Over the past 21 months, I have been steadily working on some things. Working to put together, package and present what I do to the world. Working to climb out of holes I dug myself into, working to manoeuver out of corners I backed myself into. In this time, I’ve been soaking up the wisdom and insights of the many people who are our modern-day voices of self-development and growth, of philosophy and spirituality. And there among many truths I’ve discovered, there is yet another one that is foundational to getting what you want – Everything is learnable.
Human beings are adaptation machines. This is the reason why we have survived for however long we have been on earth, why we live and thrive across diverse terrain and climate conditions. It is the reason why a baby is born a blank slate and grows into a fully functioning person speaking, walking, writing, reasoning, moving, doing, creating. We are designed to adapt, we are built to learn.
Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that is beyond the power of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also. – Marcus Aurelius
There are many things we deem great and impressive. They include the physical feats, the accomplishments in careers, in art, in business. The building of happy lives and relationships. It is easy to look at them or the people who attain them when we have not and then despair or regard them as unattainable for us. We believe subconsciously that they are well beyond our reach because we are not worthy, or because we do not have the skills or the resources to get them ourselves. It is this fear, this assumption that makes us hesitate, that stunts our action for the BHAG.
But the truth is everything is learnable. The surgeon who deftly cuts out the tumor from his patient brain did not come out the womb wielding a scalpel, she was trained, she studied diligently over years, she learned. The entrepreneur who starts, successfully runs and sells companies over and over again may have had some inclination as a child towards business. But it is his persistent study, practice, action, and learning that has turned him into a skilled entrepreneur. He learned.
Everyone who made it, learned the skills they needed to make it happen. And so can you.
Once you take a hold of this idea and truly believe it – that everything is learnable, nothing is impossible. You embrace the growth mindset, the one that says I may not be there right now, but if I’m diligent and consistent in working at it, I can get there.
If everything is truly learnable, then you can become whoever you want/need to become. The thing to do then, is to reverse engineer your desires. Look at the things you want to achieve, attain and do and consider, what would it take for you to be able to get it done? What skills do you have to learn? What knowledge do you have to acquire? And then pursue those.
But it starts with the belief that it can be done, and a willingness to be patient and invest in the process.
21 months ago, I did not know much about business. It was literally painful to spend more than 10 minutes discussing business strategy, models or case studies. I mean it, like my head would literally hurt and I would need to go do something more comfortable like watch music videos or series. Today it is much easier to hold those type of conversations, I am able to give insight and ideas on strategy with my clients and associates. In 5 years, it will become second nature.
Understanding that everything is learnable opens up possibilities. It’s not just about business or skills. Even the things that make life worth living or fun are learnable. You can learn to build better relationships. You can learn to network, to connect better with strangers. You can learn to let go and have fun and stop being so uptight. You can learn to work harder and stop being so lazy. You can learn to think better. You can learn to manage your emotions. You can learn to meditate. You can learn to be at peace.
All of a sudden, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to keep getting better. You just have to learn. What pressure dissipated, what a weight lifted off our shoulders. What a chance to let go of the ego and focus on the pleasure of the journey, of the process. If everything is learnable, you can give up your excuses of not being good enough, of not knowing this or that. You can focus on getting good enough, you can focus on learning, you can focus on becoming.
In a world where the only constant is change, the most important skill is that of learning.
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. – Alvin Toffler
Sure, learning is hard, it hurt learning to walk. You fell countless times, but you persisted. To learn something new means pushing through the resistance and fighting the urge to ease up on the pain, to do something more comfortable. Tackling new concepts and wrestling with new material is hard. Deliberate practice is hard, but it must be done. As with all things great, the price must be paid. But it’s a price that is worth it. The pleasure and ease of a skill learned and the opportunities it opens up is worth much more than the pain. I mean you don’t even remember the pain of learning to walk right. But now if you are able bodied, you probably take it for granted.
If everything is learnable, and we have reverse engineered the things we must learn, we then come to the question of how to learn. For all the years of ‘education’ we are mercilessly subjected to, the very key skill of ‘how to learn’ is unaddressed and yet it is the foundational skill that underpins all others. Worse still, the long tedium of the system spoils the sweet taste of real learning and makes most people shun it after leaving school. You must reconnect with the joy of learning, of discovery and embrace it as a life-long practice.
We all learn in different ways. Some like to read, some like to explore and experiment. Others like to be instructed, others simply need to observe or listen. Each of us has a dominant learning style, and once we understand what it is, we can leverage it in our quest to acquire knowledge and skills. But it is important to learn how to learn. Once you master that skill, the ball is fully in your court. You have the control. You decide the direction you wish to go. You can tackle projects, amassing skills and knowledge, growing in your contribution and your value.
Everything is learnable, you can become the person you need to become to get what you want. If you want to learn a thing, learn it. You don’t need the permission of an institution or an individual. The information is literally at your fingertips, and there are usually no laws against discovery. Go out there and learn.