Wouldn’t it be wonderful to learn something new today, or every day for that matter?
You’ll probably say something like: “Sure, that sounds great! But I can’t because…”.
Just about everyone I know wants to learn new skills and habits, but only a select few are able to muster the time and discipline required, why is that? Is it really that time consuming? Do you really need to be a born autodidact to learn new things after a certain age?
I beg to differ.
There’s nothing holding you back from learning a new skill today. No matter how elaborate your excuse is; it’s still an excuse. Justifying it with lack of time, having kids, prior obligations, physical injury or even illness won’t help you feel accomplished or make you sleep better at night.
Learning something new will!
We are autodidacts by design. Since birth our brain grows and self organizes information, spreading neuron networks that expand exponentially and aid us in processing everything we see much faster. Alas, this accelerated growth rate slows down as we mature.
As you can see in the image below, mental growth until age 4 is just as rapid as the combined growth rate 4 to 18 years old, what happens next is anyone’s guess…
The more we mature, the more our ability to learn decreases. Slowly, we find ourselves struggling to learn new things until we give up and forget entirely how to learn.
When kids learn something that interests them they’re excited about it, they share their new found knowledge with their friends, they invest extra hours in gaining even deeper knowledge and they do so hyper focused!
The earlier you understand that the better, we need to relearn how to learn like kids.
The picture is not all bleak. As we mature, we gain abilities and capabilities that were not available for us as kids. For instance:
- We are wiser; allowing us to have better judgment.
- We’re more resistant to frustration and our skills at managing relationships improve.
- We develop greater tolerance to ambiguity, better inductive reasoning. (Source)
See? All is not lost…We definitely have all the tools we need to learn new skills as we mature. Now it’s all a matter of relearning how to learn in a fun and collaborative …
1# Make time for learning
Since we’re no longer kids, we don’t have a dedicated time in a day for homework, reading and exploring. That’s why it’s imperative to proactively make time. Now you probably think that your day is packed with activities. That means that something’s got to give!
For your consideration, I gathered here a list of all the activities you can give up now that will only have a beneficial effect on your life:
- Watch TV much? Give it up!
- Into the habit of browsing aimlessly after work hours? It’s only beneficial at work, give it up and browse the internet with purpose at home!
- You think you need to check up on the news? Not really, give it up!
- Take a 20 minutes nap during lunch and eat your lunch with the rest, you’ll be fresher for longer.
- Work with a list instead of walking around with one in your head, a list of to-do’s can encumber your steps if not written down, making you slower and tired. Remember, time is of the essence!
- Cluster tasks, emails can take up to 2.5 hours of your day if spread out. Open email only once or twice during the day and see how you reduce that number considerably!
My wife and I developed a habit, every evening between 9 to 10 PM we dedicate one hour to further our skill set, and here’s why we do it together…
2# Self-learning and the value of groups
A group engaged in learning together empowers each learner individually much like migrating birds…
Migratory birds fly in “V” shape so they’ll be able to flap their wings at precisely the same time the bird in front of them flaps hers, taking in the process advantage of the lifting power generated by the wings of the bird ahead.
Indian education scientist Sugata Mitra conducted a series of experiments on three continents in which he gave kids self-supervised access to computers in remote areas in which there are no teachers and sometimes no electricity, and the results he saw could revolutionize the way we think about learning and teaching.
In this TED Talk, he explains how group self-learning just happens:
Mitra speculates that, education is a self-organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon. Meaning – all you need is access to information, a few inquisitive minds to bounce that information around and time.
3# Isolate the emotional from the intellectual and rational
In another TED talk, Josh Kaufman the author of The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything…fast debunks the misconception that you need to invest 10,000 hours to learn a new skill.
According the Kaufman, it’s a mistake that is based on research by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson that studied the key metrics for the acquisition of expert level performance and skill through deliberate practice. In his research, Dr. Ericsson concluded that you need to invest 10,000 hours to become the top professional in your field.
Now 10,000 is the equivalent of working on a full time job for 7 years, we all learned new skills, right? And it didn’t take us 5 years, right?
How did that happen? After the book outliers by Malcolm Gladwell published the 10,000 hours rule, the media grabbed the rule tossed it around a bit and from “it takes 10,000 hours to become a leading expert in your field or a world renown athlete” it became “it takes 10,000 hours to learn a new skill”
In the video, Kaufman says that all you need to do to acquire a new skill is to invest 20 hours in it, that’s all, a far cry from 10,000.
But if there’s no hourly entrance barrier to learning a new skill, why do people still shy from learning?
The answer is quite simple…
You’re afraid to feel dumb and your emotions get in the way
Now it’s extremely difficult to ignore the voices in your head that make fun of your futile attempt to learn something new. That’s why you need to block yourself emotionally for 20 hours and dig deep into learning something new.
The image above (taken from the presentation), shows that it’s hard to learn at first, but through investing time in practicing, after 20 hours you become quite good!
Until we meet again!