It starts with a belief! It starts with conviction! It starts with a passion! Teach me!
There are times when life throws us a gem of curiosity; it taps our instinctive lust to know more and challenges us to accept or yield to its temptation. These gems deserve more than a mere glossing of knowledge; they deserve a level of mastery, for from this the satisfaction of achievement is gained.
Let us begin with what we already know. As we pass through our life we build upon our past experiences, learning from our mistakes and developing further our successes. Transference of one skill to another allows us to learn more effectively as we age. It is so true; you can teach an old dog new tricks. Now for most of us, we follow what we are comfortable with thus heightening our existing skill set; the real challenge however, is to take on the unknown and broaden our skill and knowledge base.
This is a philosophy I have practiced for the last 6 years and actively challenge myself to build that base. I do it because I enjoy it, in fact I’m doing it right now in writing, but it didn’t begin with something so recognised. The first year, I learnt how to milk cows, the reason being I was a Principal in a rural school and needed a way to meet and talk to the fathers of my students. The following year I learnt html and visual basic programming and wrote a program for schools to use in numeracy tuition. Later, I learnt how to solid plaster and have the ability to stucco a house. I now play the guitar and through Toast Masters have the confidence to run workshops at conferences.
So how do you do it?
Number one: Believe you can do it! Our capacity as human beings is not set in concrete, there is no law that defines our limits; our universe doesn’t differentiate between a mountain and a grain of sand. You can learn anything!
Number two: You have to want to learn. How important is this to you? Our daily lives can influence how we spend our time. Consider this though; we work eight hours, sleep eight hours how do we use the remaining eight? If you’re passionate about learning is there half an hour a day for you to commit to it?
Number three: Passion! It takes 21 days of consistent behaviour to form a habit. To follow through with anything for 3 weeks you have to be passionate about it. Consider your motivation; having to do something through necessity can be very motivating; wanting to do something through personal conviction is even better. So keep your eyes open, opportunity presents itself to us all the time but we so often have our heads to the grindstone that these opportunities pass us by.
Number four: Start now! It’s like falling in love, there’s a honeymoon period for our enthusiasm. Gather information about the topic; explore ways to learn this new skill. I learnt to plaster by walking up to a crew on a building site and saying “Can I help?” I learnt to programme completely off the internet for free. It is said that if you read on a chosen topic for 20 minutes every day you’ll be a world expert within two years.
Number five: Apply your learning! Find a meaningful outlet to practise your new and developing skill. It maybe a project or an event that you decide to work towards. The point being, that short and long term goals keep you on track and motivated. I learn one new skill a year for this very reason, to gain mastery you need a realistic timeframe in which to reach your goal.
Number six: Tell everyone that matters to you, that this is what you’re doing. It not only builds a little accountability into your learning but you’d be surprised at the amount of support you’ll get from your friends, family and online communities. An audience or interest from others makes us feel validated in what we are doing and puts us in a position to learn from others.
Number seven: Where to now? When you are further down the track, you need to decide whether to formalise your learning or not. It’s okay to just learn about the world around us but what advantage can you take from it? Consider a registered course or qualification, your passion may have just transformed into an income.
When speaking with my adult students we consider what it means to be a lifelong learner. It comes down to belief, conviction, passion and a just a little bit of planning.