“It is critical you understand the structure of the cell!” my teacher said, eyes popping a little behind his square glasses.
“It’s the basis of everything you are!”
Who cared what we were made of?
For all I was concerned, my body could have been full of rubber bands and paper clips. I still wouldn’t have studied biology.
I didn’t have a good reason to. Without a reason to learn, you may as well be memorizing ingredients on the back of a cereal box.
Here are a few of the only reasons I have retained information in my life:
1) TO NOT DIE
A while back, I just knew my stomach was about to drop of my intestines. Either that or I was going to puke it up. My mommy didn’t know what to do. The doctors didn’t know what to do. “You’ll just have to live with it,” they said.
I said otherwise.
Turns out constant pain is a very good reason to learn about the human body. For the first time in my life, I studied what I ate, made changes, and am now living mostly pain free.
2) TO MAKE MONEY
Behold! The birth of my writing career:
“Hey Todd, you should write for the school newspaper,” said my friend Keith.
“Um, I don’t know man. Class has me really busy.”
“They pay $8 a story I think.”
“How do I apply?”
So yeah, I sold my career choice for $8. I got lucky, though. Writing just happens to be one of my natural gifts. The experience I got in college (not just classes) helped me figure out infinitely more about the craft.
Yet, here is the model most colleges push:
- Learn/memorize some things
- Take tests on those things
- THEN get a job where hopefully you remember some of what you learned
These steps should be simultaneous. When you apply what you are learning, you remember more of it. Seeing the direct result between knowledge and income makes learning very attractive.
3) TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE I CARE ABOUT
Guess how much I knew about Gilmore Girls before I married Kate?
Guess how much I know now?
Okay, it’s still not a lot, but thing is — passion is contagious. The show is so tied to her childhood that I can’t help but be interested. Why did she care about it that much? I missed that part of her life.
I want to know Kate on every level. This means getting familiar with information I may not have cared about otherwise.
And for the record — Team Jess. Come on.
4) TO BE THE BEST
“No WAY did Bryan get an 87 on that test! I’m smarter than that guy!”
5) TO OBTAIN FLOW AGAIN
After a while the brain gets bored of everything.
The first time you got behind the wheel of your gas-powered death mobile, you were shaking in your boots. You could feel the raw power. The slightest wrong move and everyone on the road could be in incredible danger.
Now, you likely weave through traffic at 70–80 MPH on a fairly regular basis.
Driving is no longer a challenge to you. If you were interested in capturing that initial rush again, you’d need to find a way to make driving more difficult. Maybe you would enter a demolition derby or try your hand at drag racing.
Flow is the magical zone between anxiety and boredom. The more you learn about one area, the more chance you get to stay there.
6) TO NOT FEEL EMBARRASSED
The word squirrel is spelled “S-Q-U-I-R-R-E-L’
Why do I know that? Because I missed it in the next to last round of the 6th grade spelling bee. Shaniqua spelled it right and she put me out. And she became a cheerleader the next year. Some people have all the luck.
Shame is not a good reason to learn something. But it certainly is effective.
7) TO HAVE FUN
Out of the 30 students in our intro to philosophy class, only one of us liked it — me.
In this class, I learned I was different. Not better or worse, really, just different.
You are different too. You have unique genetics and background and experiences. Your interests are simply a reflection of that.
Whenever you like something, PAY ATTENTION. Don’t assume the class is easy and that’s why you’re understanding it. Not everyone is cruising through the information as quickly as you are.
You might not be motivated because you aren’t taking the right classes.
8) TO PLEASE AN INCREDIBLE TEACHER
Passion is contagious. Did I say that already? I don’t care. It’s worth repeating.
The best teachers consistently have students who average the best test scores. Shocker, right? These are the same students who go through every other class struggling to understand the information, struggling to care.
The best teachers make an impact because they care. They can’t help but tranfer the information in an interesting way.
9) TO PROVE I COULD HANDLE A HARD CLASS
Should I go down this road?
Okay yeah, let’s go.
Competition is one of my primary drivers. I would not be as athletic, as smart, or as studious as I am were it not for my brother and our constant unspoken rivalry.
The best way to get me to do anything is tell me I won’t be able to do it.
Your primary driver may not be competition. It may be cooperation or application (using your hands instead of your brain). Figure it out. The better you know yourself, the better your chance to learn stuff.
10) TO STEAL KNOWLEDGE FROM OTHER PEOPLE
After 27 years on this planet, here is what I have learned:
I know nothing.
Every time I talk to someone else, I am already aware of being the dumbest person in the conversation. I drink in the thoughts and ideas of other people like water.
Every word which slips from another person’s lips gives you a little more insight into the world. When you are around people, you learn more. When you aren’t always planning what to say next, you learn more. When you put your pride down, you learn more.
When you connect — human to human, you always learn more.