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10 Things To Learn From History’s Best Learners

10 Things To Learn From History’s Best Learners

Throughout history, and even in the modern era, there are individuals who have “cracked the learning code” and made breakthroughs by understanding (and acting on) things that others could not.

Here are 10 things we can learn from them:

1. They are permanently curious: Neil deGrasse Tyson

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    “No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.”
    ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

    In science, curiosity is what leads to breakthroughs. And in everyday life, curiosity is a key ingredient to inspire learning, when it might be easier to just get on with your day. deGrasse Tyson’s curiosity was activated early in life, initiating a life-long study of astronomy after visiting the Hayden Planetarium at age 9, and now spreads that curiosity to millions of followers on one of the most interesting Twitter feeds around.

    What can you get curious about?

    2. They invest in themselves: Ben Franklin

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      “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
      ~ Ben Franklin

      Though his actual schooling ended at age 10, Franklin went on to be known as one of the most prolific polymaths of his era, constantly feeding his appetite for new knowledge through voracious reading in a wide array of different areas. This led to innovation and breakthroughs in printing, politics, science, engineering, activism, and of course the whole founding of the United States thing.

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      While you might not have time to become an expert in artificial intelligence, regenerative medicine, and renewable energy, just remember to keep investing in yourself by adding something to your knowledge bank each day.

      3. They transcend traditional education: Albert Einstein

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        “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
        ~ Albert Einstein

        Einstein was famous for being a poor student. Even after his schooling, he took a menial job at the Swiss Patent Office because no one would consider him for a teaching position at a university. What he showed, more than anything else, is that brilliant discoveries transcend the bounds of what we typically consider “learning” and “education.”

        The key is this: if you want to learn about something, say physics, you don’t have to pick up a physics textbook. Instead go outside and observe nature, watch a documentary, read about the life of famous physicists – inspiration and true knowledge don’t come from the classroom.

        4. They teach themselves: Elon Musk

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          Everyone knows the famed billionaire founder of Zip2, Paypal, Tesla, and Space X. But how did he get there?

          One of the keys to Elon’s success has been the consistent ability to teach himself whatever he needed to know to build useful stuff. In fact, he started way back when he was 12 years old, and taught himself computer programming, building a computer game called Blastar, which sold for $500. That trend has continued, starting both Tesla and Space X with virtually no previous experience in automotive or aerospace engineering.

          So think about something you’d love to achieve. What skills and knowledge would you need to get there? Could you teach yourself?

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          5. They consider alternative viewpoints: Aristotle

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            “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
            ~ Aristotle

            How many people do you know who are staunch conservatives or bleeding-heart liberals? According to Aristotle, the father of modern science and political thought strongly-held beliefs like these are the enemy of productive discourse and progress. His philosophy: the answer to most problems lies in the synthesis of two opposing thoughts.

            So the next time you’re sure you know something, whether it be about diet, climate change, or politics, research the opposing viewpoint and consider it objectively. Then, and only then, make your decision on what’s correct.

            6. They get obsessed: Bill Gates

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              When Gates went to high school, he was already deep into programming computers, going so far as to study the source code for programs like Fortran, Lisp, and machine language. Soon after, he was hired by Information Sciences, Inc. to write a payroll program, and was commissioned by his school to write a computer program to schedule students in classes.

              “It was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success.”
              ~ Bill Gates

              Bottom line: Gates got obsessed, and kept taking that obsession deeper and deeper. And soon he found himself creating an industry. Get obsessed with something.

              7. They learn for the sake of learning: Stephen Hawking

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                “No one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before.”
                ~ Stephen Hawking

                Much of our learning life is consumed with building a skill set or earning this or that certification. But whatever happened to learning for the sake of learning. Famed physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking contends that truly meaningful discovery in science comes not out of a specific objective, but out of genuine enjoyment for discovering something novel.

                Think about this the next time you pursue learning something: are you doing it just for the credential, or do you truly enjoy the learning process?

                8. They attach enjoyment and wonder to new knowledge: Carl Sagan

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                  “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
                  ~ Carl Sagan

                  Sagan was one of the first to truly introduce the public to the wonders of science with his Cosmos series back in 1980. And in addition to his hundreds of publications, he was an unrelenting advocate of advancement in the exploration of space. It’s inspiring to just listen to him speak about the wonders of the universe. His drive to discover came from a sense of wonder about the beauty and magnificence of nature.

                  If you find enjoyment in something, you can uncover a boundless source of energy for learning more and more about it. What inspires you to learn?

                  9. They commit to learning for life: Mahatma Gandhi

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                    “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
                    ~ Mahatma Gandhi

                    Gandhi was the utmost example of living in consistency with his beliefs. Part of that was an unyielding commitment to considering all alternatives, and keeping an open mind – continuously testing different approaches to religion, politics, activism, and even diet.

                    What we can all learn from him, is that keeping an open mind and participating in continuous, life-long learning is a practice worth adhering to.

                    10. They work tirelessly at building new knowledge: Thomas Edison

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                      “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
                      ~ Thomas Edison

                      Edison is famous for his devotion to hard work. Everyone knows about his 10,000 failed lightbulb experiments, but it wasn’t simply an obsession with one invention – he applied the same principles to everything he did. And in the end built a laundry list of inventions, and an entire power distribution industry.

                      Edison reminds us that it’s not enough to be clever and it’s not enough to be correct. You have to put in the hard work, day after day. But in the end, the results always come.

                      Featured photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via flickr.com

                      More by this author

                      7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It The 3 Things Elon Musk Knows About School That All Students Should Copy 10 Ways for Students to Crush It Next Semester 20 Funny Things Everyone Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter 10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

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                      Last Updated on September 16, 2019

                      How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

                      How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

                      You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

                      We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

                      The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

                      Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

                      1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

                      Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

                      For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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                      • (1) Research
                      • (2) Deciding the topic
                      • (3) Creating the outline
                      • (4) Drafting the content
                      • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
                      • (6) Revision
                      • (7) etc.

                      Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

                      2. Change Your Environment

                      Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

                      One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

                      3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

                      Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

                      Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

                      My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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                      Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

                      4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

                      If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

                      Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

                      I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

                      5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

                      I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

                      Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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                      As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

                      6. Get a Buddy

                      Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

                      I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

                      7. Tell Others About Your Goals

                      This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

                      For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

                      8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

                      What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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                      9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

                      If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

                      Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

                      10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

                      Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

                      Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

                      11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

                      At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

                      Reality check:

                      I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

                      More About Procrastination

                      Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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