20 lifelong learning habits you can start developing today
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Lifelong Learning Habits
Lifelong learning is a competitive advantage. But contrary to what you’ve been told, lifelong learners are built, not born.
The mind is a muscle - it needs to be stimulated dynamically to continue to grow. Don’t rely on one “exercise” - develop a menu of options. Write, read, listen, watch. Solve puzzles, play games. Enjoy it! Stimulate dynamically, learn dynamically.
Build Learning Circles
The most powerful learning is communal, not individual. Build learning circles with other intellectually curious minds. Engage regularly with no set intention or goal. Community is everything. Embrace it.
Keep Asking Why
“Why?” is the most useful tool in our learning toolkit. But somewhere along the line, we are told to stop asking why and just accept “facts” as we are told them. Reject the norm. If you want to understand the world, take a cue from our kids - keep asking why!
Adopt a Process Orientation
Prioritize process. Learn for the sake of learning, not always for a specific goal. When you prioritize process, you become flexible in where you are headed. Life is a winding, confusing journey - forward progress is all that matters.
Become a Polymath
A polymath is a person with wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary knowledge. Lifelong learners tend to be polymaths - their curiosity naturally leads to knowledge accumulation in a variety of disciplines. Learn both horizontally and vertically. Become a polymath.
Build a Learning Engine
The “learning engine” is at the core of every lifelong learner. It is comprised of all the learning “inputs” regularly consumed - books, newsletters, podcasts, videos, etc. The internet has opened access to it all. Build an unstoppable learning engine.
Avoid Noise Bottlenecks
Consuming more does not equate to knowing more. As you consume more data, you may find the noise-to-signal ratio increases (a classic Taleb “noise bottleneck” appears). Consume less, but consume intelligently. More signal, less noise.
Embrace All Types of Learning
There are two types of learning: surface and deep. Surface learning is quick and easy. Deep learning is more challenging. It requires a willingness to slow down and let ideas mature in the mind. Lifelong learners embrace both.
Seek Mentors & Coaches
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” You can’t do it alone. Seek out mentors and coaches to help you on your journey. Never be afraid to ask. You’ll be amazed by the kindness of strangers and their willingness to help.
Lifelong learners recognize that failures are learning opportunities. They don’t fear them. They embrace them. It’s easier said than done. Failures are painful - physically and emotionally. But stay the course and you’ll find learning on the other side.
Follow Your Curiosity
When you have a spark of curiosity, follow it. Moments of pure, unadulterated curiosity are fleeting, so you have to prioritize them when they come. Seek out curiosity-inducing content (like my Curiosity Chronicle newsletter!).
Become a Teacher
Teaching is often the most powerful path to learning. The Feynman Technique (explained below) is a foundational mental model for unlocking learning and growth through teaching. Use it! If you want to learn, teach.
Humans were not made for constant motion. Learn to sprint, then rest. Taking breaks can be the easiest, most effective unlock for learning and growth. If you want to learn to grow, first learn to rest.
Learn from Strangers
Every conversation with a stranger is an opportunity to learn something new. Be present in every conversation with everyone you meet. You never know what might come of it.
Seek a Stimulating Job
Try to find a job that is intellectually stimulating. I know this is a luxury - if you are lucky enough, take advantage. P.S. I want to help. Check out my job board for interesting roles at companies that believe in open access.
Change Your Mind
Lifelong learners are always willing to change their mind. Believe something to be true? Ok, but be sure to open your mind to counterarguments. Stubborn refusal to acknowledge alternative perspectives stalls progress. Strive for strong opinions, weakly held.
Embrace Novel Formats
2020 was a tough year, but it did bring an upswell of novel learning formats. Cohort-based courses - which foster community! - are a great innovation. Cool Example: Ascend - a program for women looking to accelerate their careers.
A healthy mind is a powerful mind. Set aside time for mindfulness. Practice meditation - start with 5 minutes a day and build up from there. There are plenty of great apps to help you get started. With a healthy mind, anything is possible.
School as the Starting Line
All lifelong learners recognize that school is nothing but the starting line of our true education. Once you internalize this, you’ll start doing things differently.
Play the Long Game
The greatest riches in life - personal or professional - come from compound interest. But it takes time. Lots of time. Knowledge is no different - it compounds. So lifelong learners play the long game. Let the magical power of compounding work for you.
So those are 20 lifelong learning habits you can start developing today. What are some that I am missing?
If you are a job seeker, check out The Bloomboard for unique roles at high-growth companies in finance and technology.
Until next time, stay curious, friends!