The simplicity of that specific language made the process of learning something new, actually fun and enjoyable. This is what it was like, once long ago (nearly twenty years since), when I started in the web industry. Add another positive tally mark.
I check my watch again, it’s 6:44am and I’ve deemed it close enough so that I can respectably enter the building and check in with the security desk. This morning may prove to be something good or nothing at all, but—you know what?—it doesn’t matter to me either way. I’m here now—wearing my Second String Tie & Socks—before the sun has risen, and that’s all that matters for today.
I’m mentally checking #33 Learn new programming language from my bucket list. Woof, woof.