Learning. When was the last you learned something new? I don’t mean something you were forced to learn. Something that you decided to learn. On your own.
When we were at School or University, we had to learn. If we wanted to get the much-prized diploma. There was no other way around. Cram at the last minute and hope for the best. How much have we retained from these lessons? Maybe a little, maybe a little bit more. Regardless of the amount of knowledge we actually retained, we probably acquired a certain methodology: how to remember information (or not), how to understand concepts, or how to use our memory without overloading it. Chances are this methodology is still with us, somehow refined over the years, but in a nutshell about the same.
Have you noticed how some industries have been disrupted by outsiders?
Since that intense (somehow forced for some) learning period, we have entered the “professional life” where things are formatted in a certain way. Often, it is the company’s “way of doing things” that will guide what learning (or adaptation) will take place. It is not really a choice. Hopefully, this is not part of an HR checklist that needs to be ticked, but genuine support employees will get in their career development. But how often would the learning be “unrelated” to the actual work at hand? How often would learning be an avenue to open new horizons or ways of thinking?
Have you noticed how some industries have been disrupted by outsiders? Elon Musk is a great example. The automotive industry with Tesla, the space industry with SpaceX and soon the energy industry. Has he come from these specific industries? No. But his background and diverse point of view helped him tackle in a different way the problems faced by these industries.
If we were all to learn the same skills and approaches or the same formats within our companies then how can we be different at the personal level and likewise at a company level? Many of the greatest thinkers of all time were versed in many disciplines: philosophy, mathematics, physics, medicine, etc. Somehow, it is no wonder that they achieved greatness as they were able to widen their horizon and maybe use concepts from one area into another. This diversity of knowledge is a wonderful asset to have.
Let’s say you work in an organization that provides training from time to time. Do you really look forward to the training for the learning objective or because it’s a break from work? Do you really feel what you will learn will be useful to your work and development? If the answer is yes, then you are lucky to be in a pro-learning organization. If the answer is no, then what would you do? Just wait for better training opportunities (maybe in another company) or take things into your own hand?
Checking Google constantly is not learning, it is fetching for information on a need basis.
Access to knowledge has never been easier. Thanks to Google, everything is a search and click away. But while Google is a wonderful tool, it has done a disservice. Thinking that one has everything at hand, makes them less prone to actually learn and retain. Though one cannot know everything, there are certain areas where the ingraining of the knowledge becomes key so that you don’t have to look up every time for reference. Checking Google constantly is not learning, it is fetching for information on a need basis. It makes us like a bucket that gets filled with information and then emptied when not needed anymore. But at the end of the day, the bucket will just be empty.
It seems odd that after so many years we remember vividly how one professor taught us a certain topic. Maybe it was a fascinating topic or maybe the professor made the topic fascinating. Either way, some knowledge remains vivid (thankfully!). It is a knowledge that remains at hand whether we use it within our work or not. It got ingrained. This excitement about learning can be recreated. You can recreate it.
Read the ancient philosophers to see where all the business ethics lessons are coming from.
Nowadays, as I mentioned in my article The Professional Education Revolution, there has never been so many opportunities to learn from the comfort of one’s home. Pick a topic that is of interest to you. It could be as far off or close to your field or needed work skills. Music, language, mathematics, coding, philosophy, etc. Choose the topic. Dive into it. Understand it and then look at ways where what or how you are learning can benefit in the other areas of your life (whether professional or personal). Transferrable skills and knowledge can help you understand the bigger picture and relate one area with another.
Learn a musical instrument and discover the power of daily practice to ingrain a skill and have it become an automatism. Read the ancient philosophers to see where all the business ethics lessons are coming from. Learn to code to see what it is all about and get a more analytical mind. There is so much out there to benefit and learn from so that we don’t feel like robots, punching in and out. Furthermore, on a healthy note learning is good for the brain. There are many studies that link for instance learning a new language or an instrument to the slowing of aging and an increase in cognitive capabilities.
Learning should not be a drag. It should always be seen as a way to elevate oneself, not necessarily within the context of one’s work, but as a person. As someone who wants to go further than the status quo in which we are living in.
So, go ahead, be in a state of eternal bliss and keep on learning something new. What topic is it going to be?