🧠 Be A Lifelong Learner

Renaissance Life Principle #2: Be A Lifelong Learner — Become a student of life by investing in yourself and continuously seeking knowledge and wisdom.

🧠 Be A Lifelong Learner
Creative via MidJourney

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”Leonardo da Vinci

Somewhere along the way, learning became rote and boring. Wisdom and experience were traded for facts and figures. The “why” in learning something was replaced with “what” to learn.

I'm generalizing, of course. This isn't universal. But there's some truth to Mark Twain's saying, “Don't let schooling interfere with your education.” School teaches us many valuable things, but the “why” of it all is often forgotten. Learn math, but why? English is important—but why should I care? “Why” is replaced with grades and GPAs. This is fine, but usually leads to min/maxing, and eventually, the reason for learning things is lost in the race to do well on paper.

There's a disconnect between what we learn and the value of learning it.

Ideally, the value is conveyed in a way that aligns with things we are personally interested in, and/or the opportunities that come from mastering a subject.

Why should I care about math? Well, did you know that math subjects like Trigonometry, Geometry, Probability, and Algebra are used to build video games? Did you know Linear algebra is essential to understanding and building AI like Chat-GPT?

Attaching real-world values to what we are learning is vital to thriving in that skill.

There's a certain type of passiveness that comes with education. Why I'm not sure. Perhaps it comes with being forced to learn things. Or maybe having great teachers makes or breaks our desire to learn. Whatever the case, my goal isn't to diss school, rather, to show that school is just one application of learning. Self-education is where the magic is. Declaring yourself as a “lifelong learner” lights a fire in your eyes. It gives you to change and become who you dream of being.

Beyond having a reason to learn something, there's also the fact that learning itself can bring us joy and happiness.

If you want to thrive and stay ahead in life, becoming a lifelong learner is key.

That's why being a lifelong learner is essential to build a Renaissance Life.

Renaissance Life Principle #2: Be A Lifelong Learner

This starts with the belief that there is always room to learn something new and improve in things you love. Or, said differently, approaching life with a “beginner's mindset”, aka being open to new ideas, and bringing a strong level of enthusiasm and humility to what you are learning. Even better would be to approach things with childlike wonder—leading with curiosity without the baggage of assumptions and preconceived notions. If you think there's nothing else you need to learn about writing, for example, there's no room for improvement. An “expert's mindset” is closed off. A “master's mindset” is always focused on more things to learn and improve.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa - Wikipedia
The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai

The artist, Hokusai, embodied the principle of lifelong learning. You've likely seen his art, such as his famous piece, The Great Wave off Kanagawa. At the age of 75, he wrote:

“...until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At 73 years I was somewhat able to fathom the growth of plants and trees, and the structure of birds, animals, insects, and fish. Thus when I reach 80 years, I hope to have made increasing progress, and at 90 to see further into the underlying principles of things, so that at 100 years I will have achieved a divine state in my art, and at 110, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive. Those of you who live long enough, bear witness that these words of mine are not false.”

Lifelong learning is the foundational principle of believing there is always room to learn something new and improve in things you love. When we start thinking we have nothing else to learn, we begin to plateau and eventually will feel stuck.

Over time, it's easy to get stuck in old ways of thinking and doing. Think of it like your brain operating system is still on Windows XP, while the world's moved on to an OS that's 100x the power. We never stop learning as we get older, but some do give up and stop caring. (Again, this is likely because of the disconnect between what we are learning and why we should learn it.)

Nowadays, that's a luxury we can't afford. When new technology is continuously changing what skills are relevant, then we must also continue to learn.

Why Become a Livelong Learner?

It Allows You to Take Ownership: Livelong learning gives you initiative. Learning gives us more autonomy over our lives.

Self Discovery: We are the sum of our surroundings. Learning new things helps us identify what we like and dislike.

Builds Confidence: A deep understanding of something builds confidence in our abilities. The more confidence we have, the more likely we are to try new things and communicate more effectively.

Helps You Stand Out: The more you know, the more capable you become, and the more people will desire your help.

Cognitive Health Benefits: Our brains are malleable. Continuously learning and improving helps prevent cognitive decline as we get older.

Helps You Get Unstuck: There will be periods in our lives where we feel stuck and unclear on what to do. Learning—asking questions to people you admire, reading biographies, trying new things, relearning the basics, etc.—helps us find the insights and knowledge we need to keep going and move forward.

Career Adaptation: Skills are not fixed—they are continuously evolving. What's relevant today is likely outdated tomorrow. Staying sharp and relevant is vital to a long and successful career.

Becoming outdated happens slowly, and usually unintentionally. I've learned this the hard way when it comes to having relevant job skills. Different companies have different ways of doing things, and their tech stack is often out of date compared to what's cutting edge. This is a natural push-and-pull aspect of things improving over time. It's far too easy to get cozy with a particular way of working, thinking that those skills are all you need. But more often than not, as soon as you are looking for a new job (be it from layoffs or just the desire for change) you are completely outdated and irrelevant. Ouch. Becoming a lifelong learner helps you avoid this pitfall.

Greater Sense of Purpose and Fulfillment:

Learning is more than having good skills for a successful career. Being a lifelong learner is your ticket to creating a meaningful life. Do you want to be wise? Do you want to be in the top 5% of what you love? Do you want to be charismatic, a great communicator, or a deep thinker? Becoming a lifelong learner gets you there.

Lifelong learning is key to unlocking a meaningful life.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” ― Albert Einstein

But remember this is a lifelong pursuit. Great things take time.

Below is a list of articles on lifelong learning sub-principles that are helpful to becoming a better learner (I'll be working on these over time, so be sure to subscribe when a new article comes out!):

How to Be a Lifelong Learner

  • Lead with Curiosity & Play
  • Learning is a Skill
  • Focus on First-Principle Thinking
  • Write | Draw | Take Notes
  • Teach to Know | Share What You Learn
  • Learn Hard Things
  • Have a Healthy Dose of High Standards
  • Do What You Can't
  • Get Uncomfortable
  • Get Comfortable Asking Questions
  • Always Be Reading (A.B.R.)
  • Seek Out First-hand Experience / BUILD
  • Surround Yourself with People Smarter Than You
  • Stay Hungry; Stay Foolish
  • Don't Skip Meta Skills
  • Challenge Your Hidden Assumptions
  • Embrace Failure
  • Celebrate Your Accomplishments But Never Rest on Them
  • Focus on learning what you love
  • Remember: Great Thing Take Time
  • Tools for Lifelong Learning

Stay Curious, — Josh Waggoner

*Affiliates 😄