Yes You Can Get Smarter Every Year

Birthdays, in my experience, become more odd the older you get. My friend Gini, when I told her I would be 52 this year, said: “Your fifties – you just live them. You’re not old or young. I never remembered how old I was in my fifties.”

So, on this even birthday year, I decided to make it more memorable by writing about things I’ve learned. My inspiration for this came from Srinivas Rao and Eleanor RooseveltI’m always inspired by her and I decided to give myself time to reread her slim, yet profound book:  You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys For a More Fulfilling Life . Written in 1960 when she was 76, Roosevelt positions her ideas around the practice of lifelong learning because, she writes, When you stop learning you stop living in any vital or meaningful sense.”

Rather than write a tedious or hokey clickbait post like “52 Things I Learned in 52 Years” (an actual title idea I abandoned), I decided to rely on my old teacher practice of chunking information. So instead of 52 things all at once, I’ll space them out in Seven-A-Day shorter posts each day this week with some bonus material on Sunday to round out the number.

Another feature of this post: the author’s names are links are to the books where I found the source material, so these bullets also function as a recommended reading list. Most of the titles are available at your library (find them with this awesome tool), free through Google’s massive project to scan classic works, or dirt cheap on Amazon.

Day One: The Best Things I’ve Learned About Learning

  1. Be present and curious via Eleanor Roosevelt – “To this day I do not feel I have had a career. What I have done is to live every experience to the utmost. As I look back, I think probably the factor which influenced me most in my early years was an avid desire, even before I was aware of what I was doing, to experience all I could as deeply as I could.”
  2. Learning helps you feel better via T.H. White  – “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake in the middle of the night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”
  3. Learning makes you “bulletproof” via Alvin Toffler – “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”    
  4. You give yourself permission to learn via Mark Twain – “Never let formal education get in the way of your learning. ”     
  5. Don’t act like the smartest person in the room via Lord Chesterfield – “Never seem more learned than the people you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch and keep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours, but give the time when you are asked.”     
  6. Everyone knows something you don’t via Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Shall I tell you a secret of a true scholar? It is this: every man I meet is my master in some point and in that I learn from him.”
  7. The person doing the work is the person doing the learning via Friedrich Nietzsche –  “The doer alone learneth.”

A birthday challenge from me to you: write your own list of learnings and share a link to it, or share your favorite quotes in the comments. Action creates its own motivation, so if you’ve been thinking about writing, consider this an invitation to get moving on one small idea.

Next post: Fear

Photo via Visual hunt


Published by

Shanna Peeples

A former features writer and columnist for the Amarillo Globe-News, Shanna chaired the English dept. and was an instructional coach at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas. There she taught AP and remedial students for seven years. She is the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, and the 2015 Texas Teacher of the Year. Currently she serves as the Secondary English Curriculum Specialist for the Amarillo Independent School District.

What's on your mind?