To become an expert in an activity, it's estimated that you need to spend at least 10,000 hours dedicated solely to that one activity. Does that sound like a long time? If you've seen the film Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray endlessly repeats the same day, you'll know he becomes an expert in French poetry, ice sculpting and playing the piano. Someone has worked out that to have spent the necessary pursuing these disciplines to become an expert, Murray spent almost 34 years experiencing the same day over and over again.
Naturally, as time is money, to become proficient in something takes both, and a lot of both. If you have the time, but not the money, then your options are limited. You're not going to be beating Tiger Woods any day soon, for example. But there are ways you can enhance your learning without depleting your checking account.
One of the greatest ways you can train your brain is to learn a different language. Unfortunately, it can be tough to learn a whole new vocabulary, especially if your thirtieth birthday is but a distant memory. There are plenty of free online courses available if you fancy learning Spanish, or Portuguese, or even Japanese. It's best to begin with a free course to see if language-learning is for you before punching in your credit card numbers for a paid course.
There's a real buzz about online poker at the moment. It's a great game to play, as long as you play sensibly and within your limits. The problem with poker is if you sit down at a money table you'll be up against people who have been playing for years, so if you don't know what you're doing, then you're going to get stung. Full Tilt has a great app which teaches you the basics of the game for free. You can also play on their 'play money' tables to see if you've the makings of a poker fiend before you try the real money online casino.
One of the great things to do in life is to learn to play an instrument. Most of us experience learning to play an instrument at school but it tends to get dropped one more academic studies start to take preference. Why not blow the dust off that guitar, clarinet or tuba and see how much you can recall? If you're re-bitten by the musical bug there are plenty of sites where you can take free, basic lessons before you move on to the more advanced (and costly) stuff. Just don't forget to warn your neighbors about the terrible din they'll be hearing for a few weeks. Or maybe even months!