What have you taught yourself to do? Really on your own—no instruction, no classes. Maybe it was something big like how to play the piano or ride a bike, or something small like how to do a VLOOKUP in Excel (small but mighty!).

That question came to me the other day and I have no idea what prompted it, but I’ve been enjoying thinking about it ever since.

Here are some things I taught myself to get your juices flowing:

I taught myself to tolerate, and eventually like, olives. This may sound strange, but when you don’t like olives, it feels like they’re in everything. I decided that being fine with olives would make life easier (and it would make me a more agreeable dinner guest), so I trained myself to like them. And I really like them now! In fact, I always have a jar of Castelvetranos in the fridge.

Years earlier, I decided that—again—life would be easier and I’d save money, if I switched to black coffee. That also took some training, but I got there (I recommend adding cinnamon as you’re working up to it). Now, adding milk is a completely optional step for me, and it makes lattes and cappuccinos real treats.

Okay, something bigger: I taught myself how to tie my shoes. Okay, I’m sure I was coached leading up to the a-ha moment, but I remember being completely alone when I finally figured it out. My brother and our friends were playing outside and I think my mom was probably out front talking to a neighbor. I couldn’t bear to walk up to my mom barefoot, holding my white Keds with rainbow laces, and ask her to tie my shoes again. So, I sat on my bedroom floor and tried to tie my shoes over and over and over again until finally, those rainbows strings made a beautiful, secure bow.

When you hear that someone is a “self-taught something or other,” you tend to be impressed, right? I know I do. Why is that? What’s wrong with being taught? (Nothing. But I’ll save that for another post.)

I think it’s because we’ve all taught ourselves to do something over the years, so we’re familiar with the amount of patience and persistence it takes to fly solo. We know about the trial and error—so much error—involved when you don’t have a guide.

I wonder, though: does the sense of accomplishment we feel when we master something on our own match the sense of awe and respect we have for someone else who did the same thing?

Give yourself a pat on the back for all the things you’ve taught yourself to do.

While I did successfully teach myself to tie my shoes, decades later, I stumbled upon this TED Talk that taught me a better way. You’re welcome.

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