Learning how to learn is the basis of everything
We all have to learn in our lives, whether it be at school or by ourselves at home. Learning is something that one must do in order to keep growing, to evolve. To stop learning is to stop growing, because the more we know, the more we can be a better version of ourselves. If you don’t know what is going on around you and how to adapt yourself, you may not succeed in whatever you want to achieve. Humans must constantly grow, because “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”. This is why we all go to school, because you can’t be useful to society if you don’t learn anything. Society doesn’t need someone that won’t bring any value, society wants people to work. If you don’t know anything and don’t possess any skills society can be profitable of, you will not be useful to society. However, as much as school makes us learn, it forgets a critical point. Before we learn, shouldn’t we learn how to learn? Don’t we learn before we take a test? Don’t we learn before we can drive a car? And yet, school doesn’t teach the most important point in my opinion, which is the foundation of everything -the way to learn effectively. I’m not going to linger over the way we technically learn best informations, I’ll keep that for another article. What I’m going to talk about is more about the philosophy behind it, because we don’t learn it at school. Every human being is in search of a meaning, a purpose -why do we live in the first place? This is through the journey that we call life that we have to seek our own answer. However, why aren’t we taught the meaning of learning? Well, in fact there is something that we’ve been taught, which is the usual “go to a good school, get good grades, and get a good job”. That’s fine, but it is not a purpose to live, except if you intend to make your work your purpose in life. I think this is the reason why most people live the same lives. They’ve been taught to do what they’ve been told, not to think further. Why do I have to learn? This is the critical question that will determine your entire life, because if you can’t learn properly at school, you won’t learn properly in the future neither. Learning is not equal to school, learning is something that we constantly do, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Whatever you experience in your life, you’re “learning”. However, if you do not do it properly, you will just stay the same human being and stop evolving. Some people once told me that “they did not need to learn anymore”, which, besides sounding horribly arrogant, means to me that they thought they can’t grow any further. However, if you’re not growing anymore but still hasn’t reach your dreams, doesn’t that make a contradiction?
Learning is what makes us alive, and a better version of ourselves.
Consider this: if you were to read 350 books about happiness, wouldn’t you be a bit knowledgeable about it? Wouldn’t you have more chances to reach this state than anyone else since you would know this subject? What about history? Couldn’t you use history to help you make decisions based on, for example, previous crises, or even to write a story? Couldn’t you use your knowledge about relationships to find the right partner to spend your life with? There are plenty of examples, as long as you look for them. In fact, I think most people haven’t realized this yet; everything you learn can be useful. However, what happens if you don’t like to learn? Well, you don’t want to learn, so you don’t grow much. This is exactly what “learning how to learn” first means to me: you need to learn how to learn things you don’t like. School forces us to learn, they say “learn this and that or you’ll get bad grades, and I don’t care if you don’t like this subject.”, but it is in my opinion the worst thing to do, because when you get out of school you think you’re free from these boring classes and you, in the end, didn’t learn anything useful. When you get to work, you think you’re done with learning and then you suddenly stop growing. What about liking the subject you don’t like? You could try to change your viewpoint and take a different position; maybe you’re looking at the wrong perspective. If you do not see things the right way, you won’t be motivated. You do not need to force you to learn something you don’t like, instead, you can learn to like what you don’t like, that is what I think. I will give you a personnal example: for a test, I once had to learn everything related to a book- era, the author biography, what condition they were in at the time and such. I didn’t like it at all. I thought to myself: “Why do I need to learn this thing that I will forget in two months because I won’t use it in my life? This was a critical mistake. I was already pessimistic and finding excuses. Instead of seeing things in a negative way, let’s turn the viewpoint. Later on, I found that the right question to ask was: “How can I learn effectively?” which led me to “How do I come to like this subject?”. Did you notice that learning what you love is totally different than learning something you don’t like? Loving means to embrace, whereas hate means to reject. When you love something, you’re naturally attracted to it. You don’t need to think twice about it. You sometimes don’t even know that you’re learning because it doesn’t feel like learning at all. It is just a matter of perspective. Now, how did I manage to like this subject during my studies? Well, in fact I found two ways.
The first way is about constantly changing viewpoints until you find one exciting. It means that you need to attack the subject from a specific angle. As it varies for everyone I won’t be able to generalize, however I can still take me as an example. The way that I liked this subject was by thinking about the author himself and how/why they wrote what they wrote. I found it truly interesting to learn about another humain being, that is just like myself, but that wrote this book a hundreds of years ago. What are different between us? – I thought. This fascination eventually led me not to learn this subject because I had to, but because I wanted to. I wanted to find how it was like to write at this era and how it changed from this point in time to today. I think that this is a very effective way which can be applicable to everything in life. For instance, if you had planned a dinner with someone at a restaurant but it turns out that person came an hour late, instead of thinking that “It’s a waste of time” or “this person does not respect me”, you could think that “It gives me the opportunity to work on my patience skill”. Truth be told, I would naturally tend to think that someone who does not show up on time does not respect me, however instead of making that a bad experience, I’ll use this opportunity to train some of my abilities such as patience. Actually, that’s a pretty accurate story even if the setting was different, this kind of event already happened to me and that’s how I dealt with it -I trained my patience that way. In the end, I just changed my viewpoint, and it didn’t affect me that much. The second way is by believing that you like it. It sounds odd, I know, but what I found is that when I was reading this book while thinking of my favorite book (that way I had a good vibe), I had this strange urge of reading this book entirely. It is a feeling really hard to describe, but it is real. I’m a fervent believer of the “believe what you’re not and you’ll be” doctrine -it roughly means fake it until you make it. By believing that I unconditionally loved this subject from the bottom of my heart, I was able to come to like it.
