In the first part of LearningUnlearning, we discussed about why we ought to think of ourselves as Beta products. You can read it here. And in this part, we are going to explore the reasons behind why should you be in permanent beta? Here are 10 reasons to consider
1 Growth and progress are better than getting bored and stagnated. No matter how painful, difficult and stretching it may be, it is better to grow and progress in life than to be bored out your brains and stagnate. Isn’t getting bored boring? Of course, if you love what you are doing, that is great. Even if you are already doing what you love, there is still room to be better at it; there is still room for progress, right? Do you want to grow in your work? In your relationships? You might want to keep sharpening your skills and get better at them or get out of your comfort zone and learn new skills that will take you to the next level.
For those who have been less fortunate, with no basic skills, learning can literally be the difference between life and death. If you are to grow in whatever you are doing, you need to be open to learning. There is no growth without learning. No progress without learning.
2 Success is a vulnerable place to be in. You know all the stories of some of the biggest, most successful companies going bust overnight. Why did that happen? They were too comfortable in their own success and so they didn’t see change coming. This could even happen to an individual; it could happen to you. If you don’t keep learning and improving yourself, you are likely to be caught off guard. Why should your success last? Why should you continue to be in the position you are in, just because you got there? It could be tech change that makes your job redundant, or competition from other firms or even nations. No matter what you have been successful in – business, at work, building a wonderful family – you need to keep learning just to remain there, let alone going even higher. If you are not moving forward, you are slipping backward.
3 Reaching your true potential is important. What else is your potential for if not to be fully realised? What good is it dormant? I’m not suggesting you even know what your potential is. Knowing what to do in life is a real luxury that only a few people have.
This is where learning comes in. Whether you know what to do in life or not, either way you need to constantly learn in order to fully realise your potential; be it constantly exceeding the limits of your capabilities or just finding out what game you are supposed to be playing in the first place.
4 Keeping active and healthy is one of the most important things. Research has shown that as you age, if you keep your brain and mind exercised, occupied, by learning new things, you tend to feel healthier, especially psychologically. Learning new things stretches you, broadens your horizons, you meet new people, and most importantly you feel challenged as opposed to feeling left alone. Getting healthy will also mean giving up bad habits (unlearning) and picking up new habits (learning). There is plenty of literature out there on the power of habits and so I’m not going to labour on that here.
You can even be superhuman by habit. In this day and age, it is so much more difficult to stay healthy, but only because of distractions, mind you. Work pressures, availability of junk food, stress, and, in some cases, complete apathy. Blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are hyper-prevalent. While genes may also play active roles, most of us are not helping ourselves with our habits. You need to have a growth mindset, a learning mindset to get yourself out of the rut.
5 Learning is a passport to new possibilities. You now have unprecedented access to resources, thanks to the powers of the internet and other technologies. You now don’t have to stay in the same place doing the same thing for decades. External forces acting against you is one thing and preparing for that is a kind of defensive move.
You can now be on the offence. Pursuing your passion is easier now than it was a few decades ago. You can now quite easily set up something and work for yourself, be independent. Finding a market for your product or service is easier than ever. Your newly learned skills and knowledge can take you to places you have never been to.
6 Being global and local at the same time is tough. Our interconnected world is pushing us to our mental limits as we constantly negotiate between being a world citizen and locally rooted. The global and the local are constantly shifting landscapes, with one affecting the other. Your city, town or village is in some way affected by the world and vice versa.
They may even tug at each other in opposite directions. You will have to learn to cope. You now need to learn to negotiate between that part of you which is global and that which is local. Else, as the ground beneath you shifts, there is always a risk of being swept away or lost.
7 Your ability to solve some the grandest challenges of our times depends on learning. Now you may not be in the “saving the world business”, but some these challenges will affect all of us, including you, in one way or another, whether you like it or not. From climate change, water shortage and other depleting resources to universal education, healthcare and diseases, these challenges will continue to shape our lives, and in most cases for the worse.
Unless, of course, we start acting responsibly and begin part of the solution than being part of the problem. Guess what? To be part of the solution, you got to learn to live anew. I’m not suggesting you go and get some specialised degree or start living like a hermit. Just taking a keen interest, reading up on these issues, and sharing your new knowledge with your family members is a great way to be part of the solution.
8 Being a teacher is going to be one the most important roles you will play. I don’t mean to say that you need to go and become a certified, qualified teacher in primary or secondary school. Or that you become a lecturer in a college or university. The act of teaching is not, by any stretch of imagination, limited to the walls of an educational institution, nor is it the sole duty of a qualified teacher. All of us can be teachers. Teaching is also an act of leadership. We all can be leaders too. There is so much knowledge and experience within you that can benefit others. Whatever it may be – cooking, math, astrology, sewing, a sport, music, marketing. You can teach your children, your family members, your friends and colleagues, your community.
There are few things more important – and perhaps satisfying – than imparting knowledge to others. A good teacher is also a reflective practitioner. To be a good teacher, you need to be a good learner, and a lifelong one at that.
9 Greater civic participation is becoming ever more important. You don’t want to be taken for a bad ride, right? Nobody does. While there are still a few places out there that are governed by bandits, most of us are fortunate to live in democracies. To uphold our democratic ideals, we need to continuously engage. Whether it is standing up for your rights or fighting injustice where you see it, you need to be able to engage, and that is not possible if you are not willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn. We cannot have constructive public debate if we are not informed ourselves. Too many of us have become apathetic, and then complain about issues we face. Unless you are actively engaged, you are likely to get a bad social deal.
10 Self-knowledge is priceless. Ultimately, what matters most is your pursuit of self-knowledge, your inner voyage. In this busy world, we tend to be lost, without a sense of belonging and meaning. Knowing yourself is a true lifelong endeavour. Everything else depends on your wisdom – your relationships, your work, the world. Self-knowledge requires a lifelong commitment to understanding who you are, your thoughts, being self-critical, being aware, being present. There is no greater subject to meditate on than yourself, because, ultimately, it is you who lives and makes a difference (if you choose to).