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Ask HN: Have you picked up any new skill from scratch in your 40s or later?
99 points by akudha 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 157 comments
I'm not talking about learning programming languages if you are already a programmer, but more like something totally different from what you do - like a new human language, new sport or music or any skill late in your life? 40s or later? If yes, what is it and how did you learn?

I've always thought it's important to learn something significant in each decade of life. In my 20s I started teaching and doing long-distance bicycling trips. In my 30s I moved from NYC to Alaska, and started doing mountain rescue work. In my 40s I started writing and learned to drive a boat on the ocean. That was intimidating in a fishing town, where it feels like everyone else has known how to drive a boat since they were three years old.

In my 50s I hope to learn a musical instrument, although that's a couple years away so who knows what's in store then.

Learning something new keeps us young and humble, and engaged. It also connects us with people outside our current bubble. People talk about our minds becoming less elastic as we age, but that's offset by practice at learning new things. I do think it's good to learn things with some element of risk from time to time; it's part of what keeps us sharp, and forces us to evaluate our own competency level.

What are you interested in learning?

Question. It is normal to say drive a boat? My father was a sea captain for his entire life and never used the word drive. I also grew up around fishermen and being onboard when they were in port,them like my dad used the word steer or captain.

Here in southeast Alaska, I usually hear people say "drive". For example if people are talking about a somewhat sketchy or tense return from a trip, you might ask them "Who was driving?"

I never hear anyone say "Who was captain?" or "Who was steering?" "Captain" seems to imply a title, and "steering" sounds like you just took the wheel for a moment.

That may be different for people who spend a lot of time on commercial boats. When I've been in formal settings, say on a police boat while doing search and rescue work, we will talk about the person who is filling the role of captain. But we still say that person is "driving" the boat.

I specifically remember seeing this distinction in, of all things, a 40's war-era Superman comic, where an everyman G.I. character tasked with truck driving was told, "anyone can steer - we need drivers!" Which makes me believe "drive" probably is nautical in origin and then corrupted through casual usage in automotive transit, where steering and driving are more often equated.

Maybe not. Long before there were cars, the people who held the reins of a carriage were called drivers. They were literally driving the horses forward. So too the mule drivers

“Pilots a boat”, is what I was taught.

You are very interesting!

How did you decide what you wanted to do at each juncture?

When I finished undergrad I started teaching middle school, and after two years of teaching I finally had a summer off with zero obligations. I had read A Walk Across America, about a guy who walked across the US. It sounded fascinating but it took him several years. So I settled on biking, because you can get all the way across the US on a bike in a summer. I did that a couple times, and then spent a year living on a bike. I rode from Seattle to Maine (through northeastern Canada), down to Florida, over to California, and ended in Alaska.

That led me to move to Alaska a few years later, which led to mountain rescue work. Teaching led to writing. Living in a coastal fishing town led to boating. Each adventure leads to the next. :)

I wouldn't want to live forever, but I'd happily live a thousand years and spend ten years on a hundred different things.

Cool. I read A Walk across America, in serial form (2 parts) in the National Geographic magazine, long ago. It was great, and the first time I heard of the concept of such a long journey on foot, although I knew about people driving across America. It was fairly common in those days when gas was much cheaper. Some of my older relatives settled in the US had done it too, and used to tell us kids about it. A couple of points I remember are him guzzling a liter or more of soft drinks at a stop after a long walk on a hot summer day, and his stay with and warm welcome by an African American family.



Serious question: do you think there are only 100 things that would be interesting to learn?

No. It's a simple way of saying I'd love to live longer than a human lifetime, but would never want to be immortal.

Machining. It started with YouTube. I picked up a lot of concepts and that set my brain to recognize these tools. Then I randomly bought a milling supply company basically for almost nothing while shopping for interesting deals.

Well, now I have multiple tons of milling tooling and so obviously I need a 3-ton milling machine. Looking at an older CNC mill.

So that’s one skill. Another is automotive repair. My skill level is high enough to do engine replacement. Just bought a car lift today to make everything easier. This does intersect with other skills - I use oscilloscope for automotive troubleshooting, which is not far from software engineering and electronics. This led me to almost opening a mobile A/C repair business. I acquired most of the equipment I needed and got certified for federal licenses. This got delayed because of the machine shop company that fell into my lap. That’s just a much bigger opportunity.

I can credit YouTube for introducing me to many interesting skills and hobbies.

Competitive dancing. I have been a good dancer since 16 years of age, but then I studied with world championship teams. At that point, the dance is a tightly choreographed athletic activity. I was going to start competing this year, but that will have to wait a little. There are various age categories, so I can compete on equal terms with other similar couples.

Relearning math. I am not terrible at it, but I am attempting to create a curriculum that does not focus on rote memorization.

Hold on. I kept re-reading that thinking they must mean they bought a milling machine, but no you bought a milling supply company. Come on, you can't gloss over that. I need to know the story behind that because it sounds fascinating.

I'm slowly picking up "dicking around in the garage" as a hobby, and you are so right about these skills being connected. It makes use of so many different skills. It also builds your confidence, and makes you feel like you can build or fix just about anything. I feel like I always walk out of the garage an inch taller.

I think This Old Tony and Rainfall Projects were my gateway drugs

Same, with a similar trajectory but not similar investments for the future. This Old Tony, Applied Science, and Abomb were all strong motivators.

Great luck with the business venture.

Damn you sound cool, can I be your friend?

Hey all, I've been a web developer all my life (first job in 2002), but started a masters in gamedev a few months ago (I've since turned 41), and enjoying it immensely.

