L is for Learning

Throughout my life, I’ve invoked for myself the figure of speech, Jill of all trades, master of none.  

And although I lay no claim to expertise in any narrow trade, I had thought that expression fit me better than Renaissance Woman, who likely never existed. Besides, the man of the times not only had a wide range of intellectual interests in the arts and sciences but was also adept in one or more areas. Can’t say I am, really.

So, it was fascinating to find this online:

Definition of Renaissance woman: a woman who is interested in and knows a lot about many things.

Miriam-Webster

What I can say without reservation about myself is that I am driven by curiosity and wonder. When recently asked what app I couldn’t live without, I instantly said: a search engine. I use one (mostly DuckDuckGo) countless times a day as I search for answers to my endless inquisitive questions, both commonplace and exceptional.

Learning is the third prompt in The Eight Days of New Year BALANCE Experience I am participating in.

I am constantly learning. I’ve been known to say, when I stop learning, I’ll start dying.

I’m gratified to have what’s called a lifelong learner’s mindset. I have enough years of useful education behind me that taught me critical thinking skills, skills that I value more than knowledge alone.

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

Socrates

What have I learned?

I know I’d stop learning were I to enter a query or dialog with a set point of view, or with an aim to convince, or with a need to be right. Instead, I start with an open mind that is ready to be shown wrong.

I’ll have to admit that this was hard-earned wisdom; I was more self-righteous as a hard-headed youngster when I thought I surely knew better than others. Today I’ll engage in a passionate debate on a topic with anyone who invites me and I will state my case clearly; yet I’ll be open to listening―the first step in learning―to hear whether I need to change my position. Knowing the difference between a fact and an opinion is useful.

And still, I don’t waver when it comes to my fundamental principles of fairness, truth, integrity, and kindness. My lifelong tenet has been:

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

One life lesson is that I’ve learned more from my mistakes and misfortunes over the decades than from my successes. (Although I don’t look to make mistakes and do celebrate the successes!)

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

It’s true for me, also learned in my later years, that being of service to others (whether in my relationships, business or philanthropic work) lessens my own troubles. It takes the focus off me and puts it on those with other, maybe greater, needs.

What do I need to learn?

One important thing I must still learn is to manage better my curiosity.

My curiosity and care extend to almost every major issue of the day—climate crisis and regenerative solutions, social/economic justice, gender inequalities, politics and the destruction of democracy, technological advancements, trauma-informed and other therapies, self-care and compassion, business/nonprofit development (oh, the list is too long!)—and all this on top of my regular work interests.

Every day I spot thought-provoking news headlines and deep-dive articles, podcasts, webinars, panel discussion. My thirst for knowledge can truly overwhelm me!

I seriously have to improve my ability to set limits to how deep I go with each of these issues. Information overload is not serving me.

Not every kind of knowledge is good. One must confine one’s curiosity to a single direction.

Abhaidev (That Thing About You)

To my credit, it’s been almost half a century since I watched television and or given my precious time to other mindless entertainment. I’d rather spend half an hour watching the sun set. Or sit still to listen to a beautiful song or piece of music. Or read wonderful literature or fascinating non-fiction. And, of course, spend fun and meaningful time with near and dear ones.

So now to identify the other unimportant or non-critical distractions I can eliminate from my days. That would be a good learning.

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer

Your turn. What comes up for you when you think of the word learning?

15 comments

  • […] It’s not only in the confines of our safe loving relationship that I can readily admit to having blundered when faced with convincing evidence. I believe I’m open to listening both with friends and with colleagues at work, too. My ability to do that my boil down to my general attitude towards life and being a committed lifelong learner. […]

  • YES! I’m also learning that there are things that just don’t interest me and I don’t WANT to learn about. This was recent as a loved one kept telling me “you NEED to be interested in that. You HAVE to learn more about it” I finally decided that NO, I don’t and That’s okay too!!

