The secret to a successful life – keep learning

Did you really think you were done with learning once you stepped out of school? Sigh. Me too.

Turns out life is just too long, to sustain with just the first 20 or so years of learning.

Do you remember the exhilaration of being on the swing when you were a child?

The rush of wind whipping your hair back and forth, the spike of excitement as you rose higher and higher with every pump of your legs. The world seemed wider, constantly changing with every rise and every fall.

What happened when you stopped pumping your legs? The swing lost momentum till it finally came to a standstill. The world stopped changing and it didn’t feel exciting anymore.

When we stop learning, we will be left merely sitting on the swing of life. And without the swinging, it gets boring, pretty quickly.

Time and time again, we have heard of famous personalities, who achieved their fame because they never quit learning. They went out of their way to seek out new experiences and add them to their ever expanding book of life. They achieved fame, not just because of their talent but because of their thirst for knowledge. One such remarkable person was Jack London.

In the winter of 1876, Jack London was born in San Fransisco, California to a working class family. He educated himself by reading in public libraries since he was 10 years old. London worked at a cannery, become an oyster pirate, worked as a member of California fish patrol, traveled in a sealing schooner to the coast of Japan, did grueling jobs in a jute mill and street railway power plant, joined Coxey’s army, lived as a tramp, hobo and sailor and was even imprisoned for 30 days for vagrancy. All this by the time he had turned 18.

He returned home and attended Oakland high school, followed by the University of California, but had to drop out after a year due to financial circumstances. After that he spent a lot of time in a port- side bar reading, where he met a lot of sailors and adventurers who would later influence his work.

Later, London got an opportunity to work as a gold miner in the Klondike gold rush. His hatred for the job served as a catalyst to “sell his brain” as a writer. He became one of the first writers to become a world wide celebrity and earn a large fortune through writing. His famous works include “The call of the wild” and “White fang”, both of which were set on the Klondike gold rush.

London didn’t stop learning even after he became a huge success as a writer. He bought a ranch, educated himself by reading agricultural manuals and scientific tomes. His ranch was an economic failure, but he conceived a system of ranching that is praised for it’s ecological wisdom, even today. He was an animal activist as well, after he witnessed animal cruelty in the training of circus animals. London managed to accomplish all this and more in his very short life, that ended when he was 40 years old.

How does learning improve our life?

Improves career:

We live in a day and age where yesterday’s technology is outdated today. Gone are the days when knowledge and growth followed a more sedate pace. Today, the world is booming with innovations, and we need to be on our toes to not loose our edge. Apart from holding down what we have, expanding our knowledge will open up new avenues that we weren’t aware of before.

Buzzfeed Co-founder Jonah Peretti, had different ideas when he studied environmental studies at the University of California. After college, he taught computer science to school children while working on his post-grad at MIT Media Lab. In 2005 he helped co-found The Huffington Post which eventually led to setting up Buzzfeed in 2006. 

So you see, the things you learn, might take you on a different path. A path you wouldn’t have dreamed of otherwise.

Takes you out of your comfort zone:

Learning something new, means getting out of our comfort zone. Most of us are locked into our routines and content to live our daily lives just as we know it, not giving a thought as to what our actual potential might be.

Would you believe if I told you Marilyn Monroe was afraid to act in front of the camera? She had to get help from a coach to leave her comfort zone and overcome her fear of cameras.

Not changing our life means, nothing changes in our life.

We fail to take the risk, and our hopes become lost. Eventually, our self-esteem will take a hit and we will perceive ourselves as failures.

Learning something new, pulls us out of this rut, while bolstering our confidence in ourselves.

Makes you the most interesting person in the room.

Do you remember the last time you had a memorable conversation with a total stranger? What made a lasting impression? Most probably the person was able to talk about a wide variety of topics with authority. Their experiences were numerous and exciting. That doesn’t mean all of their experiences were positive, it just means they could take the most negative experience and give you an entirely new perspective on them. Good conversationalist are great influencers.

