Getting out of the comfort zone and learning new skills online by defeating insecurity and laziness.
Using free time in a way that can enrich our knowledge and understanding of the world I think is one of the wisest decisions we can make in our lifetime.
Learning will never give us the unpleasant feeling of having wasted time. How often does this happen to you after watching a movie, scrolling social media for hours or playing a video game late into the night? Self-convincing yourself that you can procrastinate is dangerous; you run the risk of growing old accumulating only regrets for the things we wanted to do and didn’t.
Today we are in a period of history where tools for learning have become available online to a very large part of the population. Taking courses on the Internet is now a viable choice that allows great flexibility because you can decide to learn whenever you want, even if you already have a job, regardless of your age, and you often do not have to pay anything or very low amounts of money, especially if you want to take courses done by experts who are on the other side of the world.
To do that, however, you have to defeat our number one enemy: laziness.
I started working when I was 20 years old, without going to college but only doing a school to become a graphic designer that did not teach me much, just to say, a computer they had made us see it from afar as an inaccessible object (we are talking about 1989-1990). I didn’t manage to buy my first Mac until three years later (a Macintosh LC II with 4MB of ram and 40 MB of HD), and from there on I taught myself everything there was to know.
Everything I have learned, and I have accumulated a lot over the years, has come from personal study. When I had a need or passion for a topic I sought out the right resources and always set out to study while simultaneously putting what I had acquired into practice. Theory alone does not help one understand well and memorize correctly what one has learned.
Now, one may think that I want to make believe that I am smarter than average and because of that I am superior to lazy people in front of the TV wasting time. No, those who know me know that I am not conceited at all and I am not one to look down on others. I consider my intelligence normal and my memory very below average (I forget so many things) but I have some qualities that help me: I can fight laziness by giving myself some self-discipline and I always have a strong passion for what I do.
Passion is the strongest engine that exists in the world.
You can be very smart but have no strong passion and you will probably stay on the couch playing Playstation for the rest of your life.
When I first started studying what I was interested in, all that was available to me were books or the courses to attend that lasted for months or years and forced you to move around with fixed schedules and everything that goes around that kind of teaching. It was a real struggle to learn that way, not very fun and often unclear.
Today with online courses you have the best teachers/coaches in their field who can teach you everything you want to learn almost as if it were a personal course. And if something is unclear or you have a specific question for your situation, there is always a way to contact them and have them explain it to you.
It’s a revolution like none has ever been seen before in the field of education.
The biggest difficulty is finding the gold amidst so much junk. What I mean is that there are great courses, often free, but also a lot of stuff that is badly done or made just to sell you something else.
There are platforms that, for more than reasonable costs, give you access to a huge amount of courses of all kinds, others that charge you a fee for each individual course, and then there is YouTube with a choice is endless where you find videos with quality content amidst a lot of really bad stuff.
On YouTube the best video is from people who want to share their knowledge without selling you anything. It may seem strange to some, but there are plenty of people who love to do this and expect nothing in return. As an example, I am following a Canadian guy who is very good at making documentaries and who, with many free videos on YouTube, talks about his whole experience giving invaluable advice that I could only get by working side by side with a mentor who decides to be mentored by me for months. Below is a video to give a better understanding of what I am talking about. Like him you can find thousands more for every area you can think of.
But why should you waste time learning new things instead of indulging your (and all of humanity’s) innate laziness?
Do you know how much time you spend online every day on social media? Almost two and a half hours (142 minutes), according to Audiweb data. At the end of the day, has using all this time to do these activities left you with something positive? Do you go to bed happy?
Getting out of the comfort zone
Note: I am speaking in the first person but not necessarily pointing to you as the subject of the talk.
Learning new skills gets you out of the comfort zone which may seem like a comfortable bubble but in reality also means living a passive life dictated by what others tell you or think. Not your life but the one that others have imposed on you (even if you think not but it is just a way of self-comfort) and when you grow old you will regret not having done so many things.
To get out of this bubble you have to make decisions that may initially make you very uncomfortable but that, you are sure, you will not regret.
Learning makes us better understand why certain things happen, and this makes us more self-confident, and the result is that we will be able to better understand what path we want to take.
Making decisions that go along with our passions and wills and not those of others makes us feel good.
In the end we all pursue happiness as our ultimate goal, and it always starts with choosing to learn.
How do I go about learning?
There are some basic points that are necessary to succeed in learning and begin a virtuous path that will make you want to learn more and more:
Organize your time is the advice that lays the foundation for everything. You may be tempted to procrastinate but you have to be consistent, remember that you are not doing this for someone else but for you and so you should look forward to continuing the course you are taking. For schedules, don’t give yourself fixed hours but just an approximate time each day and never procrastinate (this is imperative to get into the right rhythm). Maybe Monday you can take a course in the morning on the train, Tuesday at lunch break on the computer, Wednesday in the evening after dinner on the couch (trying not to fall asleep…) on the tablet, and so on.
Use the tool that is most convenient for you, it can be your cell phone, a tablet, a computer or a mix of all three (as is often the case with me) to use depending on where you are.
One thing I always recommend, not only for studying but also for working more focused, is to disable all cell phone/computer notifications which are for me the absolute evil of our age. A sneaky system to always have our constant attention and make us very unfocused. Always disable ALL notifications!
The important thing is not to have too many distractions, don’t look at social while studying, multitasking when you are trying to understand and memorize concepts and put them into practice, it doesn’t work. Take breaks from time to time though, not stopping for hours is counterproductive, you need to distract yourself from time to time, how often to stop depends on your attention span and ability to concentrate.
Advantages and disadvantages of online courses
Flexibility in dividing your time
You can choose to take a course as much as you want without the time settings of a traditional school.
