Educated (2): How to learn to learn

As the pace of technological change accelerates, we will spend most of our lives as – in Kevin Kelly’s words – perpetual newbies. Even so-called “digital natives” will find themselves out of their comfort zones in a few short years, jealous of how the next generation seems to find the newest technology so easy.

In this context, the ability to learn becomes a fundamental skill. There are books and videos and podcasts on how to learn – many of them useful. But I think the fundamentals of life-long learning consist of the following:

  1. You have to want it. Curiosity and the desire to know and try and do will take you a long way.
  2. You will have to fail. It’s inevitable and unavoidable and we can’t fear it. We need to understand that the only person who will look stupid in the long run is the person who fails to try and fail and look stupid.
  3. With (1) and (2) as your foundation, you’ll learn to learn best by doing lots of learning, especially by having a go at loads of things. Try new hobbies (especially those unrelated to your existing hobbies); read books outside your areas of expertise; go to new places; acquire new skills; get people to go five answers deep into what they do and how and why… It’s amazing how quickly you learn through immersion, and how much you learn in the first few hours of being a fish out of water. Your aim is first to grow, second to enjoy yourself, and third to acquire structural literacy in new areas.
  4. Then share what you know – talk about it, show off, teach other people – maybe even blog about it. These are the best ways to cement what you do know, and to find the holes in what you think you know. If you can’t do a magic trick (or juggling trick, or INSERT SKILL HERE) in front of an audience, you can’t really do it.

Go forth, faff around and explore!

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...