Learning is important. It’s why we spend 12 or more years of our lives in classrooms. It’s why we go into debt to get that college degree. It’s why we re-enter debt to get another degree, and so on and so forth.
Since school got out, ahem, I mean since I um, graduated (it’s still weird saying that), I have found myself having the same conversation over and over with a few of my close friends. We reminisce about our alma mater, the memories still fresh in our heads, and then we sort of take pause and ask ourselves, “Uh, did we learn anything during all that? Why did we just devote the last four years of our lives to a little piece of paper that says ‘Yay! You did it. Now get a job.’”
I’ve mulled over these questions off and on since mid-way through my freshman year. There were moments when I was close to cashing in my chips, throwing in the towel and giving up on college. I’d tell myself it wasn’t for me, I wasn’t cut out for it, it’s not worth it. Plenty of people had dropped out and made it just fine. I began to idolize the dropouts.
But then I would have moments of clarity, briefly, where the stars would align and I would think, “Okay, yeah, this sort of makes sense. I know some of these words my professor is using.”
Those moments of clarity usually happened during, or in proximity to something I enjoyed — possibly a class I liked (those were few and far between) or a pastime I really dug.
The conclusions my friends and I have slowly drawn, the reason we did all that stuff the past four years — the chaotic study habits, the attempt at a social life, a sport, girlfriends, boyfriends, school — the reason we pulled all nighters, blew off class, took class really seriously, stayed out too late, woke up too early — well it taught us how to think, and it taught us how to learn. It let us explore the world through a journey inward, as well as a journey outward. We found out what we liked and we found out what we didn’t like. We strove for (and sometimes stumbled upon) success just as we occasionally fell into failure.
You might be thinking, hey pal, I’ve heard this bit before. “College is about learning how to think and learning how to learn, yada yada yada.” But it’s true. I myself was a nonbeliever for a very long time. Heck, there were nights I was one beer away from dropping out (sorry Mom). But now in hindsight, it all served a greater purpose. Every little piece of it. I didn’t realize it at the time (none of us ever does), but it all happened just the way it was supposed to.
But now here’s the kicker. A lot of us are done with school. We’ve got this tremendous and priceless education under our belts that’s just begging to be built upon. Some of us are already working and not even entertaining the thought of ever again stepping foot into a classroom. Ever. Again.
And then there are some of us who have maybe thought about it, or have already made the plans to go back and get some more learning in.
The folks who fall into the latter group are the ones who are going to keep climbing and climbing. That’s not to say that the people in the first group are doomed to plateau as an Assistant to the Regional Manager; no not at all. But the people in the second group have declared that they are not done learning, and they will slowly start to leave everyone else behind — that is unless everyone else takes on the mindset: “I’m not done learning.”
That’s the biggie. How are you going to keep acquiring knowledge now that you don’t necessarily have to?
There’s a great quote from a bullet journal that I write in every day. It goes like this, “If you’re not moving forward, you’re most likely moving backwards. There is no standing still in life.”
The first time I read that, it scared the hell out of me. And it also excited me. I thought, “How can I better myself every single day?” How can we all better ourselves every single day?
How can we all better ourselves every single day?
I’m not saying we all have to go back to school and grab our PhDs to get the most out of life. For some that is the right path. For others, not so much.
I am saying that we all must continue to learn. We must continue to stay interested and find things that stimulate us. We must dig in wholeheartedly to what lies before us and always maintain a curious, inquisitive outlook that drives us to seek what lies around the bend. We must not get comfortable, but rather always question what we don’t understand, and always seek the truth in what we find.
Forever want more for your mind, and in turn for your life — and find the ways to get it.
Read the news every morning, midday and evening. Subscribe to podcasts and play them on the commute. Grab a book and get through a few pages every day while you eat lunch. Pursue fresh experiences. Break out of your routine. Don’t make the excuse that you don’t have time to learn. We live in a world where information and media is thrown around so readily, that to say you can’t find something to listen to or read is absurd.
Be a student of the world. Keep learning every single day.
To help you get started, here are a few of my favorite pieces of media right now. I listen to a lot of podcasts because I spend a good amount of time commuting every week. I read the news periodically throughout the day — usually first thing in the morning, at lunch and then at the end of the day. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to delve into many good books lately, but I’m working on Thinking, Fast and Slow — an exploration of the two systems that drive humans’ thoughts and actions. Good stuff.
Anyway, here’s my current personal favorites in no particular order:
MAGAZINES/NEWSPAPERS (online and print)
Millennials’ answer to “the man” and his old, dusty newspapers, magazines and broadcasts. I’m pretty sure this used to be taken as a joke, but it’s gained a lot of traction as of late. I used to spend hours and hours freshman year pouring over Vice documentaries, now they are a legit news agency. Sort of. “Arts, cultures and news topics.”
Fast Company (fastcompany.com)
I read it every day. Sort of a touchy-feely collection of creativity. This publication has turned me on to some of the biggest trends and revolutions going on right now. Heck it’s how I discovered Warby Parker when they were just getting started.
Pro tip 1: Read your local newspaper. Those things are still relevant. I once got an internship/summer job out of the classifieds. Seriously.
Pro tip 2: There are loads of news aggregating apps out there now, and recent versions of iOS have one standard. If you are ever in a hurry, or just want to quickly and easily browse a variety of sources, flip through an aggregator.
Story Corps. (storycorps.org/)
“The podcast that makes you cry.” Not kidding. They gather stories from all over the country, told by plain ol’ American citizens. A delightful, heartwarming look into the lives of ordinary folk.
Radio Lab (http://www.radiolab.org/)
Long-form feature stories. Topics include: literally everything. The production is fantastic, and even the shows that aren’t that good are still pretty darn good. Definitely worth a listen.
Fresh Air (npr.org/programs/fresh-air/)
A NPR staple. “Probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights.” If you aren’t already tuning in, you need to.
All Songs Considered (npr.org/sections/allsongs/)
You don’t have to be a music buff to enjoy this show. I use it to find new tracks and fresh artists. The hosts know music. I mean they KNOW music. And their tastes span the entire spectrum—from Kanye to Icelandic Grunge Metal (which I’m not completely sure is a thing). Get off the top 40 and put some pizzazz into your ears.
Now … go learn, and THRIVE.
by Tibet Spencer | LinkedIn