We Learn Differently Through Life Stages

Guess what this is!

It chews on its fingers, other people’s fingers, jackets, clothes, sharp and round objects. It tries to swallow everything, regardless of size, close enough to its face.

It snivels, cries, owns no teeth. When it’s not the most adorable thing in the world, it poops. You often apply powder on its skin and on occasions that powder erupts confetti-style out in the air.

Have you guessed it already? Yep, it is a baby.

Never mind the impression, farting is not the biggest source of intrigue here. No, the baby’s learning ability is.

At this stage, your parents teach you not by explaining, but by behaving. Right around the time when you are a sponge that soaks in everything and your own foot.

They find it fascinating how fast you absorb and grow.

Your mindset is to observe, explore, try out, and learn. You barely get frustrated learning and even if you do, you cry it out and keep on slipping.

Learning, at this stage, is effortless. Not forced upon.

Characterized by learning at your own pace…

Most kids hate school…

During my language classes back in primary school, our teacher would ask us to read a poem and then explain what a poet tried to say.

We would try our souls out mostly to hear the teacher say “Ehm no, not really” or “Close, but no”.

I can clearly remember always thinking to myself — “How the fuck you know the right interpretation? The guy died before you were born and never left any notes explaining what he actually tried to say.”

As you start with your formal education, learning becomes more difficult. It starts to lose playfulness and your brain starts to thicken (losing neuroplasticity). Plus, you start learning more complex matters.

You are no longer just observing, you are being thought.

At this age your mentors and teachers play an important role. You notice adults start teaching you to what they know or think they know.

They teach you math, language, biology, and how to behave as well. All important and crucial lessons.

However, something’s changed from when you were a baby.

You are being judged for your conclusions.

Or should I say they keep scores of the quality of your conclusions (or results). And sadly that quality is evaluated by how close the conclusion is to the generally accepted one.

There are many problems that arise from this. You start to doubt your thinking. The possibility to arrive at the original conclusion tightens. You get corrected and don’t even get asked how you came up with conclusions. The lessons are often generalized, not personalized. I could go on forever…

The reality hits you

It’s time for you to get that first job.

You are ready to take over, change the world, be an inspiring leader… The greatness lies upon you. By your rough estimations, it shouldn’t take you more than 3–4 years to get to the top of whatever.

You get a job.

With time passing by you realize it’s not exactly as it was in school. It isn’t necessarily hard, but rather chaotic and more complicated.

It’s like you’ve been playing ping-pong your entire life and now you’re holding a big racket with Federer standing right across the net.

The sudden realization hits you:

What you learned doesn’t really apply.

You have to learn new skills. The knowledge that applies better to your new reality. But you don’t have to do it the way you did before… You have work to do.

So, not by your own choosing, you learn on the go. You try out things, make mistakes, get embarrassed reading feedback, and you try some more. You have to because your only alternative is calling in sick days to postpone trying again.

Learning at this stage is characterized by doing. Direct contact.

Unlearning

This one is a realization, not a life stage.

Remember everything they told you during school or that you’ve learned by doing?

Well, at some point you’ll realize it’s not the only way to do things. In fact, it might not even be the best way.

So in order to learn differently, you first have to unlearn.

If you imagine learning to be like swallowing, you could then proceed to compare unlearning to throwing up. Simply because you have to get an imprinted habit out of your system. It is a very uncomfortable and challenging experience.

In order to unlearn, you have to let go of the ego.

The ego slowly built up through the years. Now, at this point, it’s an impediment to the unlearning process.

Because in order to unlearn and learn again, you have to embrace the beginner mind. The Shoshin.

Which takes time, willpower, and effort. And feeling like a newbie.

Learning Mid-thirties

Well, haven’t yet tasted it.

But once I get there, I’ll let you know about my experience. Please share yours so I better prepare for what awaits.

Thanks for reading.

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