Have you ever seen the “Rabbit-Duck Illusion?” Depending on your perspective you either see a rabbit or a duck within the same illustration. (How I Met Your Mother featured this in an episode)
If you haven’t, just know it proves that a simple shift mentally can create a whole new picture. It’s incredibly simple, but very powerful.
And when I shifted my perspective on how I was learning throughout my life, it changed everything for me…
When you’re in school, learning is required. It is in an involuntary activity that is force fed to you. This is both good and bad. It’s mandatory that you go to school at a young age (which is a good thing), because you need the guidance and accountability.
When you get older and attempt to get your Bachelors or your Masters, you are most likely “learning” to get a degree. Yes, you may learn something valuable, but that really isn’t the main purpose. The goal is a piece of paper that will hopefully convey to an employer that you are competent. Years of “learning” to display your competency.
Heck, my Dad even always told me “companies are just looking for the fact you have a degree.” He basically planted the idea that what I studied, what I was trying to mentally digest and comprehend was almost irrelevant. I suppose I understand why he believed that (it was ingrained through his personal experience) but it set a terrible precedent.
It’s harmful because it places education and learning in the wrong perspective.
Go back to when you were young, like REALLY young. Learning is dynamic and purposeful. You learn so you can improve as a functional human. It was necessary, challenging, yet rewarding.
You learned to talk so you could communicate your needs and eventually connect with the other humans around you. Not to get a “talking certificate.”
You learned to walk so you could be mobile and independent. Not to get a “walking certificate.”
Why don’t we view our experiences and the information we consume in the same way?
Obviously there is a place in our society for degrees, but did that system teach us the incorrect way to learn? And did it teach us to truly gain value from what we learned?
After college, I was running my own business, trying to survive each week and move things forward. I knew I had to gain more knowledge and experience, but logically there was no point in going back to school. I was the boss and I didn’t need to impress a manager with a degree or a resume.
I simply needed to learn for the sake of learning. So I recognized I needed to devote myself to learning purely for the power, knowledge and experience. And that shift changed everything.
When I approached learning as an opportunity and not a requirement, I began to thrive.
I began reading more than ever. I invested in myself through books, e-courses, webinars, audio courses, presentations, and more. Every page, every CD, every minute of video watched was an opportunity for me to grow as a person and as a business owner. I finally embraced learning as an opportunity. There was a quiet confidence that blossomed because of this.
It sounds so simple because it is. I use to see rabbit, now I see duck. And frankly, it has changed my life moving forward. Now:
A. I see opportunity differently
Quickly, I realized that my new perspective was empowering. I now would be experiencing things differently and I was in control of where I was going. Learning creates opportunity which created freedom.
Learning is the car that lets you choose the road, the route, the speed, and the final destination. Too many people just hop a bus that is driven by someone else, without any clear picture of where they want to go. Unfortunately, if you choose this, you will end up at some bus stop, in a town you don’t want to be, asking yourself “how did I get here?”
B. I embrace challenge
Challenge is another form of learning, and therefore another opportunity for me. Events and circumstance that would normally frustrate me transform into a chance to improve. The more I look through my frustrations, the more I learn and grow.
It has helped me regulate and control my emotions. Although I still have work to do!
So now I actively look for ways to challenge myself as a business owner, a man, a husband, a father, etc.
C. I enjoy the process
The change in perspective allows me to look at the path more and not just the destination. The traditional reward based learning (like college) is overly focused on the end, with not enough attention on how you get there. But that’s the best part. Working through thoughts and ideas and applying them to your specific problem creates the skills that will help down the road.
And I have fun learning! There is a joy within personal education and improvement that is entirely unique. It’s not entertainment because it’s not a distraction. However it is fun and both externally and internally rewarding.
It was also clear that what I learn today may not help me today. But it could help tomorrow. Or next month. Or even next year. This new perspective helped my perspective.
D. I am less of an observer of the world and more an active participant
I hate to sound cliche, but there is so much to learn and experience in this world. Now that I am actively pursuing this, I feel like I have “joined the club.”
Embracing learning is an experience within itself. And that experience has allows me to better understand things I would have never thought before.
So take a moment now and really ask yourself, “Am I learning this out of requirement? or because I want to?
Even if you are “required” to learn because of your current circumstance (school, renew certifications, etc.) doesn’t me you have to approach it that way! Approach your education with opportunity.
I look back on my time in school with a hint of regret because I didn’t attack learning with the sense of purpose I have today. I don’t regret going to college and I don’t want to discourage it. Rather, I want to encourage you to take an in-depth view on how you used to learn and how you learn now.
I am grateful that I found my passion for learning early (before 30). Yet I am slightly regretful that I didn’t find it even earlier.
This sounds like common sense (and it should be), but I can guarantee most of us have fallen into this trap of “required learning” and lost our way. Consider this your wake up. We all have years and years ahead of us, ideally. I know will be spending every singe one of them learning. And learning as an opportunity.
A opportunity to:
- To teach
- To leverage
- To help
If you are on GenYAlive.com then I assume you at least have a sliver of interest in learning for the right reasons. I commend you for that, and I hope the rest of our peers begin to follow our lead.