The American moral and social philosopher Eric Hoffer once observed that, “in times of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
In today’s fast-changing world driven by the exponential curve of technological innovation, formal education is no longer enough to adapt and thrive. We must also educate ourselves by continually upgrading our knowledge and skills so that we can become early adopters of valuable new ideas and technologies.
The 21st century knowledge-based economy rewards the curious lifelong learners who challenge the status quo in inventive ways while automating the routine and formulaic with robots and software algorithms. As a result, what matters most today are uniquely human capabilities that can’t be easily automated such as creativity, storytelling, passion, curiosity and social intelligence.
As Steve Jobs once observed, creativity is just connecting things. The more you learn, explore and challenge yourself, the more creative you will become. By focusing on what inspires and motivates you, you can master the art of lifelong learning and turn the obstacles life throws at you into opportunities.
Here are my recommendations for mastering the process of lifelong learning:
1. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day for quiet reading time.
Schedule at least 30 minutes each day to focus on reading books (or ebooks) without any interruptions. I do this as part of my evening routine to wind down before I go to bed. This daily reading habit allows me enough time to read about 2 books a month, which adds up to 24 books a year.
2. Spend your commuting time listening to audiobooks and podcasts.
If you’re like me and you sit a lot at a computer, then listening to audiobooks and podcasts is the perfect way to combine learning with physical activity. Try listening to them when you’re commuting and establish a routine of going on long walks in a relaxing natural settings where you can dedicate a couple hours to deep listening.
3. Schedule a block of 3 hours each week to take online courses.
To successfully complete online courses, you should create a self-directed learning plan to schedule your time and make yourself accountable. My goal is to complete one online course per month. I’m able to achieve this by scheduling a dedicated block of 3 hours each week where I can dedicate myself to focusing on online learning.
4. Stop watching TV and watch documentaries instead.
I highly recommend watching documentaries each week as a way to discover new things and get inspired to dig deeper and learn more. Documentary films are a great way to expand your horizons by learning about a wide range of subjects such as history, religion, politics, psychology, sociology, economics and technological change.
5. Seek out other self-motivated individuals following a creative path.
I strongly believe in Jim Rohm’s maxim that you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. If you want to live an epic life then you must surround yourself with artists, free thinkers, teachers, explorers and entrepreneurs. Go to meetups, conferences, workshops, social mixers, hackathons, co-working spaces and retreats.
6. Take one person that interests you out for lunch each week.
One of the things that surprised me when I set off to travel the world is how most cultures think it’s weird to eat alone. Food is meant to be shared so why not set aside at least one lunch a week to cultivate new friendships and learn from other people’s stories. Your LinkedIn network is a good place to start and if you offer to pay most people will say yes.
7. Find a coach or mentor who does what you want to do.
If you want to learn a new skill at an accelerated pace, you should learn from someone who is a practicing master. Hire a coach that will keep you accountable to your goals and help you to break through life’s obstacles and level up your inner game. You should also make the effort to build reciprocal relationships with older entrepreneurs in your community and find a long term mentor.
8. Act immediately on what you learn and develop your own creative projects.
One of the most effective lifelong learning habits is working diligently to reduce the gap of time between having a new idea and putting it into action. Start your own creative projects and side hustles to actively share your ideas and educate others on the value you can offer them. Focus on identifying needs and problems in the world that you can solve with your expertise.
9. Make your life an adventure and be open to all kinds of new experiences.
Go meditate for a month in a mountaintop monastery, join a political, social or religious movement, or immerse yourself in a foreign culture to gain a more global perspective. There is no better education than leaving the known world behind and traveling to faraway lands. It will challenge your prejudices and allow you to view your culture with more insight.
10. Make the effort to become an excellent public speaker.
There are few skills more valuable than being able to tell a captivating story and deliver an engaging presentation on a stage. When you have the courage to speak in front of a crowd, you magnify your influence. Public speaking also helps you grow by forcing you to face your most primal fear: the fear of social rejection. Joining a local Toastmasters chapter is a good place to start.
Start designing your own education.
I hope this lifelong learning guide gives you some ideas to design your own education and make focused learning and educating yourself a bigger part of your weekly routine.
What’s your favorite method of lifelong learning? Please let me know in the comments.