The saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks is well known. It basically means it seems to be difficult to teach something to someone who is past their youth (how ever that is defined).

But is it true?

I want to list a few reasons from personal experience why I don’t think it is always true.

Things Learned In My 30s

When we moved to Taiwan in 1992, it wasn’t our first experience living in other countries, but it was the first one we would be required to actually learn another language in order to fulfill our assignment.  My wife had lived in Brazil for two years where she learned Portuguese using a “barefoot” (i.e. informal) method.  She had learned that language extremely well.

So naturally, I assumed she would easily pick up Mandarin, while I would have to struggle.

In the end, with diligence and effort both of us learned to speak Mandarin.  I was successful as a language learner in my 30s.

Not so young dog (but not old), new trick.

Things Changed in My 40s

I had never been overly committed to exercise once I was married (in my mid 20s).  I had spurts, like a lot of guys do including aerobics back in the 80s (don’t dwell on the thought too long, it wasn’t a pretty site).

But I wasn’t in shape, and as I got a few years past 40 I realized the shape was becoming amazingly pudgy.  So, beginning when I was 44, I decided to make a change.  I decided to start regular exercise.

At first I walked, then moved up to running.   After a short time out due to injury (guys in their 40s should probably not play basketball with 20 somethings), I have run regularly since I was 44.

The change was starting to exercise by running at least 3 times a week.

Older dog, new trick.

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Things Changed in My 50s

Probably not really fair to list this one.  I haven’t been here (in my 50s) all that long.

But I have made some changes.  After I turned 50 I swore off adding sugar to my coffee.  Sounds inconsequential, I suppose, but I had used sugar in my coffee since at least my sophomore year in college.

Drinking black coffee has helped me to enjoy the taste of the coffee, instead of a sweet taste.

Old dog, another new trick.

The Moral of This Story

You may be wondering why this journey of rambling about things I have changed through the years.  Truth is, I think all of us believe we are not able to change many things.  The truth is we all change things constantly.  We just don’t always recognize it.

We change the channel. We change telephones.  We change cars.  We change hair styles (or some of us give up hair all together).  We change….well, you get the picture.

We have more ability to change than we probably give ourselves credit.

The truth is, you can teach on old dog new tricks.  You just have to be willing to try.

What about you?  Have you started doing something new lately?  Something you haven’t done before?  Why not share it with others by leaving a comment.

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