Life-Long Learning: The World is Your Classroom
Somewhere along my life’s path, I came across the phrase, “life-long learner”. If I could remember where I picked up this gem, I would give proper attribution. Unfortunately, I don’t remember.
“Life-Long Learner” Defined
The concept behind the phrase “life-long learner” is to reinforce the idea that education should not cease at a certain age nor does all education occur in an instructor-led classroom. In fact, I would argue that many of our most important life lessons occur outside a formal classroom setting.
You’re Learning Anyway, Do it with Purpose
Learning should be a part of our daily lives. And it IS a part of all of our daily lives, whether we are intentional about what we feed our brains or we allow our brains to feed on ‘junk information’ throughout the day. I encourage you to be purposeful in the data you input into your mind. Remember the old computer adage, “Garbage IN; Garbage OUT”. I would add, “Interesting, Useful, and Thought Provoking IN; Interesting, Useful, and Thought Provoking OUT”.
I know….You are already busy. Where are you going to find the time or the energy to become a life-long learner? Don’t make this difficult. It’s really a simple task. Following are some ideas to help you take the first step on the life-long learning path.
- Small and Ordinary. Daily lessons might be small and experiential in nature. For example, I have learned that there are certain times of the day and days of the week when the grocery store is less busy, so if I am feeling crowd-averse, I schedule my trips accordingly.
- Automobile University. Learning may occur over the course of several consecutive days. One of the best ways to become a life-longer learner is to create a university in your car with audio books. As you commute back and forth, you can enjoy listening to someone read a book to you. Most libraries have a selection of audio books you can borrow on just about any topic. Listen to an autobiography of someone whom you admire. Listen to the latest book on business advice. Learn a foreign language with guided lessons. Become inspired by listening to motivational seminars. You can even throw in a little candy for your brain by listening to a top selling book of fiction in your favorite genre. Whatever your topic, you’re expanding your mind.
- Traditional Classroom. Sometimes a life lesson DOES happen in the classroom—either virtually or in a traditional classroom setting. In the Denver Metro area, you can take advantage of a great adult education resource, Colorado Free University. You can take a night class at a local university or community college. If you don’t desire to pursue a degree, but rather desire to just take one class—like learning a foreign language—most higher education institutions allow students to audit a class for a reduced fee.
- Social Media. You may learn something new with a snippet of information that happens to catch your eye. Scan your Twitter feed for links to interesting blog topics from Tweeters you are following.
- “Book Learning”. Life’s lessons are often presented to you while multi-tasking. Always have your on-line reader (e.g., Kindle) or a paper book readily at hand. Before going to bed, as you wind down from your day, and while you are waiting in line, you can read a book.
- Television?! You can learn from every aspect of your life—yes, even television. Sure, sometimes we all need a little television escapism, but try to intersperse some educational television in with the guilty pleasures you watch.
- Emulate Others. Observe others that embody who you want to be. Not comfortable speaking in public, but success in your business necessitates that you communicate to a crowd? Observe professional communicators lecturing, chairing meetings, or teaching a class.
- Engage with people. As Dale Carnegie suggested, “Become genuinely interested in other people.” You can learn so much just be conversing with friends, family, neighbors, and work colleagues. Sometimes other people share simple things, for instance the neighbor sharing the name of the contractor who finished his home studio for 2/3 the price of the other bids and completed the work under budget. Sometimes by engaging with others you might be exposed to information that is life changing—such as a new treatment option for a chronic health condition with which you have struggled.
- Tap Into the Blogosphere. Broaden your knowledge of a given topic through website and blog aggregators (e.g. AllTop, Technorati, Mashable). Find Blogs on topics of interest to you and subscribe to their RSS feed so you can read their regular posts in a single reader (e.g., Google Reader).
The most important tenet of embarking upon a life-long learning quest is to enjoy yourself. So whatever you do, make your quest a fun one!
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