The Desire to Learn


Our world is changing more than ever. I think we are at another phase where technology will advance rapidly. It seems as though technology expands in quick bursts. We have artificial intelligence expanding rapidly, self-driving vehicles are getting more advanced, and automation is becoming the norm in numerous industries. I talked about this in my post about A World Run by Robots.

What is so important about this?

It is going to change the dynamics of the global economy and job market. Overall world standard of living should rise because of technological advancements but there will be individual winners and losers.

I think the key to standing out will be knowledge. Particularly knowledge that is useful in the changing economy – especially in your field of work. That is why I place the desire to learn and learning in general near the top of my list to achieving financial freedom. Yes, saving money and investing prudently is important. However, without constantly trying to learn and advance your knowledge in your field, you may not be able to earn money. Making saving money irrelevant.

Learning can be done in various ways:

  • There is of course formal education – attending college, university, trade school, etc…
  • There is reading and learning on your own which is harder to do but it can be powerful. This has often been termed deliberate practice because you are learning or doing something on your own. No one is forcing you to do it. This type of learning is painful but powerful.
  • There are also other skills we learn from actually going out there, and doing and experimenting – learning on the job, getting out of your comfort zone, networking, getting thrown into the fire, and hustling for opportunities. I refer to these as street skills because you get out there in the world. You are not confined to academia. There are plenty of people who never went to school or dropped out of school, but went on to achieve great things such as Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Ellen Degeneres, and the list goes on and on. The point is that formal post-secondary education is not a prerequisite to success (but it certainly can help).

If we keep our minds open and keep trying to gain more and more knowledge, it is hard not to achieve success. There are setbacks along the way but our thirst for knowledge pushes us forward. I think a lot of this desire to learn should be focused on your field of work. Trying to become an expert in what you do will put you in the top 10% of your field. Of course, you have to choose your field wisely. But even then with the desire to keep learning, you can switch to a different career path. Vera Wang was a journalist before entering fashion at the age of 40, Ronald Reagan was a so-so movie actor before he became President at age 69, and Ray Kroc spent years stumbling around as a milkshake maker salesmen before helping McDonald’s grow exponentially in his 50s. Part of the reason these people were able to achieve this type of success was because of perseverance but there was a whole lot of learning to do when they entered new fields.

Look at Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Buffett is in his late 80’s and Munger is in his early 90’s. Their minds are as sharp as ever. Why? Because of their desire to keep learning. They read all the time. They soak in new knowledge. They are always on the lookout for new investments, which is their line of work.  If two guys this old can keep learning, there is no reason someone half their age cannot.

I think retraining people who have been laid off from manufacturing jobs in Canada and the US, and around the world is key. I think governments and former employers should help these people acquire new knowledge. But at the same time, these people need to help themselves. They have to want to learn something new. The old jobs are not coming back. Technology does not work backwards. Humans may do so, but not technology. It is about acquiring expertise in a new trade and moving forward. Constantly learning.

Even if one is perfectly content with their career and it is not disappearing any time soon, learning can still be fun. Reading can be fun. It keeps the mind active. Brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change throughout life and build new neurons (connections) in response to mental activity. One of the things that can improve brain function is to learn new things throughout life and be thoroughly engaged in what you are learning. Not only does this make you smarter but it makes life more fun.


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