When I was a teenager, I thought the university should not be a vocational training school. Therefore, I avoided major in practical subjects, such as accounting. I was quite idealistic to think that I should learn how to think in the education, rather than preparing for a job.
Meanwhile, although I was interested in subjects like philosophy and history, I thought I could self study these in my leisure time instead of paying a high tuition fee for the degree. Therefore, major in chemistry was my first choice to study because the opportunity to experiment with expensive requirements would worth the money I pay to the university.
Nowadays I am more mature and realistic, looking back I think I was not wrong, but I had to face the reality that it would not be an easy transition to change my career that is irrelevant to my major. After graduation with a bachelor of science, I was working in a testing laboratory for kitchen utensils. such as checking if there is any toxic chemical leakage from those plastic container samples. The job was relevant to what I study, but I realised quickly that it would not be a career I want. It was a repetitive area with limited learning opportunities.
Eventually, I changed my career to IT, because luckily I could do programming. There was a lot of new things to learn as a junior software engineer, from the basic data structure to complex cloud architecture. I was studying all day and night for programming skills to survive in this difficult adult world. The more I learn, the more I realise a lot of things I did not know.
It is a common phenomenon for people in the I.T. industry to suffer from imposter syndrome. I was no different, especially I was working as a consultant, which means I had to quickly learn something I did not know, to be an expert in front of a client. There was a period that I faked it until I made it. And the I.T. industry is changing so fast that I have to keep updating myself with new things.
If I might have done differently at university, I would learn how to learn as a priority. The school did not teach me how to learn, as the professor only taught about knowledge, instead of the method of learning, like the metadata of knowledge.
If I had mastered the skills on how to learn, my school life would be much easier as I would have study efficiently with more time to spend on other important things, such as extracurricular activities. It would also prepare me for life-long learning as well since graduation was not the end of learning, it was just the beginning that I had to self study many different skills in life, such as public speaking, writing and networking, to survive in my career. I might have turned out to read a lot more books with better knowledge about the world to make better decisions.
After graduation, I did not have any chance to use the mathematical second order differential equation in my daily job. Instead, in an increasingly competitive world, I believe it is the quality of thinking that will give me the edge, an idea that opens new doors, a technique that solves problems, or an insight that simply makes sense of it all. The more I know, the smarter and faster I can go. That is why I should learn about how to learn like the best minds with cutting-edge thinking and best learning practices.
Keep learning is one of the most important things I can do for the health of my brain. I am capable of expanding the capacities of my brain, even as I get older. As long as I keep learning, I continue to create new pathways in my brain. It keeps my brain plastic and supple, capable of processing new information in relevant ways. This is especially true if I give myself genuine challenges in my learning.
I should have done more exercise as well, which changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. Researchers found that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
In general, to capitalize on the positive trait to learn new things, we should develop a learning culture, especially enabling people to fail. By adapting to changing circumstances and making the most out of experiences, we should encourage to learn from mistakes and seeing them as opportunities to grow. We should not be published and ashamed by being inquisitive.
Fundamentally, we human are social creatures, we learn better from others and in the company of others. This underscores the power of stories and the importance of being a good role model.
Besides, I would need to acquire the ability to learn how to learn, know how to practice to make myself better. Practice makes perfect, and practice makes practise more perfect. Just as practising a particular ability in that activity, constantly learning improves my overall ability to learn. Learning changes the structure of the brain, and in the process further increase my capacity to learn. In other words, learning how to learn is a skill in itself, and it can pave the way to more successful learning in a variety of subjects.
Staying within my comfort zone is a good way to prepare for today, but it is a terrible way to prepare for tomorrow. To sustain success, I must develop learning agility, which is the capacity for rapid, continuous learning from experiences. Agile learners are good at making connections across experiences, and they can let go of perspectives or approaches that are no longer useful. In other words, they can unlearn things when novel solutions are required. People with this mindset tend to be oriented toward learning goals and open to new experiences. I should experience, seed feedback, and reflect systematically.
Building a learning culture means getting comfortable with change. Understanding and accepting that change is constant, necessary and positive is the key factor for thriving in the modern workplace. I need to see change as an ongoing opportunity, not as a threat.
Originally published at http://victorleungtw.com on June 16, 2021.