Why Just Keep Learning?
Take a moment and think about what learning is.
Not just for one second, give yourself a few moments, maybe a minute to think of what learning means.
Close your eyes and think about everything that comes to mind with the term, the concept of learning.
What is the definition?
How does it work?
More importantly, what does it mean to you?
Do you like it? Do you hate it?
I would be interested in knowing what you actually think about.
So if you can, please share.
Learning is a huge part of my life and becoming a bigger part every day.
Just Keep Learning is a special concept that extends into mental health, leadership, skill-building, relationships, and hobbies. The goal of this site and social media is to share the concept and make learning more exciting and enjoyable for you.
By using the concepts and values of Just Keep Learning we will be better off in everything we do. It all starts with asking ourselves that one question. What is learning?
Thank You, Next
We’ll never have it all figured out. Our goal could be to build a massive company. So we get started, build it up to a $2 Billion exit and celebrate. Then, what do we do next? We take on the next thing, we keep learning. On the contrary, maybe we failed. Maybe it didn’t work out, we lost all of our money and had to lay everyone off. After we are finished, the world doesn’t stop. It’s just time to say thank you, what’s next? To just keep learning.
Believe it or not, we can learn a lot from Ariana Grande’s song ‘Thank You Next’. Not just the fact that she loves classic rom-coms, or that Mac Miller didn’t end up in her burn book. We can learn so much about life and learning that it’s a sneaky good mentorship song.
Not to bore with all of the lyrics, but check out a few to see what I mean:
She taught me love
She taught me patience
How she handles pain
I’ve loved and I’ve lost
But that’s not what I see
I’ve learned from the pain
Thank you, Next
We could deem relationships “good” or “bad” if we need to. But the idea that every relationship, every interaction is a great opportunity to learn is the right attitude. Thank you for what you taught me, now who will I learn from next?
Being open to that next failure, that next relationship, that next opportunity to learn. What her song does to take it further is show that self-reflection is important. Ariana makes it even better by being brave enough to share it with the world. By the world, of course, I mean a record-setting 55 million Youtube views in the first 24 hours!
Never Grow Up
There is a tremendous upside in the concept of “I don’t know”. As children, we are constantly figuring things out. I have this in front of my face daily with my own children. One is learning how to walk and talk, while the other is learning social interaction and painting. What’s incredible to witness is how they just continue to learn. Literally falling down nine times and getting up ten. Or asking question after question with no fear of being judged.
The more we can remind ourselves to adopt a child-like mindset throughout our life the better we will be. Being a kid releases all of the tension in our muscles. It removes that low-grade anxiety we feel when we’re not sure if we are making progress. Ultimately it affords us a sense of wonder to say “I don’t know, but let’s keep figuring it out”. It may seem silly to think of this idea of never growing up, as though we’re preaching like Peter Pan, but it’s true. The more we can bring ourselves back to those days of play when it comes to our current desires, the more effective our learning will be.
Education vs Learning
Learning is not finite in any sense, but education is. This is one of my biggest concerns with school today. Even great, well-versed teachers can become hyper-focused on things like goals, curriculum, textbooks, and reports. To say “school is broken” might be “sensationalizing the concern”, but there is definitely a lot of wasted time and energy. When I think of being an “educator” it was something that used to make me proud. Now I want to get as far away from that term as possible.
Education as an institution has proven time and time again to take agency away from the students, which is the opposite of learning. I changed my Instagram account to “learning coach” because I haven’t found the right word for what I do. Let me know if you have any ideas, because everything I can think of is pretty lame.
Awkward titles like “dream coach” and “learning guide” come to mind.
But the goal is the same. Help more people learn to learn and follow their dreams.
The point is we need to focus on learning far beyond the walls of a classroom, or school. It is better to think of learning as a massive interconnected process between phenomena, subjects and personal abilities. We need to think of learning as a process, but we are at a point where talking about it is no longer enough.
We can learn anything, from anyone, anywhere, at any time, so the thing to figure out then becomes how? While I’m a bit stuck on the practical next steps, I do know that it starts with one big question. It starts with getting together with anyone who cares and asking what is learning for? Like Simon Sinek often says, it starts with why.
8 Billion Rungs
With a growth mindset our current skill, ability, or knowledge is irrelevant. We appreciate that everyone can learn and that none of us know the ceiling to our abilities.
We appreciate that self-improvement should be the goal. Instead of arguing with people over whether or not we will accomplish our dream someday, we are best off to just keep learning.
If one person has achieved what you want, then it’s possible for you too. When this topic comes up I love to point people to the life of Eric Thomas. Long before he became a multi-millionaire and brought inspiration to the world, E.T The Hip Hop Preacher was a homeless teenager who didn’t know how to read. Once he unlocked that growth mindset his message, his learning, and his business went straight to the moon.
Recognizing how many people are learning in this world is fascinating. It is also a great way to appreciate that leveling up ourselves is where we should focus our energy.
Seriously, it’s true. Try this short exercise.