My partner and I have kids (7 and 4), with no family nearby to "hand over" the kids to. We're pretty much on our own. Somehow, with less time we accomplish more.

I suppose it's not a drastic change from my day-to-day (like learning a musical instrument, a dance, or a language), but it's new to me, and something I want to do more of in the coming years.

The ways I incorporate it into family time are: designing pen&paper games and playing them with the kids; designing levels/characters, and drawing/doodling with the kids; coming up with narratives/stories and telling them to the kids.

I'm a gamer. When my wife and I first got together, we played a lot of games together (Resident Evil on the sofa, Scrabble/Carcassonne at the pub). She works in TV and one of her first jobs was with Gamepad [1] (we're still good friends with Violet and family). So, the games runs deep, and I would love to spend more of my time making them.


Maybe not the example you seek, but I learned programming (web development) from scratch when I was 37yo. I did it online (freeCodeCamp), by myself. 6 to 8 hours a day for about 8 months until I got my first job.

Now I am 41, I am still new to the new career and continuously out of my comfort zone. But once I am more used to the pace and life of a programmer, I will probably want to learn something else. No idea what yet, but I will.

Could you tell me what courses you took ?

First 2 months just www.freeCodeCamp.org, nothing else. Then I started to also do small projects following tutorials and official documentation (mostly in React). That’s it, no courses.

- Guitar, I think the benefits of learning a musical instrument are self evident by now. Keep it fun, and there's a lot of enjoyment to be had from each step forward. I started when I was 30ish through in-person lessons, one on one, in the early days.

- Unicycle, difficult to get started but well worth pushing through just for the moment when you're upright and somewhat stable. A colleague taught me in the office.

- Surfing, mid-thirties for this one. Learnt through friends, really pushes you as there's a lot to contend with and understand early on. Wind, tides, swell, fitness, skill, reading the waves, kit and more. 99% sitting around cold or underwater 1% actually on a wave for me.

- Walking, super accessible.

Yes - standup comedy. I’m 47. Started 2 years ago, background mostly “nerdy” and not hyper social. Have done some paid gigs and performed for crowds of up to 150.

And at 38 learnt rock climbing ... got quite far with that until was stopped by an injury.

Also more recently podcasting and literally today Adobe Audition. More nerdy I guess but still.

Somehow programming is a good career to have a mindset of “I can learn anything”. The only thing I really think speaks against age when it comes to learning new things is your ability to dedicate time to get deep into whatever you’re learning. Job, family and other commitments etc can make it harder but if you’re willing to sacrifice some Netflix time many things become possible. Perhaps the other point is motivation - I won’t “waste time” learning things if I’m not highly motivated to do it - perhaps it’s an awareness that time is more precious now, I don’t know.

wow, standup comedy. Performing anything in front of people is hard, comedy is even more harder. This is awesome.

Did you follow any structure to learn comedy? Or are you a natural?

Honestly I “nerded” it. There’s a bunch of “how to” videos on YouTube plus I was anyway watching a lot of comedy.

The pattern I’ve seen when people start standup seems to go like this ...

Extroverts who are comfortable in front of people tend to try to “wing it” and don’t prepare material.

Introverts (like me) tend to work harder on the material and actually having good jokes. This can be advantageous but you have to put the work in preparing. If you’ve ever done a talk at a conference or otherwise, that probably helps.

What’s interesting about comedy is it seems to exploit a “bug” in the way the human brain works. The most basic form of a standup joke is basically; 1. Create tension for the audience, 2. Release the tension with surprise

... there’s plenty of material online explaining this and I even read somewhere that there are only something like 21 possible joke structures to make a crowd laugh.

What I love about comedy is it’s a craft, much like programming. The goal is to make a room full of people laugh at the same time but there are so many variables that can influence that, there is no single solution to the problem... hence it’s a craft.

Thank you for answering. Do you have your standup videos online?

Only one really... which is where this might all seem a lot less impressive ;) But here you go https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mQOad1cb-A

Actually quite impressive.

I learned machining, and made gears in a production setting, mostly straight bevel, but some spur, helical and internals. I also did thread milling. Shifting from computers to a job shop gave me great insight into the needs of industry, previously my work was in only tangentially related IT.

I started learning at PumpingStation One, Chicago's Makerspace, it turned out I really like turning metal into finished pieces and piles of chips. My nickname was "Metal Mike", I became the area host, and when a member's Dad needed someone to make gears, no experience necessary, I jumped at it, at age 53. If you bought a Marvel 18" bandsaw between 2016 and the spring, odds are I made the lower bandwheel that drives the blade.

I learned that making things with a precision of about the thickness of a human hair is relatively easy, in quantity. I know more about gears and gearing than I ever thought I could know... and that was only scratching the surface in 5 years. I will try hard not to assume something is easy in the future.

Since then, I'm trying to catch up, I want to go back into Programming, which I did before being a system admin for 15 years... my last major code was in Turbo Pascal for DOS. I did little side gigs, learning GIT, Python, a bit of C++/Arduino, MySQL, etc.

I've been reading everything I can, subscribed to /r/pascal, /r/programming and /r/programminglanguage on reddit where I answer a few and mostly read questions.

Hopefully, I'll be able to start earning a living in coding again soon.

[Edit] To answer a downstream question, we have a child, you have less free time, but more inspiration.

I'm only 35 but I've continued to pick up skills throughout my life and I've only increased it as I got older:

    - Started learning masonry and general handyman work in 2018 (33 years old)
    - Started learning Spanish in 2019 (34 years old)
    - Started learning piano in 2020 (35 years old)
My goal for 2021 is to learn a lot about electricity, batteries, etc. and would like to build a little off-grid backup

How are you finding your progress on Spanish and piano? How are you learning it — private one on on instruction or self study?

