Thursday, July 24, 2008

Challenge Yourself: Learn Something New

Paid Parking
Originally uploaded by drewmaniac

When we're children it seems the whole world is at our fingertips. We have big dreams of what we want to be when we grow up. Personally, I wanted to be "a scientist". The appropriate title would probably have been "zoologist". That dream didn't really pan out, for a variety of reasons. When we're young we have a curiosity that is unmatched. We ask why, how, where. We want to know and often we want to know now.

As we grow older we tend to lose that curiosity. Adolescence convinces us we know it all and a few more years under our belts convince us we'll never know it all. So we become comfortable with what we do know and we entrench ourselves in a willing stalemate. The music that is good is the music we grew up with as a child. The books that are good are the books we read when we were younger. The fast changing technology world is too much for us to learn, so we remain with the old inventions we've always used. Don't believe me? How many times have you heard someone say, "Those computers are just too complicated for me."? If you have, and I suspect you've heard something like that, then you've just met someone who has entrenched themselves into a willing stalemate in the game of life.

I have an 85 (or thereabouts) year old great uncle who can get on the Internet and for the most part knows what he's doing. Could he have sat back and let that part of the world pass him by? Yes. But why remain unlearned? Why toss aside the curiosity to learn something new?

Seth Godin writes in a recent post, "Most people, most of the time, steadfastly refuse to pay attention." He's right. We don't pay much attention most of the time and we chose not to. If we would just pay attention, we might just learn something new.

A few years ago in Galveston, TX some friends and myself were packed in a car. We had gone down to visit another friend who was suffering from leukemia in Houston. As we drove down the beach front in Galveston my friend, Jonathan passed up a CD from the band Bright Eyes. This was long before anyone had ever heard of them (him). We played the CD for a little while, but soon everyone (including myself) was done with it. Not only were we done with it, we didn't want to hear it again.

A year or so later I found myself listening to that very same album on my own. Not only was I listening to it, I liked it. In fact, hordes of others were discovering the same thing. Why? We weren't paying attention, we weren't ready to, and we were firmly entrenched in what we thought was good music. Our curiosity was gone and we weren't willing to learn some new music.

So challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to learn something new. It doesn't have to be music. It can be anything you've been intending to learn for some time. Or maybe something you've never even thought of. Learn a hobby. Learn a sport. Learn a new (good) habit. Learn something. Don't believe yourself to have figured out all you're ever going to figure out.

Maintain your curiosity and learn something new.

This is the 2nd post in a series titled Challenge Yourself. The previous post was Break a Bad Habit!


Ryan said...

You should have seen the comment I was about to leave; but I didn't want to match the word count of your blog.

Anyways, good writing, and very much agreed. I also take great pride though in holding on to certain things I'm not willing to let go of...a balance I guess we all try and make.

I've started tennis (partly by force) and kind of enjoy the challenge over sports that come more natually to me.

Ben said...

yea.. but bright eyes does suck. you can't help that.

Good post tho, i do agree it's important to keep life interesting, and the only way to do that is to go beyond the usual.

Rachael said...

I really enjoyed this post, more so than your others. I think that may be because this is something I need to focus on doing. It's easy to stay in your normal routine where you feel comfortable, but you can't ever grow more as a person if you aren't constantly challenging yourself to try new things. Very good post. Keep it up! This series of posts is great.