20 Lifelong Learning Habits You'll Love
Welcome to Self-Mastery — a place for timeless ideas to help you be the architect of your mind, create yourself, and do less, better.
Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
― Isaac Asimov
Lifelong learners are built, not born.
Here are 20 habits to set you up for lifelong learning from today.
It only takes one or two to change your life.
1. Stimulate dynamically
The mind is a muscle—it needs dynamic stimulation to keep growing.
Never rely on one “exercise” to learn something new—give yourself a menu of options.
Write, read, listen, watch, solve, play. Enjoy!
2. Build learning circles
The most powerful learning is communal. Not individual.
No one is an island.
Start building learning circles with other curious minds. Even if just one person.
Embrace community—it is everything.
3. Keep asking “why”
“Why” is a powerful tool in our learning toolkit.
Along the line of our lives, we were told to stop asking why and just accept “facts” as we are told them.
Now is the time to reject it.
Ask why, what, how, as often as you can.
If you want to understand the world (and yourself), take a cue from the kids. Keep asking why!
4. Adopt a process orientation
Prioritise the process.
Learn for the sake of it. Not always because there’s a specific goal in mind.
You can replicate this with almost anything. Exercise. Networking. Trying something new. Switching off.
Do it for the sake of it.
When you prioritise the process, you become flexible with where you are headed.
Life is a fluctuating, twisting, baffling journey—but forward progress is all that matters.
5. Become a Polymath
A polymath is a person with wide, multi-disciplinary knowledge.
Lifelong learners also tend to be polymaths—their curiosity naturally drives them to accumulate knowledge in a variety of disciplines.
Learn both horizontally and vertically.
6. Build a learning engine
The learning engine is at the core of every lifelong learner.
It comprises all the learning “inputs” regularly consumed (books, newsletters, podcasts, videos, etc.).
The internet gives you access to it all.
So, build an unbreakable learning engine.
7. Avoid noise bottlenecks
Consuming more ≠ knowing more.
As you consume more information, you might find that your noise-to-signal ratio increases.
Consume less. Consume intelligently.
More signal, less noise.
8. Embrace all types of learning
There are two types of learning: surface-level and deep. Also called high-level and low-level.
Surface learning is quick and easy.
Deep learning is more challenging. It requires a willingness to slow down and let ideas mature in your mind.
Lifelong learners embrace both.
9. Seek mentors and coaches
“To go faster, go alone. To go further, go together.”
Seek mentors and coaches—or supportive friends—to help you on your journey. Never be afraid to ask. People are nicer than you think.
You’ll be stunned by the kindness of strangers and their willingness to help.
10. Embrace failures
Lifelong learners recognise that failures are learning opportunities.
They don’t fear them.
It’s easier said than done. Failures are painful—physically and mentally and emotionally.
But keep to the course, and you’ll find yourself learning on the other side.
11. Follow your curiosity
Most people (or all pessimists) who give up trying will tell you to do the same. And most people fail not because they can’t but because they give up trying.
When you have a spark of curiosity, follow it.
Moments of pure, unfiltered curiosity are refreshing. Revitalising. You have to prioritise them when they come.
Seek out curiosity-inducing content (like this newsletter! *wink*)
12. Become a teacher
“Those who can’t, teach” is bullsh*t.
Teaching is often the most powerful path to learning. If you don’t know something well enough, you often can’t teach it either.
The Feynman 4-step technique is a potent formula to help you deeply understand anything.
If you want to learn and do, exceptionally—teach.
13. Take breaks
The best athletes train hard and rest harder.
Humans were not made for constant motion.
Learn to sprint, learn to rest.
Breaks are how you unlock new learning and growth. If you want to grow, first learn to rest.
14. Learn from strangers
Every conversation with a stranger is an opportunity to learn something new—something that could blow your mind!
Be present in every conversation with every person you meet.
15. Seek a stimulating job
Some jobs we do simply to clock in and clock out each day.
I know this is a luxury—but if you are lucky enough, take advantage.
Build something stimulating out-of-hours. Use whatever time you can. Keep going until you can go full-time on it. Even people in worse circumstances than us are capable—and often get it done.
16. Change your mind
Lifelong learners are always willing to change their mind.
Don’t listen to people who tell you otherwise. Even if it’s yourself.
Verify all things for yourself, come up with your own beliefs, and then try to disprove them.
Keep going until you can no longer disprove it.
Strong opinions, weakly held.
17. Act immediately
The most successful people are extremely impatient to act on what they want.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment or until you’re “ready”.
Initiate, then iterate.
18. Practice mindfulness
A healthy mind creates a powerful body, and a powerful body creates a healthy mind.
Set time aside for mindfulness.
Practice meditation. Go for walks. Make time for silence. Surround yourself in nature.
Anything is possible when your mind’s right.
19. Read daily
The best learners never stop reading.
Read what you love. Then you’ll never want to stop.
Reading can transform the way you think, interact with others and your view of the world.
Learn what the best minds have already figured out.
20. Play the long game
People who embrace long-term games are always the ones who win.
The best things in life—personal and professional—come from compound interest.
Knowledge is no different.
But it takes time. A lot of time.
One grain of rice might seem insignificant, but double it every day for 30 days, and you have 536,870,912 grains.
Leave your knowledge—and actions—to compound. It’ll do the rest.
What’s on My Mind
A powerful and restorative remedy for your body is to put your legs up the wall and lie on your back for a few minutes every day.
This helps channel blood flow to your core, eases stress, helps you sleep, calms your nerves, relieves headaches and improves digestion.
Need you be convinced more to try it?
A Quote to Think About
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
— John Milton
This week’s reads
“Optimists bring confidence to their work and are sanguine about their ability to create. “To create things, you have to be a rational optimist. Rational in the sense that you see the world for what it really is. And yet you have to be optimistic about your own capabilities and your capability to get things done”, Naval says.
Meanwhile, cynics and pessimists often say, “I’ve given up. I don’t think I can do anything. So the world to me looks like a world where nobody can do anything. And so why should you go do something because if you fail, then I’m right, which is great. But if you succeed, then you just make me look bad”.”
→ The World Needs More Rational Optimists — here’s How to Become One
“The list of mistakes you can never recover from is very short.
But you likely realize your life will not be destroyed if your book doesn’t sell or if a potential date turns you down or if your startup goes bust. It’s not the failed outcome that paralyzes us. It’s the possibility of looking stupid, feeling humiliated, or dealing with embarrassment that prevents us from getting started at all.
The first step to being courageous is being willing to look foolish.”
→ 3-2-1: On dealing with conflict, writing books, and working on the right level
My Favourite Things This Week
Video - Why we never stop procrastinating
Blog - 100 very short rules for a better life
Tweet - Writing well 101
A Question for You
What kind of job would you do unpaid?
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Speak again soon!