Spanish is going quite well in year two. Year one was basically worthless. I didn’t really know how to learn the language and made a ton of mistakes.

First, I spent the first few months studying grammar rules and learning words but didn’t do much speaking because I felt I didn’t have a good “baseline”

Second, once I realized speaking was important, I went all in... did 1 hour a day voice calls for 2 months. This ended up being worthless because I didn’t really recall mistakes I made.

So what I realized that the best approach was hybrid... I should be doing some academic studying AND some speaking. But the biggest change I made was actually writing down the mistakes I made during my video calls with the native speaker and studying those mistakes in my flashcards.

> But the biggest change I made was actually writing down the mistakes

I've been learning mandarin for a couple of months and I do something similar.

My girlfriend can speak it so what I do is speak mandarin during our suppertime every day and I have google translate beside me. If there are words I can't say and want to remember later, I star the translation and add it to an Anki deck later on.

I haven't really figured out a lightway way to capture problems with forming whole sentences, though. It kind of breaks the flow the conversation too much if I'm writing down whole sentences.

Do you capture only problems with remembering specific words or also problems with forming whole sentences?

I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 39. Motivation was that I had just taught my oldest daughter to ride and I wanted to be able to go out with her. Also proving that yes, it is possible to teach people things you have never done yourself.

I picked up a cheap hybrid bike (about $250) from Dicks Sporting Goods and just started putzing around the backyard until I felt confident enough to go out on asphalt. Took a week or two, then I was out cruising the neighborhood.

I don't consider myself good at all, but now I know how to do it.

I started taking weight training seriously about a year ago, Then came the virus and the lock-downs. Gyms closed for weeks where I live. At the moment they are still closed again. I didn't want to build a home gym with heavy weights, especially because hopefully gyms will open again some day.

I also didn't want to lose the muscle I built which made me segue into body weight training and calisthenics. Previously I had never been interested in any of that but for the moment it is something I'm really enjoying and I'm making good progress with. I think I will stick to it in addition to the weight training even when gyms are opening up again.

> I didn't want to build a home gym with heavy weights

if you want to be a minimalist then a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells would be enough. You don't need much

Adding to this, you'd be surprised how well resistance power bands work. You can pick up an off brand set from Amazon which is very affordable and can be used to hit every muscle group, it's like having an entire gym in a small bag.

How did you learn calisthenics? Any resources you can share?

Not OP, but I used the following resources:

Convict Conditioning book. There is also an app on Android call Convict Conditioning which I use to track progress.

calimove.com Paid classes but they really teach you good form

I will be 40 soon.

I picked up the rudiments of Sanskrit enough to be able to understand lectures in the language and read straightforward prose. I also gained a basic understanding of Indic philosophy, but I suppose that is not a skill. Now my aim is to deepen these skills to more advanced levels.

Currently I am also trying to learn Physics and Mathematics at the undergraduate and post-graduate level. It's taking forever because I keep getting distracted with life generally. But my aim is nothing less than gaining a solid grasp of our current modern understanding of how the universe works. I hope to get somewhere respectable by the time I am 45.

>I also gained a basic understanding of Indic philosophy, but I suppose that is not a skill

It is a Skill, just not a physical one. Study of Indian Philosophy is a lifelong endeavour where you have to continually challenge yourself with different concepts, interpretations and models of the world.

PS: You might want to get the multi-volume A History of Indian Philosophy by Surendranath Dasgupta for reference.

Dasgupta was one of the first authors I read. Also worked through some volumes of Potter's "Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies".

Now my aim is to study these topics in Sanskrit with a traditional scholar. Currently trying to see how to make this work.

You are well advanced in your Indology "skill" if you have already started on Karl Potter's works :-)

>Now my aim is to study these topics in Sanskrit with a traditional scholar. Currently trying to see how to make this work.

Contact BHU at https://www.bhu.ac.in/ and ask for advice on how to go about it. It is easier now since there are lots more focus and avenues for remote study/work.

IMO, age is not a problem but time management and responsibilities as others have mentioned. If you are raising kids or taking care of elder people, but you have poor management skills, or maybe you're just overwhelmed... then it's going to be problem to learn something, even if it's improving your knowledge in something you're already familiar with.

It’s not just that, though it plays a large part.

As I get older, my brain is more aggressive about not wanting to learn cruft even though my conscious brain tells me it would be to my advantage.

And it does this by being less interested in so many things.

When I see yet another framework, or language, or tweak it’s just a shrug.

It has to be truly novel for me to get excited; but the upside is that some tweak that becomes important I’m usually able to understand instantly the implications.

When something is novel and easy to get started with, though, the old fire gets roaring again.

Maybe part of that with age is simply that we are learning better to distinguish what has more worth, from the passing ephemera.

Mine is minor... I started doing my own yard at 42. I've hated doing yard work forever - I've always outsourced it. Then the guy I used started being unreliable. Got a used lawnmower and other tools - it has been such a fulfilling adventure! Plus I'm saving $300/month.

Looking into developing some gardening skills next!

I took the same path. Started doing all the organic lawn treatment. My yard is one of the most beautiful without all the toxic chemicals.

Do you have a link on info on organic lawn treatment that worked for you. Interested to learn.

55 here.

Learned a human language few years ago by moving to another country. Learned "competitive" pistol shooting over the last 2 years by signing up for training. Learned to ride a motorcycle this year by lots of driving with friends. Will learn to hunt next year by signing up for training and going hunting with friends. Contemplating learning another language next year by theoretical study and spending time with people who speak the language natively.

