9.14.2015

Avoid Being Dumbed Down: Cultivate a Skill



Last spring I did a video called, Refuse to Be Dumbed Down. What a response that received and is still receiving! This week I am giving you active tips and a challenge on how you can avoid being dumbed down by our modern culture.


Tip #1- Cultivate a long-lost skill

You loved playing the piano as a child, but haven't played in years. You used to paint before the kids were born but haven't picked up a paintbrush in ages. You had ambitions to write a novel when you were in your early 20s but never got past chapter 3. Do you relate to any of these? Many people long to pick up an old skill or passion again but discourage themselves by saying they are "no good" or have "lost what it takes". This week I'd like to challenge you to pick up an old skill and begin to hone it again. This takes discipline. It takes time and it also is a wonderful antidote to being dumbed down.

I used to play the piano as a child. I stopped playing during my college years and early to mid-twenties. I never thought I was very good. I would play occasionally. Recently I have committed to seriously taking the piano up again. During my summer break I took a piece of challenging music (challenging for me!), Mozart's Alla Turca. I worked on it every day for at least twenty minutes. I have committed to learning it. Be sure to stay tuned for a bonus video later this week where I play Alla Turca for you!

Tip #2- Reignite your passion for an art or skill or commit to learning a new one

If you don't have a long-lost skill, commit to learning a new one. Is there something you have always wanted to do? Now is the time! When I was in my late twenties I am so happy I decided to take a writing class. If I never pushed myself to take that class, I might never have written Lessons from Madame Chic. I probably wouldn't even have this blog!


Tip #3- Analyze how you spend your down time and make changes where needed

We often say we "don't have time" to do these things, yet we somehow find time to watch a reality TV marathon or read a gossip magazine. It's a great idea to analyze how you spend your downtime and see where you can make changes. There is nothing wrong with mindless entertainment or guilty pleasures, but we should be conscious that that is not the only way we entertain ourselves. Avoid being dumbed down by choosing an enriching activity during your downtime. As a side note, I actually find playing the piano during my down time quite soothing!

See you on Thursday, for the bonus video where I play, Alla Turca (and remember, I am not a professional pianist!) :)

This week I would love to know... Do you agree or disagree that today's culture is being dumbed down? What is a long-lost skill or new passion you'd like to cultivate? Let me know in the comment section and you could be picked as the comment of the week!

If you are unable to see this week's video (above), click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or check out my channel, www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

News
Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance comes out October 27th from Simon & Schuster. Pre-order available now.

I will be speaking and signing copies of my new book on Thursday, October 29th at Pages Bookstore, in Manhattan Beach, CA at 7pm. Details to follow.

Thank you to Melissa55 who has read an advance copy of Polish Your Poise in Madame Chic. She recommends it in her August favorites!

Madame Chic Inspiring Thought
Cultivate your mind, seek out the arts or work on a skill this week! Share what you are doing on social media using the hashtag #MADAMECHIC so we can encourage each other and refuse to be dumbed down.

Comment of the Week
Erica G. writes:

I love this!!!!! I'm learning the violin as a 30-something. I practice ballet videos on YouTube for exercise, and I try to write poetry. I'm not "good" at any of them, but these pursuits feed me somehow. We homeschool, and we often have classical music playing in the background during certain subjects, and we've watched many classical ballets on YouTube. I adore your "culture minute" with your family!

Erica, I love that you are learning the violin in your 30s! That's the spirit!

Jeanne D. writes:

Jeanne D This is the first time I have heard of you or watched you, but I was delighted with your comments today. My mother had a rule that whenever I left the house, I had to look as good as I could for whatever I was going to do. I was never allowed to leave the house in curlers (this was in the 1950's). She died in 1964 and the 3 times I left the house in curlers (in the mid-1960's) I ran into someone I had not seen in years and felt so foolish. Needless to say, I did not do that again. That advice has served me well all my life as people always comment on how nice I look, or 'you always look great'. It wasn't long in the early years before I realized how much my daily mood was impacted by how I looked--so following this 'rule' has been one of the nicest things I have done for myself. It is such a treat to see someone in your generation feeling this way---and doing something about it!! Kudos to you!!

