I was a mediocre student in high school. I wasn’t in the top percentile of my class, but I didn’t fall toward the bottom either. I skidded by in a few honors classes, but I haaaated the work. Subjects like precalculus drove me crazy, and even then I suspected a truth which life has yet to dispute: that distinguishing between a rational and irrational number might not be critical to our survival. I couldn’t wait to go to college where I could focus on things I actually wanted to focus on.
Then I got to college, and found out I had to enroll in a bunch of bullshit courses like geography and, get this, precalculus! Ugh.
So, I did what any typical college student would do and worked my little tail off so I could graduate early and start working. Oh yes, I had big plans. I was going to be a serious career-driven lady thankyouverymuch.
I don’t regret working hard in college and I’m glad I got some experience under my belt while I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. But when I look back, I do wish I had recognized and appreciated the value of just learning. Four years of straight up learning! That sounds like a gift to me now.
The good news is, we’re never done learning. We keep learning every single day. And guys? Learning is really freakin’ cool. Call me a huge nerd, I’ll wear that badge proudly. If you look at anyone who’s killing it at life, you’ll notice a trend. They’re always learning and growing in one way or another.
Why’s it so important to exercise these brain muscles of ours? The more we learn, the more we have to work with. The more we learn, the more we can apply to ourselves and our own lives. We acquire new skills, thoughts and methodologies, and grow confident in our abilities, which can help us achieve more and get the most out of life. We start to realize we can do anything we want if we just decide to.
While we can’t all haul it back to campus, there are so many things we can do exercise our minds. I’m not here to tell you what to learn or what to accomplish, that’s up to you. What I can offer is a few go-to tools for learning and working your noggin:
1. Books. Read, read, read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Fiction, non fiction, whatever you fancy. You can check out some current faves here, and while we’re on the subject, The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin a great one to start with. It’ll change the way you approach things that are new.
2. Documentaries. If books aren’t for you, how about documentaries? Netflix is loaded with good ones, ranging in topics from cooking to business to psychology to travel. I love working through the TED Talks: Life Hacks or the Inside [insert company/person/industry here] series.
3. Podcasts. Oh man, I’ve proclaimed my love for podcasts around here, right? Right. I think it’s incredible that we have free, instant access to experts in so many fields, and many of them are just brilliantly produced. You can find great ones on EVERY subject, but a few favorites of mine include TED Radio Hour, This American Life, StartUp, The Tim Ferriss Show, Invisibilia, and The Nerdist.
4. Taking classes. They aren’t just for the college kiddos! Online learning has never been easier. Check out CreativeLive, General Assembly (which also has live classes in NYC) or even YouTube. There are also good options at local libraries, museums, gyms and coffee shops if you’re looking for live, in-person action. If you’re local to NYC, Brooklyn Brainery is awesome.
5. Talking & traveling. That’s right, the ancient art of having a conversation! Remember that? Something that really bums me out is when I’m hanging with a group of friends and all of sudden everybody ends up on their phones. I lumped this in with traveling, because I believe conversation with people from other cultures is not only the most interesting way to learn new things, but probably the most fun too. Whether it’s with people we know or complete strangers, we can learn so much by talking to each other. Rolf Potts makes the case for traveling (and learning about ourselves) far better than I can in his book, Vagabonding.
Do you have a preferred method of exercising your brain muscle? What’s something you want to learn? I’d love to hear from you below in the comments!