I love to learn for the sake of learning. Sometimes, I wish college was just four years of taking classes covering a variety of subjects without necessarily picking a major, and by the end receiving some kind of certificate/degree that says “[Enter Name Here] has spent over 35,000 hours learning about everything possible”. I also wish it was couple thousand dollars cheaper. (Basically, I wish college wasn’t college.)
One thing we usually hear is that real learning happens outside of the classroom, but I don’t think it’s something many of us internalize. We rely on that classroom setting to give us the information we need without ever really taking control of or actively participating in our education. We are just passersby, expecting others to tell us what to learn along the way. Ultimately, we need them to think for us. Do the work for us. Learn for us. And when we’re outside of the classroom setting, we don’t really take the initiative.
When it comes to learning, we can’t be passive. Regardless of if you are still a student or not, learning is a part of who you are. This is about us and our roles as informed citizens — our role as problem solvers.
It’s summer, and it’s way too easy to waste away with yet another Netflix marathon. Do yourself a favor and stay active — learn something new every day.
1. Read, Read, Read
I could not stress this one enough. It’s no longer a hobby, as it is what I do. Sleep, eat, breathe, read. Books give us access to years upon years of information, stories, and ideas. Read nonfiction. Read fiction. Read articles. Go a step further and take notes while you read. It pains me to write in books but it helps me as an active reader. Plus, I figure that if I really want a clean book that badly, I can buy another one. Just read.
2. Engage in conversation
Talk. Build community. Brainstorm. Share what you’ve learned. And I’m not saying good conversation is only reserved for face-to-face, though it certainly is helpful. That said, don’t underestimate the power of a good email chain, or productive, long-winded group message. It’s not just about regurgitating facts, it’s about encouraging discussion.
Going off my previous point, what I’m saying here is to stop talking somewhere in the middle of that conversation you’re having. You don’t know everything — something I have to remind myself every day. I believe it was the Dalai Lama who said, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new”. Listening is an art. Perfect it.
Put thoughts on paper. Or on a blog. Or on your forehead, I don’t care. I’ve found that having a pocket-sized journal allows the convenience of mobility and the opportunity to write down notes, ideas, and observations as they come to me throughout the day. The point here is to organize your thoughts and improve your writing and communication skills in the process.
This is like seeing your work come to fruition, having something to show for your skills and practicing new ones. You’ve been learning for a while now — what can you contribute? Write a book or paint the ceiling of a chapel. Push yourself to be creative.
So now what? You could go back to that episode of Dance Moms, or you could turn on a documentary at least. It’s a start.