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What it Takes to Learn for a Lifetime

It’s easy to utter noble-sounding platitudes like “never stop learning,” but a maxim such as this is much easier to preach than it is to live. To never stop learning, by implication, also means to never stop exposing your vulnerabilities, to never stop protecting yourself from the experience of being corrected or chastised for getting it wrong, to never stop taking chances that might result in others laughing at you or teasing you, to never stop admitting that you don’t know the things others feel you ought to know. This gets harder with age, experience, and achievement.

As we grow up in the world, more is expected of us. The category of things we ought to know seems to get larger and the world seems to be less forgiving when we fall short of its expectations. It’s easy to be a learner when everyone sees you as a student. The real challenge comes when the world looks to you as a teacher, as a leader, as a role model. This is when we must exercise a kind of fortitude that’s able to resist the temptation to place reputation over education. To never stop learning is not merely a matter of maintaining a sense of wonder. It’s also a matter of maintaining a hunger for knowledge that exceeds both our lust for praise and our fear of making mistakes.

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