Be a Student for Life

Can any human being know everything there is to know? No, I doubt it. If there’s someone like that, he or she has been hunted and captured by one of the most powerful nations on earth by now. Since we know there is no such person, then it means we can learn something new everyday. In fact…

To keep on learning should be a top priority in life.

More so is the fact that our society is structured in a way that people who don’t learn much will suffer consequences. If you don’t know how things operate, you are likely to get scammed. How’s that for a motivation to learn? (this is half truth, half joking…)

Despite all that, what often happens is that we simply stop learning. Perhaps we finished school. “Oh, I got my master/PhD, I’m all set…” Or maybe because of a much inflated ego. Or we become lazy and comfortable because we can “get by” without learning.

But that’s not who we are. We are all capable being a student for life.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
– Douglas Adams

Having the Desire to Learn

To learn you must first have the desire to learn. There is no other way around it. You need a desire to understand how things work in this world. You need the curiosity to find out why. It also means humbleness, humility, open-mindedness, and awareness.

People who are arrogant rarely learn. People who get defensive easily rarely learn. People who focus only on themselves rarely learn.

You must throw away those habits and acknowledge that you don’t know everything. It’s the truth. It’s not that hard to accept, right?

The Idea of True Learning

You may ask, “Why do I need to learn?”

Learning builds on top of the desire for improvement. True learning happens when you actually practice what you learn, you take action to change for the better for yourself, for others, or even for the world. Seriously, knowledge is power. You only get this power, if and only if you learn, and if and only if you practice the knowledge you learn.

Studying vs. Learning

We have an education curriculum that involves an endless amount of homeworks, tests, and quizzes for students. Students study and study. They memorize facts after facts. Meanwhile they have no clue why they are studying their butts off besides the vauge idea that it’s “good” for them and also the security of future jobs.

This is totally lame because few ever learn. They may study, but they don’t learn. Worse yet, as soon as school is over, not only there’s no learning, the studying stops too. Even worse than that, this has become a prolific behavior such as…

…personal finance junkies, personal development junkies. They read books after books, blogs after blogs. And then they talk about all the ideas and concepts in saving, investing, 20-days self-improvement, etc. which simulates students reciting the monologue of Hamlet. Meanwhile, they never practice a single word coming out of their mouths. Which begs the question “Why?” because at least the students may sound artistic reciting “To be, or not to be: That is the question…”

…”religious” people. They recite old scriptures and tell others about all the rules in their particular religion. Meanwhile, their action demonstrate no understanding of the philosophy of the religion, such as proclaimed Buddhists who burn incense, sacrifice food, and kneel down to pray and who also reveal little understanding of Buddhist philosophy in their speech, way of life, and (lack of) compassion. Same goes for the people who act differently inside and outside of church/monastery. I am not attacking religion. Rather, I am simply stating an observation of behaviors of self-proclaimed religious people.

That is why it’s important to keep in mind the idea of true learning – learn and then practice what you learn.

Lower Your Defense to Learn

Pay attention to the voice in your head when you listen to others and even when you are reading. Is that voice constantly disagreeing? Trying to defend your stance? Do you feel attacked? And therefore the mind shuts down reception?

Try to be open-minded when you read.
Try to be compassionate when others speak.

Learning from Failure

A great opportunity to learn is when we make mistakes and when we fail. Do you simply fold and hide? Do you decide to never to try again? Do you forget your goal? Indeed, giving up is much easier than learning from failure because it means to acknowledge you have failed. Naturally, it’s not a pleasnt thing to do. However, it is most important for you to do otherwise – accepting your failure. Only with such acceptance, you can fully be calm and aware to observe what went wrong and appreciate the lesson of the mistake. As a result, you will certainly improve next time, even if just slightly.

Learning for Your Own Sake

There are so many specialized fields in our society that a 60GB Ipod cannot hold a rap song with all the names. That’s the nature of our society. And it is a big reason to motivate us to learn. It has become a responsibility to learn about things you deal with everyday.

Think about your own finance. Certainly you can hire an accountant and a financial adviser to handle your money, but let me ask you, “Who cares most about your money?” It’s none other than yourself. That’s why you should spend time and effort to learn how to handle your own money, learn to open high yeidl saving accounts, learn to invest and grow your money, learn about taxes, learn about the financial tools out there. And don’t say you are too busy because if you are, someone will take your money.

Besides personal finance, the idea to learn for your own sake also applies to your health. Sure, you can hire a trainer, but who cares most about your own body? Right, it’s none other than yourself again. Your trainer could be a sincere, helpful trainer or he/she could be a jerk whose eyes only on your money. I’ve literally seen a trainer on a track field teaching inappropriate exercise to beginners, and another one telling people to do this and that while his sorry ass is on the bench the whole time. I sure hope they have found new trainers by now.

For your money, health, and your own sake, spend some time and effort to learn.

Peace is what you get when you know how things work

Learning how things work in this world will help you see thing as it is. How do I mean?

Let’s say you somehow got ripped off by store selling an item. You could get ragingly mad. Yell and scream and curse the ocean of anger out. But will it accomplish anything besides putting stress on your own body?

Instead, you can understand the ecnomics behind it. The store’s goal is to benefit itself financially. With this understand, you can negotiate with the store in such a way that will benefit both of your and reach a resolution.

This is a simple hypothetical scenario, but it demonstrate the difference between learning vs. not learning, knowing the why vs. not knowing the why, and peace vs. no peace. As Dalai Lama said, “Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.”

Non-stop Learning is Awareness

I always talk about awareness. It’s the single basis of Zen, Buddhism, and Enlightenment. To always be able to learn is to always be aware. Awareness is the observer of life, above our thoughts and emotions. Awareness is a pure presense that’s always in us, but mostly forgotten and neglected when we get conditioned as if thoughts and emotions are what we are. When thoughts and emotions get in the way, we stop being aware and we stop learning.

I like what Charlie Crews in Life (NBC) once said:

I investigate things to complete my knowledge.
My complete knowledge makes my thoughts sincere.
My thoughts being sincere, my heart is pure.

For which the original text came from Confucius, if you care:

The men of old, when they wished their virtues to shine throughout the land, first had to govern their states well. To govern their states well, they first had to establish harmony in their families. To establish harmony in their families, they first had to discipline themselves. To discipline themselves, they first had to set their minds in order. To set their minds in order, they first had to make their purpose sincere. To make their purpose sincere, they first had to extend their knowledge to the utmost. Such knowledge is acquired through a careful investigation of things. For with things investigated knowledge becomes complete. With knowledge complete the purpose becomes sincere. With the purpose sincere the mind is set in order. With the mind set in order there is real self discipline. With real self discipline the family achieves harmony. With harmony in the family the state becomes well governed. With the state well governed there is peace throughout the land.

In the end, the gist of it is, if you truly want to learn, you will learn. There is a Buddhist Proverb, “When the student is ready, the master appears.” Everything I have said is aimed to trigger the “want” in you to learn. You have to do the real work of learning yourself.

Originally posted 2008-03-11 22:58:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

One Response

  1. I found your post very interesting. I used your post as a helping hand for my written assignment on internet marketing for my college.

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