By Nilooka Dissanayake
You could be old and illiterate and you might not even know it!
Just because you are not ancient in years and reading this article may not be sufficient proof to say that you are young or literate.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty”, declared Henry Ford.
Alvin Toffler complicated the issue by saying that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Now where does that leave you?
It leaves me feeling terribly young and overly literate. A precocious kid, in other words. I am one of the lucky ones. The best thing I ever learnt was learning how to learn. And the greatest challenge I face every day is trying to break mental barriers. Sure that sounds weird. But you should try it and you would forever be young that way despite your years.
Before getting anywhere, you might first have to debate with yourself to figure out the type of student you are.
Martin H. Fischer described the four great classes of students of life:
The dumb who stay dumb,
the dumb who become wise,
the wise who go dumb and
the wise who remain wise.
Actually, I would rather be the ‘dumb who become wise’ category anytime rather than in the ‘wise who remain wise’ because the latter seems, on the surface, rather a boring thing indeed. The dumb who become wise is bound to have a wonderful experience in learning. Then again, how many of us have a choice here?
“Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.”
How Do You Learn?
Once you figure this out the next question is: How does one learn to learn? You can’t go for tuition to learn how to learn. The only way is to learn while you go on with your life. Basically, there are three ways of gaining intelligence or learning about anything: thinking, through insight and of course, taking pointers from others who have gone the same road.
When I say ‘thinking’ I am really speaking of learning cycles. The most quoted learning cycle is Kolb’s Cycle which identifies the four phases of learning: Action, Experience, Reflection and Conceptualisation. Whatever we learn, we do so by re-visiting all that we have learned previously and re-thinking our ideas and plans for future learning. So the cycle never stops.
Insight = Sight from Inside You
Insight is another cup of tea altogether. Insight is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘capacity for understanding hidden truths.’ But, shall we say it is merely, sight from the inside or within us? Insight obviously is not for sale at supermarkets. If you want it you have to work at it. And according to Nihal Dissanayake, author of many Buddhist novels and founder of http://www.happicraft.com, a website on the craft of mobilizing mind power for happy living, insight comes to a neutral mind. That is, your mind needs to be neither too full of joys and happiness nor harnessing thoughts if you are to focus on gaining insight.
Learn from Others
The third way is to learn from others. We can read or listen and absorb what others have already learned through thinking, experiencing and insight. This is probably the short cut, if you really need short cuts to learning and are too lazy to think for your self or develop a mental state to gain insights.
For starters, take the words of Henry L. Doherty seriously and “get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.” Then, you might as well “sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing” (Thomas Huxley). Next stage is to go one step ahead and join Eartha Kitt who said “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” Go on. Earn your diploma!
Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study.
Be a student so long as you still have something to learn,
and this will mean all your life.
~ Henry L. Doherty
I decided to write about learning because, especially in the small or micro businesses, the entrepreneur’s attitudes and levels of knowledge, at some point, becomes a confining factor for the whole business.
As a Chinese Proverb tells you, “Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.” Isn’t it also true of business?
Business@Home series published in Sunday Times FT - February 2005