By Chuck Gallozzi
Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it. –Brian Tracy
We have a natural yearning for learning. Infants have an insatiable hunger, responding to each sight, sound, smell, taste, and tactile experience with curiosity. As toddlers, they roam everywhere, soaking in as much information as possible in their attempts to discover the nature of the world. This search for knowledge never ends. However, as we mature, the desire to discover and understand the world changes to a desire to discover ourselves.
The keys to discovery are learning and thinking about what we learn. Which is more helpful, thinking or learning? Well, both are essential, for as Confucius taught, “Learning without thinking is useless; thinking without learning is dangerous.” Nevertheless, since we have to learn something before we can think about it, let’s focus on the subject of learning and begin by reviewing some of the common ways of learning.
Why bother learning? Because the more we understand life, the more we will appreciate it and be in awe of it. Without knowledge and understanding we would be like a stone, existing but not living. Learning adds excitement and meaning to life. And since life is synonymous with change, we have to keep learning, merely to keep up. Learning, also, makes us fit company for ourselves as well as for others.
“Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” said Henry Ford. Interestingly, medical research confirms his belief. Those who keep their minds active by studying poetry and music, for example, or by learning foreign languages and gaining computer skills seem to ward off Alzheimer’s disease. The brain, then, like the rest of our body, needs regular workouts to remain in good shape. It’s the old rule of “use it or lose it.”
Some of the Ways We Can Learn:
Learn from experience. Reading and studying is not learning, applying what you have studied is. We learn by doing. Experience is the greatest teacher. Of what value is knowledge, if it is unapplied? To truly benefit, we need to learn, digest, and apply knowledge.
Learn from your problems. Every problem is a solution waiting to be discovered or an opportunity for growth waiting to unfold. Cathy Lee Crosby, who has had her share of ‘ups and downs,’ had this to say, “It seems that we learn lessons when we least expect them but always when we need them the most, and, the true ‘gift’ in these lessons always lies in the learning process itself.”
Learn from your mistakes. On the one hand, more can be learned from what works than from what fails, but on the other hand more can be learned from our mistakes than from theory. This is why Igor Stravinsky said, “I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.” After a mistake or failure, don’t deny it or make excuses, but learn from it. Also learn from the mistakes of others, you can save yourself a lot of grief that way.
Learn by asking questions. Rudyard Kipling explains how he became a learned man, “I had six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew. Their names were: Where, What, When, Why, How and Who.” Cultivate curiosity and discover a world of endless wonder and ceaseless opportunities for learning.
Learn from others. Think of all you can learn by associating with smarter people! Smarter or not, we can learn from everyone, for they all know something we don’t. Copy everything you like and avoid everything you dislike about others. Everyone we meet, then, is our teacher.
Learn by teaching. The best way to learn is to teach. And that’s exactly what I’m doing now by writing this article. When teaching, not only do we learn about the subject we teach, but we also learn how to organize our thoughts, do research, and develop our writing and or speaking skills.
Learn from your faults. Your shortcomings are your friends. They are pointing out ways you can improve yourself. Instead of running from your weaknesses, embrace them, for they are your road map to a brighter tomorrow. Use these faults as a reason to develop self-discipline, determination, and responsibility, so you can create a better you.
Learn from criticism. Don’t fret over criticism. If it’s invalid, ignore it. If it’s unfair, forgive them. If it’s based on envy, be compassionate. But if it is a legitimate gripe, learn from it! And if you want to learn how to be a decent person, resist all temptation to offer ‘constructive criticism’ to others. Criticism is almost always destructive, but when it’s hurled your way, forgive those who do so, and learn from it if you can.
Learn how to change your mind. Critics jump on leaders that change their minds because they are not resolute. But whenever we change our mind, isn’t that declaring that we know more today than we did yesterday? Isn’t that good? To grow, we have to learn how to give up some of our previously held ideas or beliefs. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The years teach us much the days never knew.”
Variety is the spice of life. Although it is necessary to focus on a subject to master it, enthusiasm is bound to ebb if we devote too much time on a single subject. From time to time, shift to a new one, it will not only broaden your view, but each new subject will infuse a fresh dose of enthusiasm into your study.
Seek the truth. How can you discover the truth unless you open the windows of your mind by being broad-minded? When you come across new knowledge, weigh the facts, study the pros and cons, be skeptical, use analytical thinking and rely on commonsense. For as Bertolt Brecht, the German physician, poet, and playwright, wrote, “Never believe on faith, see for yourself! What you yourself don’t learn you don’t know.”
In a word, everyone and everything around us is our teacher.
You have acquaintances and friends, don’t you? What’s the difference between the two groups? Although acquaintances are people you know, friends are people you intimately know. It is friends that you turn to for help. It is similar with knowledge and learning. Knowledge is what is found in books and taught to us by teachers and others. But until we integrate that knowledge into our lives and make it a part of us, it is no more than an acquaintance with little value. Learning is the result of embracing knowledge and applying it to our lives. We may forget what we have read or heard, but we will always remember what we have learned.
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown,? Henry L. Roediger III,? and Mark A. McDaniel
The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin
Accelerated Learning: How to Learn Any Skill or Subject, Double Your Reading Speed and Develop Laser Sharpe Memory- Instantly by James Horton
How to Improve the Quality of Your Life?: A Comprehensive Approach and Guide to Well-Being By Dr. Joseph Adrien Emmanuel DEMES M.D. M.P.H. Ph.D.
The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain By Terry Doyle and Todd Zakrajsek
Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice by Sharan B. Merriam and Laura L. Bierema
Reprinted by permission of the author, Chuck Gallozi, www.personal-development.com