No matter who you are, today is the day to learn something new.
Have you found yourself spinning your wheels with a sense of frustration or lack of passion for what you are doing? If you're reading this, you have the power to forge a path for yourself.
Are you tired of feeling like you can never catch up, or like the work you produce is less-than-spectacular? If you're reading this, you have the opportunity to get ahead and start producing excellently.
Are you stuck in your career? Searching for a hobby? Maybe you're simply bored? Today, I hope to challenge and inspire you to dive headfirst into the world of education, and to not look back for the rest of your life.
Why We Are Happiest When We Are Learning
Learning is a basic function of the human mind. When we are born, we immediately begin learning. Even the most simple functions of our everyday lives were at once entirely foreign, but because of the way our minds are structured, we have an ingrained ability to capture information and use it in unique ways.
As we get older, our surroundings stabilize; we slow our rate of learning, and shift into functional mode. Traditional popular culture propagates the unfortunate message that we should only pursue 18 to 22 years of intentional learning.
Here's a question you might not have asked yourself before today: Why did we choose the age of 22 to stop formalized learning?
Perhaps at one point, this was the minimum number of years before a person was physically and mentally mature, and had acquired enough domain specific knowledge to be useful to the workforce. Or maybe this is the age at which the rate of learning slowed because of a lack of resources, and so people determined that their time was better spent practicing their trade. Or maybe it's just the number that seemed appropriate at the time.
But today, things have changed.
Today, the word "school" doesn't have to appear in the same sentence as "education". Education is no longer necessarily confined to the traditional model of sitting in a classroom twice a week. Here are five ways that the landscape of education has changed, and why it's the perfect time to become a lifelong learner.
1. Because of the Internet, Education Isn't Just About a Degree Anymore
Eric Schmidt said in 2010 that:
"every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003".
This is an incredible amount of information, and that was four years ago! Access to the Internet and mobile devices is growing every day, so that rate has almost certainly increased. The most amazing part, however, is that nearly all of us have relatively unlimited access to the majority of this information on the open web.
This massive amount of information means that education is no longer guarded by textbooks and classrooms; knowledge is shared on almost any subject you can imagine, often for free or for a very low price. Degrees and university programs no longer hold the monopoly on learning.
What this means for you is that you can learn about anything you want, any time you want, anywhere you want. All it takes is commitment! No application required.
This change has caused a shift in the way the world views education. The freedom of knowledge has made the value of experience higher, and the value of a degree lower.
Note: we are not saying traditional university education isn't worthwhile. We are simply saying that education doesn't amount to simply receiving a diploma; for the first time in history, the most important part of your education is about what you learn and how you use it!
2. Self-guided Education is for Everyone
If you've read this far, perhaps you're already convinced that you want to become a lifelong learner, but you don't want to start your own path until after you finish your college or high school degree. Or maybe you're already pursuing formalized education after work to seek a promotion or job-specific skills. Or maybe you think you're too young or too old to begin learning.
For everyone I've discussed in this paragraph, self-guided, lifelong learning is for you! If you're young, you're never too young to pursue the things you are interested in.
Far too often, people don't pursue self-guided education for a number of unfortunate circumstances. Older individuals often feel as though education is something that is only meant for people pursuing career interests; this couldn't be further from the truth! Becoming a lifelong learner isn't about making money; it's about interacting and gaining knowledge about activities you love to do and subjects you love to discuss. This is why you can adopt self guided learning if you're already in school; it's something that you can do at your own pace, in your free time. Young students too often get burnt out on education because the subject matter they are going through in a formalized classroom isn't interesting to them. But self-guided learning has a major advantage over institutional learning:
"You pick what to learn."
This may be a controversial statement, but it ultimately is what makes lifelong learning such an enjoyable practice to adopt. If you want to become an expert guitar player and you're 12 years old, guess what? You're in luck. There are a ton of online resources for you to take advantage of, for free, right now! Or maybe you want to learn programming and build an iPhone app or design your first website; there's a load of content out there on that, as well. Of course, you're already reading about this on Tuts+ Web Design - be sure to take a look around here for plenty of amazing learning resources.
It's not just broad skills or hobbies either; you can also learn more much more abstract and opinionated subjects, such as what it means to be "manly" or how to become an incredible parent.
And then there's also traditional academia that has come to the web. Did you finish your degree, but wish you had taken that extra humanities course? Or maybe you want a more formalized approach to learning online. Did you know that you can sit in on in hundreds of online courses from some of the best schools in the world online, for free? Take a look at the institutions that partner with Coursera, as well as the ones that partner with edX.
There's even a course for learning how to learn. Hopefully by now you realize that there's something out there for everyone.
3. Lifelong Learning Doesn't Come With a Syllabus
If you think you don't have time, think again. Learning online can happen anywhere. Do you have a smartphone? You have everything you need to watch or read educational content.
Want to skip a chapter? Or maybe take a year long sabbatical and write a book? Perhaps you want to attend class only at six in the morning on Tuesdays, or switch to an entirely different class right in the middle of the course.
When you are guiding your own learning experience, all of these things are 100% completely acceptable. You are the author of your education. This is incredibly empowering! It gives you the opportunity to make decisions about how your brain will grow.
4. Lifelong Learners Are Also More Likely to Become Lifelong Teachers
A good teacher knows their subject inside and out. When you adopt lifelong learning, you have access to become a part of the educational space that you might never have thought possible. Have you ever wanted to be known as an expert on any given subject? What better way to become an expert than by becoming the educator?
Sharing your knowledge with the world not only identifies you as an authority on a given subject, but it also often turns into career opportunities in a particular field that may never have been available had you not cultivated your knowledge of that field.
5. Education is Essential to Earning Power
While degrees are still shown to have an effect on a person's salary especially when starting out their career, a commitment to lifelong learning can provide you with trade skills that could be leveraged into a promotion or side income beyond your base job.
Whether you've been wondering what you can do with your freetime to better your life, or you simply want to gain more earning power, lifelong learning and pursuit of knowledge is an endeavour that is always worth pursuing. Challenge yourself to learn something new every day, even if it is as simple of a commitment as watching a 5 minute video here on Tuts+. You'll be surprised at how many doors start opening because of your new path.