    • Totally agree, Jodi… we have to set boundaries to our time and efforts according to our own interests and inclinations. I don’t shut my ears/eyes, so “info” gets in unintentionally, but I can handle that. I have a hard time imagining *any* subject is so important that we *must* know about it. How about all the folks happily living simply off the grid entirely? I’m inching in that direction… LOL! 🌸🙏🌸

  • This is a really lovely, thought-provoking piece. I am drawn especially to
    (1) “I know I’d stop learning were I to enter a query or dialog with a set point of view, or with an aim to convince, or with a need to be right. Instead, I start with an open mind that is ready to be shown wrong.
    I’ll have to admit that this was hard-earned wisdom; I was more self-righteous as a hard-headed youngster when I thought I surely knew better than others.”
    (2) “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. Eric Hoffer”
    Item (1) makes me wonder if we are somehow genetically inclined to strike out as young adults, loosen or sever the bonds with out elders, to “do it my way” and I am wondering what is the benefit to the individual and to society of being that way. The disbenefit is rather obvious–by not learning from history, we are bound to repeat it–and to suffer the consequences.
    Item (2) perhaps answers part of that question–but brings up another–do we really need to throw out the old (bath water?) to get on with the new (the baby?).

    • Thank you, Jill! 🌸🙏🌸 I’m inclined to think that there is both benefit and detriment to youthful arrogance, the possible benefit being the potential of fresh solutions without the constraints of previous thinkers, allowing for more creative/innovative thoughts/approaches, but the detriment is the very same, as you say, not building on the gained wisdom of others. It seems to me that most progress is made when thinkers stand on the shoulders of other giants, whether to expand on something already thought or to see the flaws and build something brand new… according to the challenge given and accepted. Thinking of the example of regenerative agriculture promoted today that steps back to and builds on indigenous knowledge.

      • Hi Cisca, an example from my little life: when embarking on an animal behavior research project, my prof told me not to read up, so I would make my own independent conclusions. What I saw and concluded was extraordinary due to very unusual circumstances. And that research is published! Had I read previous work, I could have been influenced by it in the wrong direction (or maybe not).
        Conversely, if i knew nothing about ancient species, were wandering along and saw a bone, i might ignore it rather than investigate.
        Always at least 2 sides to a coin.

  • I prefer, like you, a broad range of interests. The universe is such an interconnected place that I can’t find a borderline. Everything I study seems to be relevant to everything else I study.

    BUT I also enjoy mindless pursuits. For me, not giving myself a break from studying is like eating continuously without taking a break for digestion and elimination. 😀

    • Oh my goodness, yessSS, Lable! Variety is the spice of life! 😃 No one can stomach a steady diet of any one thing! Lessons can be learned without “studying”… and as you say, we don’t need to learn from everything we do. Our “living” time is shared among so many different activities, fun, serious, and rest. I also agree life is all interconnected. Thanks for chiming in. 🌸🙏🌸

  • Whoa, a post rich with lessons! The Shakespeare quote is better when expanded and I adore your use of it, and that last quote literally slams your message deep; I can’t express my senses having read it better than with emojis; 😳😎🤓🧐😃😃😃.

    It is inspiration and good learning for me to see how you do and share the 8 day experience with the exercise. As you know I prompt participants to acknowledge where they are on the timeline of their life and decisions along your lifelong learning quests are such great examples! Ah yes, to learn from a sunset is a beginner’s mind level wisdom.

    As for “needing to”, that need to refine and pare back? That is the kind of stock taking decision the 8 days helps you prompt for yourself…I’m so happy you’re doing it with me! That we can do this investment in self, without strain or self-derision, with only a focus on perception and acknowledging joy that self-improvements, self-esteem and selfishness can be a balm and not a bother…that is better not only for us, but for everyone in our lives.

    Lots need to learn from that 😁

    • Thank you for all that, Joan. 🌸🙏🌸 I’m gaining value from both the musings of the past and how decisions and actions have brought me to where I am today. Maybe the disruption in my life with this anti-cancer program is changing my outlook somewhat, but I am heartened by how much my past learnings are giving me strength to deal with new challenges and the ability to be clear-eyed to what needs to be changed.

By Francisca

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