What should I learn next?
January 1, 2006 9:26 AM   Subscribe

What skill should I learn next? What should I know? I enjoy learning, so I'm looking for new things to learn -- ideally some kind of skill (ie., not facts about obscure revolutions in the 18th Century).

If possible, please be specific and supply a reason why you think your suggestion is a good one. Personal anecdotes greatly appreciated. Yes, I am entirely serious. Saying I should learn a language isn't especially useful -- telling me I should learn Spanish, for example, would be more useful. There does not need to be a practical application for everything, although if there IS a practical application that's great. Links appreciated. I am aware that this may make me a dilettante, which does not disturb me in the least.
posted by aramaic to Education (67 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever tried painting? It's a great way to learn how to see differently, and you have something that you can share with others, if you want to.
posted by bshort at 9:37 AM on January 1, 2006

By all appearances from your user page, you're next to a Great Lake. How about sailing, or some other water-oriented thing (kayaking, scuba)?

If you want to stay inside, we need more info on your preferences and available space, time, and money.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:40 AM on January 1, 2006

Learn to grow your own food. MrsMoonPie live in the middle of DC, but we've been able to grow most of our summer vegetables in our little back yard. Very craftsman-like, and a great reward for your efforts.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:40 AM on January 1, 2006

MrsMoonPie [and I] live...
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:40 AM on January 1, 2006

1) Martial Arts (results in confidence)
2) Automotive repair (results less sense of dependence)
3) Investing (results in financial independence - hopefully)
4) History classes - learn why the world if so F-ed up, and then realize that history is truly, only told by the winners
posted by erd0c at 9:53 AM on January 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

Teaching. As a constant learner myself, the greatest challenge to me would be to role-reverse by teaching someone else my skills, as opposed to always being taught something. The idea is vastly unappealing to me, but there has been a nagging at me that I should consider it.
posted by vanoakenfold at 10:08 AM on January 1, 2006

Juggling. It teaches you patience and persistance, and a great party trick for the toddler set. And, it you use beanbags or knives, you don't have to go outside and get cold.
posted by dness2 at 10:31 AM on January 1, 2006

Knitting. It's a wonderful, relaxing, meditative activity and it will allow you to produce your own scarves, hats, sweaters, socks, etc. Handknit items make great gifts too.
posted by rhiannon at 10:33 AM on January 1, 2006

sign language, knitting, glassblowing, ham radio, japanese cooking, local government (get elected!).
posted by cior at 10:34 AM on January 1, 2006

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love
- R.A. Heinlein

- learn how to kill an animal humanely, and render the carcass into manageable portions for storage/consumption. Useful skill if you're ever stranded/willingly in the wilderness and don't have access to a supermarket. See collapse of civilization/economy.
- sailing can be expensive, but it can be fun and it gives you the option of perhaps spending a year travelling the seven seas. See also global warming/waterworld.
- first aid/training as an EMT is practical, and EMTs are paid decently if you want to switch careers/supplement income. See also collapse of civilization.
- programming may or may not be up your ally but it can be a hobby (in conjunction with, say, robotics) and you might be able to turn that skill into supplemental income.
- culinary arts are also something that is practical, most metropolitan areas will have classes. It's also a way to meet people and to impress/entertain ones that you've already met.
- martial arts training is a good way to get exercise despite that the tenuous and translation to actual fighting ability
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:06 AM on January 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest learning poker. If you take it past the casual level of play, it is very intellectually stimulating. Aspects of logic, psychology, game theory, math, and several other realms. Not to mention that it can be as cheap or expensive as you want it, and how many hobbies can you actually make a tidy profit from?
posted by charmston at 11:07 AM on January 1, 2006

grumble... despite that the tenuous and translation to actual fighting ability
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:09 AM on January 1, 2006

I agree with the gardening suggestion above. An unusually rewarding activity.

