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Be a life long learner

Jeff Fulkerson

Posted on July 08 2021

 About 20 years ago I wound up on a panel at my kid’s high school. They tossed around a term that was new to me – “life-long-learner.” It has a nice ring, don’t you think? The school’s goal was to inspire their students to keep on learning throughout their lives. Certainly, a laudable goal but I thought it needed to be a little better defined.

Let’s face it, as you go through life, you’re always learning – old people call it ‘experience’ and the only way you get experience is by living. Sometimes that learning is in the school of hard knocks, learning what not to do. And it seems that some people just learn things quicker and easier than most.

But the point is, and I think what the school was trying to get across, you must be intentional about your learning. If you want to learn a new skill, you can’t just hope someone will come by and explain it to you. (Although, that is the method I use with my kids and my computer…) You need to seek out the information you need. A lot of times, you don’t even know what you need. To me, this is where a lifestyle of learning comes into play.

I read A LOT. Each year, I read between 50 and 90 books. I read all kinds of books – self-help, business, action/adventure, spiritual, psychology, history, just to name a few.  And what I’ve found is that all those little unrelated ideas and facts can turn into a global view of situations and problems, no matter what the issue.  You wouldn’t think that something you read in a John Grisham novel or a Louis L’Amour western would help you with in raising your children or running your business, but it happens! It’s kind of like a computer. You can only get out of it what you put into it.

 As you go through life putting things into your brain (computer) it gives you more to draw on in certain situations. Some of those situations you may never encounter, but you never know. If all you’re putting into your computer is garbage, you know, like video games and prime time TV, you won’t have much to use.

When I’m teaching jewelry classes, it’s amazing to me how ALL the mistakes I’ve made have made me a better teacher, because I know how to ‘fix’ things.  One example: I had a student come up to me in the middle of a ring class with her bottom lip trembling and obviously on the verge of tears. Upon asking the problem, the managed to say she’d wrecked her ring.  Now, I understand how that simple little ring project (or whatever) can become very important to someone. It can represent so much that people don’t verbalize. You never know if someone saved all year to fly to this class to make this ring. Or the ego involved in failing in front of strangers. The list goes on. But back to the student.

I took a look at the ring and told her it wasn’t ruined; it just wasn’t going to look like the class example.  Because I’d done what she had done (many times over the years…) I knew what to do to fix it. At the end of class, she had her ring and was the happiest student there. All because of my experience.

 The takeaway? Keep learning in an intentional way but also pay attention to the unintentional learning. You never know when Hemmingway or Shakespeare or Charles Shultz might come to your rescue!    

 

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