I went to a museum a few days ago for the first time in probably 10 years, and it sparked a thought that I think is the most essential piece of information that you can apply to your life to increase the quality of your own life, as well as the happiness you can bring to other’s lives.
When I was young I went through stages of my life where I hated reading, but I also had phases where I would spend almost all of my free time reading. I watched quite a bit of TV when I was young, but after I was around 10 or 11, I really only watched sports-related shows or movies. In school I would always do just enough to get a good grade, but never really enjoyed going above-and-beyond and submersing myself into a subject to learn as much as I could. I went to museums and other learning-based environments with my family often, but I went through different phases where I either fully immersed myself in the topics, or found myself more interested in socializing and eating at the food courts.
The point is, throughout my life I have gone through stages of my life where I truly enjoyed learning about anything and everything, but I also had times where I was more interested in socializing or finding methods for entertainment. I wish I could go back and tell myself that the most important aspiration to have in life is to absorb as much relevant knowledge as possible about things that you care about, and although there are certain subjects that you couldn’t care less about, you need to find the ones that light a fire and go all-in.
Learning how to learn is an invaluable skill that is not taught very well in school in my opinion. In fact, I would argue the school systems have a tendency to discourage true learning. They would rather promote learning meaningless facts as opposed to learning how to think critically, accurately formulate thoughts and opinions, apply creative thinking, and spark an insatiable desire to learn as much as possible about areas of interest. Rather than encouraging learning as a fun task that should be looked at positively, kids often scoff at learning and would rather opt for means of entertainment or pleasure as opposed to trying to better themselves and learn how to learn. Regurgitating facts has very little value in the real-world, but knowing how to create systems and models that apply to various issues, or learning how to accurately assess whether information is well thought-out or a bunch of inaccurate opinions has immense value, especially in a time where you are one click away from any meaningless fact that you care to know (and most of that information is not well thought out, or an incomplete story missing essential details).
Learning every day does not have to be boring or tedious, and there are near-infinite strategies you can choose from to create an environment that you actually enjoy. Some people like reading, some people like going out and experiencing new situations, some people like watching videos or movies, some people like listening to talk shows or podcasts, and some people like writing or creating art forms. These are just a few examples of ways you can learn more about yourself or a subject of interest, but the sky is the limit as to what you can do with whatever you take away from the environments you put yourself in.
Moral of the story, stop looking at learning as something you only do in school, and start to look at yourself as a lifelong student of the game of life. Let me let you in on a little secret, nobody has it figured out yet, we are all constantly making mistakes and recalculating to make better decisions in the future, some of us are just better at faking it than others. School doesn’t teach you how to fail and school doesn’t teach you how to learn, so it is up to you as a human on this planet to take that responsibility into your own hands. “Learn something new every day”, that is the best piece of advice I would give my younger self.