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Learning A New Skill Is Not About Productivity

Last week, I signed up for a mindfulness practitioner course on a whim. I was scrolling through my Facebook stream, and saw a post about someone on my friend list hosting a mindfulness circle. And, just like that, I decided that this is a certification I want. I had first heard of mindfulness back during my clinical training in psychology. It was a new concept then, but one that was fast gaining popularity. Since then, I have employed principles of mindfulness in many aspects of my life, and I have found that this is one practice which almost always helps. And just to satiate my curiosity, I signed up. 

Since the lockdown, there has been much ado about using this time at home productively - staying active, cooking healthy meals, taking up a new hobby, or learning a new skill. While it’s a noble idea to add something to one’s artillery during this time, at the end of the day, it’s a personal choice. If you want to spend this time drinking fruity cocktails during the day, and napping through the evening, it doesn’t matter, really. Life is meaningless and what you do with yours is up to you. Okay, we don’t mean to sound despondent. The point is that even though there seems to be a lot of emphasis on productivity and growth during this time, there is no have-to. Honestly, sometimes it may seem exhausting to constantly keep yourself busy. And perhaps, there are a lot of us out there who needed this forced rest. 

With that said, we can’t bank on the fact that once this is over, we will go back to the lives we had before the pandemic - with the same jobs and same opportunities, same career trajectories. Given the hit that the economy has taken, it is likely that many industries will suffer, and some job roles may become redundant. The threat to some industries may have pre-existed the pandemic. With the digitalisation of content, for example, it is no longer enough to just be a writer, especially in the lifestyle space. You have to be able or a least willing to work with the multimedia - video content, podcasts and so on. Just this morning, I was listening to a podcast which alleged that the New York Times survives on its audio content and not its articles, and if they want to stay in business, they need to improvise.

Yuval Noah Harari, in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century purports that by 2050 AI will take over many jobs, even in the fields of medicine and arts, and leave humans redundant in the workforce. He calls it the “post-work world”. 

This may sound far-fetched, but if you really think about it, there are people even today who are closer to the “post-work world” than the job market our parents knew of, where one would stay in the same job for their entire life. Now, the average person in America has about 12 jobs in their lifetime. Research also shows that Indians change jobs more frequently than others. Although the reasons might be different for each culture, the fact of the matter is that our work trajectories are not as linear as they were for our parents’ generation. Harari, in his book, goes as far as to suggest that in the next few decades, people will not just frequently change jobs, but also careers! 

Millennials have been known to switch careers at least once in their lifetime. Personally, I have moved from mental health to publishing, and found a sweet spot in writing books, and running this website. Having a diverse professional life is no longer a completely novel concept. I know others who have made a switch from psychology to writing, or vice versa. An architect who writes novels. An actor who is an editor at a magazine. A historian who is also a photographer. A professor who has a music band. Another who makes keto desserts. A hotelier who recently put up an art exhibition. An educator who runs a jewellery business. 

All of us are entrepreneurs, carving a niche that is as unique as who we are as individuals. Maybe that is the future of work. 

So, coming back to using this time to learn a new skill. It may feel like humbug, but the fact is that it is a great opportunity to explore a new prospective career path or service that you can offer!

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