I’ve always loved to learn.
I remember sitting in the local coffee shop when I was 7, my dad was at another chess tournament. The woman behind the counter came out with my raspberry Italian soda, and asked me what I was reading.”I’m reading about the laws of thermodynamics”. I still remember how her brow furled. It made me happy.
I read everything I could get my hands on. Old sci-fi, new sci-fi, travel books, classics, math, science… everything. Between that and the trumpet I was playing, I fancied myself a young renaissance man.
The Day Stopped Learning.
I hit the peak of my vocabulary around fifth grade, and I don’t think I ever caught up with where I was then. If I ever meet my fifth grade self, I’ll have to challenge him to a game of scrabble.
Around fifth grade, I was tired of being different. I was a weird, introverted little kid. I’d read Tolkien in first grade, and Steven Hawking in second. I was tired of not fitting in, so I started playing Super Nintendo and stopped reading quite so much.
Over the last four years, I’ve come full circle. I read quite a bit, but I’m definitely not one of those super geniuses. I’m probably more like you. Not a genius, not lazy… but something else entirely. Here are three things that make me different from my fifth grade ‘learning for learning’s sake’ self.
1. Knowledge must pay rent.
maybe when I was 7, I could afford to sink 20 hours into a book just because it made me feel smart.
Now though? It better lead somewhere. I intend to learn about local edible plants, since I might need that skill. I intend to learn more about Chinese herbalism and field first aid. Even rudimentary healing abilities are extremely useful.
I intend to continue learning Japanese and Chinese, and I have plans to go to live in China and use it within the next 12 months.
I am actively pursuing marketing, psychology, and all kinds of ‘influence’ skills. It’s completely changed my life. Everything in life is different now, and the whole world is alive with possibility.
There are things out there that are like that. Knowing certain things will completely change your world. When you don’t have a lot of time and space, any knowledge that wants to make it’s home in you had better have something to offer for your trouble than “7 letter word for ‘battery type’ in the daily crosswords.
Here’s the cool thing. If you’re looking for how to apply what you’re learning, suddenly almost everything can get more useful. Steven King? Awesome writer and communicator. You can use that. Television shows? Being able to film, select shots, pace a scene, there’s some real value in being able to work with a film crew to put a piece together. Especially if you have any entrepreneurial aspirations, film is a useful skill.
The important thing, is just to start demanding more from what you learn.
2. Knowledge must inspire.
Action is where ideas take shape and become solid. It’s when learning goes from being a mostly selfish, isolated hobby to a powerful world changing use of your time.
One of the most powerful impacts you can make, is to either inspire, or to be inspired. I love being a storyteller, and I love seeing people’s eyes light up. If you can do that, there was real value there.
If you’re reading something, it doesn’t need to lead to a new skill necessarily. It’s enough if it inspires you to be more grateful, more loving, more passionate about following your dreams. What you learn doesn’t need to lead to action, but at the very least it better be helping to shape you into the person you want to become.
3. Knowledge isn’t the end all be all.
Knowledge is power, but it’s not the only kind of power.
The biggest difference between who I am now and who I was when I was young, is the way I value community. Books are really, really powerful… but they’re not enough.
I don’t read as much now as I used to, and I probably never will again. There are too many things to see, too many people to talk to, and too many items on my bucket list that need crossin’ out.
I used to feel a little embarrassed when I didn’t know a word, or when I got some science trivia wrong. I wanted to know everything!
Now though? I know it’s not what you know. For that matter, it’s not who you know. It’s not even about who knows you.
It’s who you are, and it’s how that guides what you do. First and foremost, know thyself. Are you a healer? A communicator? However you want to see yourself, find the purest, most hardcore way to live that. Find others who embody those traits and skills you want, and never accept second-rate. That’s where the pursuit of knowledge has it’s place.
Being ‘smart’ is just another kind of mental masturbation if you only use it to find a little meaning while you’re living a marginal life.
“If you love life, then don’t waste time. Time is what life is made up of.” – Bruce Lee
Choose your teachers and your books well my friends.
I’m neck deep in another Dan Kennedy book. What are you reading right now? I’ve got a ridiculously cool reading list any aspiring marketers should get moving on… is anyone interested in an article on that?