Not really have a "let's learn something every year" list or plan, it just happens that I stumble upon something that's unknown to me, have the resources to learn it and do it (I find it hard to not finish tasks I started...).

I'm not in the age demographic you mention, but also not far from it. I've picked up chess, German, and golf. I've found the key to getting better (so far) is simply to practice as often as possible, even a little per day. I also think being older I have the confidence that I can learn skills, and I know that I only need to apply myself. In my younger years I used to think you either had the ability or not, but now I know it really only takes practice.

How've you found golf? I took it up at 30 and was hitting rounds of 200+ now I'm 33 I'm still happy if I break 120.

Similar here, it takes a lot of practice but really satisfying when I see progress. I also see this as a long term hobby that hopefully can continue for many decades, so happy to be on a slow path. Happy golfing etothepii!

I’m a learner by nature and though I graduated college over 2 decades ago, I have always continued to take classes in the community. (usually through continuing-ed programs at a local university or through local for-profit schools. I’ve heard—but have not explored this myself—that community colleges also tend to offer interesting courses at affordable prices — eg languages, business, vocational etc)

Some classes I’ve taken in recent years:

- Full (semester/quarter long) courses: story telling, creative writing, Alexander technique, languages (8 quarters and still ongoing), a history of Western civilization (a 3 quarter sequence)

- Once off classes: archery, calligraphy, flash fiction writing, editing, language classes on iTalki, history seminars, harmony singing

I also want to say that this is one of the main advantages of living in a big city [0] with major universities (in my case UChicago [1] and Northwestern) and specialty schools [2].

When I lived in a smaller city I couldn’t have taken a fraction of the course I’d listed above. Different strokes for different folks but for me, the creative energy of a big city calls to me.

(just for context, I have a full time job but no kids. I never felt that taking courses outside of work was ever too stressful — just needed a bit of time management)

[0] Chicago’s Park District offers a slew of inexpensive (subsidized) courses to the public.


[1] The Graham School has a catalogue of humanities classes open to the public.

[2] Second City Chicago has programs open to the public.

In the 10 yrs since turning 40 I’ve picked up audio engineering and full DAW programming and tooling for music. Been writing and mixing a lot. Have had a few tracks released on some label compilations, am working on a solo EP, and have a full-length album I’ve written part of and mixed all of with my band coming out in Feb. feels really, Really good.

Very cool. What DAW did you end up choosing? Did you stick with the first one you tried, or did you try several before picking?

Ableton Live Suite. Started on 9, went to 10, I’m now beta testing 11. After adjusting / finding a workflow I really like it. Picked originally based on recommendations and compatibility with other members of my band. I have written Max4live plugins. Also written synths in NI Reaktor.

Had to be Win and Mac (some plaftform freedom) due to availability of highend VSTs I wanted and now have (FabFilter, Serum, Massive, etc).

I also use ChucK for some sample development programming.

Helped that I already played guitar and bass.

I got my pilot's license and instrument rating along with endorsements for mountain flying and high performance airplanes. I've now started studying for my commercial pilot's license and may pick up a multi-engine license, too. Took about 2 years to accomplish all of these tasks.

Studying for the license felt like I was back in university. So I treated it as a goal, studying ground materials consistently every day while blocking out 2 lessons every week. It was effectively a job on top of the work I was already doing.

Most shocking was how much longer it took me to absorb the materials vs. studying equivalently complicated topics 25 years ago. Not to understand what they were, but to be able to have instant recall with precision.

You should also ask if the people who learned new skills were raising kids. I have a feeling that is the dominant confounding variable.

Having kids forces you to learn new skills, at least for me since I had 0 experience "growing kids from 0 to 20".

Besides the skills to keep them alive, teach them to walk, talk, behave, read, get dressed, keep clean, be safe, etc. There are: picking the right neighbourhood for young families, finding the appropriate schools, dealing with friends of your kids and their parents, planning interesting holidays, adhering to all the mandatory festivities at the corresponding days.

If that does not count as leaning new skills, I do not know what does.

It’s definitely harder with kids, but I’ve actually used my kids as a catalyst for learning. There are loads of hobbies and activities I’ve taken up just as a way to expose them to the world.

Like what? Share some ideas, please.

I mean - whatever you can imagine? We’ve played chess, worked on learning languages, picked up musical instruments, learned to ski, learned to hunt mushrooms, electronics projects, woodworking projects... sure sometimes you have to keep it at an age-appropriate level, but there are things I want to learn and if I include them then they benefit and grow as well. My kids are now at an age too where they are starting to pick things up on their own and then they can teach me.

Learning swimming at 38 because I want to swim with my kids who can swim well already

Very cool, my wife is learning for the same reason.

Cookery? Languages? Music? Singing? Dancing/Excercise?

To be honest I did those kinda things already, except for the singing, but having a small child those are the kinda things he likes at the moment. No doubt his tastes will change over time, but I'm gonna try to join in with his interests at least until such time as he doesnt' want his "uncool" dad doing so.

Geocaching is an easy hobby to learn (and much cheaper than it used to be for anyone with a smartphone) and gets you outside with the kids, who consider it a treasure hunt. It might be a little challenging during quarantine, but it’s a great way to get some exercise and explore the area around you.

Thank you for mentioning that. We did casual geocaching with my children when they were 8-12ish.

It was a great opportunity to teach them some things and learn others too. Especially unusual things like washing houses (I do not know the English word for that, these are places people were coming to wash their clothes, usually a water source and stone washing places, under a roof). Their history was surprisingly interesting.

