So, after university, did my education continue? Of course. The military. Then I had to re-educate myself about computer science when I re-entered the civilian work space. I did an MBA on line. My position running various divisions of a Japanese multi-national was a real world education that put the MBA to good use. Then I have learned a lot in my semi-retirement. But recently (a few years ago) I rediscovered the joy of learning.
I made the comment to my roommate the other day, that even at the age of 55 (which of course is not old) it is exhilarating to me to that there so many things still to learn in the world. Not just about other subjects, but I feel that it is never too late to learn things about yourself as a person.
Sometimes I make the joke that the number of things about which I seem to know less and less, grows more and more with each passing day. And it is a joke, I guess, in some manner, but it's also, for me, a really cool thing.
What I find myself regretting sometimes is that I haven’t learned nearly as much as I want to, and I worry about not having enough time to learn as much as I would like. But in today's world, I think we have a greater opportunity than ever before in the history of mankind to be able to learn. I am constantly amazed at the number of freely available courses that are available on the Internet where you can learn anything. Languages, mathematics, economics, history, the list just goes on and on. I would like to put in a small plug here for KhanAcademy.org. I have no relationship with them at all. I was just so impressed with what this guy put together, as, I believe, a nonprofit organization, for the purposes of learning. And anybody can login and just start learning. For free! That is just simply amazing.
I realize that when I talk about accessibility to learning, I am talking about people with access to the Internet, or books. And in some cases, and in many parts of the world, that is not actually available. However, for a very large portion of the world's population it is available. When I take time to think about it I am stunned by what seems to be the relatively low number of people who take advantage of it. Although, as the picture shows, I have to agree with Einstein’s quote.
I don't want to sound like a dinosaur, but I only recently discovered YouTube. Now, why did I just barely discover YouTube? Because my impression of YouTube was that this is where you went to watch funny cat videos and other mind destroying, time wasting, junk food for the mind. It was only in the last year or so that I discovered it was absolutely the go to place for totally free educational videos of almost any description. And since I have discovered that I use it constantly. But unfortunately, I think most people do use it for visual junk food, and not for education.
And I don’t always concentrate on new subjects. I recently in KhanAcademy.org started going through mathematics, chemistry, and physics right from the beginning. I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science with a minor in physics and chemistry. But it is so cool to be able to go back through all that material and refresh what I thought I already knew. Because of course, one forgets. I am also trying to learn Spanish although that goes in fits and starts depending upon my work schedule.
I've seen expressed in many places that studying is a way to keep your mind fresh. I totally believe that. I have Alzheimer's in my family… I think. Hard to tell since both parents were terminal alcoholics and it was hard to separate the damage from alcohol from the Alzheimer's but still it is something that I worry about. And I have seen again and again that studying is something that can help keep your mind sharp. I believe it falls under the category of “use it or lose it”.
A few years ago, I withdrew into myself. I didn't socialize, I only read books, I didn't really go online, I didn't try to talk to people. Not a good thing. So as part of my ongoing learning process I have gotten back out online. This blog and being on Facebook is part of that. I must admit I am not a Facebook junkie. I try to limit my exposure there. I am still highly suspicious of social media. However, it is good to be able to see what other people say and think (although sometimes that is depressing as well). But in truth, I think that along with learning, socialization and communication is part of keeping your mind fresh.
I will freely admit, it takes discipline to learn. And it takes discipline to keep at it. I fail all the time. I’m too tired, I’m busy, I’m stressed … yes, I get it. But that isn’t an excuse to not try to get back to learning.
In closing I just really want to say that I think that learning is and should be a lifelong endeavor. And I am so glad that I live in a time when it is so incredibly easy to be able to learn almost anything that you want to learn. And I feel that people who do not take advantage of this to the full extent possible are seriously losing out on an enormous opportunity in life. And there is no excuse for NOT implementing constant learning as part of your lifestyle. I live in country where a lot of the population seems to be constantly glued to their smart phones. Unfortunately, they are either playing games or watching the moronic TV game shows or soap operas that dominate the local TV media. I find that really sad and I wish there was a way to change it.
Oh … and one last thing – pay it back. If there is something you know about, try teaching. Put a video together and publish it on YouTube. Write a book. Who knows? You might find you harbor a hidden talent. This is something my good friend Heather has encouraged me to do. And I will Heather. I promise.
Some sites to check out:
Udacity or Udemy
www.brainscape.com – a great flash card tool to help with memorization