An odd subject, perhaps, but one that’s been on my mind of late. I spent the last two glorious weeks immersed in learning about one of my favorite topics, focusing nearly exclusively on that. It was wonderful. It was mentally exhausting. But it was also exhilarating.
I wondered why I felt simultaneously tired and energized… but it wasn’t the kind of cognitive and sensory overload that typically comes at the end of a long day of meetings, or even the physical fatigue I feel after a long day out in nature. My brain was completely fried but in a good way. I felt like I was using brain cells that had been dormant for too long. Waking them up and getting them firing again wasn’t easy, but oh, it was rewarding. I was energized because, well, wow. So many new and interesting and exciting things to learn. This course does a wonderful job of presenting cutting-edge data and information. So when I attend I know that I am going to expand the boundaries of my knowledge, which to me is one of the best possible things I can experience.
I realized that what I get out of this course – and others that I have the good fortune to participate in – directly aligns with one of my main values. You know those lists of values you see floating around, typically just a collection of words focused on different things – like family, education, justice, equality, etc? One of my top values is the combination of learning / education / knowledge. Learning because it can be formal or informal, and it’s lifelong; education because it’s one approach to learning, and one to which everyone should have access; and knowledge, because to me that is the outcome of learning and education.
For me, that value means growing, stretching my mental muscles, learning new things and new ways of thinking about the world. There is so much we don’t know. Learning as much as possible about ourselves and the world we live in is, to me, a basic principle of being human. I try so hard to foster a love of learning in my students… and not just educate them because the curriculum dictates that I need to. Lifelong curiosity, learning, seeking knowledge? To me, that’s the best possible way to live, and I hope that I can get at least some of my students to agree with me.
This applies to my research, too. Research generates knowledge. How cool is that? It doesn’t take what is known and use it in some way. Instead, research lets you push the boundaries of what is known. Ask the questions that haven’t been answered yet, and try your best to find the answers. I always say that the best part of doing research is that you never manage to answer “the last question”. There is no end – only more questions brought up by the ones that you (at least temporarily) answered. The quest for knowledge, for understanding? It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.
So, what can I learn today? Time to find out…
Great thinkers don’t boast about how much they know; they marvel at how little they understand… A mark of lifelong learners is recognizing they can learn something from everyone they meet.
(From his new book, Think Again, which I need to read…)