If you live in America, not only are you likely to have a higher standard of living than two-thirds of the population, but you have luxuries people just a few generations ago might deem unfathomable.
Even if you don’t live in the U.S., technology has given most of us access to the most powerful tool in the world — information.
You can go on the internet right now and learn about anything you want.
You can take classes from Yale for free. For free! For little to no money, you can learn how to do things like code, speak a different language, start an e-commerce store with no inventory — the list genuinely goes on.
If a library card is a Honda Civic, access to the web is a rocket ship.
I’m wildly optimistic about our future and I want you to be too. Consider this quote from the billionaire business owner Charlie Munger:
‘I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.’
Before I kick off this list I’m telling you this with genuine sincerity — the only thing in the way of the future you want is your willingness to learn.
The more you learn, the more you can potentially earn
Barriers to income are imaginary. Not in the sense that earning more money is easy, but that someone outside of yourself is keeping you from earning more.
You earn money based on your production. The price of your production is set by the value placed on the type of production you provide. Levels of production requiring a higher price — wage — require a stronger set of skills and a higher level of knowledge.
Learning provides you with the skills you can use in the marketplace. Conversely, if you develop more skills, more opportunities will open up for you.
You don’t even need to be more talented than other people, per se, because most people don’t spend much time learning. They go to school, sure, but once they’re done, the learning stops there.
Regardless of what field you’re in, if you spend just a little bit of time outside of your normal working hours to do some extra self-directed learning, you’ll be miles ahead of everyone else.
The more tools you have in your tool belt, the more equipped you are to seize upon an opportunity that presents itself.
Learning keeps you youthful
I’ve — anecdotally — seen a correlation between curiosity and vibrancy. People who keep learning and stay curious just seem so youthful and exuberant.
Why is that? Well, if you’re curious about the world and feel there’s still a lot of fascinating information you haven’t explored yet, you’ll be more excited to live. Not to put it coldly, but some people aren’t excited to live. You can tell when you’re around them.
And almost always you’ll find that these people think they’ve learned everything they need to know. They have the world figured out and their conclusion isn’t good.
For various reasons, others have tried to beat the curiosity out of you. I challenge you to recapture it.
Your true death begins as soon as your education ends. Curiosity and fascination rejuvenate the soul. Striving is what human beings are designed for. A continual learning process will allow you to transcend time. You will never truly grow old.
Learning is fun
Many people think of learning as a chore. I used to. Who can blame you?
When you were in school you were forced to learn what they wanted you to learn. They require human beings less than a decade old, whose natural inclination is to play and explore, to sit still for hours on end and be lectured.
Then, once you reach adolescence, you’re sold lies about the American dream of education and fed into the intellectual meat grinder that is the university system.
Once you exit multiple decades of that treatment, it’s no wonder you don’t want to keep learning.
But trust me. Once you find something that you are actually interested in, learning more about it is both fun and effortless. I’ve read more books in a year on my own volition than I did in the combined decades I was required to read.
Subjects I used to find rote — history and science — now fascinate me when I learn not just their facts, but the implications of the findings. Self-directed education gives you unlimited territory to explore and allows you to build a unique knowledge base suited to what you want to do with your life.
Learning makes you more interesting
Being smart is sexy and attractive if you’re not pretentious. You’ll never be at a loss for words in a conversation. You’ll always have a repertoire filled with interesting facts and tidbits that you can share with your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.
If you learn the skills of influencing other people, you’ll know how to sit back, listen, and appreciate what the other person is saying. You can learn to read people and get them to like you. Social skills are just as much a product of learning as technical ones.
Have you ever been around someone you know is sharp as a tack but also seems to genuinely respect you and your opinions? You know what kind of feelings that person elicits.
You can be that person.
Learning can help rid you of your ignorance
The more you learn the more you realize you don’t know all that much.
I, like anyone else with an opinion, can get caught pontificating and speak on what I don’t truly know, but when I fall into rabbit holes of learning I’m in awe of the speck of dust my competence is in a universe of information.
Learning can make you more humble and less ignorant. Sure, you can learn to confirm beliefs you already hold — we all to this to a degree. But if you try to be open-minded when you learn, you might change your mind on some of those beliefs and the change could lead to the betterment of your life.
Maybe one of the most important things I’ve learned is the idea of opacity. There are simply ways the world works we just do not understand.
Rather than try to mess with them, we should learn how to live in this world we don’t fully understand. This is unsexy — stay in your circle of competence, avoid taking risks that have multiplying unintended consequences, focus on not being dumb instead of being smart — but it works.
Learning has helped me get a better understanding of human nature, which causes me to be less pissed off when I see other people doing what I don’t think they should be doing, even though their programming wouldn’t dictate their behavior to be the way I want it to be.
Try to get a better understanding of how the world works and define your own version of reality based on facts you found as opposed to ones you kind of just adopted. Capish?
Learning keeps people from taking advantage of you
If you’re in a room with a group of people and you don’t know who the sucker if, I’ve got some bad news for you, you’re the sucker.
You never want to be the sucker. Learning keeps you from being the sucker. In fact, the number one goal of learning should be the avoidance of being a sucker.
People wanting to take advantage of you is a feature of society, not a bug. It is what it is. Again, better to understand human nature than to rail against it.
Read the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. And read it at least once per year. Understand the ways people try to persuade you. Understand that people mostly act based on incentives.
Take the phrase “watch what people do, not what they say,” and take it up to the next level of watch what people do and figure out their incentives for doing what they’re doing.
Learning is in your genes
Having a brain and not using it is like having a jet and not flying it. You are at the helm of the most powerful machine in the known universe.
From the time of making simple tools to the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution to the current information revolution, and beyond into the future of the internet of things, AI, and more, human beings have been both trying to improve their conditions and manifest ideas.
We don’t do all of this just to do it. We’re literally wired to do it.
You’re wired to do it.
I have a two year old daughter. She’s learning at a fast pace and loving it. When you were a kid you were like this until someone told you not to be.
Every innovative person is an adult who didn’t let their childlike curiosity die.
The good news is as long as you’re alive, you can revive the innate curiosity you once hand.
Use it. Use it often, and use it for the purpose of enriching the lives of your fellow people and making this world a better place.
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