Those kids whose daddies have money might be sending them to tuition classes and golf lessons to give them the edge over their peers, but don’t worry, as an adult things don’t always work that way.
In fact, when it comes to self-improvement and picking up new skills, how you use your time can be even more important than how much money you spend. Here are five ways you can improve yourself for free on the web, none of which involve being a troll on social media.
Fluency in another language
When you were growing up, your parents might have impressed upon you the importance of being fluent in English and maybe Mandarin, because “China is the future” blah blah. Now as an adult, the ability to speak languages other than the above is ever clearer, as more and more Singaporeans settle overseas.
Many people fail to realise that years of expensive language classes will get you nowhere if you’re not motivated enough to undertake copious amounts of self-study and practice, and that there’s more information on the net and in our own public libraries than you could ever obtain from a weekly class.
While apps like Duolingo and Memrise give you a good head-start, there’s nothing like a solid grammar book and vocabulary frequency lists to give you a strong foundation. Read anything you can get your hands on, get native speakers to correct your writing on Lang-8 and practise speaking at language exchange events or on Skype, and you’ll be way ahead of that guy who’s enrolled in after-work language classes.
I’ve always hated endurance running with a passion, from the day we were made to do the 1.6 km NAPFTA run in Primary 4. Don’t be like me, because it doesn’t take a special talent for endurance sports to become a decent distance runner.
This New York Times article by Haruki Murakami might inspire some of the less sporty amongst you to take up running. It’s painful at first, yet it’s completely free and can have a profound effect on your health. You don’t need to sign up for expensive marathons or buy sophisticated gear—a pair of running shoes from the army should suffice at the start.
A mobile app like the hugely popular Nike Running app can track your runs, your times and your routes, so you can monitor your own progress and, if you wish, post graphics depicting your runs on social media.
Coding and web building skills
Kiasu parents are signing their kids up for coding classes, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to look around for some rich towkay to adopt you. There is a huge amount of resources for would-be coders online (there’s a decent list here, if you’re interested), as well as countless forums where students can post questions when they run into problems.
The same goes for webpage building and web design courses—here’s a list of 50 courses and resources for budding web designers.
Basically, the resources are there—whether you succeed or not depends on how determined you are, and how proactively you seek help. Practice is key, so don’t think that just sitting passively in front of your computer and absorbing information will turn you into an overnight sensation. Go build an application or create a WordPress skin, and then do it again. That’s the only way you’ll improve.
If you were always doodling and sketching when you were a kid but lost the habit when life got in the way as you got older, it’s not too late to pick up some new artistic skills and revisit your old ones. (When I was in secondary school I once created a pack of trading cards featuring all my teachers. I like to think I’d have been able to do that with my ex-bosses as well.)
While kids are quite happy to experiment with pencils, crayons and paints, adults always worry they won’t be able to “make it” without the help of a teacher. I say that’s nonsense. Whether you’re watching a how-to watercolour video or studying calligraphy using resources like IAMPETH, it’s totally possible to become a self-taught artist.
Lose weight and get a six pack
There’s no shortcut to getting fit, no matter how much you tell yourself that the day you can afford an expensive personal trainer is the day you’ll finally improve your health. Obesity and diabetes are growing problems in Singapore, but even if you’re technically underweight, that doesn’t mean you can’t be skinny-fat, which could be even more dangerous than being slightly overweight but fit.
Whether you’re looking to increase your endurance or weight train, it’s easy to do so even without leaving your home to head to a gym—if you learn how to do body weight exercises and circuit train without equipment. Use online resources like this and this. If you regulate your diet and are consistent, you’ll do a lot better than the guy who has to force himself to go to the gym a few times a week and then pigs out at McDonald’s.
What other ways can you improve yourself for free? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credit: Surian Soosay