I started strength training partly in response to having kids and wanting to be around for them.

I got a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and learned how to play the guitar - all after 40. Your 40s and 50s are great because most people have a surplus of 3 vital resources: time, money, and health. You have the time because your kids are older or have moved out of the house. You have money because you've reached peak earning power. You generally are young enough to still have your health so you're still able to do things. It's great. I know people who kept learning new things well into their 70s and 80s.

44 year old here

Started learning piano/music/singing a year or so back, impressed with the results although theory holding me back.

Got into road biking a couple of years back and did a 100 miler last year.

Continued technical development

Explored meditation and Buddhism

Improved parenting of my 2 young children and did lots of exciting stuff with them: cooking, baking, drawing, craft etc

Got divorced last year, so I've had a bit of time on my hands...

I'm 46. I just started taking Salsa dancing lessons.


Good luck!

I'd like to share with you a couple things. I still love Salsa even though I stopped actively going to Salsa clubs a few years ago (like many things in life, activities will fade in interest/fade back in). As a note, most of the social dancing advice applies to a world without covid dangers.

1) Keep on going. You can take a break though.

One of my favorite articles from "The Unlikely Salsero" (archived copy) https://web.archive.org/web/20080316160328/http://www.unlike...

2) Footwork is everything. One of the mistakes beginners make is that when they do their basic step, they take "too big" of steps. This is acceptable when you are a beginner. However, when you start doing more complicated footwork/leading that is required by patterns, larger than needed steps can easily break the precise on-beat timing needed. Please try to focus on small steps.

3) Leading properly requires signaling. Something like a simple squeeze of the hand if you want your follower to stop. Also, prepping the follower for their turn by doing a very, very slight wind up.

4) Listen to Salsa music more if you are not already. The key feature of Salsa music is that breaks happen on the 8/12/16 bar of the normal song. If you can anticipate the breaks by counting in your head silently while dancing, this will make the difference in your lead from above-average to performance. I recommend Gilbert Santa Rosa. They are more laid back then the frenetic Salsa bands.

5) If you are just starting out, asking a follower to dance is one of the most intimidating things you can do. You will get rejected. Don't take it personally. When you get better, you still will be rejected. In a group class at a club, take note of the followers in the class (you usually rotate) who seem enthusiastic. Ask them to dance if you see them still around.


Yes.. being post-40 doesn’t inherently lessen one’s ability to learn.

Rather, it’s the weight of management of things accumulated over the years that interrupt out natural curiosity and keep us from “learning”.

I believe you have to drop some things and not worry about forgetting them, in order to make time and space for new things.

I have, in the past year, become quite proficient at Docker Swarm, Flutter, Dart, and Go.

In the next year, I have my sights on Rust and a reintroduction to calculus.

Learning isn’t the issue. Finding the time to learn uninterrupted is the issue, IMHO.

I did give up Facebook completely, which has opened up a lot of time.


On the flip side, at 40, money is much less of a factor. I’ve spent a small fortune on tinker projects as I’ve learned about hardware and EE. I’m slowly building up to it, but one future goal is to do an classic car EV conversion with my son in a few years. Then I’ll give it to him as his first car.

Also, I buy a ton of tools. Tools are also great to put on your Christmas list when there’s nothing else you want. I’m actually outgrowing a 3 car garage and will be building a workshop building soon.

Video creation and editing [1]. I used to speak at tech conferences but after taking a long break, I wanted to get back into some form of instructional content. My kids are obsessed with YouTube, and I started a new startup, so I figured I'd give it a go. As for how I learned, well, doing it, and of course, watching YouTube videos.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmIIOHKgJnGQruIVD_Zx71g

I was a high school dropout and supermarket manager who went to community college at 45 for my AA in Gen Ed and then University for my BS in Computer Information Systems. Now I'm a full time web developer. It's really hard but I'm proud af

After >30 years as a professional programmer I have finally learnt to touch type. While watching TV with the family I have been practising on typing programs. I am still fighting old habits and muscle memory, but I am getting there.

I still haven’t learned to touch type even though I’m in my 30’s and a professional software engineer. Other than people making fun of me, I don’t see the point. Programming has so many symbols and it’s not like I’m limited by my typing speed as far as I can tell. And for most non-programming text entry I’m on a phone nowadays, so touch typing skill is moot.

What would you say is the advantage to learning to touch type at this point? Has it been particularly helpful in some way?

It is true that programming involves a lot of symbols, so touch typing doesn't make as much difference for programming as it does for, say, typing a novel. But spending more time looking at the screen, not the keyboard helps. And even a few percent improvement in productivity adds up over time.

Also, even as a programmer, you are probably writing quite a lot of prose in the form of documentation, emails etc.

I hardly ever do any text entry on my phone.

Hey. I am 37 and a week ago started to learn to touch type the proper way. It's not a problem for me to touch type, but I did it with like 4-5 fingers and Never could get past 80 wpm. Now I started to learn the 10 fingers method and I feel like I miss almost every stroke. So frustrating

Me too! After nearly 40 years of programming, though not all of it professional. It was worth it just for the improvements to my posture.

Proofreading. I’m a native english speaker, but I’ve always stunk at grokking the underlying rules of English. But, as it turns out, I didn’t have to. I’ve read and spoken enough that the rules have just become justifications for what I know intuitively. It all just kinda makes sense now.

I could try and apply that to other parts of life (the whole “it became intuitive”), but I’m not too interested in going that deep right now.

I learned Korean, re-learned French. Learned to build cigars and since I'm a later bloomer, learned about parenting (had my first child at 40).

Any resources for learning French? Did you learn it casually (mostly for speaking, I mean) or more seriously - like for reading French literature?