Thank you, Jeanne, for your lovely comment.

As you know, nearly every comment I get can be the comment of the week. Please keep them coming as I know that others enjoy reading them too. Also, your comment could be featured on the blog!

Please note, if you have submitted a question to me, look for it to be answered in a future "reader questions answered" video.

See you later in the week for a special performance of Mozart's Alla Turca :)


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20 comments:

Summer Smith said...

I loved playing the piano and I stopped in college too because there wasn't a piano in my dorm. I would love to pick that up again. I've wanted a piano for a couple of years as well, we'll see what life brings. You bring up a point about not being dumbed down but also it's a wonderful time to spend with others. I remember learning how to quilt and make my Grandma's homemade bread with her when she was dying from cancer, & learned how to make bread but also that this was what kept her family alive during The Great Depression. I am so thankful we took the time to do that together.

My husband and I just recently signed a contract on a house and are going to be painting some paintings for the house. We do not have the money to buy fine art at this time. So, we decided to have some fun and make our own! It's also a wonderful way to spend some quality time together. I also have recently learned how to embroidery smock from my mom for little children's clothes and it is another great reason to spend quality time with her.

Emma Knight Peel said...

I took piano lessons when I was little and then stopped, too. I bought a house 7 years ago and kept waiting for my procrastinating parents to dig out my old piano (they've almost become hoarders) and bring it over. Finally, I got tired of wasting years not pursuing my desire to play piano again, so I found a small electric one on Craig's List and the people delivered it, so now I can play! I still prefer a traditional "real" piano for the resonating sounds and vibrations that I don't get from the electric one, but it's still good and satisfied my yearning to play again! My advice to readers is to take matters into your own hands, and get a piano if you want to play! :)

Shannon said...

DC has inspired me to pick up writing...and start my own blog. I was a print journalism major in college but didn't do much with it after graduating (17 years ago). I used to love to write and always dreamed of publishing a book. I spent the summer practicing my writing skills and will soon be launching my own lifestyle blog. Thanks DC!!!

C.J. Hartwell said...

I loved writing when I was younger and even wrote a short novel when my kids were little, but the idea of having other people read it and possibly criticize it terrified me! So I stuck it in a drawer and there it stayed.
Lately I've come to realize I was at my happiest when I was writing, so I started a blog recently just to get used to the idea of people reading what I have to say. At first it was terribly scary, but It quickly became so much fun I forgot I was scared! And who knows? Maybe one day I will pull out that novel and set to work on it again. Funny how when you push past your fears, suddenly all sorts of possibilities open up for you.

Amy said...

I loved to tap dance when I was younger. I studied dance from the age of 5-18 and would love to pick up tap dancing again. I took a few classes here and there in my twenties, but I always found it hard to dance after a long day at work. But I would love to give it a try again. I have also recently thought of taking a college course just for fun to learn something new. I live in a fantastic area where there are many colleges and universities within 20 miles of my home. So there is no shortage of options. I would love to learn French, or maybe take a writing or history class. I think that as adults its especially important that we find ways to continue to learn and grow. Because its so easy to get trapped into a rut and not experience new things anymore. Learning and experiencing new things is what makes life exciting.

Sarah said...

I definitely agree with you that we tend to think we don't have time to learn new things until we start adding up how much time we're spending on things that really aren't doing us much good, like mindless tv. Lately I've been working hard on the blog I started a little over a year ago--trying to post regularly, improve my writing skills, and really find my writing style. I'm also trying to improve my photography skills. I've always enjoyed photography and my husband bought me a dslr camera as an anniversary gift, but I have yet to learn how to use it well in manual mode. I've been debating whether to take an online class on how to use it and this just may give me the nudge I needed to go ahead and do it!

Vicki Zimmerman said...

