Truths About Learning You May Never Have Been Taught

School is coming to an end for most students in the U.S. and summer is waiting in the wings like an eager understudy.

Ah, summer! The time for sleeping in, camping, swimming, hours of uninterrupted technological gluttony (Minecraft in our house) and brain atrophy.

But just because school’s out, whether you’re on a twelve-week break or haven’t had a real summer break for years, it doesn’t mean you have to stop learning.

You’ll often learn more outside of the walls of most schools than within them.

This is not a call to ditch classes or drop out of school. There are certain lessons best learned in school or school-like settings (assuming you have access to decent schools): reading, writing, responsibility, such as showing up on time (or relatively close to that) and getting stuff done on time.

You know. Things you generally don’t want to do.

But think back on your life for a minute. How many teachable moments did you actually learn in school?

Ate Shanghai Steak and Beijing Beef, then threw up on a commuter train?

Almost married a guy for his citizenship?

Drank a little too much on bowling league night and couldn’t make it to work the next day to handle high-voltage electrical equipment (uh, I’m talking to you Dad)? Okay, that was probably a smart move.

Yup, just like I thought. None of those happened within the walls of a traditional school.

Get out and get living…the learning will come naturally.

Photo Credit: LaFundició via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: LaFundició via Compfight cc

Common sense cannot be taught (and is underrated).

WikiHow seems to believe it’s possible. But read through their eight “simple” steps (with pictures, they point out) and answer me this:

First, how many people without common sense (a) realize they don’t have it, and (b) decide they need to and can learn it?

Second, how many of those ten people (in the entire world) would really find these steps simple to apply?

I work at a Fortune 500 company. As part of employee development, we’re often told to focus our time and energy enhancing and refining our strengths vs. focusing on the areas in which we suck. The thought process: No matter how hard you try to improve the suck, you’ll only ever get to mildly sucky—you’re never going to get to awesome.

I have common sense, and I have never consciously worked through those eight steps. I wake up in the morning wearing dirty underwear and decide I should probably put on a clean pair. Ditto with brushing my teeth.

Is that really so hard, people?

Learning (aka curiosity) is key to longevity.

When you learn more, you do better. And what you learn impacts your choices.

For instance, higher levels of education typically equate to greater career opportunities or earning potential. That drives other choices, like the food you eat and the way you take care of your body (or don’t). It’s no secret that obesity rates tend to be higher in less-educated populations.

If you’re making poor life choices at least partially because of lack of knowledge (or common sense), you’re not gonna last long. Natural selection, anyone?

Photo Credit: mwanasimba via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mwanasimba via Compfight cc

Learning is such an important factor in leading a long life; there are organizations dedicated to keeping your brain in knowledge acquisition mode as you age.

One example is a company called Road Scholars. They offer what they call “educational adventures in lifelong learning.” One of their most popular in-depth, behind-the-scenes learning opportunities is “Lobsters, Wineries and Foods of New England.” That sounds pretty awesome to this land-locked Midwesterner. Sign me up!

Almost everything you need to be successful, or at least happy, you can learn for free.

Oooh, I can’t wait to tell you about this one. Come close. I want to whisper it in your ear because we don’t want too many people finding out about it.

There’s this really cool thingy called a library.

In it, there are things called books.

You sign up for a card, and you can take these books home for FREE!

Oh, most libraries also have this other cool do-hickey called the internets. Not sure what they’ll help you catch, but hopefully it’s a passion for learning and not a virus.

Another great free way to learn? Listen, then ask questions.

Listen to people who have had unique experiences or been places you haven’t, then ask them tons of questions.

Where do you find such fascinating people? You can start with your grandparents or parents, or pretty much anyone who’s older than you. Maybe all you’ll learn is that you definitely want to do it differently than they did—sometimes that’s the best lesson of all.

There is no one “right” way to learn.

And people who make you feel dumb because you don’t learn by their teaching methods are dumber than you.

I learn best by first researching and reading, and then getting in there and doing it myself. In the words of the famous man-boy Stuart from MADtv, “Lemme do it!”

For example, I work with a woman who is a report-generating wizard, and I respect her for that. But when she saunters into my office and nearly pushes me out of my chair because she wants to “drive” to show me how to run a report, I want to smack her in the face.

Everyone learns a little differently. You can find all sorts of fun tests online to see which style speaks to you.

By default, that means there can’t be one perfect way to do it. For most people, it takes a while to figure out what works best for them, and it could even change over time.

That’s okay. Learning equals growth.

Remember? When you know better, you do better.

When you figure out what works best for you, it will feel like your brain has opened up its maw and is waiting for you to fill that sucker up.

Don’t let it down.

So, what about you? What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned—outside school walls? What’s your preferred method of learning? How do you show your common sense? What is it about people who don’t have it that drives you bonkers?


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