This article bears a lot of personal importance to me. It's one I've had in draft for a long time. Always tweaking it, being slightly afraid to publish. Probably because I wanted it as close to perfection as possible.
Of course, I definitely failed at this (spoiler alert: don't get your hopes up while reading the rest of it). But I guess I'm ok with that. Being invited to do an opening keynote at CodeCamp recently, I decided it's time to approach, in the open and wholeheartedly, the subject of this article. And then, publishing followed naturally.
I want to speak about learning. More specifically, a simple comparison (or inspiration) related to the process of assimilating knowledge. I think it's something we often overlook as adults. Over time we lose our connection with what makes learning great. We lose touch with the feelings and attitudes that form (at least in my opinion) a healthy base for learning. I'm not sure why. And I'm not going to try to explain that in this articles. This is a job suited to people with expertise in fields such as psychology. But I do want to emphasise a different point. My opinion of how we should approach learning.
And it all starts with a simple comparison...
Have you ever observed how toddlers learn to interact with the world around them? It's an amazing process, one that is built on a solid foundation formed out of the most important qualities for a knowledge seeking person: curiosity, energy and tolerance to failure.
Are you a parent? If yes, take a moment to think about the early age of your kid. Think about how he/she learned to adapt to the environment around them. Think about when they said their first word or walked their first couple of steps. Or when they took that small red (favourite colour?) lego block (you know, the one you always step on around the house), tried to eat it and after being unsuccessful (thank God!), went to their mother to advertise it as "broken".
It's an amazingly human, empathic process. And what's interesting is that the steps are always the same. If you let a toddler alone, he learns by curiously trying something new, fuelled by a never-ending energy and then, no matter the result, he always goes back and shares his findings with the most important persons in the whole universe: his parents.
I'm fascinated by this but also, partly saddened. Because, as we grow up, we seem to somehow lose the foundation of this learning process. We 're no longer curious, we're just self-sufficient. No longer energetic and passionate, but "eh, it works". We fear failure and we're risk-averse.
What's interesting is that, when asking a little kid what they want to become when they grow up, you're gonna get those funny, inspirational, YouTube-worthy answers: I wanna be an astronaut, I wanna become a princess, I wanna be the president etc. In short, they all want to be adults. What they don't know is that they will somehow get estranged from this beautiful learning process they actually invented.
Even more interesting is that, when asking adults what they want in life, you'll get answers like: I wanna be rich, I want to have a beautiful family, I want to travel around the world, I want a certain car, etc. It's always about having more in some aspects of their life. What strikes me though as a thing we fail to realize, is that the road to more is always paved by diligent and constant learning. And as grown-ups, we're terrible at that.
I go to conferences and meetups because I want to learn. People attend them for the same reason. Because they want to give and to receive information. So my advice to you, when it comes to learning: stay childish. Always curious, always energetic and passionate, embrace failure as a step forward and, once you learn something, don't forget to go back and share your knowledge with someone else.
Learn like a child does! It's a rewarding attitude.