How to Conquer Any Skill

Not promising too much, right? We are always trying to better ourselves. There is nothing more human than striving for new achievements, whether it’s learning a new language, breaking your personal record in a sport or developing a new skill. I believe that with dedication and a good sense of humour, most goals are within reach. Most. I am likely not going to become an Olympic sprinter, no matter how hard I try. Luckily, that’s not where I’m choosing to go!

My goal is to be able to design my own marketing material. At the moment, I am a neophyte when it comes to digital illustration – I just like to fool around with my pencils! I have a mountain to climb to reach my target. 

Woman writing in notebook next to coffee and computer
Don’t forget to set the groundwork!

Set a Goal

First things first, you need to know where you’re going. You want to make it to the top? You have to understand what the top is. There is an excellent article by LucidChart about setting goals. When it comes to criteria, I think the crucial factor is that it is measurable. You have to know when you’ve arrived.

There should also be a timeline for when you want to achieve that goal. For example, my expectation is by next fall, my digital art will be marketable. Yikes!

Alarm clock surrounded by sheets

Find the Tools and Resources

You can’t do anything on your own. We all need help getting to where we want to go. If the best resource to achieving your goals is the support of family and friends, then reach out to them!

One of the benefits of living in a digital world is there are so many resources available online. For my goal of becoming an illustrator, I started at the very beginning. My kids and I love to draw together, and we often follow Art for Kids Hub, which is a fun way to draw adorable things my daughter loves.

It’s a start. But once I dove into the world of digital art, I knew I would need so much more help. There are so many art learning organizations out there! I turned to, primarily because they offer classes in writing, book marketing and art – everything a struggling indie author needs!

My very first drawing in Procreate. Watch the process at Cordy Kelly Doodles.

Don’t Put It Off Any Longer

Malcolm Gladwell tells us in his pivotal book, Outliers, that it takes 10 000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at a skill. So … you’re going to want to set some time aside.

In general, it seems that it takes about 10 years to really master a skill. If that seems overwhelming – that’s fair. But it also shows us there’s no time to waste. Don’t put off your dreams any longer – get on that. You’ve got miles to go; take the first step today.

I’ve committed to setting aside an hour a day to work at digital illustration. By my calculations, I will be a master in … 28 years? * bites lip * I better get started.

Get Ready to Get Humble

Listen, no one said it was going to be easy. If you are starting a new skill, you are going to suck at it. This is a fact. If you only attempt skills you don’t suck at, you’re not going to learn anything. So embrace the suck, and don’t take yourself too seriously. It shows confidence and is super sexy, I promise you.

One thing I especially wanted to address is beginning a new skill at an “older age.” In quotations, because what does that mean anyway? But I have discovered that attempting new skills is encouraged the younger you are … and tends to taper off the older you get. There’s almost something shameful about starting over at middle life, especially when you go back to that thing where I said you were going to suck. You’re not supposed to suck in your forties, fifties, sixties, right?

I say bullshit to that! It’s true your teen years and your twenties are all about exploring yourself and life. But why on earth should that dry up? I think that people who take decades to figure out what they want to do are fascinating – and not just because I’m one of them! You don’t have to be a toddler to get messy and learn new things. In fact, I would say that it stretches your brain and keeps you young.

Check out this inspiring round-up of women who’ve achieved success later in life at The Cut.

Have Fun

Seriously, you’re not going to get through 10 000 hours of “deliberate practice” if you’re not having fun. It should be a joy to make a mess and fall on your face. Shake off the bruises and keep going.

Cacti fiesta!

Be sure to check out my Instagram, @cordykellydoodles, where I’m showcasing the down and dirty fight to learn illustration. It’s not always pretty, but it is pretty fun. Comment below to tell me what skill you want to master!

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