Learning New Things
- Less Talk, More Action “Well done is better than well said.”
- Don’t Procrastinate “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”
- Be Prepared “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
- Don’t Fight Change “When you're finished changing, you're finished.”
- Get Moving “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.”
- Avoid Busywork “Never confuse motion with action.”
- Give Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”
- Act Quickly on Opportunities “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”
- Continue to Grow “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”
- Keep Going “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
- Know Yourself “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self.”
- Don’t Self-Sabotage “Who had deceived thee so often as thyself?”
- Don’t Give Up “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
- Wise Up “Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”
Great love is born of a deep understanding of the thing loved. - Leonardo DaVinci
Learning new information, new skills, new tricks, is something that is so highly reverred and encouraged among our young, but our lifestyles generally tend to steer us away from learning as we grow older. Other priorities and responsibilities become too abundant to avoid, and we are gradually weened from the intrinsic desire (and even instinct) to learn.
In today's wonderful world, humanity and the technology industry is brining so many new and useful tools into your home to make it easy to pick up where you left off and keep learning. Podcasts, video classes, free encyclopedias, and a myriad of other sources of knowledge is only seconds away from you right now.
You can find free math and physics classes online at http://www.academicearth.org These classes are actual videos of a full semester course at the top academic institutes in the country: Harvard, Yale, MIT, etc.
USC Berkely now has tons of podcasts online for free at http://webcast.berkeley.edu/courses.php
Learn out loud also specializes in podcasts and other media designed to teach you new and interesting things.
What is the Importance of Learning?
Learning (anything) offers a great opportunity to increase your appreciation for a certain subject, or life in general. If you have ever had an appreciation for something - and I'm certain that you have - you will inevitably by knowledgable on the subject, at least to some extent. This can work in both directions, if you find that you're depressed, or stuck at your job, or can't find the happiness that you'd like, try picking up some new knowledge on a subject.
For instance, I recently took a course through The Teaching Company, on Ancient Egypt. And having no prior knowledge on the subject, I was clueless as to what I would take away from it. The course was 24 lectures, each 45-60 mins, and I learned all about the pharaohs Normer, Hatshepsut, Ramises and all the way through Alexander the Great. It was a great lesson and now that I'm finished, I have a great appreciation for life in 2000 BC and the struggles that people faced.
No matter what you learn there will always be something that will give you some sort of appreciation.
Leave a comment about something you're learning now, or something you'd like to learn about.
In ancient China, Shaolin monks developed a fighting style based on the physical characteristics and iconic elements of the personality of the Tiger. They called this Tiger style Kung-Fu. Since a Tiger has very keen eyesight, the monks developed methods of exercising their eyes to improve thier eyesight. These would have been exercises that they trained and developed from a very young age. They would have been performed by eveyone training in the Tiger style regardless of whether they had so-called "20/20 vision". No matter how good you are at something, you can aways become better with more training.
I have been recently practicing the following exercises and have noticed an improvement in my eyesight over just the past couple months.
One exercise was to count the leaves on a far away tree. With meditative patience they would focus in and count hundreds of leaves at a time. (This is a good one to practice in the fall since the leaves are changing colors and you may be staring at leaves quite a bit anyway.) Start up close with some leaves that are easy to make out and count 50 of them. With patience, slowly pick trees that are farther away from you and then slowly increase the number of leaves you count. Work your way up to 200 which will give you a good amount of time with your eyes focused at a distance. Do this once daily.
Another exercise is to focus on an object very close to your face. I usually choose my hand. Get it as close to your eyes as you can while retaining a good focus on it. Look at it for about 2-3 seconds after you've fully adjusted your focus on it, and then pick another object that is more than 20 feet away. I generally pick a leaf on a tree or something else that has some fine detail that will allow me to really focus on finer and finer detail. If you pick a flatt wall or something that doesn't have much texture or detail it will be hard to focus on. Again, look at the object for 2-3 seconds after you have achieved a good focus. Go back and forth between these two objects about 20 times and do this exercise daily.
A zen koan (short story) tells of a boy who was training under his father as a burglar:
The boy followed his father on a burglary one night and once inside the house, his father intentionally made a ruckus and fled the house. The boy darted to the nearest closet and his heart began to pound furiously as the home owners rose to see who was in their house. The boy had been given very little training, but the adrenaline of this moment was all he needed to be able to do anything he needed to do to prevent being caught. Eventually he made it out of the house undetected, and while he was not pleased with what his father had done, he had learned many lessons that night.
