As I write this, I’m sat on my self-awarded lunch break at a Marketing Conference in London. I’ve just enjoyed a great seminar on the uses of paid Facebook ads and their relation to human and consumer psychology; I ended taking 5 pages of hand written notes during that single 20 minute talk.
This brought up the question in my own mind of ‘why do I love learning so much now, as a 22 year old, than I did when I was in an actual specific learning environment’. So I decided to explore the topic.
For me, growing up, school was not a learning environment. It was a mandatory exercise where my friends went too and that forced me to wear an unflattering uniform until I was 18. I hated packed lunches and maths lessons and sweaty classrooms and early morning starts. I felt that lessons got in the way of my actual experiences and that half of the information I was being taught just wasn’t useful at all. I wasn’t a bad student and I got fairly good marks but that was usually just due to a good memory, rather than an enjoyment of learning.
At university, I do remember that I enjoyed my first few lectures, purely for the fact that I was a learning about a topic I had chosen for myself. But soon even that become a chore rather than an intellectual experience. Dragging myself to seminars to talk about readings I had no emotional connection to just left me feeling bored and frustrated. So what does that tell me? That I’m secretly a rebel of learning, and can only enjoy it when I’m not forced into doing it? …Maybe.
Perhaps it’s due to the element of individuality. Currently I am working in a field that I didn’t imagine myself doing and certainly wasn’t taught about in school. It’s not related to my degree and it’s something that I can actually use in my professional life. It’s a path I have chosen for myself, where I’m learning alone, surrounded by other strangers all keen to learn too. It makes me feel important, smart and educated to learn these things and to enjoy them. I’m here because I chose to be, because I paid for my own ticket and dragged myself to London just for this experience.
Perhaps it’s all about money. The information I’m learning today can benefit my job and my work, and can make me a better marketer. Do I simply enjoy learning due to the fact that it might make me richer one day? Or perhaps it’s to make me feel like I’m doing better at my job simply by knowing more about it as a general topic. That by knowing this new information I’ll be smarter and more informed than my rivals.
The psychology of learning is a fascinating one — your approach to it can be traced back to both your early childhood and your brain. For example, before I even went to school, my mum had already taught me to read. This led to me spending the majority of ‘reading classes’ skipping ahead in books, sighing and waiting to learn something I didn’t already know. I naturally have a creative mind and a photographic memory, meaning that I take in information in minute detail. Whilst this came in handy during tests, it didn’t exactly make staring at words in a textbook a fun learning experience.
In that sense, my school days perhaps were just the ‘wrong kind of learning’ for me. If I couldn’t immediately put the information I was taking in to good use — I didn’t care. If being tested of my knowledge of Pythagoras’ theorem didn’t come into practice the very next day, I didn’t really connect with it.
But I can’t really relate that to this particular brand of learning. I also enjoy learning about management strategies and philosophy, despite the fact that neither will apply to my immediate professional state. Am I really just that bratty child who refuses to learn in the environment she’s ‘supposed’ to or do I actually just have a new perspective on the things I genuinely want to know about?
Either way, my love for learning doesn’t seem to want to stop. With the internet feeding my mind with so much new information, algorithmically tailored to my own interests, I’m always absorbing new things. So let’s not stop learning, adults. Let’s keep ploughing through our Ted Talks and sitting in conferences and scrolling through articles.
Learning doesn’t always take place in a classroom.