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Why do so many of us stop learning new skills as adults? Are we afraid to fail? Have we forgotten the sheer pleasure of being a beginner? Or is it simply a fact that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Inspired by his young daughter’s insatiable need to know how to do almost everything, and stymied by his own rut of mid-career competence, Tom Vanderbilt begins a year of learning purely for the sake of learning. He tackles five main skills (and picks up a few more along the way), choosing them for their difficulty to master and their distinct lack of career marketability—chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling.
What he doesn’t expect is finding himself having rapturous experiences singing Spice Girls songs in an amateur choir, losing games of chess to eight-year-olds, and dodging scorpions at a surf camp in Costa Rica. Along the way, he interviews dozens of experts to explore the fascinating psychology and science behind the benefits of becoming an adult beginner. Weaving comprehensive research and surprising insight gained from his year of learning dangerously, Vanderbilt shows how anyone can begin again—and, more important, why they should take those first awkward steps. Ultimately, he shares how a refreshed sense of curiosity opened him up to a profound happiness and a deeper connection to the people around him—and how small acts of reinvention, at any age, can make life seem magical.