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Old dogs and new tricks

In Dayton Ohio News, Education, Local News, National News, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, Technology, Uncategorized on March 23, 2015 at 11:38 am

DIH LOGOSome people are of the mind that there is a certain age when learning something new is neither a priority nor even a possibility. As I approach a half-century on this earth, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that, at some point, people just stop learning.

Barring some kind of dementia or other mental disorder, it’s hard to understand why anyone would “choose” to be an old dog, totally uninterested in learning a new trick. In my lines of work, I am frequently exposed to innovative technology and new ideas and I’m expected to keep up or I don’t pay the mortgage.

I spend a considerable amount of time researching, learning new concepts or updating my skills in some way so I can stay relevant in a world that seems to change by the nanosecond. Part of that continuing education includes reading, networking with others and going to conferences and workshops. I just returned from one such conference that was, for me, one of the single best I have ever attended.

A couple of months ago, I was asked by a friend to speak at an upcoming technology event known as, “Dayton WordCamp,” a two-day series focused on the website content management system called “WordPress.” As with most tech, this event would be dominated by much younger, more advanced presenters.

Originally, I hesitated, feeling as if “at my age” (and technical level) I would have little to bring to the table. But, with a little effort I found a spot where I fit into the program nicely and agreed.

Dayton WordCamp

Dayton WordCamp

Dayton’s event is one of hundreds of WordCamps around the world, all presented for the benefit of those using WordPress as their website platform. Lovingly referred to by organizers as an “unconference,” the atmosphere is very relaxed and laid back, with most people wearing jeans and T-shirts.  One of the perks of speaking is the opportunity to attend the event as a spectator as well.

One of the first things I noticed upon arrival was that I was not the oldest person in the room. Of roughly 120 attendees the bell curve probably favored the younger crowd, but there were plenty of people my age and older as well. Such diversity says something for both the reputations of the scheduled presenters and the usability of the software about which we had all come to learn.

As the first day’s session began my apprehension diminished and I began to settle into a comfortable atmosphere for learning. By the conclusion of day two, I was not only charged up to dive in and apply my newly-acquired information, but I wanted to find a way to be more involved in future sessions.

At this point, I have to give a shout out to my friend Dustin Hartzler and his fellow organizers, particularly Nathan Driver, who invited me to speak at the event while also allowing me to be a student as well (that’s not the norm at such functions). These folks gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge, allowing me to better serve my clients, plus I got to take a couple of days for myself, something for which I rarely have the opportunity.

In my experience, most people who have stopped learning have done so, in some manner, by choice. Learning is not just academic. Expanding your horizons at any age is not limited to taking college classes or immersing yourself in books for hours on end. You can attend free, hands-on workshops, watch “do it yourself” shows on television, or just dive in and try something on your own, learning as you go.

My point is that there is simply no reason any of us should be stagnant. Opportunities for growth exist in many areas of our lives and all we need to do is take the first step. What is important is that you get out there and try, whether your interest is gardening, motorcycles, computers, music, or maybe you want to try something new. Don’t be an old dog with no new tricks.

For more about WordCamp check out the Dayton WordPress Meetup – http://www.meetup.com/Dayton-WordPress/

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications.

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