I started with Duolingo, then reading children’s books and slowly progressed up. Also I started reading French news sites with lots of help from google translate

I'm 55. I'm in Startup School.

I've had a longstanding interest in having my own business and it just hasn't really panned out. I was a homemaker for a long time. During the time, I could not wrap my brain around the concept of making money. It was alien to everything I was doing.

I went back to school to finish my BS degree and graduated at 50. I took a few courses in areas that I had never studied, and I did notice that it took me longer to absorb the material. My retention is good.


Not quite in my 40s, but after getting into keyboards the last year I finally learned basic soldering skills. I've heard it referred to as "geek knitting", and sitting in the garage for a few hours, carefully soldering together custom keyboards while listening to music is a great way to relax and focus. I just looked up some basic tutorials, got a few start kits from Amazon and just went with it.

This has lead to other interests too, like learning more about electronics and low-level coding with micro-controllers.

It also has the benefit that our kids now see me as someone who can fix anything. Most toys are simple enough to repair with basic tools and hearing the phrase "daddy can fix it" is worth it. Also there's a slight hope that seeing physical STEM skills (as opposed to daddy typing into a computer all day for work) makes an impression and it perks their interest in general engineering pursuits as they get older.

I'm in my 30s (father of 2 young kids) and just started learning to hunt, although at this point it's been just hiking in the mountains with my rifle as I haven't harvested any animals. It's taken me to all kinds of interesting places I would have never seen, and I've really enjoyed it. Now as with anything there are different types of hunting that you can do. I use a pack and hike for miles at a time, I know other more successful hunters who use an ATV or dirt bike to cover a lot more ground than I do, but I'm happy putting in the work.

I went from being able to do simple scripting tasks (like being vague as to what it means for a function to ‘return’ something) to self-teaching what I might call ‘actual coding’ (multiple projects with many thousands of lines of code, used daily by professionals, and managing activities of other developers simultaneously). And I’m still (I think) learning at a surprising rate.

I learned how to do a podcast starting in March and I believe my public speaking and interview skills have transformed. (I mean, I think.)


I haven’t started yet, but surfing is next. I think my list might be a lot longer but I tend to forget what I’ve learned recently as I start to take it for granted.

I went to a pottery-class on a whim, and I've kept going for the past year.

Objectively my results are pretty terrible, but I'm getting better over time, I find it relaxing in fun, and nothing beats eating a meal you've cooked on a plate you've made, while drinking coffee from your own unique mug:


(No wheels involved, though I'm looking forward to trying those in the future.)

BJJ in my late 40s. It was a total mindfuck and upended what I thought about learning.

I had to unlearn my well-established ways of learning and learn to learn by flow and feel. At times, you will have huge wins, and at times, it will crush you. Whatever you must do, it is: show up to the next class.

Another key point was not quitting. I’m now a blue belt. I think about 90-95% of those who start, quit. All of the people I started with have long since quit. Sometimes I run into them in town and they talk about how they plan on getting back to class soon.

But I know that will never happen. I just smile and wish them well and hope for their best.

I started violin at 36, swimming at 38, theatrical improv and singing at 39

I started reading a lot during corona. And I still am. I read all sorts of books, self help, philosophy, technical, sci-fi.

I’m so happy I finally started enjoying reading, and I will never stop now. It’s not only made me more calm, but also I tend to listen more to others, rather than needing to say my opinion on some subject. It’s like the more I read the more I know I have a lot to learn from others.

Even though I started late, it’s nothing I regret :-)

I learned Dutch, passed the state exams and obtained my citizenship in my late 30’s / early 40’s. I honestly didn’t find it any harder than learning when I was younger, only that my life was very different (lots more demands, responsibilities and distractions). I haven’t picked up anything new since then really though, I guess you might count learning how to invest in stocks, due diligence, fundamental analysis but that’s not a huge subject like a language is.

Woodworking. I’m 40+ and I enjoy old-fashion woodworking whenever I have spare time. I also have in mind to learn piano in the near future.

At 48 I bought a TIG welder. It was difficult at first, but now I can weld steel, aluminum, and stainless and it usually doesn't look like crap. It's very fun.

Then last year at 49 switched from right handed to left handed guitar since I'm left handed and was never very good right handed. I've been practicing every day for at least an hour for 11 months now and enjoy it a lot.

I try to learn something new every year. Short list that I can share: Mandarin, Sanskrit, improv, Carnatic music, flute, astrology, astronomy/star gazing, drawing, clay art, cosmetics and perfumery formulations.

Strength training - deadlifts, press, bench, squat etc. Started as I turned 40 because although I didn't mind being 40, I didn't want to be 40 and fat and piss weak.

//edit// Should also add I've done three novice strongman comps. I came last in them, but a competitive last and it was something for my daughter to watch me do. Also got a few PBs like doing a farmers walk with my bodyweight (100kg) in each hand.

Learnt to code and went back to school to do a dual MS in math and statistics in my 40's. I think I was interested in each of those things for their own sakes, so working on them was a hobby which meant I didn't mind putting in a lot of time learning them

Did you do undergrad in math/stats? Curious if there's a path to those particular degrees at a graduate level that doesn't involve having done undergrad in them.

Indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel. In itself it must be the least useful skill I've ever acquired, but the improvement in body awareness may benefit other activities. There's also the theory that learning anything new reduces the risk of dementia. It's a great feeling and I'd be doing it every week were it not for tunnel time being hugely expensive.