Please, please please post your lovely piece of Mozart's "Alla Turca" next week! I am so excited to hear how you have used your 20-minutes of daily creative time, and I am thrilled to be part of your virtual audience, because you are such a great inspiration. In fact, I have always wanted to hear you play the piano! I am inspired to write more and to re-learn to play my left-handed guitar again, no matter how much of a beginner I was or am. It's the joy of learning and creating that is so personally rewarding. I also currently write in my journal and I wrote a haiku a day for one year.

At every moment in the day we have an opportunity to ask ourselves how we are spending our time. Are we posting some silly comment on Facebook or checking Google for some superficial search. Your comments on making use of our time and cultivating what we really love is so valuable and important.

As an example, your love of classical music and the selections chosen for your ten-item wardrobe videos are wonderful to hear. Thank you so very much for reminding us that that we have the power not to be dumbed down.

P. S. I do hope you'll have a book-signing and/or book-reading in Orange County, CA, again this year. ^..^

Katherine Rae said...

Ooh I'm so excited, I've loved that music since hearing it on the bbc adaptation of Pride & prejudice with Colin Firth ( a must see for any Jane Austen fans). Looking forward to your bonus post!

I took piano lessons for a few years at school too stoping when I was in my late teens and off to university. Whenever I'm at a friends house with a keyboard or piano I'm always drawn to it, and have asked for a full sized keyboard (our small but perfectly formed apartment couldn't fit a piano) this year as a birthday gift! Your post has reminded me to focus on taking regular committed actions in line with my passions to bring about this cultivated experience. And perhaps to ask for this gift early, 😉

Happy practicing,
Katherine

martinealison said...

Bonjour,

Toutes mes félicitations... Il est formidable de faire revivre et d'approfondir ce qui nous tenais à coeur autrefois. Les aléas de la vie font que parfois nous avons dû mettre de cÎté certaines choses. Il est faux de penser que le temps ne nous permet pas de retrouver une passion et de la vivre à notre hauteur. Il faut se donner le moyen.
Bravo !

Gros bisous ♡

Gesine said...

Also very important for me: Never think you're too old to learn something new!
That is what my family taught me - my parents and grandparents all loved to try out new things even in old age, and I am so grateful to have them as a role model.
I began to learn horseriding when I was almost 40, not the age when one normally starts this, but I love it! In my early twenties I did a lot of yoga, just started this again. Learning new things through reading - well, I'm glad I never stopped reading!

Julie K said...

When I was 9 years old, I begged my mother to let me stop taking piano lessons. (I was tired of Fur Elise...) Now, I very much regret not having continued my lessons. I feel it's is in fact too late for me to pick up piano again, but I am excited about starting painting (watercolor and oil) again. Over the summer I enrolled in French classes again (at Alliance Francaise ) because my husband and I plan on retiring at least part of each year to France. It's amazing how much more I enjoy French classes as an early middle-aged adult than when I was much younger. Now, as a teacher, I appreciate learning so much more.

greeneherb said...

To me it feels life enhancing to do something useful, beautiful, soul fulfilling. For me it is taking control of my health,growing a garden,cooking wonderful meals. knitting, reading and painting. We don't have to be dumbed down just consuming whatever is thrown at us. And like you said Jennifer we don't need to be experts to derive great pleasure at making things ourselves.

Emma Knight Peel said...

I thought about you this morning when I pulled a scarf from my coat closet and it smelled musty. I definitely need to clean out my coat closet and get rid of coats I haven't worn so the ones I do wear (and scarves) can breathe! You're right...it's so important to have fewer clothes so they can breathe.

galant said...

I'm already busy doing what I always wanted to do: to write. I've been doing this for the past 20 or so years, so I don't think I could be considered to have dumbed down. It's great that my work is still being published.
Margaret P

Rachel said...

I also took piano lessons when I was younger and stopped when I finished high school. When we moved into our house 3 years ago I was lucky enough to get the piano I played on growing up which is a beautiful old Nordheimer that has been fully restored. Over the last few years I have sat down only a few times but I just registered for lessons again after being inspired by your posts! My goal piece is to learn the full version of Claire du Lune. One of my all time favorites! Can't wait to see your rendition of Alla Turca!

mimimanderly said...

