Learning. A phrase, unfortunately, taboo to many who feel that after being educated by the schooling system, that there is no need to self-educate or that we learned all that we need to. Fortunately, this narrative is being proven false by the many who understand the importance and are taking the initiative to continue learning and never stop. Hopefully, others follow their lead and continue to grow in whichever capacity they can.
After living in Morocco for nine months where my old life of living around Americans and internationals in the youthful city of Tampa, FL for four years to a small city of 30,000 near Fez, I believe I found the trick. I learned how to play guitar (an arduous task that always seemed DAUNTING), speak Moroccan Arabic (conversationally), speak Hebrew (elementary level), all whilst serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Here is what I learned.
Why does it seem that some people have more time than others and we simply just do not have enough time? Truth is, we all have the same 24 hours in a day and we get to choose what we do with it. Asides from the necessary time commitments (sleep, eating, work, commute (although this will diminish significantly in coming years.. a subject we will talk about later)) we also have a vast amount of time that we use for pleasure, relaxation, and other miscellaneous activities.
We MUST allocate our time meaningfully and in a way where we are able to consistently strengthen and retain what we learn. Although this appears evident with learning guitar (primarily dealing with muscle memory and sheet reading), it was more prevalent with learning a language. It is vital to consistently expose yourself to the new material, for about 30 minutes to an hour minimum each day for an extended period of time (3 weeks is the average) to retain the material. Even after “learning”, it is vital to go back from time to time to make sure you truly retain the material. As the saying goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.
Like Rome, we are all masterpieces in an everlasting process of being developed. Sure, Rome eventually fell, but still paved the way of many ideologies, cultural influences, and a principle that many follow. Rome was not built in a day, and neither will you.
We live in a time where although some may not have immediate access, a majority of us with at least a stable internet connection can acquire knowledge never before seen in history. The invention of the internet and its globalizing effects has not only connected the world but also provided us with teachers, books, videos, lessons, and more on almost all subjects for little to no cost asides from a connection to the internet itself. This solves the issue of the human capital needed to learn. Fixed institutions of higher education learning are declining in their retention rates due to the realization that I can learn about business without needing a degree. This certainly does not apply to fields such as medicine, law, and accounting to name a few where a degree or certification remains necessary.
Truth be told, I never would have been able to learn how to play the guitar without actually physically playing one. The internet provides us most of the knowledge we need for little to no cost. However, the internet has not yet been able to put a physical object in our hands giving us the ability to learn hands-on skills.. that is until 3D printing takes off. Get the resources you need because they are out there and are most of the time free.
I am almost positive there is an infinite number of motivational quotes, most of which I am fond of, that push us beyond our limiting beliefs to achieve whatever it is we want. The overlying message within those quotes gets to the core of being resilient when there is resistance or a lack of progress.
When I began to learn Arabic, a language considered to be the most difficult to learn to native English speakers among Korean, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin & Cantonese), I was intimidated, to say the least. I was determined to learn the language not only because my job required me to do so, but because I simply wanted to grow in this capacity. I learned to view the obstacles that come with the learning of a language never as a hindrance but an opportunity that was showing me I am on the verge of learning more.
Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister who led the UK through WWII, once said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. Although learning is usually not a nightmarish task, the idea is to continue even when it seems you have reached a peak of difficulty.
There is a sense of fulfillment that comes from learning that, for me at least, brings a sense of growth and control in our lives. Some things are surely more difficult than others. Arabic for an English speaker is much more difficult, objectively speaking, to learning how to clap. The requirements in both, however, are identical. We need time, resources, and desire. We need the time to clap our hands, we need hands to clap, and we need to want to learn how to clap in order to clap.
As Thomas Fuller, a churchman and historian from the 17th century, best put it, “All things are difficult before they are easy”.
Learn on my friends.