Wake Up and Learn
by NAMAN BHANSALI
You know the kid in your ninth grade class who acted like he knew it all, well that was me. I was too good to learn Trigonometry or Geometry, I was listening to Kanye and I was going to go to do big things. Sleeping in class when I had slept for eight hours the night before, or staring at the ceiling counting the number of little holes in it was what got me through my high school career.
During a work happy hour, my coworkers and I started talking about “hindsight” and what we would tell our younger selves. At first, my answer like everyone else’s was the same, take a picture of the stock market that day and give it to your fifteen year old self to invest. When I got home, that conversation stuck with me. The stock market idea was great, I would be rich. But, the answer seemed to easy and all together very shallow. After thinking about it a bit more I came up with my answer. If I could go back in time, the one thing I would tell myself is to wake up and learn.
My early learning career was hindered. Not because I wasn’t smart enough or because I didn’t have the resources to learn, but because I didn’t have that learning spirit. The moment I decided I could and would learn everything I set my mind to, my life changed. I was able to have conversations about stuff I had no idea about because of asking questions and my eagerness to learn. At this point in my career all I want to do is learn, and learning is a lot more satisfying and enriching than just getting a huge sum of money by knowing how the stock market is going to go. I have no plans to fall off this path.
Every great mind in this world is constantly learning. From the moment you are born to the moment of your last breathe you are learning.
If you think about it, as a baby the very first thing you do is you learn how to learn. You learn how to breathe, you learn how to walk, and you learn how to read.
Though I went through school and have taken my first step, there is a lot of stuff in this world I just don’t know yet. My job as a human being is to learn as much of it as I possibly can. The more you learn, the more you want to learn. The second you have lost your learning spirit you have lost your edge. You have lost a motivation that you can’t get by reading quotes or listening to DMX. You have lost your ability to get better at what you do. You have lost how to learn.
For example, as a developer you can learn one programming language and assume you know how to code. Which I understand, you do. You can read the API’s go through code, and write a function to achieve X. You’ll get your paycheck and go home. Well guess what, there is someone out there, maybe even your future self who can write better code. The only way you can compete with that other person is to make that other person, yourself. Go out of your way and read, look things up online and explore your resources.
However, if you fail to learn something or just don’t have the time or resources to spend on it, guess what? It is okay if someone else comes along and helps you out. No matter if the person is junior to you or way above you. Every person in the world knows something someone else doesn’t, no matter the age, race, or gender. Instead of getting annoyed and trying to prove the other person wrong, just accept it. Accept that this person has taught you something you didn’t know. If you clear your arrogance and accept it, not only will the other person gain more respect for you, they will reach out to you the next time they are eager to learn.
Arrogance is a very dangerous thing in learning. I’m not saying if you lose your learning spirit you have become a know it all prick to all of your friends. I’m saying it’s dangerous because the only person it can harm is yourself. You can get arrogant and not want to better or change the way you do things. Which in this day of age, is almost saying RIP to your career.
When choosing a team in a workplace, the team I want to work with has other learning spirits. Let’s say there are four people who are each good at their individual tasks and are asked to collaborate on a project. At the end of the day, the finished product requires the four different parts to come together. That means everyone in the group has to collaborate and combine their ideas. These are arguments and conversations you can learn from the most. From the four collaborators, you can always tell who the learning spirits are. They always walk away with the most gained.
You know what I just realized? At my work happy hour, the person who asked the hindsight question, he definitely had a learning spirit.