What do star athletes, elite fighting forces and corporate magnates all have in common? They never stop learning. They never stop practicing, training, studying and trying to be better, do more — some are even, quite literally, reaching for the stars (hello, Bezos.)
We’re in a new age of life. People are living longer than ever before, and that means our work life is longer also. Statistics show we’re working well into our late 60s, even 70s. And what was cutting-edge and in demand at the beginning of our career doesn’t last through its entirety. Sooner or later, you’re going to be upended by someone new with more advanced skills. So we need to keep learning to remain competitive. We also need to keep learning for ourselves, for our health — mental and physical — and for our legacy. Who wants to be known as status quo guy?
The brain is a muscle too
We all know the importance of exercising our bodies. Did you know your brain is a muscle that needs exercise too? According to the Mayo Clinic, we need to “use it or you lose it.”
Learning to play an instrument can offset cognitive decline. Learning challenging new skills improves memory. Reading dramatically reduces stress. Learning activities (e.g., crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards) can delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. And, education increases your lifespan: more than six months for every year of formal education.
The Cleveland Clinic explains the importance of creating brain reserves, “which help your brain adapt and respond to changes and resist damage. Your brain reserve begins to develop in childhood and gets stronger as you move through adulthood. People who continue to learn, embrace new activities, and develop new skills and interests are building and improving their brain reserve.”
The opportunities to learn are abundant
In this day and age, there is simply no excuse to stop learning. The opportunities are abundant. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Take a class at a local college, community center or online.
- Go for a professional certification.
- Learn a new hobby or skill, e.g., photography, archery, duck herding.
- Master a foreign language.
- Take on a new instrument.
Find something that interests you, that ignites and engages your brain, and go for it.
No one is going to do it for you
How many times have you heard that one in your life? And if you’re a parent, how many times have you said it?
Professor Peter Capelli of the Wharton School stated that in 1979, young workers received an average of 2.5 weeks of training. By 1995, the average was 11 hours — and it was typically focused on workplace safety, not new skills.
“There’s one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself. Nobody can take away what you’ve got in yourself, and everybody has potential they haven’t used yet.” Wise words from billionaire investor Warren Buffet.
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The last sentence of the Navy SEAL creed is: “My training is never complete.” We’re not going to argue with the most elite fighting force in the world, are we?
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