From afraid of water to swimming 10k in open water – The happiness of learning new things
I just arrived in Denmark, for 2 weeks of Christmas, friends, and family. I’m a big fan of this time of the year because the end of the year automatically makes me reflect on the year that has passed and the year coming up. I love those reflections and I often find a melancholy in this period of the year, that I really appreciate.
Time flies so extremely fast and I’m not very good at stopping up and re-evaluating what I’m doing throughout the year, but the end of the year Holidays is a perfect time of just doing that.
Many of my thoughts this year have been around finding happiness when you’re not really feeling happy even though you have everything. I consider myself extremely lucky; I travel full-time, I run a fun company and I have the best girlfriend, that I’m lucky to share it all with. While I can’t complain about my life, I sometimes feel that something is missing.
But what does this has to do with swimming 10k in open water?
Some years ago I really wanted to do an Ironman Triathlon. Having being a runner for a few years and cycling a lot as a kid, I was pretty sure that I would be fine in those dispiplicnes. The only problem was the swimming part. If I wanted to complete an Ironman, I had to learn to swim and not just learn it, but also be able to 3,8 km in open water.
I never really learned to swim and in school I was constantly on the worst swimming team. Actually, I was afraid of getting my head under water (something you can’t really avoid if you wanna swim almost 4 km). So I decided to learn how to swim, because I had to. I learned through just going to the pool 3 times per week, watching videos online (to learn the technique). I never went to any classes and I had a total of 3 hours of private tutoring from a professional swimmer.
After my first Ironman, I realized how big it was for me, going from not being able to swim, to completing the Ironman swim. From here I continued swimming, slowly becoming more and more comfortable. Playing more and more with technique and getting more and speed. Slowly I had went to start looking forward to the swim sessions.
After a few years and 3 Ironman Triathlons I wanted to do something to do something that showed to myself that I had really conquoured my fear of water and learning to swim. I (pretty spontanously) decided to swim 10k in open water a summer day in Denmark. I called one of my best friends (who is always up for small adventures) and he joined me in a kayak with a few bottles of waters and some candy.
After 3 hours and 20 minutes I had swam 10k in open water.
Learning as a happiness tool
Analyzing those periods of my life, where I’ve been happiest, I’ve seen a clear pattern that in those periods I’ve been doing many side projects, small adventures and learning new stuff. Often things that weren’t aligned with the typical career latter, but just things I found very interesting and stuff I just couldn’t keep my hands of doing.
Learning to swim and really going from “I ain’t going in that pool” to “Swimming 10k in open water… that sounds FUN” has been one of the best experiences in my life and for me, it has opened a whole new world. If I can learn to swim 10k, then what else am I capable of learning and doing?
I think there is a big correlation between being productive, creating stuff and learning new stuff and happiness. You don’t need to have a career plan with everything and it’s okay to just do something for the hell of it. Actually, it’s probably the best career path you could take. Just creating something, starting something new, learning new stuff etc., will lead you to other things. Doing what you find interesting is never meaningless and most often it will lead to something bigger, even when you don’t plan for it.
Just deciding to learn something new and doing something to learn it will make you happier, you will show yourself what you’re capable of and it will probably create a positive spiral that will result in a natural love of learning new things.
It’s never been easier to learn something new
Just for inspiration, I wanted to create a small list of stuff that you can learn, without big investments. Nowadays so much stuff is accessible online for free or very cheap. If you want to learn something new, there is probably no reason to go to school of many years or save a lot of money. You can probably start and go a long way just finding stuff online. Here is a few ideas:
- Learn to swim by going to the pool 3 times per week and study this animated video of freestyle (litteraly how I went from afraid of water to swimming 3,8 km in 1hr, which is the Ironman swimming distance)
- Learn design by buying Photoshop for $20 per month, taking a small course and watching Youtube videos every time you’re stuck.
- Learn the basics of a new language with the Duolingo app.
- Learn photography by playing with this tool and following Thomas Heaton on Youtube.
- Learn the basics of machine learning and build the fundations for a new career with one of the most sought-after skills.
- Learn to code with online courses.
- Try to build your own business by creating a Minimal Viabel Product (MVP).
- Become a better cook at an online cooking school.
The start of a new year and the Holidays are a great chance to evaluate the past year and write down some dreams for the coming year. I will personally spend some time over the holidays to write down some things I want to produce and some things I want to learn next year.