Why Continuous Learning is a Life Skill

I have learnt a lot of life lessons just growing up as part of a wonderful family. One of the instances has remained with me and still reflects in my actions. I had to do a book review in school, and my dad insisted that I do it about one of his favorite and insightful book – The Final Diagnosis by Arthur Hailey. For years, being a sound and later TV engineer, myfather has always been a continuous learner and kept himself updated on thelatest technological shifts in the industry. This is a practice he realised theimportance of, on reading that book and I took that to heart.

My mother, though a home maker, for years now has been learning new things and adding them to her repertoire. Be it weaving a woollen sweater,cooking new things, naturopathy treatments or even learning how to paint at anage of more than 50, she has always been enthusiastic about new experiences.

So, today, I thought I would talk about just how important it is to be open to learning new skills and experiences. While it is important to have a level of expertise in some areas of life, with some I think it is great to know at least the basics. Trust me, being Jack of all trades and master of one or two works just fine.

What does Continuous Learning mean?

Continuous learning is about the thirst to learn and then making the efforts to do it. Continuous learning can help you go deep and go wide. Confused?

Suppose you are an engineer, who has now been working forsome time. You can let your knowledge pool remain stagnant happy with what youknow and applying it to your work. You could also choose to continue enhancing it over time, learning about the latest innovations and technologies in your field and going deeper into it. Another possibility in today’s digital world is that you could sign up for some courses that could help you learn some allied technical sciences related to your field. To me, that is going deep with yourlearning.

On the other hand, suppose you have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. You do your research about some classes, take those and have a basic knowledge of it, to help you play the instrument time to time. After that, you realize, that you also like photography. You decide to take a class or some digital lessons and start experimenting with the pictures you click. After a trip that you have taken, you get the urge to learn French and go ahead to do it. This, in my mind, is the wide version of continuous learning.

Both have their own place in our lives. Deep continuous learning keeps us in good stead in our professional lives whereas the wide continuous learning expands our horizons and helps with developing a range of new skills.

Benefits of Continuous Learning

As you can probably guess from my long introduction, I am a fan of continuous learning. To me, learning new things brings about freshnessin the mundane aspects of life. There are quite a few benefits to being acontinuous learner:

Brain elasticity

As Daniel Kahneman said in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, our brain has two sides to it – the instinctive faster one and the deliberate yet lazy slower one. When we are used to doing some things, it’s generally the faster one which get activated for it. However, when we encounter something new and unknown, the slower part gets activated.

When you learn something new, ever noticed the initial rebellion that your brain sometimes puts up? That’s the creaking sound your rusty slow brain is making, as it is trudging through the thinking process. This is a hugely beneficial thing to keeping the brain active, elastic and younger. In some ways, it’s like working out. When you don’t exercise, themuscles in those limbs start getting impacted. The brain is no different andoften needs the challenge of charting new, unknown territory.

Social skills

This is a benefit I am beginning to realize only recently. As mentioned earlier, I am now in an investment counselling role where I end upmeeting 2-3 new clients everyday. While we do talk investments and business, alot of my longer chats have happened on something ancilliary or an unexpectedaspect like fitness or history or even writing.

When you choose to be a continuous learner, you will see an upswing in your social skills as your repertoire of being able to connect to another individual is just going to go up. There will be enough threads that you can pick up in almost any conversation to strike a feeling of relatability.

Better competence and creativity

This one is pretty obvious right? If you are a deep continuous leader, you are bound to be more competent at your work. On the other hand, if you go wide, you would have experienced a wide variety of things. Creativity is often resulted by sparking of various random thoughts or experiences in the forgotten corners of our brain. By learning continuously, you will realise the improvement in almost any creativity as well.

Starting steps to being a continuous learner

Now, that I hopefully have you on board with the idea of being a continuous learner, you might be thinking how to apply it to your life.

Firstly, figure out what area do you want to start learning in. Is it your professional field or is it a skill you have always wanted to acquire?

Second, understand how do you learn better. Would you rather sit in the convenience of your home and take an online course like Coursera ordo you need to make a commitment to going to a classroom where you end up absorbing more?

Third, as Nike puts it best – Just do it. Stop over thinking and dive even if it is straight to the deep end. Know that eventually, you will learn to swim and enjoy it for the experience.

Are you a continuous learner? What’s the most fun experience it has led you to? Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. Just realised I myself will have to learn something new real quick – the Gutenberg blocks in WordPress :-/

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4 Comments

  1. steveark
    December 8, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    Great advice. I am an engineer and started work in a plant decades ago. I always knew I’d want to be able to consult when I retired but I also knew that it was difficult to consult in the areas that my jobs entailed. So I volunteered every time something came up that nobody else wanted to do because it was outside of their comfort zone. I ended up being the guy that negotiated settlements with government agencies and other corporations, lobbied for the company, did a lot of public speaking and a lot of public relations for the company. It not only gave me the widest skill set but it also got me promoted all the way up to being the guy that ran the company. That was nice but when I early retired it was even nicer because my network and skills have let me consult in a number of areas that have nothing to do with my original technical work but have everything to do with all the hard things I volunteered to do. So I get to keep on learning in retirement and working with dozens of interesting people all over the country. I do not need the money, which keeps rolling in anyway but I do need the mental and social stimulation that comes from still being in the game. Even if I only work a day or two a week I still feel productive and centered. But it wouldn’t have been possible if I had not started working on an exit plan early in my career.

    1. Elementum Money Author
      December 10, 2018 at 9:00 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience Steve! 🙂

      I am glad to see how much continuous learning has helped you in your life and career. Another important lesson I see in your life is saying yes to things and experiences even if they are unknown. And yes, knowing your plan to retire early and working on it for years sure played a role in making this phase better for you. Lots of learnings for others to emulate 🙂

  2. December 10, 2018 at 8:19 am

    It’s funny. We spend the first twenty-odd years of life in a constant state of continuous learning, but after that, it really becomes self led if we want to keep at it, other than the occasional work requirement.

    1. Elementum Money Author
      December 10, 2018 at 8:57 am

      Completely agree… Most of us can’t wait to get done with the learning stage in our lives but some of us are fortunate enough to rediscover the joy of learning later on…

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