Deciding to learn an entirely new skillsetWhen I was a young teenager, around age 14 or so, I somehow got the movie bug. I got my hands on a VHS camcorder (heh… remember those?) and started taping everything I could. I walked around every day with that big, loud machine on my shoulder.

By the time I was 16, I was using a hacked-together home studio with 1990’s-era computers (an Atari ST) and attempting to make my own movies. I had a passion.

At age 17, I knew for certainty what I wanted my career path to be. I wanted to make movies. I applied for, and got accepted to, the film school at the University of Southern California.

Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. I didn’t come from a family background which understood how to put a kid through college. I stayed home.

My dream sort of died as life happened. I have no regrets about the way things turned out, but deep down inside, there is still a little flame in my heart for movie making.

Fast forward to 2010—there has never been a better time to become an amateur filmmaker. All the overwhelming barriers to entry that have always kept filmmaking relegated to a lofty niche are essentially gone. With a very modest financial investment (relatively speaking,) one can become an amateur filmmaker. Affordable high-def digital cameras, inexpensive yet powerful computers, and incredibly powerful software are all available to anyone.

I found myself in a situation recently where it hit me like a ton of bricks: I have every single thing I need to start making films. I have a high-def digital camera. I have lights. I have top-end computer hardware and software. I have the tools.

I lost my way during real life. It happens.

Today I decided I was not going to let these tools go to waste. I went to a bookstore and bought two books to help me master the software and techniques I could have learned in college in the 1990s (and techniques that would have been horrendously outdated nowadays, at any rate.)

Opening those books today was a daunting process. I am very comfortable and secure in my skillset, but editing video at the pro level is way outside of my comfort zone. It made me remember what it’s like to not know something, to feel awkward and untrained, to feel lost.

It’s a good thing to do that once in a while. If you’ve hit any sort of wall in your life, doing something wacky like deciding to learn a completely new skill can distract you and reinvigorate you. It’s hard to manufacture that ‘fire-in-the-belly’ feeling, but throwing yourself into something wildly different is a good head start.

So if you find yourself in a doldrums, my advice to you is to go out and learn something new. Get a German language learning program. Go to the library and buy a nautical knots book. Take an adult enrichment course in something you’ve never done before. Join a cricket team.

Who knows where it may lead you?