Learning to Learn Again

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I decided my career path needed a change. How do you achieve that?


Being a 36 year old auto mechanic is not as glorious as it sounds; sometimes its downright frustrating. As is the case with many people in their 30’s, I decided my career path needed a change. How do you achieve that?

Conventional wisdom is: go to school! So go to school is what I did. I am now the proud owner of an associate degree in business management. Do you know what that means??? It means I own an unbelievably expensive piece of paper, and a $30K pile of student loans. I thought that said degree would open doors for me, get me into some junior management or something: WRONG! The management field is a hard one to get your foot in the door, unless you’re willing to take an ugly (read greater than 50%) pay cut. I’m talking about high school student level wages, doing management at McDonalds or the like. No offense to all you McDonalds employees, but that company is getting your labor for a song. But I digress.

The college industry is designed to prey on folks like me in order to keep the machine fed. My dissatisfaction is their opportunity. Many 30-somethings are undoubetly going through this same cycle, and colleges are loving it. Not traditional 4 year schools like the University of Minnesota, UNLV, etc. but rather the University of Phoenix, National American University, Devry, and so on. This is kind of a rant, and not really the purpose of this post.

In any case, I want to develop new skills. I don’t want to live and die an auto mechanic. It has always paid the bills, and I won’t be out of the game any time soon, but I would like to have other options. Enter the internet.

I have always loved computers, ever since I got my first one in 1987(or so). I was never the prodigy that so many kids of that era were, but I was fascinated. I’ve been running some manner of Linux since 2000 or so, when it was anything but ready for prime time. I have been wanting to learn to program for years, and I thought: “there is no time like the present!”

In the past several years, I have read many books, watched many videos, and tried tirelessly to learn to program a computer; to no avail. Now comes the part where I evaluate why nothing ever worked.

In the past, I had always considered programming to be a leisurely pursuit: “oh, wouldn’t it be nice if I could”, “oh, I’d sure like to”, “some day I might”. Here is where the problem starts.

Anything worth doing is worth devoting time to. When first learning something, you must devote a fair amount of time, consistently, to learning AND applying knowledge. I have failed badly here – often being sporadic at best with the frequency of my practice, and even poorer in application. If the only time you program is doing the hand-holding examples, failure is imminent. Which brings us to…

Application. I have not always been clear here. I always wanted to program, but I couldn’t identify WHY. What was I going to make, how was I going to use it. If I can find a ready made solution, I have often used it, compromises and all. That needs to stop. Time to program all the things.

I am sure there are more components to the learning equation, but these are paramount, and their lack is surely at the root of my failure. I haven’t been in traditional full-time school in 18 years, and learning to learn again is rough. For all you 30-somethings out there, I hope this helps a bit, and I’m right there with you.



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