I Wish I Had Known: Learn how to Learn

“Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”
 – Confucius

“Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins.”
– Jim Rohn

The ability to learn is an interesting skill – it is never directly taught to us as students, yet academic institutions assume we master it through osmosis.

I doubt any skill is more important than the ability to learn new things quickly – as it is the starting point for the adoption of any other skill. Nothing will be as important to you during the rest of your life, yet very little is taught on the subject – hopefully this chapter can rectify that.

I Thought Learning Was a Temporary Skill

We naturally associate learning with school. We consider learning the other party to teaching. One party teaches, one party learns.

Following that line of thought, I believed that learning was something you did during school, or specifically at academic institutions. It was much less a skill to be mastered than a procedure to be followed.

I feel that the above summarizes most students’ attitudes towards learning – they see it as something they do while in school, then sparsely afterwards.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. What I learned was that far more important than whatyou learned at university and in school was howto learn.

I Learned That the How was Much More Important Than the What

I learned that how to learn was much more important that what we learned.

Not to undersell what you will learn in university, but much of it will be largely academic and of little value in the real world. What you learn will be rapidly outdated (at an ever increasing rate) and rapidly replaced.

Far more important than what you learn will be your continual development and understanding of how to learn: you will quite literally learn how to learn over the next four years.

Most students pay no direct attention to how to learn – they have developed a couple skills or strategies and they seem to be, for the most part, effective.

However, as the old passage goes – good enough is the enemy of great. As students get by, they feel no need to reflect on their learning strategies and processes, and thus never fully refine and polish the process.

The second flaw in perception is to think that this process is only valuable during school and university. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your ability to learn rapidly, absorb, and implement will be a major boon for your professional and personal life.

If anything, the valuable learning begins only after you have left university. This is when you start to learn information and tactics that will be directly applicable to your field of study. This is when you get a real education that can be used in the real world. Additionally, this is when all the supports that helped you learn are removed – you are told to ride your bike without the training wheels.

So, more than anything, it is important to learn how to learn while at university. Master the process – learn how to absorb the core arguments and theories, question them, and then implement them. Learn how to absorb independently, how to process and synthesize, and how to direct your own learning. Master the art of learning, and the rest will flow naturally.

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