By ROSHAN THIRAN
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford
After delivering a speech at an event some time ago, a fresh graduate approached me to offer thanks for inspiring him to pursue his passion and establish a great career doing what he loved doing (he was obsessed with new technology).
“Now that I have my degree, I can concentrate on building my career without having to worry about studying,” he said, confident in his assertion. Taken aback, I asked him if he was sure his days of studying were over. “Yes,” he replied, “I plan to focus fully on my career.”
Here was a graduate who, in his early 20s, believed that graduation ceremonies signalled the competition of education once the scrolls are handed over. Like many of his peers, this student was heading out with the intention of making his mark on the world but with the misconception that, with a degree in hand, the work had already been done.
Anyone who has ever started a business or a project, or made advancements in their career will know that university education is really just the beginning – it teaches students how to learn, but there’s no such thing as a complete education: it’s a lifelong process.
During my short conversation with this confident young graduate, I explained that, of all the great leaders he could bring to mind, they would all – without exception – have embraced lifelong learning, and for one simple reason: everything changes. Economies, marketplaces, skillset requirements, technologies, industry demands – these are just a few aspects of life that are constantly evolving. The demands and requirements of today will change in five years’ time, and perhaps be redundant 10 years from now.
I’m always impressed when I think of Warren Buffett. For a man in his mid-80s who is worth over USD60bil, you’d think he would be relaxing on some luxury island by now and enjoying his time. At the very least, we can presume there’d be no need for him to keep on learning, right? Not quite. Buffett – despite his age and regardless of his fortune – continues to read for hours every day in order to keep on top of the news, new trends and developments, and what’s happening in his business.
If someone like Warren Buffett believes lifelong learning has tremendous value, who are we to argue?
The desire to keep learning, to discover new ideas and concepts and figure out how they can be applied to solve a problem or meet a need, is what helps to keep our minds active and sharp. There is never a time in our lives when we are complete, precisely because there is always something new to discover about the world around us.
Expanding knowledge and understanding is something I’ve always cherished, and having a mindset geared towards continual learning seems to open up so many doors of opportunity. But there is more to lifelong learning than increasing the chances of success.
Here are a few observations that I’ve discovered for myself over the years:
1. Learning helps us discover what we’re passionate about
For a few of us, our passion will fall on our laps without any effort. For most people, knowing what they’re passionate about comes through exploration and learning about new fields of interest. The more widely we read, the more people we talk to outside our circle, and the more subjects we open ourselves up to, the more chance we’ll have to find what truly stimulates our creativity and curiosity.
2. Learning gives us a sense of meaning and purpose
As we grow in our learning, we grow in awareness and, as a result, we gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of life and what we have to offer it. By remaining in our comfort zones, we might become complacent or feel as though our worth has stagnated. By stretching ourselves and diving into new areas of interest, we are provided with a renewed sense of the potential that lies within us, and the realisation that we can always contribute to society in valuable ways.
3. Learning is what enables us to adapt and change
Our human species has reached as far as it has because of its ability to problem-solve and adapt to change. In our modern age, advancements in all areas of life continually move forward at a frightening pace, and it’s by learning that we are able to keep up with the rate of change. And despite what our fears might tell us, we are more than capable of adapting to new ideas, technologies and environments – just look at how the older generation has got to grips with smartphones, tablets and laptops.
4. Learning makes the world a better place
Think of all the social progress, the medical advancements, and how technology has changed the way we communicate with and understand each other. Sure, it’s still not a perfect world and there is much progress still to be made – but if we look at how much progress has been made over the decades and centuries, the world is a much better place thanks to our capacity for learning and exploration. With learning, our attitudes and outlooks evolve and expand, and as we better understand our nuanced world, we become increasingly effective at solving the problems we face.
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Article first published on LinkedIn.