The next thing that I plan on learning is automotive repair. Older stuff - pre-computerization. 70's and earlier.
posted by unixrat at 11:16 AM on January 1, 2006

Learning to bake bread is great -- inexpensive, and your early efforts will be pretty good, and will get noticeably better every time you bake.
posted by wryly at 11:26 AM on January 1, 2006

Learn any handcraft: Develop transferrable hand/eye skills, precision, orderliness, respect for materials, old/new technologies, planning, your body as a tool, explore your imagination, relationship between innovation and tradition, creativity.

Write a non-fiction book: Develop transferrable understanding of the mechanics of large, long-term projects, learn to organize and simplify complex material, think/write clearly, experience the benefits/pitfalls of revision/rethinking, and the dynamics of interacting with, and becoming, an “expert.”

Take up a musical instrument: Learn value of practice, refine and strengthen your body and nervous system, deepen your appreciation of other musicians/other musics, explore time in new ways, learn to feel and act at the same time.

Observe impact of these developments on your life and your relationships. Enjoy.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:31 AM on January 1, 2006

Learn a computer programming language. Since you ask to be more specific, I would say learn Python. As far as programming languages go, it is a very easy one to learn. If you have never done anything like computer programming, or if you have some familiarity with it, you can check rur-ple, either as something to learn about programming or as an example of what can be done by a hobbyist in less than a year after learning Python. If you do this, feel free to contact me for any help you may require.
posted by aroberge at 11:50 AM on January 1, 2006

I second the musical instrument reccomendation. Other ideas that come to mind include mediation, morse code (in conjunction with HAM radio), drawing (sorry, no reccomendations there, but I think there was an AskMe thread about it a while back), or how to count to 100 in 100 languages.
posted by phrontist at 12:00 PM on January 1, 2006

Welding. For a lot of people this is an entirly new type of interacting with materials -- building things that are structural and stable. Once you know how to weld, you can make furniture, art, buildings and jewlery. It opens an entirely new avenue of "can do" to parts of your life formerly reserved for experts. You can take classes at most community colleges, some colleges, and many technical high schools. Materials are free or inexpensive and start-up costs are few if you go the class route. You'll meet people you likely never knew before. Getting to know more about engineering generally and design/build mentality specifically is an enriching experience.
posted by jessamyn at 12:10 PM on January 1, 2006

Cooking, as suggested, is a no-lose situation. I have pondered going to cooking school for this very reason.

Also, if the artistic or crafting worlds interest you I would suggest screenprinting or printmaking. Both are very useful applications, especially for unique gifts and presents.
posted by travosaurus at 12:20 PM on January 1, 2006

I'd agree with the instrument recommendation, specifically guitar. It's a lot of practice time (and a level of discipline I'm not used to) and teaches you to use your hands in a very different way, especially different from keyboarding.

MeFi indicated somewhere else that it might be a good carpal tunnel avoidance tool.

It's also very portable and stylistically versatile, and everybody enjoys a sing-along.
posted by jwadhams at 12:23 PM on January 1, 2006

As many good ideas as have been already suggested, I will add "whatever Asian language is most prevalent in your community." You might also try to get the basics of history (to understand why exactly your immigrant neighbors came here). It might result in your making new friends, learning some really nifty ethnic recipes, appreciating a new point of view, or even getting a job (bilingual is a selling point on a resume). Part of the reason LoveSac is as successful as they are is that the CEO knows Chinese.
posted by ilsa at 12:33 PM on January 1, 2006

I used to do a lot of target rifle shooting, and I got pretty good at it. (I completed 7 NRA levels in 8 weeks.) Then lost interest. I can still hit a target, and, abstractly, it's nice to know that, but this doesn't make me feel much better about myself. In fact, having multiple skills often makes me feel worse. It's like having a box full of tools but no idea or urge to make anything with them.

Satisfaction comes from mastering **and using** a skill. Mine is music. I'm now 50 and have played clarinet since the 7th grade. I get satisfaction from having more or less mastered a complex process, but what's important is that I continue to play the instrument, by myself and with others.

