lifelong learning

Stretching the Brain Muscle – At Our Age?

Have our cake and eat it: the fun of lifelong learning on our own terms, through the lens of life experience.

Some people like to exercise physically, and some don’t. That’s just the way it is. And some seem to like learning things, while others are happier to be done with learning at the earliest opportunity. It’s not as if many would dispute the clear benefits of regular exercise or lifelong learning. Seems to be part of human diversity.

But here we are, likely already past the normal 9-to-5 stage of life, perhaps with some time on our hands. Some of us may have a measure of curiosity on ways of spending that time. Others may just be happy with a more passive approach to that. We’re all different.

But has learning new things any place in our lives now, or not? When we don’t have to worry too much about whether it’s the right thing to do.

Lifetime Learning – Any Time Is The Right Time

For my part, I’ve been blessed or bothered, not sure which, with a desire to learn new things from early years. There were many other kids at the time who clearly had much sharper intellect than I ever had, so it wasn’t a question of some latent Einstein trying to break out. No, nice as that might have been, looks like it was quite an average brain, but with an oversize curiosity.

Certainly, in the early years of working after completing a science degree, the attraction was the allure of more worldly knowledge, and maybe some career progression. The idea of knowing more about business, finance, marketing, what good management was all about, etc. Learning how to read company financials, making a selection and taking my first dabble on the stock market, etc. I was mesmerised by this stuff!

Added to that, such wonderful books as Lee Iacocca’s autobiography on how he turned the US automaker Chrysler around, Mark McCormack’s ‘What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School’, and many more. Riveting!

Did it help with career progression? Yes, it did! Did it turn me into the next Bill Gates or Warren Buffett? No. But it made a difference and was a great passion and focus. I would always recommend finding ways to broaden and deepen one’s skillset. I feel the key is to do this in niches that are complementary to one’s passions and career, right from the outset. And why stop, keep going!

A Second Wind – Digital Technology

Then along came the wonders of personal computers through iconic wizards like Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Owning one was way outside my budget at the time, but there were a few at my place of work where I was able to get some hands-on. Prices came down drastically over time and it wasn’t too long before I became a proud owner. And it was the dawn of the Internet age.

Outside the normal University and technical college scene, it was quite challenging then to access relevant learning material. The Internet was just getting going, brochure sites with no asynchronous interactivity – maybe a ‘Contact Us’ form, or just a phone number and email address, but that was about it. And no Amazon yet, hence a lack of access to good affordable books.

To shorten a long story, that was the start of a decades-long fascination and learning journey with digital technology. It’s ongoing to this day. Might have been nice to have been a coding genius and digital startup entrepreneur cashing in for hundreds of millions. But again, not to be – at least not yet. And I’m thankful for the joy of learning what it’s all about, the many great people along the way, and the fun of it all.

Now, no problem setting up a Linux box, Kali, the command line, coding up a few web pages, a blog, a bit of WordPress development or using off-the-shelf site designs, etc. I’m not into crosswords so immersing myself in these is a fun way to spend some time.

And More

One other great thing it’s all done. Even though I’ve left behind more great books than I care to think about in all the moves up to now, I love my ever-expanding library. Business, biographies, investment, adventure, sport, fiction, the lot! It draws compliments. Everyone should have one. And lifelong learning is a great process for building an interesting collection.

But here’s another major plus – it shoots to ribbons the excuse that we hear so often – “Oh, I’m too old to learn anything new now”. We shouldn’t buy it, not for a minute. Probably true that if we don’t use it, we lose it. But just over a year ago I was part of an online class that completed a Masters in computer science and there was more than a handful of mature participants, including myself. It’s not about age.

Keeps Getting Better

And what about writing? It’s a great example of a craft that has been brought within reach of so many of us by the Internet and open-source blogging applications such as WordPress. If we feel we have a message, we now have the tools and abundant guidance to reach out and find our audience. The choice of what to do about it is ours, of course.

Original Article Published in Medium

The above is a copy of the same article I published on on October 9, 2023 here.

Medium is a subscription-based publication platform for writers. I am a Medium Partner and, based on article engagement by members, a portion of members’ subscriptions is shared with Partners for published articles.

I have also referred to enrolling in courses of interest here as a consideration for an active retirement.

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