Larry Banman – Learning doesn’t have to come from a textbook
Grand County, CO Colorado
Often you will hear people say the secret to their success, to their vitality, to their ability to “stay young” is they have never stopped learning.
I read a recent article by Hunter Nutall in which he made the following statements.
“As infants, we’re presented with a strange new world to discover. And with nothing else to do, we dive in headfirst, devoting all our time to learning how to use our five senses. At first we appear completely hopeless, not even realizing that our arms and legs are parts of our body. But soon enough, we start figuring some things out. Within a few months, we learn how to recognize faces better than a computer can. Our rate of learning in those early days is truly extraordinary if you think about it.
“As kids, the world is our classroom. First we learn some basics like how to sit Indian style, how to hold a crayon, how to cross the street, and how to share. Not to mention learning thousands and thousands of words. We get older and learn about Romeo and Juliet, World War II, and photosynthesis. Every year, we can look back on ourselves the year before and be amazed at how much we’ve learned. In college, things get a lot more specialized, but we’re still continuing to learn all that we can.
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“And then, we just stop. Forty-two percent of all college graduates never read another book again. Ever. But continuous learning is vital to making the most of what the world has to offer. You could say that it’s what separates us from the animals. And there is evidence to suggest that it plays a role in staving off mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
Nutall then talks about various ways to keep the mind active, including: travel, reading and engaging in hobbies.
I agree with what Nutall outlined in his article. What resonated with me the most was his statement about staving off mental diseases. I engage in numerous mental activities in the belief that an active brain will be a brain less prone to succumb to simple things like boredom and lethargy and more serious things like mental illnesses. I’m not a doctor, but I would rather stimulate my brain with mental gymnastics than let it become a residence for worry.
Bill Gates has said, “Every now and then I like to pick up a copy of Time magazine and read every article from beginning to end, not just the articles that interest me most. That way you can be certain to learn something you didn’t know previously.”
I like to apply that same theory to my interactions with people. I enjoy the camaraderie of close friendship. I also enjoy the stimulus of conversing with strangers. It is easy to settle into a continuous playback loop of: same morning news show, same conversation about the weather, same haranguing about the woes of a favorite sports team, same cup of coffee, same favorite double-secret fishing hole, same vacation destination, same holiday traditions, etc. Pretty soon, you find yourself on autopilot, you look down, you look up and the retirement party at which you find yourself is your own.
I have been challenged, recently, about things I either said or did. The challenges were not necessarily malicious, but they did come from people I considered friends. Initially, I had to deal with a bruised ego and the inevitable self-centered, righteous indignation. After I returned from my walkabout through the bog of self-pity, however, I was better able to consider the essence of what had been sent my way.
In some cases, I was able to affirm that I was okay with what I had said or the actions I had taken. To get to that point, I did have to go back through the logic I had used and the rationale I had employed. That was healthy. In other cases, I was able to discern chinks in my armor, areas where I had become complacent and too ready to accept the norm. That was also healthy and valuable.
It got me thinking about how the people in our lives can be a very valuable source of information and education. They can help us with the process of continual learning. They are continuing ed classes without the tuition.
Learning is essential to our well-being. When we stop learning, we stagnate and start to open ourselves to frustration, to bitterness, to anger, to rancor. Learning doesn’t have to come from a textbook or scientific periodical. It can come from the person next to you on the airport shuttle or from the person in line with you at the grocery store. People can be one of the most valuable sources of information you may encounter on a daily basis. Don’t ignore those opportunities.
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