Learning Keeps You Sharp
Poppa, my father’s father, was a 5’8” frail-framed giant of a man. With an insatiable desire for more knowledge, he was always reading. Poppa came to visit me (when I was 19) in my eight foot by twenty-eight foot trailer. I had one two-shelved book case about three feet wide — little to select from. But he found one of his favorites — the dictionary. Poppa picked it up and began to read.
When his body abandoned him, his mind was sharp and strong. He spent his last year confined to a bed watching every documentary and news show he could find. I sat with him every Wednesday and he would tell me everything he had learned. The same way preschoolers delight in matching shapes and kindergarteners delight in spelling their names, Poppa delighted in learning.
Continual learning keeps your mind sharp. Sitting in front of sitcom after sitcom or drama after drama does not engage much of your brain. Learning requires an active mind. Continual learning breeds confidence. The more you know, the more you can contribute. The more you hone your skills, your knowledge base, your expertise, the better you can serve your community. Learning provides options. You don’t know what you don’t know. Developing new skills opens new worlds — cooking, foreign language, art.
A few simple steps I like to use for solidifying new information. First, take notes. The very act of writing things down helps engage your brain more fully. Second, ruminate on it for 36 hours. Keep it in front of you, purposely process it over the next day and a half. Third, within 48 hours of learning something new, teach it to someone else. Teaching a concept is one of the best ways to truly master it. Having to articulate the concept clearly and simply helps you understand each step in the process. Like mapping a trip, you don’t just know the starting and ending point, you have to navigate each turn.
We’ve all been told to do all things in moderation. However, learning might be the exception.
Learn all you can.