For me, learning has always been a background activity; I passively end up acquiring the skills I need throughout life due to circumstance. When I was tripping with my friends recently, one particular friend has some interesting things to say about education, and learning. Her passion was learning new things, which fit nicely with the fact that she’s doing tutoring as her full-time job. What her argument was is that learning is a lifelong journey, starting from the moment you’re born and ending on the day that you die. At an early age, the learning is more structured and guided, since we have not yet developed the skills needed for self-directed learning. As an adult, after being molded by the education system, we are then free to approach learning as we finally see fit. Having the structure, though, is nice. What are we to do now that we don’t have someone always holding our hand while learning now?
If we spend just a little bit of time every day doing something, after a lifetime of doing, one can acquire so much knowledge. Similar to investing, small savings on a regular basis amount of compounded growth over time. I’ve come to realize how imperceptible the gains can be in a small time frame. I was talking to one of my coworkers. He recently became an uncle and his nephew’s just two years old now. From the moment he was born, his parents (my coworker’s sister and brother-in-law) have been depositing essentially $200 per month into his Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). The program is special in that the gains within the savings account can be withdrawn tax-free, and the government matches deposits at a 5:1 ratio (up to a total of $500 annually). Now, $200/month is a somewhat small amount of money but after 20 years of saving, that money ends up adding up to $50000 saved, and that’s before the government’s additional amount and investment gains. Crazy to think about.
Money aside, how does the principle apply to acquiring skills? In terms of languages, a basic level of fluency in a language can take 500 – 1000 hours to reach. If one were to dedicate two hours a day to learning a language, after a year and a half they would already be very proficient in using it. That may seem like a long time, but for something like learning a language, that’s really not much. Also, by forming it into a habit, it would not even register as a task. For kids, their parents are largely in control and are able to force these habits to form. As an adult, it just requires more discipline.
My recent goals are to learn to draw and play the guitar. These two specific activities are ones I’ve always had some interest in but have always put off with one excuse or another. I’m following the program at Justin Guitar and Draw a Box to get started. Who knows where this journey will take me. Some other activities that are taking less of my time but are on my radar are getting into an exercise routine, be it skateboarding or some workout, continue letter-writing, work harder on my app idea, practice my Chinese and Japanese, learn Korean, research more about gardening, blog more, train at leetcode, get good at Osu, and finally help improve my friend’s business, Mosobox. That’s quite the handful, eh? I just hope I have enough time to do all of this. One step at a time, at the end of the day.