Think of anything you would like to learn. It could be fitness, basket weaving, or being a better listener. Now, shut your eyes and picture a massive ladder with nearly 8 Billion Rungs. Where do you think you sit on that ladder? Which rung are you on? How many people are well below you? Hint: the answer is a lot. Now, how many people are above you? Believe me, the answer is also a lot. Even more interesting is if you do this exercise with different goals.
Say you are an auto mechanic, who would love to play guitar but has never tried. When you shut your eyes and think of working on cars you are somewhere in the upper range of the world ladder. When you shut your eyes and think of playing guitar you probably picture being lower on the ladder. There is only one person who is the best in the world, and there is only one person who is the worst in the world. Everyone else, all the rest of us fall somewhere in between.
We are all playing against ourselves. We are each, on our own, within a small tribe of friends and coaches, trying to level up. When we get lost in this process, as opposed to results, we begin to accomplish without even being aware. Like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularized, the more often we get into a flow state the quicker we climb this ladder.
We begin to appreciate learning, without any focus on the results. Feedback, data observation, and reflection should be done at specific times. All other learning times should be driven by a motto such as “no past, no future”. Just keep learning.
Learning is Healthy
To oversimplify, learning in the macro of our lives is good for us. Setting and achieving, or even failing on our goals keeps us energized. We stay fresh and excited, waking up in the morning knowing we get to improve something we value. It also leads to improvement in overall health, or at least gives us the best chance. This is because it triggers positive emotions like joy and affords us work, life balance.
As we grow up we get further away from being parented, formal education, and job training, which increases our risk of brain aging. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt to stimuli. As we learn something new, the brain engages in synaptic pruning, removing neural connections that are no longer useful, and strengthening the helpful ones. If we focus on our desire to learn what we are passionate about, we improve the ability of our brains to make these changes.
It often seems that there just isn’t enough time to accomplish what we want in life. That’s because it’s true. The reality is, if we are any bit of a dreamer or thinker, it will never happen. It is impossible to do everything we dream of since ideas are infinite. Yet, we have a very finite amount of time. For every one of us, our window of opportunity is bound by mortality. We have an individualized number of minutes to create what matters to us. The craziest part is that we know it is one specific amount of time, but we don’t even know how much it is. If we attempt to “manage” this time, we will live in a constant state of worry over how much we have.
It’s Just Math
There is so much we want to do. When we slow down to worry about how we will fit it all in, we enter the realm of the “Hurtful P’s”. Procrastination, Pressure, and perfectionism will destroy any chance of creating what we want. So what is the antidote to the “Hurting P’s”? It’s actually fairly easy to remember because believe it or not, there are “Helpful P’s” too.
Perspective, patience, and prioritization allow us to relieve the pressure and accomplish as much as possible. Throughout the learning process, we often throw hate on ourselves with negative self-talk. This can lead to frustration, depression, and anxiety. But with perspective, patience, and prioritization on point, there is very little that can go wrong.
With perspective, we appreciate that we don’t know how much time there is anyways. We don’t actually know if we can accomplish our goal because there is so much beyond our control. By using catchphrases such as Seize the Day, or Be Here Now we remind ourselves to live and learn in the moment.
With patience, we are not worried about having to get something done right away. With the pressure off we can focus on doing the things that bring us vitality; more joy and happiness. This in turn, perhaps counterintuitively leads back to a greater likelihood of having enough time to accomplish our dreams and goals.
Like one big circle, prioritization brings us back to create more, to get more work done. We can get more done overall because we have time to focus on the most important task at hand. By managing the work, instead of time, we put focus and effort into the next most important thing. Each time we crush the next most important goal we are maximizing the likelihood of achieving the big dreams.
A friend of mine often uses the phrase “it’s just math”, which is how I feel about trying to learn. It will take “x” number of minutes to do the next most important thing. Get those minutes in as soon as possible and then decide what is the next most important thing. When you get another chunk of time, you simply repeat the process. If we fail to prioritize, then we spend our minutes, our precious time, doing things that may never matter. So it’s important to ask ourselves every time we get to work, “what is the next most important thing?”
Learning, in general, is good, but what if we want to be the absolute best we can be at something specific?
If we want to learn a specific skill, then focus and niche are very important. For example, if we want to be the best musician, the best possible actor, or basketball coach. Perhaps we want to strive to be the absolute best we can be. Maybe even the best in the world.
In this case, the relentless focus toward our craft becomes important.
I recently heard Ed Sheeran talk about the 10,000 hour rule. He said learning music is like having a water tank that’s got shit water in the pipes. Turn the pipe on and it flow’s shit for a while, but the longer you let it run, the more clean water will start to come out.
The water will continue to get clearer and the shitty water will continue to disappear. It will become more clear and clean the more we keep that tap running. This is much like wanting to get really strong in a specific craft.
If you want to be the best you can be, then define your focus as specific as possible and chip away at the 10,000 hours. The best and the only way to get better is to do it. We learn and grow with as much intentional practice as possible.
Specific to music, Sheeran said that your first writing will suck, but you’re hundredth will be much better. Your stage presence, voice, and marketing will be awkward for a while, but over time it will improve.
No matter what the goal, when you have time to practice, any time at all, get it in. Build habits and systems that allow you to dedicate as much practice time as possible within your current circumstances.
It all adds up in the end if we just keep learning.