Learning For The Challenge of It20 May 2015 | by Scott Nesbitt
Take a moment to think about why you learn something.
Far too often, we learn things because we need to pick up knowledge or skills to better do our jobs. Or, we see learning something new as a way to advance our careers in the future.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But a utilitarian end shouldn’t be your only motivation for learning something. You can try learning something for the sake of learning it. You should also try to learn something for the challenge of it.
Why Do It?
There’s far more to life than work. There’s so much to learn that doesn’t involved advancing your career or making you a better employee. Why not do something for yourself? Something you enjoy? Something where there’s no pressure to succeed?
Mainly, it’s an opportunity to push beyond your usual boundaries. It’s an opportunity to explore a subject that you normally wouldn’t or wouldn’t have a chance to. One that will expand your mind, expand your experience, and push you in ways that you usually don’t get pushed.
What to Learn?
That’s up to you. Think about what interests you. Find a course, whether online or in person. Then jump in.
What you decide to learn can be anything from how to build a website to learning about a period in history that interests you. You could learn the rudiments of a foreign language or how to write a short story.
What you learn can be physical, too. You could learn a martial art, start doing parkour, or learn the basics of carpentry.
A Few Personal Examples
For the longest time, I took the utilitarian view of learning that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Picking up those skills helped me do my job better, but the whole process seemed a bit hollow at times. So, in the last year I started learning things because I wanted to challenge myself.
As you may or may not know, I have a degree in journalism. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in that field, but I still have an attachment to it. One area I’ve been interested in is data journalism. So, last year, I did an online course in the basics of data journalism. That course forced my to think about data, to learn a few new skills and concepts, and to use math a lot more than I have in the last 30 years.
To be honest, I’m not a great photographer. Never have been, probably never will. But I decided to learn the rudiments of digital photography. While I wasn’t able to finish the course, it did push me in several ways. I needed constantly think about how . And it was fun trying to find interesting takes on ways to photograph the commonplace.
Next year, I’m hoping to learn how to sea kayak. It’s something I’ve never done and which I’m sure will push me physically.
What If I Fail?
So what if you do? There’s nothing on the line when you’re learning for yourself. Not completing a course, or not doing well in it, won’t lose you that promotion. It won’t cripple your career. It might bruise your ego a bit, but you can recover from that.
Anyway, no one says you need to finish what you started or become a jedi/ninja/rockstar/superhero. You might find you’re not as interested in a course or subject as you thought you might be. There’s no shame in quitting. In fact, it might take a while for you to find something you’re really interested in and which will challenge you.
Learning is important. Learning to challenge yourself is important, too. There don’t have to be any stakes or consequences. You just need to be willing to push yourself and you just need an open, inquisitive mind.
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