why we should all be lifelong learners + how to do it

This month’s theme on the blog is back-to-school and for the first few decades of our lives, that’s what we do every fall. But what happens after that? Unless you’re pursuing a Ph.D or two, you typically reach a point in your mid to late 20s when you’re out of school and are no longer in a traditional learning environment. But, I feel strongly that we should all commit ourselves to being lifelong learners and that education is one of the very most important facets of life.

If you look to history, so many of our iconic figures were autodidacts, from Ernest Hemingway and Le Corbusier to Leonardo DaVinci and Vincent van Gogh to Nikola Tesla and subsequently, Elon Musk. They were or are committed to a life of discovery and self-education, which I think we should all emulate. So, get out your notebooks and let’s do it.

WHY SHOULD WE ALL BE LIFELONG LEARNERS?

It makes you more interesting.

You’ll be more independent.

It promotes a healthy brain.

You’ll be better at your job.

It connects us with others.

SO, HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Read (a lot).
The truth is you really can’t learn a whole lot if you’re not reading. If there’s one thing you do in life by my recommendation, it’s to prioritize exercise and prioritize reading because the two together are a powerhouse. Elon Musk learned to build rockets from books, Bill Gates reads 50 books a year, and apparently, those who read only seven or more books a year are 122% more likely to be millionaires compared to those who only read one to three. So, set a goal! For the past few years, I’ve achieved reading 50 books a year and in 2019, I’m on track to read 70. It’s so much easier than you think. Start by committing to read 10 pages every morning and 10 pages before bed. You’ll probably end up reading more and hit 50 books before you know it.

Take courses online.
To pick up practical skills - everything from languages and design to programming and beyond - why not take an online course? There are so many great websites out there like Coursera, Skillshare, and Dataquest that can help you to learn new hard skills. On the more academic side, you can use Academic Earth to take courses from schools like Columbia, Yale, and MIT or even Harvard Extension School directly.

Pick up new hobbies.
Something I always say in jest when I see people obsess over little, meaningless problems is, “Get a hobby.” But in all seriousness, having hobbies outside of work is so impactful. Not only are you learning new things and developing new skills, but it’s keeping your mind in a good, productive place and makes you more interesting. This could be anything from playing a team sport or board games to baking or learning about wine.

Travel often.
Traveling is a great way to learn new things across the board, especially about cultures and geography but also politics and history. When you do travel, schedule some time to visit museums and historical sites to really expand your knowledge set. If you’re interested in a particular period of history, it can be fun to plan your travel around that too. For instance, I love World War II history and there are so many great places around the world you can visit to learn a ton about that era.

Develop a growth mindset.
This sort of falls both under “why” and “how” to become a lifelong learner. Developing a growth mindset is perhaps the most crucial part of success and it goes hand-in-hand with learning. If you haven’t heard the term, here’s the basics: People with a growth mindset believe that their abilities and intelligence evolve over time while people with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities and intelligence are fixed traits. For instance, a fixed mindset says, “I’m naturally bad at math and will never be good at it,” where a growth mindset says, “Math isn’t my greatest strength, it might even be a weakness, but with time and effort, I can get better.” Growth mindset and lifelong learning, in my eyes, are mutually exclusive.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
— Benjamin Franklin