Keeps brain healthy

Just like our body needs exercise to be fit, our brain needs exercise too. And the best form of exercise is learning something new. New experiences rewires our brains to perform better. A sharp mind will contribute to the improvement in a lot of other areas of our life.

Learning new skills makes the white matter in our brain called Myelin’ denser. This increases our performance in our daily tasks, increases our learning speed and keeps away dementia.

I love the interaction between the heart and brain at the awkward yeti.

Increases confidence:

Learning new things increases your confidence. It makes you think, you can do anything. After all you learn’t to change the oil in your car, you can learn to change the tires too.

This trick to motivates kids too. I have used it several times,and it usually works. When they hit a wall when trying to learn something new, I say ,

“You are the girl who learn’t to ride the bicycle in 3 days. You can do it if you put your mind to it.”

In this article, a blogger explains how learning one new thing increased her confidence and made her more optimistic.

Sustains our passion for life:

Have you ever felt your life is not interesting anymore? You do the same things over and over again. You get through life in automatic mode, instead of actually living it?

Passion is a life skill, a survival mechanism and is critical to our well being. After all our attachment to our life depends on our interest in it.

Learning something new brings the excitement back into our lives. We will have something to look forward to.We will have something to work towards and every time we see progress, our life satisfaction increases.

This article inspires us with 11 different stories of normal people who found their passion. This is my favorite one.

“I loved music all of my life, but it took until my late 20s to realize I had a passion for creating it, too. Being so caught up with my career and starting companies, I never took the time to explore that creative side. One day I was watching some YouTube videos on music production and the next thing I know, I am in this complete whirlwind in the studio. It wasn’t just the music though — it was a passion for creating in general from music to writing and more. Watching other people do it is what drove me to start. Sometimes, you have to say ‘Hey, I can do this too!’”

—James Philip, serial entrepreneur, Chicago, IL

Makes us Creative

How do we get ideas?

In James Young Webb’s book, ” A technique for producing ideas”, he puts forth two techniques for producing ideas.

  • Ideas are new combinations of old elements
  • The ability to see relationships between seemingly unrelated things.

According to Young, there are three stages where the above two pointers can be accomplished. Gathering raw material, digesting the raw material and letting it go.

Learning is the “gathering raw material” stage. The more we learn, the more we expand our experiences, the more raw material we have to make new connections.

Steve Jobs said “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. They don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have.” ~ Wired, February, 1996

So,What is holding you back?

  • Time?
  • Money?
  • Location?
  • Information?

Time:

Lack of time is just an excuse we give ourselves when we lack the motivation to do something.

When I was single, I couldn’t work out because I had a full time job. After a baby, I couldn’t work out because I have a full time job and a baby to take care of. After two babies, a full time job and two babies. Now, my excuse is a full time job, two kids who need shuttling between classes and laundry.

See how my life duties have been expanding and I have found time to accommodate every one of them except working out? It’s the motivation I lack ,not the time.

Money:

We don’t have to go to college to learn nowadays. Anything can be done online. Do you want to learn piano? You can find a few basic lessons online. You can use the online resources to see if you are passionate about something before committing to it. Once you find your passion, money is not going to stop you. Because when passion is involved, we tend to find our way around any road blocks.

The best thing is we don’t have to spend any money to discover our passion.

Location and information:

I am bunching these two together, because before, we had to go to a location to get any type of information. But technology has removed all of those crutches. Online lessons and technology has given us freedom of learning form wherever and whenever we want.

Now, we can’t learn skydiving from the comfort of our home. But the above point applies in most cases.

We live in a wondrous age where our dreams are within arms length more than ever before. All we have to do is put ourselves out there and learn what our dreams are.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward: You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Steve Jobs

Have you learnt anything new recently? How did it add to your life? Comment and let me know. I love to hear from you.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for a great post,I can really relate to this post,I was never much interested in school but years ago I started reading everything i get my hands on and now have a thirst for knowledge .

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.