A few years ago, I had a brief meeting with an elderly gentleman and that moment changed my perspective on learning and about life.
I was attending a seminar in Toronto – It was after the lunch break, and we were all standing in a line waiting for the doors to open. As I was standing there, I noticed this elderly gentleman standing alone in the corner of the room. I looked at him and he gave me a genuine and warm smile, there was something about this gentleman that prompted me to go talk to him.
I found out that he was 81 years old at that time, and he had driven by himself from Hamilton (60 minutes away from Toronto, where the seminar was being held). I also found out he once had a successful Automotive repair center, which he sold a few years ago. He has had a successful family and his kids are living in Europe.
I asked him “Sir, I can’t help but to ask you. It sounds like you have had a very successful life, and you are here on this day to attend this seminar, I am curious, why?”.
He gave me a warm smile and said “You can always learn new things, and the joy of learning makes life more interesting”.
“What we know is so small compared to what is out there that we can learn”
” I just learned to buy and sell few things on eBay, my son taught me how to do it” he added proudly. I also noticed he was very enthusiastic about attending this seminar.
His comments really struck a chord with me and have had a positive impact on my life ever since.
I have always enjoyed learning new things – new skills, new languages, new routines, etc. But I felt so small compared to his dedication to continuous learning.
He inspired me to learn more about the joy of learning and self-improvement ever since.
I was sold, and I want to sell you on the idea of continuous learning (that your learning should never stop) by this article.
Here’s why you must always keep learning…
1. Keeps Your Mind Sharp
We all know that physical growth (height) stops or slows down after a certain age – however, the mind & the brain always has the potential to grow and expand.
Science has proven that by learning new things you improve your brain’s Neuroplasticity. This means that the growth of the brain never stops (contrary to previous beliefs that the brain is a static organ).
Numerous studies have shown that the joy of constantly learning new things and stimulating your brain reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The brain is like any muscle, the less you use it loses strength over time. The opposite is also true- the more you learn, the more your brain stays healthy.
2. Growth is Necessary
Abraham Maslow in 1943 published a paper that outlined the different human needs, now famously called as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
In a nutshell, the motivations/human needs are ranked in terms of their importance. After the most basic needs such as Survival( food, clothing, sex), Safety, Social (relationships) -after that come self-esteem and self-actualization.
As humans, we are motivated to grow and to realize our fullest potential. It is wired in us and that is how we are designed. The joy of continuously learning new things (especially that will aid your career) will help you to meet those basic needs.
For instance, I am in the Sales Profession – it is important for me to learn about the important skill-sets a Salesperson must possess (prospecting, negotiating, closing,etc.). This will not only ensure I make a decent livelihood but also help me reach my full career potential.
3. Career Security
We always hear about Job security. Though it is important – I think Career Security is more vital. You have chosen a career and in order to stay relevant & ensure that you stay in the career, you have to keep learning.
Whenever you visit a Lawyer’s office – you see journals, books, magazines, etc. about the legal profession. They are constantly learning and staying abreast of what’s happening in their industry. It is important for the survival of their firms and their careers. They want to ensure they are offering their clients the most reliable and relevant advice, and that’s why they are paid $300 an hour.
This is the reason many IT professionals are constantly studying to get new certifications and credentials (MCSE, CCNA,etc.) -this helps them stay relevant and also helps them to climb up the corporate ladder.
4. Makes Life More Interesting
I would not limit learning to just your career or your job. I encourage you to also learn things that you will get enjoyment from.
A few months ago, I enrolled in a boxing class- though I don’t have any aspirations to fight Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao- I wanted to learn boxing to improve my fitness, and also because I always thought boxers looked bad-ass. Though I was physically exhausted after each class, it was so much fun. It significantly improved my energy levels & focus throughout the day.
Last year I decided to spend a couple of months in Central America. Once I arrived there, I realized that most people did not speak English. In order to navigate the city I had to learn Spanish – so I forced myself to learn the language (it wasn’t easy). But the efforts paid off, I was able to travel with more confidence and make lots of new friends.
Even though I learned it for recreation, knowing to speak a foreign language, now gives me the confidence to travel to other countries and explore the world further.
You never realize where learning something new could take you. It definitely expands your horizons.
Call to Action
1. Write Your Career Vision – It is important to know where you want to go. Once you have a clear definition of where you would like to be ideally in your job/career, you are able to build on the skills you need to get there. This also gives your greater focus.
2. Make a List of Skills – Once you have decided on your ideal career, find out what are some of the skills you need to get there, eg. selling, public speaking, Android Development, managing people, etc. And then make a game plan to learn those skills. Fortunately, most employers provide training programs – for you to learn the skills to advance your career.
3. Learn Something Recreational – Life is short, make the most of it. Yes, it is crucial for your career survival and growth to learn work-related skills – but also make sure you are giving yourself more perspective. It might be learning a new language, a musical instrument, a classical dance, etc.- make sure to add them to your to-learn lists.
A few weeks ago, I decided to learn how to write articles – I started publishing on my blog and LinkedIn. Though I am not a great writer(not even close to being good enough; I also know my grammar sucks) – I am enjoying the process. I find that my brain is working round the clock to find me new ideas to write about – it has become a fun habit, in fact, a hobby that I truly enjoy.
I am not sure where this habit will take me but I am enjoying this (trust me – this is better than binge-watching Netflix).
What are you learning today?
I hope I have given you a different perspective on the joy of learning, and have given you some ideas to start your learning process. Just because you graduated from school does not mean your learning should stop too.
Life is short. Make the most of it!
How has learning something new, had a positive impact on your career and your life?