Can old dogs learn new tricks?


Outright answer, yes if you really want to. As long as there is proper motivation, you can change yourself or learn something new. Enough of mind over matter stuff.

Let me give an example: my Dad. Silver Hair individual who held on to the pager (do you remember those) for as long as he could as a link to the outside world. Then, they became obsolete and all his friends move on to mobile phones. He did the same but very grudgingly. Learned how to use one of the analog phones and held on to that till the 2G network in Singapore was retired. Then, I had to buy him (with a lousy excuse as a Father’s Day present to make him feel better) a smartphone and on to that he went. I was the one that taught him the limitlessness of the smartphone and he now uses it not only to call, check/reply messages but surf the web. Breathtaking thing is this all happened in a span of 15 years. So my Dad did it because he had no choice. He had to keep up with times and he had to change and learn something new.

An article on LifeHack provides a good explanation of  “motivation” and the the different types. I have included it below for your reading pleasure.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is generally defined as the force that compels us to action. It drives us to work hard and pushes us to succeed. Motivation influences our behavior and our ability to accomplish goals.

There are many different forms of motivation. Each one influences behavior in its own unique way. No single type of motivation works for everyone. People’s personalities vary and so accordingly does the type of motivation, that is most effective at inspiring their conduct.

Types of Motivation


A form of motivation that involves rewards, both monetary and nonmonetary is often called incentive motivation. Many people are driven by the knowledge that they will be rewarded in some manner for achieving a certain target or goal. Bonuses and promotions are good examples of the type of incentives that are used for motivation.


Fear motivation involves consequences. This type of motivation is often one that is utilized when incentive motivation fails. In a business style of motivation often referred to as the, “carrot and stick,” incentive is the carrot and fear is the stick.

Punishment or negative consequences are a form of fear motivation. This type of motivation is commonly used to motivate students in the education system and also frequently in a professional setting to motivate employees. If we break the rules or fail to achieve the set goal, we are penalized in some way.


Achievement motivation is also commonly referred to as the drive for competency. We are driven to achieve goals and tackle new challenges. We desire to improve skills and prove our competency both to others and to ourselves. Generally, this feeling of accomplishment and achievement is intrinsic in nature.

However, in certain circumstances be motivation for achievement may involve external recognition. We often have a desire or need to receive positive feedback from both our peers and our superiors. This may include anything from an award to a simple pat on the back for a job well done.


The need for self-improvement is truly an internal motivation. A burning desire to increase our knowledge of ourselves and of the outside world can be a very strong form of motivation. We seek to learn and grow as individuals.

Motivation for growth can also be seen in our yearning for change. Many of us are wired by our personality or upbringing to constantly seek a change in either our external or internal environment or knowledge. We view stagnation to be both negative and undesirable.


The motivation of power can either take the form of a desire for autonomy or other desire to control others around us. We want to have choices and control over our own lives. We strive for the ability to direct the manner in which we live now and the way our lives will unfold in the future.

We also often aspire to control others around us. The desire for control is stronger in some people than others. In some cases, the craving for power induces people to harmful, immoral, or illegal behavior. In other situations, the longing for power is merely a desire to affect the behavior of others. We simply want people to do what we want, according to our timetable, and the way we want it done.


Many people are motivated by social factors. This may be a desire to belong and to be accepted by a specific peer group or a desire to relate to the people in our sphere or in the larger world. We have an innate need to feel a connection with others. We also have the need for acceptance and affiliation.

A genuine and passionate desire to contribute and to make a difference in the lives of others can be another form of social motivation. If we have a longing to make a contribution to the world around us, it is generally a sign that we are motivated by social factors.

The real importance of understanding the different types of motivation is in our ability to determine which form of motivation is the most effective for inspiring the desired behavior in either others or ourselves. None of these styles of motivation is inherently good or bad, the positive or negative outcome is truly determined by the way they are used.

The next question is why do some people never learn? Below are the common mistakes of why that happens. Take note of #1. The one trick pony issue. Reminds you of the different one hit wonder bands that came along and disappeared!


1) The single strategy mistake: Lets suppose you kept moving from a job to another while discovering each time that you hate your job. In such a case you might waste your whole life repeating the same process over and over just because you aren’t changing your strategy. What about doing something completely different? What about starting a business or turning a hobby into a career? The mistake you have been doing in such a case is using the same strategy that doesn’t work over and over (finding a job in this case)

2) The comfort zone trap: Because learning involves making mistakes you will never fully develop your skills before you make many of them. Now some people prefer to remain in their comfort zone instead of trying anything new and as a result their skills never improve for years and years. The guy who always avoids social gatherings will never get the chance to make mistakes and to learn the proper way to communicate with others. This is also why two different persons could do the same thing for the same number of years but have totally different skill levels (see also Overcoming the fear of making mistakes)

3) Twisting the facts: You might think that people who give up say something like “OK, i gave up” but actually giving up can happen in much more complicated ways. One popular example of giving up is twisting the facts so that you don’t blame yourself when you stop trying. “I discovered that i am not lucky”, “If only i was a bit taller” and “I am not talented” are all phrases that people use to twist facts to allow themselves to give up without feeling guilty. A person who believes that he can’t develop social skills because he lacks a certain gene or because he isn’t lucky will never develop them even if you allowed him to socialize for 50 years

4) Depending on intuition: While intuition might help you in some situations still there are other one that require deep acquired knowledge. You can’t depend on intuition to disarm a bomb else you will get yourself killed. Learning is sometimes essential for certain skills to be learned. For example you might spend years trying to make people love you and your methods might not work just because you don’t know enough about the psychology of love (see my book How to make someone fall in love with you). In other words, trying to develop a skill without properly educating yourself about it is like flying an airplane without reading its manual

The other interesting question is when did you try really hard to learn something? Probably it was out of your comfort zone or something really new or something you simply had no existing knowledge to base off from. I did or well I am. Learning Ruby on Rails as a coding language. The reason based on the motivation types below? Growth. I have to learn and grow and improve. Understanding what happens under the hood of the car is important. The other reason is I have to get in on the act. With all the buzz around startups and tech, why not learn something that allows me to understand them a bit better. If that doesn’t work, at least it would serve as a good conversation starter if I am ever invited to a Google event.

So you can learn something new. It might be difficult and require some time. There are times when you just want to give up.  Don’t be a dinosaur. Change. My father and I can do it. So can you.


Other reading


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