Psychology of Performance #53: Back to School – Adults as Lifelong Learners

It is that time of year when schools start up again, students are excited to go back to school, parents may be relieved, and educators are gearing up for a new round of teaching.  For adult learners and workers — even those retired — leaning is no longer a seasonal event. We all get to keep learning and adapting as we go through life. Warren Buffet’s partner, Charlie Munger, was a lifelong learning advocate. He said, “Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading, cultivate curiosity, and strive to become a little wiser every day.”

Why is this so important? The rate of new knowledge used to double every 100 years in 1900, by the end of WW2, it doubled every 25 years, then it was every five, now in an article by David Schilling, August 13, 2013, (Knowledge Doubling Every 12 Months, Soon to be Every 12 Hours) it is every 12 months and estimates are that soon it will be every 12 hours! This is a pace that is only attainable through technology. From a human processing point of view, it is daunting. Think about how much technology has evolved in your lifetime. How much of your job today is contingent/dependent on technology and new information compared to five years ago? What about when you started your career?

Keeping up with changes in your field of work, the technology, and changes in everyday living requires self-directed learning.  It requires you to think about where you will find the information, how to learn it so it can be useful, and how to apply it. In your work, you may also need to develop more advanced thinking skills in areas of analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of information.

With the pace of change, how do you even keep up? Regular and systematic reading, self-study schedules, looking at small amounts at a time so it is not overwhelming can all be useful strategies for making incremental progress. Some cognitive beliefs that can be helpful in your aim to become better with your lifelong learning goals are:

  • 10% of something is better than 90% of nothing
  • Do your best and forget the rest
  • Don’t give up because you can’t learn it all, keep up with it all, or be perfect at it all.

Set yourself up for success. There is no race, just perseverance. Be curious about topics and areas of knowledge. Search for the best sources of information synthesis, the best theories, the best models that allow you to succeed.

 

Here is to your wisdom! May it continue to grow.

Robert Mines, Ph.D.

CEO & Psychologist

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