Image courtesy of Hapal
As infants, we’re presented with a strange new world to discover. And with nothing else to do, we dive in headfirst, devoting all our time to learning how to use our five senses. At first we appear completely hopeless, not even realizing that our arms and legs are parts of our body. But soon enough, we start figuring some things out. Within a few months, we learn how to recognize faces better than a computer can. Our rate of learning in those early days is truly extraordinary if you think about it.
As kids, the world is our classroom. First we learn some basics like how to sit Indian style, how to hold a crayon, how to cross the street, and how to share. Not to mention learning thousands and thousands of words. We get older and learn about Romeo and Juliet, World War II, and photosynthesis. Every year, we can look back on ourselves the year before and be amazed at how much we’ve learned. In college, things get a lot more specialized, but we’re still continuing to learn all that we can.
And then, we just stop.
42% of all college graduates never read another book again. Ever. But continuous learning is vital to making the most of what the world has to offer. You could say that it’s what separates us from the animals. And there is evidence to suggest that it plays a role in staving off mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Here are some ways to make sure you don’t break the habit of learning that most people abandon after graduation.
Surveys show that a fifth of Americans can’t find the U.S. on a world map. And I’ve heard some Americans say they don’t know where Canada is (hint: up). If people have such a horrible knowledge of geography, I have to think that they probably haven’t traveled much.
Go visit a foreign country, where you’ll be forced to learn a new culture. It’s bound to be a shock to find that not everyone does things the way you’re used to, and a culture shock means a learning experience. Even domestic travel can provide new opportunities, as you get used to a new way of life in a different part of the country.
Take up a new hobby
Simply beginning a new hobby can open you up to a brand new world waiting to be discovered. Wine tasting, skiing, golf, painting…the possibilities are endless. You’ll learn the intricacies of a new craft and meet new people. And these people might be very different from you, giving you more opportunities to learn new things.
You probably have a library very close to home that’s paid for with your tax dollars. If you just go there and read one book, you’ll be ahead of 42% of all college graduates. If you prefer to read the latest books and have a little money, there’s no shortage of bookstores, not to mention Amazon. Reading is a cheap form of entertainment with practically no risk of injury, and it boosts your brain power a lot more than watching TV.
Read the newspaper
While I’m not a fan of being inundated with the excessively negative news that everyone seems to think is so important, you might consider some other parts of the newspaper (in print or online). Beyond the stories about who was murdered last night or how the economy is destroying your standard of living, there’s this often overlooked part called the Arts section. Here you can read insightful articles on a wide variety of topics that you might not know much about. Best of all, you can read it without feeling depressed.
Obviously, you already do this. There are countless people out there sharing their knowledge on a huge range of niches, and anyone can find plenty of blogs that interest them. Because you can leave comments, blogging offers a level of interaction that can’t be matched by books.
After you finish school, you’ll never again have someone giving you homework. And while you probably spent many years looking forward to that, it’s important to realize that learning is a big part of what makes life interesting. When your learning is self-directed, it can be a lot more fun than school was. You were given a large brain for a reason. Use it.
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