This past weekend I was able to visit a magical place of wonderment and excitement: A Barnes & Noble. There is just something about a bookstore that gets me frollicking; moving down each aisle in awe at the sheer amount of knowledge available.
I strode past the science section, curious about the books on evolution. I jaunted by the philosophy section, stopping to admire the compilation of works on John Dewey. I floated by the photography section, where I can learn how to take better photos. I glided through the fiction section, calculating on how many Kurt Vonnegut books I could pick up on my way through.
Like a kid in a candy store, I wanted it all. I wanted to load up every book and take it home.
But I couldn’t. I have neither the funds nor the truck capacity. Even if I could, though, I shouldn’t. It just wouldn’t be a good idea.
Learning It All
I love learning. Heck, I even made a website about doing it. It’s a passion of mine; learning how to learn.
For me, anything I learn about the outside world tells me something interesting about myself. While learning about the thing is great, I’m much more interested in how it changes me as a person.
For lovers of learning, anything seems to be a potential endeavor. I want to learn about everything (at least a tiny bit so). I want to be able to hold deep conversations with anyone I come across whether it be a plumber, magician, or dancer. I want to know what I’m talking about and to know the kinds of questions to ask to get to the root of the matter.
I want to learn for learning’s sake.
However, this is a way of thinking about learning that is actually detrimental to learning itself.
There is a genre of gaming that has become more and more popular over time, maybe even more than it needs to be: That of the open world game design. The game gives you the ability to pretty much go anywhere and do anything within minutes of you starting. The most notably popular game to come out of this genre is Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Games in this genre have to be huge. They have to give plenty of quests and sidequests. They have to have lots of things to do, lest they become boring pretty quickly.
The thing is, these games, they don’t begin to get interesting until you start to get caught up in something, whether it’s a main storyline, necessary to complete the game, or a strange quest you happen to come across while exploring an area you were curious about.
Sure, exploring for exploring’s sake is fun for awhile, but the exploration is fun because of the potential interactions between you and the random environment.
What does this have to do with learning in the real world?
Because the learning you are attempting to do doesn’t become interesting until it starts to help you finish a que….um, I mean, solve a significant problem!
You have the ability to take advantage of the natural open world of reality, being able to take part in whatever activity you set your mind to. You can read a book on photography, on mathematics, or on business. However, more than likely this learning won’t stick. It won’t have the umph necessary to make a lasting change in your overall learning. Sure, you may learn tidbits here and there, but you won’t have taken a deep dive that would really give you an idea about the subject.
You Need A Project
I have mentioned the word “project” many times in the past. I truly believe in the importance of them.
We are all concerned with the many problems in our lives. Projects are the tackling of those problems. A project gives us a distinct goal or aim to solve, but beyond that, it gives us a nice outline by which to plan our conduct in order to achieve that goal.
In order to complete a project you have to make use of all the know-how and resources you have. You put your knowledge and learning to work.
You get caught up in the story of your life.
Take for instance me wanting to improve my skills as a photographer. This is better than just buying a book on photography and reading it. I want to get better at it.
I now have a problem to solve. I currently suck at taking pictures, only being capable of pulling off strange angles and putting whatever filter on it I think makes it look “artsy.” Now I need a project. Instead of just getting better, how about I get good enough to get my photography accepted into an art show?
Now I have a project. In order to complete this project I’m going to not only need to learn about photography in theory, I’m going to have to put it into practice, and with a degree of excellence enough to have someone give it a thumbs up.
The learning gained during this project will be deeper and more meaningful than anything else I could do.
If I succeeded I would come out of it a very different person, and even if I failed I would still have gained some great knowledge along the way.
Of course we don’t have enough time to take on every project the world has to offer. We have to be selective about the kinds of things we want to be good at.
The more we want to accomplish the better our time management, habits, and routines must be. We simply can’t waste our energy if we are striving for the best.
Think of it as giving yourself a quest marker; giving yourself the chance to be immersed in the story that is your life. Finishing projects takes not only learning, planning, and knowledge, but it also takes guts, character, and willpower.
Your learning about the world and your self at the same time.