My wife is learning to hand-stand and jump rope. She has learnt "castor-boarding" (somewhat similar to skateboarding) - I should mention that we didn't get to learn to skate as kids. I learnt to ride a fixed gear cycle - as a commuter in heavy traffic; now learning to track stand.

Since turning 40, I have started to play the guitar and mandolin, though I had some very basics a long time ago. I learned Swedish, though I am not proficient; I am passable. I became a cognitive scientist after 40, after being a lawyer for most of my career (new skills: reading/writing scientific papers, designing experiments, statistical analysis that I hadn't done in 20 years, etc). I learned how to bake (bread, mostly), though I knew pretty well how to cook in general since I was young, so this maybe wasn't too difficult.

I am in my 40s and writing a browser application that is highly distributed so I wrote a test automation component that executes in the browsers of multiple computers from a single command and control one a single computer outside the browser. It provides full keyboard and mouse control, except mouse movement events, to any point in the DOM just like a user and can therefore remotely test messaging an accessibility.

I'm 48 and started and while I could more or less play keyboards, 5 years ago I started playing piano more seriously including sheet music reading. Slowly, but steady, I am improving.

Giving woodworking a try. I need to break out of the acquiring tools and shop things phase and get into the building things phase.

Learning via YT is immensely helpful. I also live near a woodworking legend that offers classes and took a class. It was humbling and gave a good perspective on the time required to be good.

Sewing. First to make masks for the family. I then made sail and varnish covers for my boat. I broke my wife's domestic machine in the process (still recovering from that beating), but have graduated to sturdier machines and projects. I make a lined pouch out of up-cycled materials that seems to go over well with friends. I made a backpack that is my take on a Goruck GR1, but with a more slender profile and lighter weight while keeping the rugged exterior. I flirt with the idea of starting a cut-and-sew operation for custom backpacks at some point.

In my 40's I built a cyclekart[1][2], which involved learning how to weld (not very well, but still), and how to do some fiberglass work.

[1] https://www.cyclekarts.com/ (cyclekarts in general) [2] https://www.cyclekartclub.com/registry/2012-CycleKart-Custom... (my cyclekart in particular).

Oh, yeah! I've made it a point to learn new stuff once in a while.

For my 40th birthday, I ran my first marathon. In my mid 40s I picked up woodworking. At 50, I learned to juggle. In the early 50s I started learning to play bluegrass banjo.

I'm looking forward to a lot more neat stuff. My aunt is in her mid-80s, she's a big participant in Olli classes. There's no end to learning.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osher_Lifelong_Learning_Instit...

I'm 41 and I just bought a drum set. Although it's not totally new to me. I played a bit of piano and percussion when I was younger.

I think it's easier to learn something new now. I know how to learn better.

Learning to play guitar. I started with self learning. There are excellent tutorials on YouTube and other websites. Got quite frustrated due to painfully (pun intended) slow progress. Then took lessons for six months. Music lessons are expensive! So once I got the basics down, I decided to go back to auto-didactism. Without a doubt, learning to play guitar is one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. I think clearing Google interview is way easier.

Since my late 40s: Learned how to sing opera and pop. Learned sax, flute, trumpet, violin. Learned how to write songs. Started a farm.

Musical instruments were mostly self-taught. Singing required a teacher. Main source of knowledge is web research and YouTube videos.

A few things I have done or are in progress: Changing my preferred technology stack from debian(linux)/java/scala to openbsd/rust, and adding sqlite to my postgresql use. I'm becoming (I think) a better husband & person generally than I used to be (life is about learning, in part).

And a big, very hard one: learning to live (and be a better person) happily and with (a new kind of) balance with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- big enforced lifestyle changes there. (Very hopefully I will learn all the lessons I should--if not it would be a major lost opportunity.) My doctor (world-class specialist) says they see a lot of suicides in the field (though to be clear, that is not a plan, threat, nor persistent thought of mine). Life is challenging and good, and I am grateful for very many things.

Edits: My learning style seems generally like sheer persistence, with specifics depending on the subject, often finding the basic/intro materials and working them into my daily/weekly routine somewhere, maybe a few relaxing intro videos or articles on a subject while resting.

Also Esperanto, and improving my limited Russian, with some Soviet movies with English subtitles, and reading the side-by-side text of the Book of Mormon in Russ. & English (it has the Russ. accents marked, to reduce the need to look up words--there is no rule for emphasis like there is in Spanish or Esperanto); the AnkiDroid app helps a lot. I learned to ride a unicycle after 40, not to a high level, but it was still a thrill--every time I could just get on and go down the street was a rush. A talented nephew ignored my "experienced" advice and learned unicycling much faster and better than I, on a 26-inch wheel even. (As you'd guess, there are some people on youtube with amazing skills, like "mountain unicycling" or freewheeling (no pedals) fast downhill.)

For education: If someone is seeking economical, high-quality, online university education (from start to Master's), BYU Pathway Worldwide and/or Western Governors University are impressive options, even if one needs to, for example, learn English and/or study skills in an inexpensive intro program. I and others have commented more about them in prior discussions, w/ more info in wikipedia.

And there are so many more things to learn in the future. I'd love to have some good musical improvisation & sightreading skills; wow.

I am almost 40. Recently learned wave boarding, a new language (indian) and a few cooking things during pandemic.

Just when pandemic started I realized I am happiest when I am learning something. There is something to look forward to every day.

Most of my new skills come because of my son. We do it together. He is faster at learning physical stuff, i am good at finding small improvements

It's been fun

> a new language (indian)

can you please expand on it? India has many languages. Was your language choice random or for a reason?

Timber framing around 45.

(Heartwood School in Massachusetts is a great place; took each of my two sons there separately.)

