When we come into this world our learning begins. First we learn how to get attention so we can be fed, then how to walk, talk, and ride a bicycle. Learning is crucial to our lives.
A Russian proverb ‘Vek zhivi — vek uchis’ translates to ‘Live for a century — learn for century’. As we can see that learning is living.
We go to kindergarten, school, college, university and then we begin our careers. While in school we are taught skills that will prepare us for work. At the beginning of my bachelor’s degree, I was told by the dean of engineering that we are only going to remember five percent of what we will be taught in the university. The most important lesson that I took away that it does not matter what you learn but rather how to learn. Nothing is constant. The world around us changes everyday. We should be attentive to notice the changes, react and improve.
We work our eight hour day and then we come home. We drift into the routine of supper, chores, Netflix and maybe using that gym membership that we feel bad about paying thirty dollars a month. Learning slows down. Once we figure out what we need to do at our job and how to get through the 8 hour day, we fall into the routine. Routine that doesn’t necessarily keep us happy but keeps us in the comfort zone. This might be counter intuitive but being in the comfort zone is dangerous. We stop learning.
Learning does not have to stop there. You can continue to expand your mind and learn new skills. You can learn something that you always wanted to learn but never had time or your parent’s approval. You can teach others and learn in the process. We are never good at something right away, sometimes it comes naturally and sometimes it requires practice. A lot of practice. We fail. We succeed. Regardless of the result we learn how to learn.
How do we learn? We learn from day to day situations, by trial and error, from our peers, we absorb the knowledge previously discovered and described by others. Best learning is not traditional: sit down and open a book, read chapters 5–9 and then answer a multiple choice test. Best learning is when you are hungry for knowledge. Learning has to be natural and not forced on you by others. Different people have different styles of learning. For each of the styles, there are resources that are catered to the style. Whether it is reading a book at your local library, taking an online class, volunteering at an event or just simply talking to someone and discovering something new.
With technology, knowledge has been most accessible. Back in a day a student had to travel miles to school on foot to satisfy the hunger of learning. Lomonosov, in his teenage years, ran away from his home in a small village in Russia to get education in Moscow. He walked for seven hundred miles, following a trade caravan to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. Today, just few screen touches away we can find out ‘how to un update snapchat iphone’.
Designers are tasked with a difficult task of delivering a message in today’s world. Simple fact is that people don’t read. They scan. We restrict ourselves to ten second videos, hundred forty character limit, when trying to express our feelings and thoughts. Color, images, single words are used to catch a users’ eye to click and purchase. I am myself guilty of not reading. As a true engineer, I only read IKEA instructions after I assembled something and suspiciously a lot of parts are left over. Reading inspires learning. By reading we can uncover the knowledge that was passed down to us from others who have led the way. When trying to solve a problem, we look at previous decisions. Surely this problem already came up in the past, in one form or another, but how did we solve it? Was it the best approach?
There are a lot of problems in today’s world. A lot of new problems that never came up before and there might not be an obvious solution. But if we continue learning and practicing our problem solving skills, we can overcome and solve anything. Starting today, get out there and learn something new. Trust me, you will thank me later.