You don’t need to learn anything. This is great because it means you can all sit back and take it easy. Except that this is blatantly untrue. I recently came across the poem below from Bertolt Brecht (apologies to my German readers if the translation is off slightly), and on reading it I was struck by how well it seems to fit a lot of the world today, despite having been written in the 1930s. People seem to be unwilling to learn.

For me this is criminal, but that’s because learning and helping others to learn and grow is a key value that I hold tightly to. I do accept that not everyone is so passionate about it but surely we can all see a need for even a little growth? Maybe our parents did fix things, or our leaders are good, but they can’t do everything for us, nor should we let them if we want to be ourselves (rather than their clones or minions). So why do people react against learning?

In some cases I suspect it’s a mindset thing  – they come from a fixed mindset in which they convince themselves that they can’t learn or grow. They avoid any chance of development because they ‘know’ that it will end in failure owing to their perceived inabilities. So they don’t start, thinking it’s a safer route. However, mindsets can be shifted to think in terms of growth, believing that who you are today is not who you will be in the future; that your skills and attitudes and knowledge can all change and improve.

Some people mistakenly believe that they know enough already. They’re doing okay thank you and don’t recognise any need to grow at all. This is fine for short periods of time but eventually the world will change around them to the point where they are struggling and the learning curve has become really steep. At this point the option of saying ‘it’s too hard to learn’ comes easily and they retreat into a cocoon of ignorance to protect themselves from the consequences of not knowing. Recognising now the necessity for gaining things through the course of life will stop you putting it off until it’s too late – where else did the concepts of ‘lifelong learning’ and CPD come from. And yes, I know they are terms spat out in contempt or annoyance by some, because of the narrowness and stringency of some professional definitions. However many people delight in chance to keep up with the changing world.

There are still others who equate learning with a school system that they didn’t like or fit into. To them we could talk about the ‘University of Life’ idea as well as pointing out the different ways that people learn – listening to lectures doesn’t work for all of us. I often use the phrase, ‘You learn something new everyday’, because it is certainly possible if you are open to growth. However, I haven’t been inside an actual school for years, and even regular training courses only happen for me once or twice a year. However, there is newness around us now if we choose to look and take it on board. The people we are interacting with know slightly different facts or have improved skills in some areas. We can learn from them without ever meeting a teacher or entering a classroom.

Maybe you are as keen as I am to grow or perhaps you recognise yourself in some of the descriptions above. Whichever camp you are in, what are you going to learn today? Sometimes growth comes and catches us unawares which is great. Looking for learning though will increase the chance and the capacity for it to take place. Who will you listen to? What questions will you ask them? What skill will you improve, even slightly? How will you change your thinking?

Knowing what you want to improve is a start. Then find out who can help you, either as an expert or someone to walk with you in the process; possibly a colleague who wants to grow in the same way or a person you trust who will simply keep you on track. And then set yourself a goal with an end date. It could be simple; a fact to be gained today. Or it might be that you want to change the way you behave in stressful situations. Whatever it is, get learning today!

Ich habe gehoert, ihr wollt nichts lernen 

I hear you don’t want to learn anything.
I gather from that: you’re millionaires.
Your future is assured — it lies
bright and clear before you. Your parents
have fixed things so that your feet
won’t get bruised on any stones. So you don’t
need to learn anything. You can stay
the way you are.
Should some difficulties nevertheless arise — since
the times, so I hear, are uncertain —
you’ve got your Leaders, who’ll tell you exactly
what you’ve go to do so things will go well for you.
They’ve consulted the ones
who know the truths
that are valid for all time
and the prescriptions that always work.
With so many who are for you
you don’t need to lift a finger.
Of course, if things were different,
you’d have to learn.
Bertolt Brecht