Confessions of a learnoholic

Dear Friend,

I have few confessions to make. I am a learnoholic. That is, I am addicted to learning. I get super excited with possibility of learning something new and loose myself in it. I get a strong high when I finally “get it”. And of course I suffer if I am left stagnant without learning something new.

May be you are a learnoholic too and haven’t recognized it yet, or may be you desire to be one. So here are some confessions of long time learnoholic.

Confession1: If I don’t challenge my mind, it can torture me.

Human minds are torturous. People get addicted to substances to get some time off from their mind which is generating continuous negative thoughts, doubts, worry and unnecessary chatter.

My mind feels like owning a super active, energetic dog. When such dog is locked up in the house, it soon starts destroying the furniture, looking anxiously out of the window and unnecessarily barking at anyone that passes by. So you need to take him outside to do the things dogs like to do. Like to play “fetch the ball”.

Mind behaves similarly. It has lot of energy and is restless. If I don’t channel it, it starts generating chatter, that chatter starts becoming into a stream of thoughts, often negative, judgmental. The mind will then worry at most mundane things, get upset at slightest irritation. It creates hell internally first and then externally.

So when I sense that my thoughts are leaning in that direction, I know that the I need to do something. I tell my mind “go fetch that” and set a far goal outside my comfort zone.

That gets my mind alert, excited and enthusiastic. See, there is other way to take a break from mind’s torture, one popular way is to dull the mind by passive activity like watching television, shopping, gossiping for example. However a typical learnoholic will choose to challenge the mind to dissipate it’s energy.

Confession 2: Learnoholic defines talent differently.

I have met many people saying that they really would like to learn something but they don’t have talent for it. They see talent as some kind of inborn ability. They think that at day zero of the learning, if they don’t produce something impressive, then they don’t have the talent.

Skills like drawing, painting, music and dance are considered for “talented” people. When I learned to paint quickly and that surprised people, they often ask me if there was an artist in my family from where I got my talent.

But I will tell you a secret. To know your talent, you need to know how it feels like to have a talent. Having a talent feels exactly like having  a spontaneous and strong desire. A desire to learn.

Talent is a strong desire to learn and nothing more.

Yes, really ! When talent knocks on your heart, you start day dreaming, it becomes your fantasy. “Oh I so wish I could paint. I see myself with beautiful paintings.Oh.. that book looks so interesting.. and I would love to take up that class”, when your heart start fantasizing like that, know that a talent has arrived.

Then is the time to whistle for that super active dog called mind and let it do the rest to actualize the talent.

I love this definition because it allows me to spontaneously find myself “talented” in different things at different stages of life and it is always a surprise.

Confession 3: I suck with Confidence!

Once I start learning something, I almost alway suck at it. I will start with vision of painting something like MonaLisa and end up with cartoon of Minnie Mouse. In dance, I will dance with two left feet and in yoga will awkwardly get stuck in a pose. This is when I am surrounded by experts and teachers and they are so good at doing what they do that it seems almost impossible to reach their level of skill in my lifetime.

This is the phase when most learners quit but a seasoned learnoholic sticks with it.

I remind myself continuously that the reason I am here in this dance class is not because I am a good dancer but because I am good learner and I better behave like one.

So I confidently ask dumb questions and openly suck. You start finding that it is not only okay to suck but there is something really attractive about it. My teachers are confident in their skill and I am confident that I will eventually learn it.  And confidence is attractive! When you are sincere and confident, you start attracting best teachers. Many times my teachers work so hard on me to give me my first win, that I sometimes find myself telling them “Relax, I will get it. It will happen. I won’t give up. Don’t worry!”

Confession 4: Eureka is the ultimate high!

After you get okay with sucking, you need to practice. It is the phase where conscious mind understands what is needed but body and subconscious mind is not fully getting it. So I need to practice, practice and practice until the body and mind finally can integrate it. The moment of such integration feels like euphoric eureka. You know you got it on all levels.

Eureka is the greatest intellectual high, and it is the enlightenment of your talent.

I have seen kids go through this process so often. They will struggle with something for sometime but then suddenly like magic they turn the corner and get it.

After such eureka moment, the practice becomes flow where you can truly enjoy what you are doing and get better at it effortlessly.

Confession 5: Learn and stay young.
I believe it is a misconception that learning ability declines with age. I think it is other way around, you age faster when you stop learning. The process of learning keeps you fresh, interested in new things, therefore updated with the time. Learnoholic’s give appearance of a younger person. They look young and they feel young.

Confession 6 :Jack of all is master of all masters!

When you are a learnoholic, you find yourself with skills and interest in many areas. But we have been brought up with directive to choose and be master of at least one skill. This forces us to pick up one area and then continuously work in that area. This is the most boring way to live from a learnoholic perspective. World is full of so many cool phenomenon, why stick with one thing and one thing only? For learning you need focus, that is true and you need the commitment that is true too. So I focus on one thing to learn at time but strive to learn many things over the course of the life time. Life gets richer when you diversify. It is like owning diversified portfolio of skills and that is an asset in this uncertain world where skills become irrelevant quickly.

The Jack of all is master of his destiny and can cruise around through life’s surprises with agility that only learning multiple skills can bring. When you know may areas, you apply insights from one are to another to get even bigger insights. Many companies create high performing teams consisting of people of diverse backgrounds for the same reason. If you are a learnoholic, you yourself can have high performing life due to level and frequency of your insights.

Jack of all is master of insights.

Many times in corporate world, people with multiple areas of interest and skills become leaders. They know enough of everything to make effective and timely decisions and they know when to call masters in the field for more details.

Jack of all is master of all masters.

Confession 7: If you are the smart one in the room, you are in wrong room

People who seek expertise in a field, often feel arrived when they master the field. The learnoholic however does not stay satiated with mastery for long time. You are at top of your game and you are the goto person for others but you still feel something is wrong. It just means that learning addiction is calling you again. What you are doing is now too easy for your mind to handle and it is asking for a challenge. That you are ready for another talent to arise, another roller coaster ride and another eureka moment. It also means it is time to suck again!

If you are expert in one room, find another room where you can be a freshman. It builds humility, patience and keeps ego in check.

I want to conclude my confession by saying that I love my addiction and I am going to keep it. It has made my life experientially rich. Unlike any other addiction, this one has almost no unwanted side effects. And this addiction keeps on giving to me and through me to others. I highly recommend this to anyone seeking a new addiction or looking for replacing their old one.
If you are already a learnoholic, I wish many talents to knock on your heart.

Be well my friend.

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