I once heard a middle-aged woman profess that each morning she wakes up with one goal in mind--to learn something new. My initial thought was 'Just one thing? Do you even have to try?' But then the question crossed my mind that outside of high school how much am I truly learning? To my regret, I realized that the only time I regularly learn something new is from 8 am-2pm, Monday through Friday. The majority of my knowledge is acquired from sitting through required classes and studying for mandatory tests. And here is this lady, who has already achieved her college degree, desiring to learn for the sake of knowledge. Thankfully I now see that the best way to benefit yourself is to learn from others.
One of the toughest facts of life is the realization that there is always someone, who is, plain and simply put, better then you. Unless you are Olympic runner Usain Bolt, someone will cross the finish line in a shorter time period. Your mother-in-law's cherry pie will always be the hit at family gatherings no matter how long you tweak and test the recipe. When the world around us is constantly changing, each person likes to think he or she has all the answers. We find security in pretending to be omniscient, even though deep down we know it is far from reality. But the truth of the matter is that our shortcomings are keys and opportunities to learn from others. It's moments like these that keep us grounded and prevent our ever drifting minds from camping out in the clouds.
The good news is that people who can inspire your imagination are not hard to find. Chitchat with your neighbor. Ask your kids what they learned in school. Interact with all those 'friendly acquaintances' or 'fair-weather friends.'
An example from my personal life would be last weekend, which I spent listening to my family's gardener spout off countless facts about Chinese Chives and proper hedging techniques. I later discovered that expanding my plant repertoire also expounded my appreciation of proper gardening care. As a result, I established a personal goal of learning at least five plant names or facts a week. It wasn't until I started working towards my goal that I realized learning is not some long term ambition which will someday come to a close. Rather it is a never-ending one!
I honestly believe that when people begin to learn from one another the entire community will flourish. People will naturally be more supportive of others' accomplishments and receptive to new ideas. Give it a try. Be inspired by those around you. And encourage others to follow your lead. My hope is that this article will encourage each one of you to live to learn. Together, we can create a community of life long learners.
Published in The Enlightened Life: A community blog