The perils of self improvement

When learning goes too far, get back on track
By ASHLEY RIGAZIO  |  January 20, 2010

READ: Deirdre Fulton's "Back to school: Coloring outside the educational lines". By Deirdre Fulton.

With a new decade comes dubious planning for self-betterment and the optimistic promise of a fresh start. However, even the best of intentions have the potential to go awry, and seemingly innocuous continuing-education courses are no exception.

Here at the Portland Phoenix, we realize that continuing your education with classes in anything from self-help to knitting to karate can be a problem as well as a solution. If you’re into crafting, it’s easy to get carried away, as anyone with a nana surely knows. Arts also can be a recipe for disaster because, let’s face it, if you’re “finding yourself” through the obscure, ancient Japanese tie-dyeing art of shibori, maybe there’s some kind of disconnect between you and the world around you.

Should you encounter any problems on your quest to build an arsenal of mostly useless skills, consider correcting them with follow-up courses. You’ll be ready to confront your awkward addictions in no time.

PROBLEM: Hoping to grow more savvy in cyberspace and land a better position in the workplace, you sign up for a course in social networking. You quickly learn how to market yourself online, clean up your Facebook profile, and get to the bottom of what this “Twitter” thing is all about. But before you know it, you’re addicted to Farmville, Mafia Wars, and online porn. Nothing you’re currently involved in can be described as either “social” or “networking.” Oops.

SOLUTION: Return to the tried-and-true basics by taking a course in traditional social skills and networking (remember those?). Sometimes developing your work relationships over lunch or getting drunk with co-workers can get you farther in the office than any LinkedIn profile ever could — especially if you work in the media. Cheers!

PROBLEM: You’re enjoying your “Extreme Basketweaving 101” course a lot — maybe too much. Your friends and family admired your homemade gifts at first, but now you couldn’t pay them to accept your over-the-top wicker creations, no matter how much your latest work resembles a stegosaurus. You don’t want to stop your soothing new hobby, but you need to prevent your apartment from deteriorating into a Hoarders-like hell.

SOLUTION: Follow up your basket-making course with one in entrepreneurship to learn how to make your pre-historic-themed wicker baskets into the next disposable fad with the youngsters. Just think: with a little elbow grease and strategic placement, your creations could be planted on the arms of Disney starlets and sold in Claire’s stores across the country. If you’re afraid your ambition could once again get the best of you, ignore your dreams of swimming pools full of money and go with a safer bet. Take a class in organizational skills, which will allow you to make the most of your one-bedroom space while you figure out what to do with all those dinosaur baskets.

PROBLEM: Lonely and intrigued by the idea of taking an academic approach to getting’ laid, you join a class at your local adult-education center on “The Art of Flirting.” It’s taught by a Ladies Man wannabe with a smooth voice and a bottomless cache of clichés. Needless to say, your next visit to the neighborhood bar begins with a line about “space pants” and ends with a flirtini thrown in your face. It might be time to get a cat.

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