No one can choose for you which skill will give you satisfaction. It's hard enough for you to know for yourself what you're interested in.

You may feel intimidated because there are so many things to try. The only answer is to try something that seems interesting and see whether you want to continue. There's no short cut.
posted by KRS at 12:48 PM on January 1, 2006

Good question! Not sure it counts as a skill, but I can't resist recommending the game of Go.

Go teaches patience, vision, humour, relaxation, problem-solving, humility and countless valuable personal skills. I consider Go the perfect tool for self-improvement, as it is an all-encompassing skill. I'll hate myself for saying it later, but I would even venture that Go is a 'meta-skill', in that all you learn is applicable to everything else.

Similarly, you may find meditation a most rewarding pursuit.

More practially, and again not obviously a skill, but travelling will teach you a lot about a lot of things, not least how other people do things and how to get by in unpredictable situations.
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:49 PM on January 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

I second the knitting. Very relaxing and addictive.
posted by Chimp at 1:07 PM on January 1, 2006

I agree with learning whatever secondary language is most prevalent in your community or work. It is a very marketable skill, allows you to communicate with more people, and opens up a basic understanding of a bunch of other languages you haven't even touched on yet, so you end up being able to get the gist of a document written in a language you haven't yet learned simply because of all the additional associations you now have. Here's a thread on language acquisition that may be helpful, recently addressed elsewhere.

I don't know what kind of computer/technical skills you have, but adding on them can only help. My husband says HTML and databases are particularly useful. Again, marketable and personally handy.

Hubby also seconds/thirds the 'make something with your hands' ideas: fun and confidence-boosting. Consider carpentry or furniture building. You'll end up with neat things. I find manual work to be a calming, balancing activity, personally. That includes growing things. (Bonus to be found in gardening: having fresh herbs on hand is REALLY convenient and heavenly on the palate; fresh fruits and veggies on hand is also convenient, healthy, and budget-friendly.) Along those lines, maybe learn various handy skills around and outside the house: wiring, plumbing, car repair, etc.

Investing/money management: enthusiastically seconded.
posted by moira at 1:57 PM on January 1, 2006

Oh, and as far as resources for a lot of these things go, there are probably a lot of free/cheap classes available at your local continuing ed center. Community colleges really widen the scope, but are a bit more expensive. Craigslist may help you find local classes, as well. Good luck, and have fun!
posted by moira at 2:20 PM on January 1, 2006

Learn to train animals if you have a pet. Pick up some of the dog training books that are out. Read Don't Shoot the Dog. and go from there. Go with the humane methods, they work better. They also make the skill very transferable. Dogs, cats, fish, children, friends, family, you get the idea. You will learn that you "train" the people around you, as well as other animals, how to treat you. Very enlightening.
A third vote for knitting. Learn to knit socks. It's a small project that you can take anywhere. Since you use 4 or 5 double pointed needles it looks complicated and lots of people will want to know what on earth you are doing. A great way to start conversations and learn even more stuff.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:43 PM on January 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

PS This is a great question. I love this question. Thanks for asking it.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:45 PM on January 1, 2006

Learn to ride a motorcycle. More fun than I ever thought possible. And fun is the most useful thing of all.
posted by scratch at 2:52 PM on January 1, 2006

Get First Aid/CPR/AED certified. Having these skills could make a world of difference for someone. The Red Cross Adult CPR/First Aid/AED course ("Standard First Aid with AED") takes around six hours. The "Standard First Aid with AED plus Infant and Child CPR" course should be around eight and a half hours.