I do think that liking something is just a matter of perspective. If you focus on the wrong things, you instantly stop thinking; what you should do instead is to take the right standpoint. You could always find at least one positive thing in everything, no matter what that is. The trap you should not fall into would be to focus on the wrong parts. It is easier to let ourselves find excuses, but it won’t help us in any way in our life. It will, on the contrary, most likely destroy it. Take each new experience as a way of learning something.
Having a purpose
You don’t want to learn because you’ve been told to, you want to learn because you desire to. What does desire imply? It implies that you wish something so that you can attain something else. It means that your action has a meaning. Now, the same thing applies here. You need to find a purpose, a reason as to why you want to learn. What do you want to achieve? No matter what your answer is, you could always connect it with some viewpoints. In my case, my “”final goal”” (or primary objective shoud I say) would be to write a story. However, that story doesn’t come without an experienced and cultivated author, that is what I need to become to achieve my goal. Of course, this is not the only reason I learn, because I now “like to learn”, but I do think it is important to have a long-term objective as well as a short-term one, so you can always remember your purpose. The worst thing to do in my opinion would be to get out there without a plan, because without plan you’re just gambling, which is not the safest way to live your life. Knowing what you want will allow you to vizualise exactly what you need to do to achieve that goal.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about this: how can I be at my best for society’s sake? How about seeing the big picture behind it, instead of just focusing on me, and wondering what I need to become to help society? Yes, I need to grow more. Society doesn’t want unproductive, indolent people. I was seeing school as a challenge. Again, this is just a matter of perspective. If I couldn’t learn properly at school, how was I going to learn in my life? How am I going to build my business? How will I learn from my mistakes if I’m not even able to learn at school? This may be in my opinion the most valuable thing school can “teach” you, if you’re even able to see you can learn this kind of thing in the first place, for as I said, school doesn’t teach things like that. “Learning is the art of learning what you don’t know” is one of my favorite quotes. When you think about it, desiring to learn something just because you like it.. is a little bit selfish, don’t you think? You want to learn this because it will help you in your life, and you don’t want to learn that because it won’t help you. However, what about thinking this way: would learning this will make me able to help society in any way? I’m a believer that you receive what you give, I’ll probably talk about it in another article but, if you want to be helped by someone, you need to help someone.
How to learn from unexpected events?
I will refer to events you don’t control as “unexpected events”. Let’s say that some man X goes to the barber, because he has a very important meeting soon and this is (at least for him) the only time of the entire week he has a little bit of free time. However, when he finally arrives, the barbershop is closed. There is no other barber in the vicinity so he cannot do anything about it. This is the critical moment, where two types of people differentiate themselves. The first type will probably swear at their misfortune while going back home. After all, they’ve been “unlucky.” What about the other type of person? Here’s their line of reasoning: as the other type was thinking like this (unexpected events = misfortune), this type of person will think more like this (unexpected events = my fault for being unprepared). In my opinion, this case clearly illustrates that this is their fault. After all, they assumed it was open, so they didn’t give it any thought and went over there. However, if they had painstakingly looked at the opening hours, they would have noticed that it was closed today. So, what is the difference between them? Well, since one thinks that he is just being unlucky, he will stop thinking there, because you can’t prevent bad luck from happening, can you? At least, I can’t. However, as the other thinks this is his own fault, here is what he will think: “How can I prevent that from happening again?”. Next time, not only will he check if a shop’s open before he even goes there, but he will try to find different options as well in case the first doesn’t work.
My point is that you should never put the blame on someone else. It may feel good at first, but it doesn’t bring you any good. After all, if you don’t take responsibility for your actions, how will you learn from your mistakes? You can’t, because “this is not your fault” so “you don’t have anything to learn”. Being able to constantly learn is also being able to see the truth as it is, not trying to make it the way you want to see it.
The importance of making mistakes
Making mistakes is a critical part of learning. After all, you can’t progress if you don’t make mistakes. Errors are the best way to learn because it shows you that your reasoning or assumption was wrong. This is in my opinion a way better way to learn than learning all the theories. Have you ever heard of people in business schools that can’t do business after they graduate? It’s because they haven’t make enough mistakes, they just learned all the theories but didn’t learn anything practical. Actually, this is the same thing for languages. If you never talk, you’ll never be able to talk no matter how much you study. You must go through the time when you make an assumption and get punished for it. Then, you’ll learn that this was wrong. If you don’t talk and don’t make mistakes, how can you know that what you’re saying makes sense in the first place? People who don’t make mistakes don’t progress, this is why you should never hate yourself for making a mistake. No matter what type of mistake you made, it is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it is a way of learning and you should be thankful for that. Each time I ”make a mistake”, I don’t get angry. I just say ”this is my fault, I won’t make it again”. Nothing difficult, but very important. If you blame someone else for you mistake, you won’t learn and will repeat the same mistakes over and over.
Learning is the most important thing in your life; to stop learning is to stop growing. Whatever you want to achieve, learning will always be your vehicle for achieving it, for there is no path to mastery without learning. The fact that a situation seems bad at first doesn’t necessarily mean it is, always try to find what you can do about it and what you can learn from it. Learning is your greatest gift and relinquishing it would be a huge waste. After all, “knowledge is power”, right? If you can learn from even little things, you can become a great person.