It seems counter-intuitive in that a live course would seem more conducive to teacher-student interaction but often, especially for shyer students, being able to interact online gives them a greater level of confidence. Very often in online courses you can send direct questions and get precise answers for your needs. In person very often there is not the time, or the courage, necessary to ask them.
Lower or no costs
Online courses save a lot of money or no money at all. You do, however, have to spend some time looking for the best ones you would like to take.
You don’t have to move to another city or country
Often taking traditional courses means having to go to another city or even move abroad. So with an online course you save money and time.
Tailored to what you really need
If a course is extensive and you need to know one thing right away that you need to put into practice as soon as possible, you can go straight to the point where this is explained. Straight to the point. For example, do you want to understand how to select a figure in Photoshop? Go straight to the part of the video where it is shown how to do it. Not always but in some cases following from A to Z is not best method for quick results.
Taking a class in a traditional classroom happens in a social setting and some people have to interact with other people live to be able to learn and get immediate feedback that only a live interaction can give.
You have to be disciplined
There is no teacher telling you that you have to get to work on your online course, if you are lazy and decide I’ll do it tomorrow, that’s the end of you, you will never finish the course you started. You have to get into a state of mind whereby it doesn’t have to be a compulsion but a pleasure, you have to look forward to having some time to learn what you like and want to become an expert in.
Never see the end
Online there is so much material that on each topic you could go on forever. So the risk is that you are always left with the feeling that you could know more, that maybe you have shortcomings that no one, however, can point out to you because you are alone in front of your screen.
What kinds of courses are there?
Online/app you find courses of all kinds, from university courses to learning how to make a website through everything you can think of. I have never not found a course I was looking for.
The biggest difference between the more structured courses created by large universities or companies and those by individual teachers on single topics is the time it takes to take them and whether or not you need to pass exams.
To understand, if you follow a YouTube tutorial on how to make a website, you normally have to put in at most a few hours and obviously no exams, whereas if you take a university course you have to put in months or years of study and many exams to pass. My advice is to start with the quickest and free courses you can find on YouTube or sites like Udemy.com/en If you later get the hang of it and want to get an online degree you are always on time to do it, there is no age limit.
What to learn?
You can really learn anything you want. Here are some examples: English or other languages, software programming, graphic design, photography, video, finance, marketing, social media management. Of course, if you take college courses, you can even get a degree!
Some sites to get you started
The important premise is that in order to find a greater variety of courses and quality, you must also look among those in English. If you don’t know it you can find courses to learn it… if you don’t want to do that for now, you can still find good quality courses in Italian that are, however, often translated from English ones.
Here you can find free video tutorials of all kinds. From the very high quality ones to the very bad video. The difficulty is to find the right content, the advice is to subscribe to the channels that you think are closest to your interests (not only in Italian but also in English) that demonstrate that they consistently publish quality videos. In this way, in a short time, you will see targeted recommendations appear on your personal home page that the YouTube algorithm will propose. Over time, the recommendations reach a very high percentage of videos that are on target with your interests.
It is a platform where you find free or very low priced courses during their many promotional offers.
The first month is free, then a subscription is required. Courses are divided into three categories, Business (dedicated to management, human resources, and marketing), Creative (ranging from 3D animation to graphic design), and Technology (from big data to social media). The courses are organized by modules and there is massive use of video. The added value, of course, is the link to your LinkedIn profile, to which the various certificates obtained with the platform can be attached. Some courses are taught by influencers or well-known personalities on the social network, and the level of teaching is quite high.
This is the most epic site of all, only in English, only with the most incredible names in every field, from Spike Lee and Alicia Keys to Dan Brown and Timbaland. If you want to learn from the best in every field, this is the place to be, at an all in all more than reasonable price for the extreme quality of the content and film-quality implementation.
With an annual subscription you have access to a huge number of video courses in the creative field, from design to photography to writing and business elements to put your creativity to use.
It is a Spanish platform for creatives; the model is to buy individual courses made by professionals in the field. The only limitation is that a large part of the courses are in Spanish although with English subtitles, so for many it might be impractical more for a language issue than for the quality, which is very high.
The platform is freemium (many features are free, some are paid, such as offline lessons and the ability to use it without viewing advertisements) and is based on the gamification method: learning is turned into a kind of video game. On Duolingo, starting from Italian, you can study English, French, German and Spanish.
It has more languages available than Duolingo. Membership is free, but much content is paid for.
The world of MOOCs
The starting point for those who want to enter the world of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) is called Coursera, the platform created years ago by two Stanford professors. Coursera is the largest provider of free college courses in the world. The only requirements are knowing English (but there are also some courses in Italian) and having a Web connection: from there on you can study programming languages, introductory philosophy courses, business marketing, how cryptocurrencies work, all offered by the best universities in the world. Courses are generally free, and only those that are equivalent to master’s degrees (with certification) are paid for.
Digital lifelong learning is so important and strategic that even institutions (both at the national and European level) have created their own platforms. The European Union offers Emma (European Multiple Mooc Aggregator), a binder of free courses in EU languages, with a wide choice for Italian as well. The teachings are offered by European universities and cultural institutes, some have a start date and calendar, others you can start at any time.
CodeAcademy offers an extensive library of free teachings, to learn the basics of coding to program, to which they add more structured and paid courses, which allow you to try your hand at real projects.
Udacity offers a formula called Nanodegree, very vertical short mini-labs on technology topics such as virtual reality, deep learning, artificial intelligence in partnership with big companies in the industry.
The world of online courses or tutorials is huge, at first it can be intimidating but the advice is to try it, you will never go to sleep again that bad feeling of having wasted hours for nothing and the next morning you will be ready to put into practice what you have acquired, a great satisfaction, I assure you.