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Hungry for Learning

“I’ve learned that I’m technologically behind. I’m a dinosaur!” That was Diem on the first day of a conference she attended. “It’s been an interesting day. Tomorrow will have different adventures!” That was Diem only eight hours later. We took from that that you can never be too excited about learning! The who and when don’t matter that much. Both of us have been to literally hundreds of conferences, seminars, and one-off meetings. All of them had both of us making similar statements as likely had you at some time. But these were particularly memorable lines and deserve to be remembered. Sometimes it takes a series of meetings to see you need to polish your skills, but most often, learning about what we need to learn comes naturally and organically as we practice those skills and see which need a little polishing, be they work skills or life skills. And they can always use a bit of polish.

 

There is nothing wrong with feeling you are a little behind everyone else in something. Usually that translates into you being ahead of the curve in something else. It’s part of why we (we=Diem and Michael) make a good team, one feasting off the other’s strengths while using both sets of strengths to the team’s benefit. It is also why we (we= everyone in the whole world) make a good team, because there is always somebody who knows something that you need to know better than you know it. The difficult part is accepting that you don’t know everything and that it takes the collective we to be the best version of ourselves to make us the best collective we can be. If that seems a bit circuitous, it is meant to be. Learning itself is a never-ending circle. We are always on a path of learning.

 

Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Many people have said, “Learning lasts a lifetime,” and we would add, “You live a full lifetime through learning.” The world is propelled by unstoppable changes, each year adding newer, sometimes better ways of doing what you are already doing. You can continue to do things “the old way,” or you can up your game by learning which of the new skills will add to your life if you learn and adopt them.

 

In his 1986 book A Guidebook to Learning: For a Lifelong Pursuit of Wisdom, American philosopher Mortimer Adler wrote, “The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live.” Thirty years later research has discovered that our minds can grow not only mentally but the brain itself as a body part can continue to grow through learning. In addition to the obvious benefits of learning (acquiring new information, new skills, and more efficient uses of already acquired skills), learning also has clear, and now documented physical benefits and it contributes to the quality and possibly length of life. Ruth Flexman, PhD, Delaware Osher (Lifelong Learning Institute) Program Coordinator, wrote in her 2021 article, “Lifelong Learning: A Key Weapon in Delaware’s Fight Against Cognitive Decline” [Delaware Journal of Public Health, Sept. 7, 2021], “Lifestyle choices and brain-healthy behaviors make a difference. The brain can create new brain cells and connections throughout life...Current research on mental stimulation has demonstrated the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. [Those] who engage in lifelong mentally and socially stimulating activities reduce their risk for cognitive decline.” Learning can also increase the quality of life, adding new stimulation to your everyday activities as you consider opportunities to evaluate and improve those activities of daily living.

 

Being stimulated by hearing or reading or seeing something new in any typical day may be one of the easiest things we can do. The next easiest thing is to remember what that something new was and how you felt excited by hearing or reading or seeing it the next day. Staying with that, it’s not very hard then to incorporated what you heard, read, or saw on the third day. By then, you have made it a part of your lifelong learning cycle! Vernon Howard, author and founder of the New Life Foundation said, “Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will." Diem embodied that thought when she went from being a dinosaur to being a dinosaur hungry for learning. We should all develop such an appetite.

 



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You two have hit a very obvious nail on the head. Do you all remember the Curious George books? The little monkey who always got into trouble and the man in the yellow hat had to rescue him? I like the idea of what you're saying--stay curious, stay mentally adventurous, mindfully aware. The thing I always loved about George was that, if something interested him, nothing deterred him from learning more about it. Even if it got him in trouble. I think the need for ongoing learning is such a need to get us out of the rut of screens, short sentences, and becoming mental midgets because we don't keep pushing ourselves ahead to learn new things. I love the…

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Old Curious George! Every inquisitive child’s favorite monkey, and quite a few parents’ also.  Yes, it is obvious, but all too often it is the obvious that escapes us and that is why we’ve fallen prey to electronic screens and short sentences. We think the best news is that mental exercising has been proven to be as much a part of healthy aging as physical. No argument now that we help ourselves live a long life when we, in your words, “stay curious, stay mentally adventurous, mindfully aware.” Oh the man in the yellow hat will have his hands full now! 

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