I'd also suggest getting involved with scuba diving. The Great Lakes are cold, but there are all kinds of amazing, well-preserved wrecks down there.
posted by SemiSophos at 2:53 PM on January 1, 2006

I second (and third) the suggestions of EMT Training, Bread Baking, and picking up a musical instrument.
posted by The White Hat at 3:46 PM on January 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

learn some electrical engineering, find out how electric/electronic stuff everybody uses works, build a radio or a solar energy thingi
posted by suni at 3:47 PM on January 1, 2006

study the history of the place that you live at (you can find the wildest things: wars, pirates, witch burnings, ghost stories, politics), botany is a knowledge i'd like to have sometimes, survival/scouting/ranger skills would be nice, fashion design and fabrication is sweet too, photography or movie making is always nice (and actually less expensive than many other things), you could try to master games (board games, card games, computer games, sports maybe)
now if feel like i know nothing.. sigh
posted by suni at 3:58 PM on January 1, 2006

Another recommendation of juggling. Here are the nearest juggling clubs to you. Attend for an hour and you are very likely to learn 3 balls from some very friendly and helpful people. If your response is "I'm not nearly coordinated enough for that" then that's much more reason to try it and have your preconceptions tested.

For something completely different, you could learn to swiftly determine the day of the week of any date. (Disclaimer: I have never bothered to learn this.)

Cool question!
posted by Aknaton at 4:04 PM on January 1, 2006

Get First Aid/CPR/AED certified.

I recently took the American Red Cross First Aid/CPR 6-hr course, and found it quite disappointing (a month later, and I recall very little)...but i guess it's worthwhile nonetheless.

If you are interested in more acadmic subjects, The Teaching Company hires the best professors in the country to give 20+ hr lecture courses on CD/DVD/mp3 that they sell. My dad is quite addicted (has listened to 1000+ hours) and has learned about everything from the history of Jazz to the theory of numbers.
posted by chefscotticus at 4:20 PM on January 1, 2006

My ideas on what would be a good skill to learn:

Cheap. That way, it'll be easy to practice if you end up liking your new skill/hobby, and easy to drop if you don't.

Weird. There are lots of skills I'd like to pick up just because it's a fun story, a cheap laugh, or a flight of fancy. For example, I'd like to learn how to drive and operate a forklift. I can't imagine a time where this skill will ever be useful, but the thought of racing forklifts around a warehouse like office chairs around a cubicle farm is too silly to resist.

But not too weird. One of the great things about the internet is you can find a community devoted to nearly anything. That said, it'll be a lot harder to find resources, say, steam engine restoration than knitting. (Though I met a guy once who restored turn-of-the-century steam-powered industrial equipment; he had some mighty pieces on his secluded island homestead that were fun to examine.)

As you can imagine, forklift operation and steam engine restoration are on my list. Screen printing and stenciling is another skill that seems easy to pick up and serves as a creative outlet to boot. Various sports could fit the bill as well; lately I've been bowling a lot, and if you've got a nice bowling alley near you it's worth a shot. Curling, I find, is also a rewarding sport not just for the physical activity, but also the strategic aspect.

I'd want to learn how to fly a small plane, and especially be qualified on instrument flying, mainly because of an article I read on how one of the Kennedys died in a plane crash, and how night flying is so dangerous because you can't rely on your own senses. It just seems like an interesting idea, to trust a machine so fully with your life. I'd want to learn how to drive a stick shift and do a proper drift, because I fancy myself a rally driver. I'd like to learn an electrician's trade, just because I'm curious about home wiring. I'm sure I've got more ideas, but you can probably take it from there.

There's also this previous AskMe thread on what licenses you can get for more ideas. I think that's where I got the forklift idea, to be honest.
posted by chrominance at 5:28 PM on January 1, 2006

Go to clown school and learn how to be a mime. Develop your ability to make people laugh. Improve your non-verbal communication skills to support depths of silent emotion. Leap over invisible buildings in a single bound.
posted by crysflame at 5:40 PM on January 1, 2006

I'm determined to learn Calculus before I die. I don't need it for anything, but I've read that it's one of the most beautiful creations of mankind, and that makes me feel like if I miss out on it, it will be like missing out on Beethoven's 9th Symphony or The Sistine Chapel. Alas, I was one of those kids that was shuttled into The Arts at an early age. I was told there were Math people and Non-math people, and I assumed I was one of the latter. Now, I'm sure it's within my grasp. It's just a matter of time and effort. I pretty much stopped learning Math at highschool Algebra, and there's even a lot of that I've forgotten. So I have to go way back -- back to arithmetic, really -- and start from there. Every once in a while, I work my way halfway through an Algebra book. Then life gets busy and I have to stop. By the time I get back to it, I have to start over. But I'm not discouraged. It's not a race. Maybe it will be the passion of my 70s and 80s. I WILL do it.