Often times it is important to leave your comfort zone and throw yourself into new situations where, if you think about it, you might not be entirely sure of yourself, but if you just do it you will find a way to get through it. This doesn't necessarily have to involve adrenaline - it can apply to cooking a new meal, changing careers, taking up a new sport, or virtually anything else.
Don't forget - this also offers a great way to observe yourself. Once you are thrown into a new situation, take a little time to observe your actions, your words and your feelings. You never know what you will learn about yourself.
"Observe all men; thy self most." - Benjamin Franklin
The first instinct is very often the best action.
When you act on your gut reaction without hesitation or inhibition, this is to truly be yourself. The little things you do that come into this world directly from your thoughts is a way of showing the world, but more importantly youself who you really are.
The more you come to obey these gut reactions the better you will begin to know yourself. The better you know yourself, the more honestly and effectively you will contribute to those around you.
Meditation has been used for thousands of years by many different cultures and religions. It is being introduced into the U.S. now, but it's still portrayed as something that might be a bit intimidating for some. There are many reasons people might meditate, but I think one of the main reasons is just as a tool to ease the mind and take your thoughts away from the everyday details of life and get some intrinsic relaxation.
If this is the goal, classical "meditation" can do the trick, but if you don't have the desire to understand it or the time to sit with yourself, there are other ways of clearing your mind and becoming relaxed and at peace with yourself. Any time you are doing something just for you and it is something you enjoy doing and you can be yourself doing it; in my opinion, this is a form of meditation.
- If you play a musical instrument and can lose yourself in a song or focus on the notes that you are playing so hard that you don't notice anything going on around you, this is meditation.
- If you play basketball and can get a good game of 1-on-zero going, and all of your attention is on the ball, or the hoop, this is meditation.
- If you practice martial arts and can focus your mind on every atom in your body and the control you have over them, this is meditation.
- If you lift weights and can be aware of the physics of your muscles, and concentrate on which muscle fibers are doing what, this is meditation.
If you can do anything at all, generally by yourself, that requires a great deal of attention and does not allow your mind to wander to other things, this will be very healthy for you and you will come to understand yourself better and better over time. Many of the same benefits from meditation will be gained from doing things like this.
What does it mean to challenge yourself, and what is the benefit?
To challenge yourself is to set a goal to do something that will not be easily accomplished. A challenge can be anything large or small. Sometimes it is easier to identify the larger challenges (bench press your weight, finish your school paper a week early, don't eat that chocolate, etc.), but it can be more difficult and require more creativity to exploit the smaller challenges, such as opening the door with your foot or optimising the way you close the bottle of milk. I believe that these smaller challenges are extremely important to understanding one's self. All self-challenges are great, I just think the small ones are underestimated.
If you challenge yourself to jump over a trash can, or to walk up the stairs only on your toes, or grab a bug out of mid-air with a pair of chopsticks, these are all intrinsic tasks that are performed by the fundamental "you"; they are not composite tasks based on reliance of others or your surroundings. Every time you complete a self-challenge, you've further defined another self-limitation. It would be great to find all of you physical limits via small challenges and know them all fully. This would give you a good picture of who you are and what you can accomplish (at least physically) and this will, in turn, allow you to get to know yourself even better.
There is no limit to the amount of information you can find out about yourself, so keep being creative and continue to find out your limits. As you test your limits, you will, at the same time be expanding your limits. Therefore, once you know your limit, try it again (and again and again and again), you may surprise yourself.
The below image set depicts the limit test, acquisition and challenge sequence. The solid circle represents your physical limit (for example, the absolute maximum distance you can jump), and the dotted circle represents what you interpret to be your limit via challenging yourself:
Fig.1: You have tested your limit and were easily able to complete the task. You are too far within your personal limits and are underestimating yourself. This is all too common in humans.
Fig.2: You have not properly tested your limit, and for some reason you have an altered perception that you can do more than you think you can. This is dangerous as it is an overestimation of your own ability.
Fig.3: This indicates "pushing the limits". Continually challenge yourself and dance around the line which dictates your absolute personal limitation. This will allow for an improved familiarity with yourself as well as work to increase your limits.
They can easily be added to your blog or to your igoogle.com homepage from the link below. :)