Learning How To Learn

One of my favourite subjects in high-school was Math. I can definitely give some credit to our incredible math teacher at the time; Mr. Williams. He was always light-hearted and made the process of learning rather enjoyable.

Considering I grew up in Saudi Arabia as an expat, he was one of the few South Africans that I could relate to at the time. I also ended up becoming great friends with his sons, when I moved to Cape Town to study after high-school.

The reason why I’m starting with that flashback, is because there’s a phrase Mr. Williams used to always scream at us:

“You have to learn how to learn!”

Please keep in mind that this was conveyed in a thick Capetonian accent, which we all found absolutely hilarious at the time. As I started growing up and learning more, I realized that this man was well ahead of the game. We learn everything there is to know in school, except, the most important skill; which is learning how to learn.

I want to dive into the concept of being a life-long learner, something that I always gained tremendous insight into after being part of the 20 Life Learners group. A lot of the topics that I cover here will be from the book ‘Limitless’ by Jim Kwik. It’s absolutely remarkable and I highly recommend you give it a read for yourself.

Why is learning so important?

It comes down to why. The purpose. The reason why we learn in the first place. As always, it usually has something to do with service. With leaving the world (or even just your environment) in a slightly better condition compared to when you found it.

This question is rather difficult to answer. It’s specific to each individual really. Reflect on the concept of learning in general, and why you think it’s important to you. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.

For me, learning is about continuously improving. It’s about becoming better at a certain skill, subject or experience. It makes life a little easier and more fulfilling. It’s also about sharing the knowledge with other people. With the intention to help them improve and make their own life easier.

“Aspire to Inspire”

That motto came about in a phase of my life when I felt kind of clueless. I didn’t really know what to do with my time. I decided to divert my energy into something a little more useful than just playing games or spending time with friends. I realized that by increasing my own knowledge (through learning), I was able to help others more.

Reading is the ultimate form of learning. Just reminding you of why it’s so important to build that habit as soon as you can. I’ve written a post previously on how to read faster and more effectively.

The system

I’m not sure about you, but most of the people I know study to pass. Educational institutes are run more like businesses now than anything else. It’s about making as much profit as you can from every student. Through all the chaos (and capitalism I suppose), we lost the essence of what learning is all about.

We no longer worry about whether we’re maximizing our potential or chasing our passions. It’s about passing the exam. Cramming the night before for your assignment. Submitting when you know you’ve put it enough to pass. In that process, what are we really learning?

Study to learn and to create deep knowledge, not just to pass an exam or assignment.

I’ll tell you why I really dislike the concept of cramming the night before, you don’t actually retain any of the information. It doesn’t get the chance to enter your long-term memory because your intention was not to learn, but rather to just pass.

Being intentional with your learning

An important consideration moving forward is to be intentional with your actions, especially when it comes to learning. Our intentions are the driving force behind our behaviours.

Next time you’re studying for anything at all, keep in mind how the knowledge you’re gaining is actually going to benefit those around you. Realize that you’re going to make an impact, and it’s up to you to make sure it’s something positive.

It can be tempting to fall prey to the way our assignments are marked and just try to cram. But that’s not the point. Even if you don’t enjoy what you’re currently studying, find something else in your free time that you can learn with passion. That you can learn intentionally. That you can learn to be of service.

Mark Twain said it wonderfully, as I’ve previously quoted:

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

Don’t ever limit yourself. You’re not born ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’. It’s all about the processes you use and the way you train yourself. You have the capacity to grow. To expand beyond your limiting beliefs. To learn faster and more efficiently than ever before. You’re capable of being a superhero.

Just use your brain more. It’s like a muscle, the more you train it, the stronger it becomes. You have so much potential within you. Keep trying. Keep pushing. Don’t give up when it gets tough. Embrace your growth mindset and flourish in discomfort. It’s the only way to grow. You got this.