I work in The Theatre. About 20 years ago, now, I decided I wanted to be a Shakespearean director. I started to study his plays. I mean REALLY study them. I'm not talking about reading critical essays (though I do that too), I'm talking about going through a play like "King Lear" word by word, and making sure I understand what each word means. I generally work with an "Oxford English Dictionary" and about a dozen editions of the play (which you can buy for pennies at a used bookstore or get from a library). I use all the different editions because they all have notes about the meanings of various words and phrases. But none of them is completely comprehensive. So it's useful to have more than one. It turns out there's a whole industry of Shakespeare reference books. Books about the songs in the plays, books about the legal references, etc. I collect them. When you delve deeply into a complex work like "Lear," you feel like you're unlocking the universe. (I'm sure you could achieve this feeling by studying other great works of literature -- or the Bible.)

I haven't pursued this, but I've thought about building working robots. There are many books about how to do this with cheap parts.

Other skills I've considered mastering:

--Ballroom dancing. (It would be amazing if I pulled this off, because I have two left feet.)
--Electrical wiring.
--Assembly Language programming. (Talking to the computer in -- almost -- its native language.)
--A really challenging game (someone mentioned Poker) like Chess or Go.
--Make an Indy Film.
--Darkroom photography.
posted by grumblebee at 6:02 PM on January 1, 2006

Aknaton: I did learn to compute the day of the week for a given date a while back. It's very useful! This year's Doomsday is Tuesday.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:39 PM on January 1, 2006

Learn to sew. Up until the turn of the 20th century, this skill, after agriculture, was probably the most ubiquitous and consistently practiced of trades. Nowadays, only a tiny fragment of the populace (in the industrial world, at least) could actually make a useful item of clothing (knitters excepted) they would be comfortable wearing in public. Even learning to properly resew a button or skillfully mend a tear can save tons of money and give one a sense of accomplishment.

Homebrew. An ancient and honorable craft. If you are even slightly detail-oriented and able to follow instructions, you can make your own beer. Plus, think of the joy you will bring to your friends. Added bonus, the Siebel Institute, epicenter of American Zymurgy, is just down the road from you.
posted by Chrischris at 6:59 PM on January 1, 2006

Homebrewing is an excellent suggestion. You can take it to whatever complexity level you like, starting with easy kits, then progressing to culturing your own yeast. Winemaking is also a skill with very tangible results and many levels of complexity; you can grow your own, or start with juice.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:32 PM on January 1, 2006

This is an awesome question.

Learn reiki, massage, or some other form of healing/relaxation skill. You'll get to use it on yourself and you'll get to make people happy by trying it on them. (When I travelled, there was a girl who was good at hand massages. She spent much of our flight to Amsterdam massaging our hands. REALLY relaxing - for us and for her too.)

Some sort of performance skill would be fun. There's the usual singing/dancing/musical instrument, and dness2 mentioned juggling; I'd suggest stage magic. Builds your dexterity, your reflexes, and your mind.

A somewhat unusual skill I picked up recently was making drinking glasses out of glass bottles. You'll need a workshop for this, but it's simpler than it looks and it's loads of fun (especially when you're cutting the bottle with a blowtorch while it's rotating on an old turntable).
posted by divabat at 8:41 PM on January 1, 2006

Learn to do coin tricks. Someday I'll learn so I can impress the kids on the block, instead of having no idea how to interact with them.
posted by deafmute at 10:31 PM on January 1, 2006

Learn Middle English and read Chaucer. It's not that hard and teaches you a lot about word origins, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by nancoix at 7:42 AM on January 2, 2006

I was recently talking to a youngish bartender who was heading back to school. She was taking a variety of courses and trying to figure out what she could do that was interesting and had practical job prospects later. My advice to her: take at least one class in GIS. I see GIS apps poping up all the time now. From Google Maps to plotting bird migrations to mapping poverty levels in inner cities, pairing data with analysis and visualization is rapidly becoming the Next Big Thing (tm).

