One of the most rewarding things we can do is to learn something new. All too often, we may assume that our education is over when we graduate from high school or college. In reality, our need to learn and our opportunities to learn haven't even started. Learning is a life-long process. After eight years of college, four university degrees, 49 years of college teaching and research, and the accumulation of hundreds and hundreds of books, I feel like my need to learn hasn't even begun.
Learning something new has so many benefits. Once we begin the learning process, our imaginations flourish and our desire to learn even more adds a new spark to our lives. Learning increases our ability to think and may even cause us to discover that we have been wrong in some of our ideas. When we can branch out and gain new perspectives, our interests grow and we find ourselves flourishing in unexpected directions. We discover as we continue learning that there is a difference between acquiring new information and the wisdom to apply what we learn in new and constructive ways.
One of the miracles of modern technology is that learning opportunities have proliferated in so many ingenious and constructive ways. I remember when I was doing research in college that I had to spend hours going through endless library card catalogs and then spending additional hours tracking down the books and references that I needed. Now we can hold the knowledge of the ages in one hand in a tiny cell phone or Ipad. We can find out and access almost anything we want to know whether we want to figure out how to fix a leaky faucet or learn something more about medieval history. Once we discover the exhilaration of learning, we never want to stop learning. We just keep going.
Here are some of the ways we can learn something new:
- Listen to a knowledgeable person who can explain what we need or want to know.
- Take a college course, perhaps a night class or one of countless numbers of correspondence and online courses.
- Read a book.
- Consider commercial courses on DVDs and video streaming such as www.greatcourses.com. Great Courses has frequent sales that make their courses affordable. Their latest catalog has a dozen or more courses I would like to take, including photography, how to cook, how to invest, how to become an expert stargazer, and many others.
- Branch out and learn something outside your own field. My undergraduate degree was in agriculture, which basically was a heavy science degree. One of my most rewarding post-college learning excursions was into classic literature, an area foreign to a science degree. My eyes were opened and my mind stretched in wonderful directions from this journey through many classic works of literature.
- Learn from experience and trial and error. Be on the alert for mistakes and new and better ways of doing something. Rather than just stay in a rut doing the same thing over and over again, search for alternative roads to your destination.
Life does not need to be boring, monotonous, and hopeless. Even if we have a job that is the best job we can find for now and we hate that job, we can brighten our horizons and find new and rewarding challenges by seeking continuous learning opportunities. We can spend time outside of the job we have that is necessary to make a living learning to draw and paint, do woodcraft and make furniture, studying history and biography, learning to understand financial markets, and any one of a million other other areas that will unclog our pores, open our minds, and give us a new reason to continue to learn. We never know when the germ or spark or idea will penetrate our minds that will lead to new and better directions in our lives.
Task Number 295: Learn something new. You'll be glad you searched for a new road to follow today. In fact, what you discover could go down in your personal history as a turning point in your life. Good luck, start learning, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.