The most valuable thing I ever learned

Research states that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert.

Elementary school students are already experts in the use of technology.

Teenagers are considered experts in video games.

Bachelor’s degrees are given to students who demonstrate they have become experts in their intended major.

I am probably an expert in writing. Communication. Technology. Television shows and movies. Driving. Kids. Maybe cookie dough?

I went to college longer than the average kid goes to college. That’s because I’m above average, by the way.

I worked my way toward a degree in public relations. I learned a lot about journalism, marketing, business, communications, etc. I learned about physics, statistics, history and psychology. I know a lot about Karl Marx, the quadratic equation, how to keep score in bowling, Associated Press style and the product lifecycle.

But none of that REALLY matters.

If I ever need any of that information in real life, I thankfully have the Internet to bail me out. But Union University did something special for me.

Jennings Hall was where many of my classes were held at UU. It is where I learned how to learn. 

Actually, one professor in particular taught me the most important thing I know. I had her for at least five classes. She was (is) tough. And no matter how much my brain or my hand hurt after a blue book exam, I always felt like I actually learned something.

Guess what?

I did learn a lot of things.

But the most important thing she taught me is HOW TO learn.

In one particular course, Professor Blair asked us to pick our own topic and figure our own way about learning about it. I will never forget that morning, in that classroom. Her words ring in my ears today.

“At some point, if we don’t teach you how to learn, we are doing you a disservice.”

So often, I hear people say it’s too late for them to learn something because they are out of school.

That’s ridiculous.

Mark Cuban, self-made billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said this in his book, How to Win at the Sport of Business:

Mark Cuban became a billionaire by learning HOW TO learn.

“Going to college should be about experiencing as much academically as you possibly can, but more importantly, it should be about learning how to learn and recognize that learning is a lifelong endeavor. School isn’t the end of the learning process, it’s purely a training ground and beginning.”

So if nobody is handing you syllabi, drilling you in exams and demanding lengthy research papers from you, how are you supposed to learn?

  • Read. You know it and I know it – people you read are naturally smarter than people who don’t. And don’t just read in your field or interests. Read outside of your comfort zone. Read everything you can get your hands on – blogs, books, newspapers, manuals, brochures. You will never be dumber for reading.
  • Network. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Dave Ramsey likes to ask people if they take financial advice from broke people. Of course not. (If you do, stop it.) Hang out with experts who will pull you up to their level and teach you about their crafts, hobbies and careers. Everybody knows something you don’t know.
  • Listen. Attend workshops, lectures and conferences. People generally pay a lot of money for you to be able to be at these things. So when you are there, actually be present mentally. The speakers in front of you are not idiots. They didn’t get on the program and stage with good lucks and charm. They got there because they have a message to share with you. Listen, take notes and try to glean something you didn’t already know.
  • Take a class. Just because you are out of college doesn’t mean you can never take a class again. Find a class at your local college or community center and learn about whatever you want to learn about.
  • Teach. Help others understand what you are learning by teaching it to them. Host a class, start a blog or just share things with your friends and families. Not only are you helping to educate others, but you will actually demonstrate that you are learning yourself.
  • Practice. Nobody learns something by never doing it. If you want to learn to do something, you have to be willing to try it…and probably fail a few times.

My pastor, Pete Wilson, recently decided he wants to learn more about walking tightrope. What? That’s crazy, right? He actually bought a beginner’s tightrope to learn the basic skills.

I really want to learn more about coffee, so I am trying to get a job as a barista in a Starbucks. It may not be my lifelong career, but I promise you I would learn all about how to make specialty coffee drinks and the processes behind coffee.

What if you figured out something you want to learn about and you just did it? Just like that?

Hustling is empty without learning. If you aren’t learning anything while you hustle, then you might as well be spinning your wheels. You will hit a glass ceiling. You will get to a point where there’s nowhere else to go.

Be proactive. Don’t ever hit that ceiling.

I challenge you to choose something new to learn this month. It can be anything you want, but just choose something and then figure out how you will learn about it.

Ready? Set? HUSTLE!

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