The other big trends I see: globalization of culture but localization of resources. Learn a second language (I'd argue for Spanish since its the most widely spoken) to enable you to get global contacts more easily and understand more cultures. But also learn to grow vegetable crops, do basic construction work (home repair), welding and sewing. You'll be more self sustaining and you will have a broader outlook.
posted by afflatus at 2:52 PM on January 2, 2006

This is my kind of question. Earlier today I spent an hour browsing and drooling through some continuing ed course catalogues.

Here are a few of the things I'd like to learn in the next few years (list culled to eliminate the skills already mentioned)....

- stained glass work. I'm actually registered for a course in this to start next week. It's a surprisingly practical craft. You can make shades for every size of light fixtures from small lamps to chandeliers, panels for transoms, windows or kitchen cupboards, and jewelry boxes.

- more advanced sewing skills. I'm already a pretty good sewer, but I would love to take a courses in lingerie making, tailoring, and millinery (hat making). Perhaps pattern drafting too.

- calligraphy. I draw and paint and would like to incorporate text into my work. Since my handwriting is not very good, learning calligraphy seems like a good approach.
posted by orange swan at 3:06 PM on January 2, 2006

While I garden extensively outside, I take especial pride in growing orchids. A friend took up bonsai, and I was very taken with the results, a clean, very architectural-type of gardening. Another sub-set of gardening is raising Koi. Koi ponds are usually beautiful, and you can train the koi to eat from your hand.

I love stained glass, and even at a very beginning level you can make stunning windows. I'm especially fond of using leaded glass which looks elegant and understated.

My next project is going to be expensive; I plan to take up cabinetry. I love well-made, simple furniture and I want to make my own living room table. Furniture making can be both artistic and practical. Besides which it makes fabulous gifts!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:49 PM on January 2, 2006

Contact juggling (aka sphere manipulation, among other things) is quite relaxing, fun to share with others, and good for hand-eye coordination.

I found learning to throw and catch a boomerang to be rewarding. It's like frisbee for loners. With a few tools you can make your own.

Let's make this thread a yearly tradition.
posted by WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot at 4:00 PM on January 2, 2006

first, as someone who doesn't know what the heck to do with life, this is a great question. thanks!

globalization of culture but localization of resources
learning desktop fabrication would be a great address to this. CAD + precision cutting tools = anything you want to make, as well as you want to make it. making good things for oneself is an art near lost in modern times, and worth learning.

learn how to teach. you get to pass on any skills you've already mastered (like mentioned above), and from what I hear teaching is one of the best ways to learn (anything).
posted by carsonb at 11:34 PM on January 2, 2006

Learn to fly a small aircraft; single-engine bugsmashers are OK but gliders are much much nicer - you're depending on the atmosphere for your energy, not an engine. Learn at least one computer programming language. Learn to solder. Do a first aid course. Learn to weld. Learn carpentry.

