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The only way I know to be truly fulfilled, is to keep growing and learning. You've heard of “lifelong learners”? That's what I want to be.
Here, I'm sharing with you the resources I have personally used and highly recommend.
After I graduated from college, I was on my own for the first time in my life. There were no teachers or professors giving me assignments or deadlines. If I wanted to keep progressing, it would be up to me.
Having just turned 57, my focus is not on leisure, botox, or wine. Instead, it's on growth, progress, service, and adventure. Squeezing the most of every good things out of life I can. Here are some quality sources I've been using. I'd love to hear yours!
We have been using The Great Courses for well over a decade. The first course we purchased (back in the day of DVDs) was How to Become a Superstar Student, for our high school kids. Most courses are geared toward adults, but there is a nice youth-appropriate selection as well.) The classes are taught by highly rated professors and world-class experts.
Courses are available in myriad categories, such as:
- Economics & Finance
- Food & Wine
- Health, Fitness, & Nutrition
- Hobby & Leisure
- Literature & Language
- Music & Fine Arts
- Philosophy & Religion
- Professional & Personal Growth
Courses are purchased individually and you retain lifetime access. They rotate courses through sales, offering up to 70% off. If you're eyeing a particular course, watch for it to go on sale.
MasterClass is a newer entry into the online learning space, but it's one of the best. It's a subscription-based program, allowing you to take any class at your leisure. Of course, the more you go through in the year, the more bang for your buck.
The unique aspect of Masterclass is that each course is taught by someone well-known in their field of expertise. This is important to me, but not because of celebrity sparkle. It's important because the people teaching the courses are already successful in the industry. They don't just talk a good talk. They've walked the walk…and succeeded at the highest levels.
- Amy Tan: Fiction, Memory, and Imagination
- Serena Williams: Tennis
- Alicia Keys: Songwriting and Producing
- Tony Hawk: Skateboarding
- Chris Voss: The Art of Negotiation
- Bobbie Brown: Makeup and Beauty
- Gordon Ramsay: Cooking I & II
- Ron Howard: Directing
- Martin Scorsese: Filmmaking
- Steve Martin: Comedy
The topics started mostly in arts, but have expanded. More classes (and categories) are added regularly. (The day I wrote this post, Wayne Gretzky's new course on the athlete mindset was released.) We've found this to be a solid value. Current categories are:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Design & Style
- Sports & Gaming
- Science & Tech
- Home & Lifestyle
- Community & Government
The value of such a program, of course, depends entirely on your dedication to watch the courses and follow through. If you try MasterClass, I'd love to hear your favorite courses.
Skill Share started with a focus on creative pursuits and is expanding into other types of courses. Currently they offer courses in animation, creative writing, music, photography, etc. The platform is shared with classes in web development, business analytics, and productivity.
The focus is less on lecture and more on interaction and project creation.
Udemy is a well-established learning platform. As of this writing, they offer over 130,000 courses.
Udemy focuses on technical instruction—but wait! don't tune out!—if you think you're too old to learn and use technical skills, you are not. I promise you! I'm 57 years old. I work in tech and I'm expanding into other technical areas every year. My husband is 61 and is currently developing incredible new decentralized identity technology. (As I type this, he is next door in a conference call, teaching others about it.)
Don't put yourself out to pasture! Challenge yourself!
That said, if you're not interested in web development, programming, cryptocurrency, or even graphic design, there is plenty to choose from.
You can choose courses in fitness, music, travel, money management, and even happiness and self-esteem.
This is a very specific course, that won't apply to many of you. But if you're interested in filmmaking or film school or becoming a YouTuber or anything along those lines, the Fulltime Filmmaker course—by Parker Wallbeck—cannot be beat.
It's a one-time, lifetime purchase. The full package now has over 400 videos (with over 80 hours of instruction). You can purchase the entire set of videos (as we did), or you can buy individual modules. There is no fluff. It's all practical, real-world knowledge.
I bought this when it first came out for my (then teenage) sons to watch as part of their homeschooling. They were starting a fun YouTube channel and it was a way to increase their technical knowledge. Best bang for the buck in our entire homeschooling journey, no hyperbole.
As of this writing, the modules include:
- Editing – Premiere Pro
- Editing – Final Cut Pro
- Editing – Davinci Resolve
- Cinematic Lighting
- Wedding Video Pro
- Seamless Video Pro
- Music Video Pro
- Real Estate Video Pro
- Travel Video Pro
- Commercial Video Pro
- Action Sports Video Pro
- After Effects Training
- The 7 Day Filmmaking Challenge
- GoPro Video Pro
- Photo Pro
- Gear Reviews
- Individual Tutorials
- Course Creator Pro
Since purchasing it, Parker has regularly added modules to the package. If you purchase the full package, you get everything—including new content as it comes out.
My mom went back to college to work on her master's degree in economics when I (the baby of the family) was in junior high. Going back to a formal classroom after decades away can be a daunting challenge.
If you are a formal student, Varsity Tutors is designed for help in specific classes and test prep. They also offer topical one-on-one tutoring.
Not ready for a course commitment? Would you be willing to set a goal to learn something new everyday? If you make it focused and intentional learning (rather than just “learning” through random YouTube videos) you can make remarkable progress on a topic of your choice.
Physical books are still my favorite, in theory, but after filling a home library, we have gone mostly digital. Digital books take up no room in the house and they are portable. (No more carry on luggage filled to the brim with heavy books!)
We love Kindle Unlimited. It's a monthly subscription that gives us access to “check out” up to 10 books at a time. When you want another, you simply “return” one in your library.
Not all books are available via Kindle Unlimited. (The author and/or publisher makes this choice.) But there are over a million books at this time. (Including mine!)
The subscription also includes access to magazines and thousands of audiobooks. Audio books are a very efficient way to learn, while completing a task that doesn't require mental effort.
Whether physical, digital, subscription, or audio, you can keep your brain firing.
If you've tried any of these platforms, let me know your personal experience!
What methods have you used to keep your brain active and to move forward in midlife? Share your wisdom.
Alison Moore Smith is a 59-year-old entrepreneur. She has been (very happily) married to Samuel M. Smith for 38 years. They are parents of six incredible children and grandparents to two astounding grandsons.
She is the author of The 7 Success Habits of Homeschoolers.