What is the most important thing about learning? It’s simple. You want to develop a deep passion for it. It’s not about what you will learn, it’s about knowing that you can learn, anything you want.
The opportunity to learn is everywhere. It’s in nature, at home, in a conversation with a friend, on the playground, on a vacation or in a classroom. If you are curious about the world, you will learn every day.
Babies are a great example. They are learning machines. Babies start by grabbing things, sticking them in their mouth to learn. Then they teach themselves to crawl so they can explore more of their world. Once they can walk, they are on a mission to discover more of the wonders that surround them.
One day I was in my crib and saw a shiny white bottle just within my reach. Of course, I had to find out what this new thing was all about. To my surprise and joy squeezing it made a magical white powder appear. I had no idea what this white dust was, but boy was it fun.
You can learn a lot by watching toddlers. When it comes to learning, always remember to be childlike. You want to be a sponge. Be curious. Ask questions. Take in everything you can from the world around you.
You see toddlers want to learn. No one is telling them to learn. Like a toddler, learning is YOUR responsibility. As Zig Zigler said, “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you want to learn, no one can stop you.”
Learning won’t always be easy, but it will be rewarding. As a freshman at Vanderbilt, I had to take an introduction to electrical engineering. At the midway point of the class, I was a few points away from failing. Nothing about the topic made sense to me.
The good news is that I had 7 weeks to figure it out. It was time to get help. I found a tutor and we met every week. Then I started to study with friends from the class. In time it all started to click. I took my final exam and made a B.
That B was the most satisfying grade I ever got. But, the thing is, grades don’t matter. Learning does. Who cares if you get an A and don’t understand? Never worry about the grade. Always focus on understanding.
Even though this class was tough, I enjoyed the learning process. When you finally “get” something new, it fills you with a sense of accomplishment. You have a new gift, something you can teach and pass along.
One of the things I’m most excited about it how easy and fun it is to learn today. You’re lucky. When I was your age, if I had a question, I had to look it up in an encyclopedia. People came to the door to sell these huge books. Now, you can ask Alexa or Google. Answers are instant.
New tools are coming out every day. You have Khan Academy, Udemy, audio books, virtual reality and the list goes on. Try them all. If something doesn’t make sense in a book, try a video. If that doesn’t work, ask a friend. Keep exploring until you find what works.
Learning is like a muscle, if you don’t use it it becomes weak. And like building muscle, the secret is pushing it to failure. If you strain the muscle it becomes stronger. Over time, learning becomes easy.
Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” Success is a result of what you can learn, not what you know.
Let me explain. Technology and the world around is changing faster than ever. Something you KNOW today, may be irrelevant tomorrow. But if you are a lifelong learner, you can adapt to what comes.
There was a day when kids your age wrote on small chalkboards. Many years later, the typewriter gave us a new way to write. After 100 years, computers came on the scene. 30 years later, that same computer fit in your pocket. Now people communicate from a phone more than they do from any of these older technologies.
What will be next? I have no idea. But, I know that if you learn to learn, you will pick it up in a heartbeat. Learning is the only way to survive in a world of constant, accelerating change.