As recently as four years ago, I was drawing every chance I got. Also, I wrote drabbles ( Short 100 words or thereabouts stories). I even won a few contests with my drabbles. Then my husband was laid off for almost a year. I always needed to be alone to draw or to write. I got out of the habit. I didn't get back into it, I'm sorry to say. I kind of miss it, but more "practical" stuff, like canning and cooking meals has filled the void. At the time, I was very into the whole "Harry Potter" phenomenon. Yeah... I'm a geek. I'm also not into the "Potterverse" anymore, and that was what drew me into the drawing and writing. I'd like to get back into it (especially the writing), but there isn't something comparable to the Harry Potter phenomenon that pulls me in enough to do it. Drawing landscapes is SO not my thing.

Farbenformerin Angela said...

Hey Jennifer, that is such a great topic.
I totally agree to what you´ve been saying.
There are some skills I´ve allways been cultivating: I love to do Watercolor paintings, I knit and crochet, I sew and do a lot of creative stuff.
There´s only one thing I left behind although I love it: calligraphy.
Thank you for calling it back to my mind.
Thats the skill I want to give a try again.
Love to hear your "alla turca"!!
By the way: W. A. Mozart´s father was from my hometown and so he often visited the city and worked here.
Have a nice day!
Angela

Patricia said...

Jennifer, I've loved your Blog since I was fortunate to find it out there in the ether one day and have followed it ever since. Especially, since you are much younger than I am, it's so good to hear you speak about always looking presentable even in the privacy of your own home; of living in a home of comfort and beauty, according to what you can afford, and whatever comfort and beauty means to you; conducting yourself confidently even in the face of confrontational rudeness that we see more and more when out in public; and now to revisit and practice interests or skills you used to enjoy, or pursue new ones, or those you'd always thought about pursuing, but never have.

Jennifer, you are the proverbial "breath of fresh air" even as you harken back to the manners and sensibilities I learned from my parents and hope I've conveyed to my children. Watching them in their adult lives, I think I have, and I'm so grateful for that. I'm also grateful for seeing your lovely face, sweet smile, and your always welcoming and encouraging, "Jennifer here," because you give me hope that
enough people in these United States and across the world will come to realize the benefits to humankind of living in civility and good manners if not complete "bon ami."

I'm looking forward to hearing you play. Like you, I took piano lessons as a child and stopped as a teenager because I wanted to have long, pretty nails. I've since begun again, not classical, but learning to play "Blue Bayou," "Imagine," and "Satin Doll," among others. Though my mother was an opera, classical, and 40s music lover, she also loved rock 'n roll from the 60's. Eclectic tastes, to be sure, as are mine.

Jennifer, keep up the good fight against losing our best humanity to the lowest common denominators of TV and movie choices, and how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives. It is, after all, a choice we make.

Patricia Wilson
Columbia, CT




OneEnglishLady said...

I am 63 and have always wanted to learn to play an instrument. I always thought that I wouldn't be very successful as I am not good at math and I had been told that music is heavily reliant on math. Well, being retired and not very wealthy I wondered what instrument I could learn and I decided on the recorder! I found a teacher and I am learning to play the most beautiful music. It cost me very little to purchase and my lessons are not expensive. I am so pleased with myself and I am not having trouble with the music like I thought I would. I agree with you about society being dumbed down, we see it in schools where average is ' the ceiling'to aim for where kids used to be encouraged to excell. Music, TV...I don't even watch anymore. I have taken up on-line courses and am learning history, archaeology and other things that I have always loved. Please keep encouraging people to reach for more and to pass the message on to others.

Candice said...

Jennifer, thank you for another lovely video. You have inspired me to pick up reading fiction books again. I don't really have a desire to learn an instrument but I definitely have a desire to read. I used to spend so many waking hours reading and I enjoyed it so much. Now I have found myself falling in the lure of hours of mindless TV. I have resolved to change this and engage in something more productive and more enjoyable. I checked out 2 new books from the library this week (I'm on a budget so no buying for me, not to mention I don't feel it is very chic to overspend) and am almost done with one of them. Thank you for the inspiration, as always!

 
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