Learn to ride waterskis or a wakeboard. Not useful, but definitely fun. Learn to scuba dive.
posted by polyglot at 11:40 PM on January 2, 2006

this question cries out for the Trainspotting "Choose Life" monologue, or....
posted by polyglot at 11:44 PM on January 2, 2006

Something I really got into but haven't done much of lately is computer-game level design. If you've got Half-Life2 download a program called "Hammer" and then you can build your own worlds to your hearts' content. It's immensely satisfying, there's a ton of help available on the net, and it teaches you a lot of new skills.
posted by hnnrs at 3:09 AM on January 3, 2006

I will enthusiastically recommend learning to ride a motorcycle and learning first aid (up to EMT, but even First Responder or Basic First Aid/CPR is good too.) Both have been very valuable for me over the years. Motorcycling is a cheap, quick and fun way to travel. First aid is valuable for obvious reasons.
posted by gen at 11:49 PM on January 3, 2006

In the last year, I have started to learn to play piano, speak Cantonese, bake bread, and kayak. All are endlessly rewarding.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2006

Speed reading.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:06 AM on January 4, 2006

I'm seconding learning to dance. If you can walk out onto a dancefloor and jive or tango, it is powerfully attractive (to both men and women) and...what's more... so few people can do it these days that you'll suddenly become very special.
posted by skylar at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2006

I've always wanted to learn to ride a unicycle. Being able to do a continuous "wheelie" in a wheel chair is fun to, and if you've got one around it isn't hard to pick up.
posted by phrontist at 8:56 PM on January 4, 2006

Learn Self-Hypnosis. it takes practise over a long period of time but the benefits are massive. dont bother with a book, take a class instead
posted by tranceformer at 6:20 AM on January 7, 2006

Knitting has come up a lot, but I'm going to pipe up in favor of weaving. It requires a bit more (or a lot more) infrastructure compared to knitting, but there are lots of creative possibilities for woven cloth, and for most size pieces it is much faster than knitting. You can make your own loom or buy looms with all levels of complexity.

Right now, I'm trying to weave a samples from all of the plane groups --- not nearly as easy as it might sound.
posted by janell at 12:51 PM on January 7, 2006


surfing, gardening (especially japanese/landscape gardening), meditation, clientside javascript or flash scripting: actionscript/flex, spanish

you'll be happy, healthy and relatively wealthy.
posted by specialk420 at 10:27 PM on January 8, 2006

If you like the idea of working with musical instruments but do not like the idea of daily practice or trying to be a musician, consider learning how to repair or make musical instruments. I've spent many a happy hour inside an electric guitar; it's brought me as much joy as actually playing them, and it doesn't annoy the neighbors.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2006

Join a choir

Build a trebuchet

Learn how to tie a multitude of knots

Be a ventriloquist

Be a church bell-ringer

Learn to be a negotiator

Learn how to be a hot-air balloon pilot
posted by storybored at 2:05 PM on January 10, 2006

I second the vote for cooking - it's creative, but also scientific. You can make this as simple or as complex as you like, but it will improve your everyday experience, as well as that of all your acquaintance. As an additional benefit, its enormously satisfying to feed people you love.
posted by AuntLisa at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2006

Lock picking. Good for both legal and illegal uses, and makes it possible to constantly surprise your friends.

By the way, I am always amazed in vampire movies that they don't immediately teach themselves how to pick locks. For a vampire, I can imagine that information being absolutely vital.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:39 PM on January 12, 2006

Stop thinking in terms of learning skills. Find out something new you enjoy doing and do it. Not to learn and increase your skill level, but because you enjoy it. "Skills" arise best out of a natural engagement with a meaningful activity.
posted by edheil at 7:02 PM on January 12, 2006

Somone mentioned welding. I'd say machining is more useful most of the time.
posted by phrontist at 2:18 PM on January 16, 2006

Assuming you haven't found yourself yet and lack self confidence, respect, discipline, and esteem, I would suggest learning
to think for yourself,
to be more critical of things you read and hear,
public speaking,
debating skill,
improv (to learn to think on the feet and become more spontaneous),
becoming more honest with yourself so that you are more willing to ask the difficult questions you need to ask yourself and others,
looking for a definition of success that really works for you rather have it defined for you by others,
finding the inner strengths you never thought you had,
and read the following post also

and stop looking for things to do to keep yourself busy and avoiding the things you really need to do.

Many people take up new hobbies or date or have children so that they don't have time to work on themselves.
posted by cluelessguru at 8:03 AM on November 23, 2006

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