Hey Boomer …. Don’t Stop Learning!
“It is time for you to buy a new car.” my husband informed me. And he is right. My Jeep is at the point where it is breaking down every other month. It is spending more time in the repair shop than on the road. I promised him I would go car shopping with him this past weekend. He really likes car shopping and is like a kid in a candy store. But I resisted, making up reasons I could not go. I have to work; I need to see my mom who is in a senior living home; I need work on our taxes and so on. And I did not go car shopping. As I reflect on this, it does not make sense. We both agree that I need a new car yet I hesitated and made up reasons not to go shopping. Then it hit me – while I need a new car, I don’t want a new car. Why is that? Change – I hate change. Even positive change like a new car. So, why don’t I like change? If I am honest with myself, it is because I will have to learn something new. In this case, I will have to learn a new complicated control panel on a new car.
This revelation about myself got me thinking about my father. When I was a teenager, he sold his business, a machine shop that manufactured component parts for diesel engines. GM was one of his biggest customers. He started this business when he was in his late 20s and when he was in his mid-forties, he got the right offer and sold his business. After the sale of his business, he did not need to work. He chose to work though, because he was too young to be “retired”. He took a job that was below his skill level choosing to have a less stressful job. In due time, his boss offered him a promotion and part of the new responsibilities required him to use the computer and enter information into a database. Back then (about 30 years ago), computers were just being adopted by companies and like many people his age, he was afraid of the technology. He says he tried to learn how to use the computer but I doubt that he gave it a good try. Unfortunately, using the computer was a significant requirement of the new job and because he did not learn how to use it, he got fired. He decided not to get another job and he permanently left the workforce feeling like a failure. I was sad for him because he dwelled on the failure rather than on the success of starting and running a successful business.
In my life, the pros of learning are pretty clear. I get a new car and know how to operate it. My father could have stayed in a job and retire when he wanted to and feel good about the contributions he made up until the day he left. And there are many studies on the emotional and physical impact of learning and the opposite - not learning. According to an article published in Inc magazine (https://www.inc.com/aj-agrawal/4-reasons-why-we-should-never-stop-learning.html) “the brain is like a muscle, you have to use it or it will get smaller and smaller. When you stop learning, your brain starts dying.” In addition to your brain getting smaller, there are other benefits of learning: increased creativity, improved decision making, being a better mentor and coach, increased self-satisfaction, job security, and you will be happier.
Being a lifelong learner is important for all ages. I encourage young adults to continue their pursuit of knowledge after graduating from high school, vocational school, or college. Keep feeding your appetite to learn by going out of your way to learn new things. Mid-career adults who are probably pretty proficient in their current role can make themselves irreplaceable by learning other aspects of the business/organization where they work.
The close to retirement and retired adults have to place more effort on learning. As we age, people can become afraid to learn new things or regard learning something as too hard. According to this article “Lifelong learning; why do we need it?”, older people gain the most benefits of being a lifelong learner. These benefits include increased confidence, helps us keep up with our constantly changing world, makes the changing world fun, and opens our minds to new ideas.
For me, the benefit of being a lifelong learner is a new vehicle. For my father, the benefit of being a lifelong learner, would have been being able to retire when he wanted to and on a positive note.
What are the benefits you will gain when you become a lifelong learner?
Learning and change go hand in hand