(Re: OP comments re: kids being a confounding factor, we have 8.)

Playing Go. It takes a lifetime to learn regardless of when you start--so you're not that bad off (tho they say it helps to start preschool).

I looked at Go, bought a few books. Gave up quickly because this is one of those things that would require way too much time. Kudos to anyone learning go, especially those who start late in life!

I find that Go is something that scales better than anything. The handicap system makes it fun to play at any skill level. The only trouble is sometimes servers don't always have players of all levels at some times of day.

Edit: progress is weird though. Often hit a plateau and seemingly stuck there a long time, then for some seemingly inexplicable reason you advance. The strangest is when this happens while you're not playing and you return different/better than when you took a break.

The other thing I appreciate is that you can be good at whole board strategy or detailed tactical fights. The latter requires more thinking and the former you can get away (to a certain level) by developing intuition over time.

Yes. I started playing Chess in the past year. I realy love it and getting more and more addicted every day. I decided to purchase a subscription for Chess.com where they have lots of video lesson, puzzles and also allow you to analyze the games you play.

I believe that you can (and should) start learning new skills at any age

Picked up on woodworking when I was 40, built a ton of little furniture and things for the house. Last year finished my most ambitious project and built a home office shed that I’ve been using since. I’m 43 now and spent a couple hours browsing Pinterest this morning getting some inspiration on what to build next. Life long learning!

So, what is your next project fellow woodworker?

I’m learning to unicycle. I just go to the park and practice. It’s definitely a challenge to learn, but not due to age. Will be 43 in a month.

Rock climbing, soccer, disc golf, crochet, PHP, SQL, JavaScript, Angular, management, Buddhism.

Meanwhile I've given up running volleyball, C, C++.

Inline roller at 41 in club during 2 years. I still use them regularly (I am 51). Indoor climbing at 45. I was slightly too old and too heavy. Not a real success, but an interesting experience. Maybe I will try again. Main motivation was to accompany my children. Currently confined in the apartment, I train jumping rope.

emacs. It is taking forever, but worth it.

I’m 45 and just picked up horse archery. It’s been an amazing way to challenge my self physically and mentally.

Just turned 40, and this year I have picked up Japanese sword martial art called Shinkendo, through a local dojo a few miles away. I have no previous martial arts experience.

I have also started learning Unity and I am making my first 2D game. No previous game development experience.

Having a lot of fun learning both.

Plumbing. I installed a shower and was taught some basic copper soldering by my father in law. Next bathroom did some very aggressive 6 shower head configuration that required considerable precision. When I can actually purchase a zen3 CPU, I'll be going copper piping on the rig.

Not sure it qualifies as a "new skill," but I've been living and working in Thailand for the last almost two years, when everything previously was in the U.S.

And as a product manager I'm always learning new things.

I'm 40 and for the last year have been seriously studying Chinese. I had a few classes before when living in China 3 years ago, but with the Pandemic and the local community college offering the classes online, I felt like it was a good time.

The question implies that 40 year olds can't learn new skills. So that is propagating ageism.

And learning a new language is much harder than learning an ordinary skill. So that's a different question.

Just different. Neither an accusation nor an assertion. A conversation starter.

Close. Late 30’s. Learning my first musical instrument: the banjo. I did some basic research, found a banjo, and searched YouTube for tutorials. Not a banjo player yet, but I can roll through a few songs now.

Learned to play the ukulele, far from great but know probably 40+ different chords. Before that I'd played piano a bit, but never anything with strings. We used to have a group get together to play and sing pre-COVID.

i got my masters in CS when i was 41 without prior dev experience if that counts

Did you have BS in CS or something else?

I started coding professionally after 40.

Previously a network engineer.

I loved going back into the classroom (boot camp) to learn, and found I was more patient, and a better student than the past.

This year, as a hobby, I got into 3D printing and CAD. I'm 40 yo

Building a two seater, 180hp kit airplane in my garage. Learned all the skills I need post-40. Honestly I enjoy drilling and riveting metal more than computers anymore.

Did you start off with smaller projects first, or just jump in head-first with the plane?

Did a few little practice projects to get comfortable with riveting but for the most part jumped right in. I had prior hobby woodworking experience, so I didn’t have to relearn shop safety, many of the power tools, patience and the “measure twice cut once” mentality, etc. Anyway, if you make a mistake you can just redo the part. A lot of kit manufacturers divide their kits into subkits you can buy separately, allowing you to space the costs out over many years.

Anyone acquiring advanced piano or guitar skills/chops?

Due to the pandemics, I bought a PS4 and started gaming at 47, I really like Far Cry! Looking forward to a PS5!

Ha. Took up Skyrim: Elder Scrolls...

Turns out there are some things about me cannot be changed, even in a fantasy world.

Yup, happy to change skin (and gender) in anyway.

But any scenario in which my follower or dog dies.... it's reload from an old save time.

Any quest that's too yucky ethically, I just don't do.

I learned how to solder, program Arduino, print on a 3D printer and use fusion 360... really why so many people feel like 40 is old?

40's picked up Tango Dancing, Sailing, and starting programming python since I got interested in visual machine learning.

Software all my pro life, picked up scuba this year, will finish rescue diving and full sidemount cave next year.

Learned to ride an electric unicycle recently and both the learning process and riding it are both pretty fun

I’m 44 picked up juggling couple of years back. Expert in no way, but others find it cool!

Rock climbing, soccer, disc golf, PHP, SQL, JavaScript, Angular, crochet, sewing

started kick-boxing at 39. have been practicing for 3 years now. fantastic experience.


learnt boxing (fighting) with 45

Did you take a class?

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