Three Lessons from a Life of Learning

At dinner the other night, my four-year-old son asked, “Dad, can I be whatever I want when I grow up?”

I said, “Yeah, pretty much.”

He got really excited. “Then I’m going to be a builder, a fixer, a machine driver, a baker, and a pirate!”

Sometimes, as adults, we lose sight of this simple innate desire: to be someone that we look up to and to do something that we look forward to.

It’s been said by people who say things that a key to happiness is the pursuit of goals. It’s my belief that there’s no better way to pursue these goals than to immerse yourself into the vat of life-long learning.

Coincidentally, I’ve been a life-long learner my entire life, and I’ve made some discoveries while swimming in the vat.

First, it’s okay to ask for help. I’ve always told students there’s no need to feel embarrassed about getting assistance. Even the best athletes in the world have coaches! Recently, I had to take my own advice. I was struggling with a graduate-level mathematics course in proofs and was reluctant to seek help. Once I asked my instructor for help, I immediately felt better, and her guidance helped me achieve success. A willingness to ask for help is a character strength, not a flaw.

Second, keep the long-term goal in mind. Sometimes when we’re overwhelmed by life’s demands or struggling to stay motivated, it’s easy to lose sight of a distant goal. Remember the ultimate reason why you’re studying to be a pirate. You want to be rich. You want to be respected. You want to fend off rodents of unusual sizes as you protect Buttercup in the Fire Swamp. Remembering the final objective helps during difficult times.

Third, embrace challenges and learn from them. Einstein said that instead of pursuing goals that are easily achieved, we need to pursue goals that are challenging and require effort. There is greater potential for learning when tasks are difficult. There is greater potential for growing when we make mistakes. Even though you may not dream of being a pirate, you have a dream residing in the core of your being to become something better than your current self. Challenge yourself. Learn from your mistakes. Become a life-long learner. Realize your dream.