Knowledge is power. We’ve been taught to believe this age old adage by our parents from day one, but when do we actually come to realize that they aren’t all just a bunch of kooks, that they might actually be telling the truth. When does learning begin? When does it end, or rather why does it end?
I gained some much needed insight into this question last Thursday as I volunteered to help a group of my PR peers strive for greatness with their PRSSA sponsored Bateman Case Study. The group organized a college fair, tour and ‘future mapping’ activity for nearly 200 eighth graders. Holy crap. The yelling, the whining, the all-around-eighth-graderness.
As I led my group’s ‘future mapping’ exercise I found that most of the eighth graders had no idea what they wanted to be, though the majority knew what they didn’t want to do: learn. Nearly all of the kids in my 60-person group just wanted to be done with school. So where does this pessimistic and eagerness to ‘be done’ come from?
It stems from structured learning, from mandatory benchmarks and from an educational system that quite often values grades over knowledge. So when one very adorable girl asked why I went to college I told her the truth, because my parents told me I had to. But, then came the reason why I continued: because I found that learning made me grow as an individual, as a writer and as a young woman. Knowledge has fueled my passions, curbed my skepticism and leveled my erratic opinions.
Though I was supposed to be instructing a group of 8th graders, they ended up teaching me a valuable lesson. I was reminded that learning should be fun, exciting and voluntary. I was reminded that although my formal education might soon be over, at least for a while, I will never cease to seek information.
As follows are my top 5 ways to learn:
1. Blogs: Free, fabulous and friendly (time-friendly that is). Blogs are available on every topic, from career specific (PR in my case) to health care, news, politics, environmental issues, fashion and celebrity gossip – it’s all out there. The two-way communication of blogs fosters a dialogue that is unmatched by any other. Pose questions, get answers and join the conversation.
2. Books: Read books for fun: read them because you want to, not because you have to. Books are portable, inexpensive (free at a library) and full of invaluable information (and neato pictures). READ! Books on tape do not count, though they are admittedly great entertainment.
3. Questions: My parents, professors and friends can attest to my need to ask questions, constantly. It’s not pestering, its learning. Ask questions to clarify, to quantify and to educate. Find the answers to the whos, whats, whens and whys of life. Seek your answers from mentors, friends, books, blogs and libraries. We are surrounded by resources: use them.
4. Mentors: Yup, I’m a youngster. I look up to those with more expereince, expertise and education in my field: you should too. Seek advice from those around you. Welcome criticism, comments and thoughts. Look for guidance and assistance throughout your career. There will always be someone better, more expereinced and more educated to look to. (No, your dog does not count).
5. Write: Writing fosters thought. Thought fuels writing. The two are mutually inclusive. Writing encourages mental growth, increases vocabulary and in turn one’s ability to communicate. Write. Write blogs, stories, journals, blurbs. Notes to grandma, whatever, just write.
Thanks to Seth Godin for reminding me that we are always learning, all the time.