The problem with graduating from high school, college, or university is that many people think it means graduating from learning. Nothing could be further from the truth. Successful people are lifelong learners. This is even truer in the 21st century, where it's increasingly unlikely a company will employ you from graduation until retirement. Learning protects you against some of that instability, which is why you should never stop learning.
Thankfully, learning has never been easier. It doesn't matter what you're interested in, there's a way for you to learn more about it, and quite probably for free. Here are only a few of the ways you can keep learning:
- MOOCs. Massive Open Online Courses. Free online courses available for anyone to enroll. Want to learn about probability and quantitative reasoning? There's a Harvard MOOC for that. Want to learn about brewing beer? There's a German MOOC for that. Want to learn how to learn? There's an edX MOOC for that. All these MOOCs are free, although there's a fee if you want to receive a certificate at the end.
- Certifications. All big tech companies offer comprehensive learning programs for anyone who wants to work in tech. Learn AI from IBM, Digital Marketing from Google, anything AWS from Amazon, and Azure Data Engineering from Microsoft. There's something for everyone. Just like MOOCs, most are for free but you have to pay for a certificate.
- YouTube/Twitch tutorials. There are countless YouTube channels and Twitch streamers about every topic you can think of. Because these tutorials are funded by sponsors, ads, and donations, they are free to watch and often of high quality too.
- Online courses. Whether it's Udemy, Coursera, Pluralsight, or courses from independent teachers, you have countless options to learn a lot from highly qualified teachers for a small amount of money. Make sure you first read reviews about the course you're about to pay for though.
- Books. The old-school method. Many still learn best by reading books. Once again, it's never been easier to find the books you want to read. Buy an eReader like the Kindle and you have the biggest library in the world at your fingertips.
Most people know that it's important to learn, but pay lip service to it. They believe they learn in their day-to-day, at work, while reading the news, while scrolling Twitter, etc. While it's true that you'll pick up skills as you work – that's what constitutes experience – it shouldn't serve as an excuse not to learn explicitly too.
There are many reasons to carve out time on your schedule to learn. For one, learning expands your world. The more you know, the richer your world. It's the difference between seeing Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the night sky and seeing only stars. It's when you can tell oaks line your street instead of just trees. It's knowing when you should use CSS Grid or Flexbox.
Conversely, not learning keeps your world gray and stale. You'll eventually grow tired that your world always feels the same and you'll look for dangerous inputs like social media or live news feeds to add color.
Secondly, learning makes you a better person. It keeps you humble, because you realize there's always room to grow (you're Not Done Yet), but it boosts your confidence too. In addition, learning keeps your brain active and you'll age slower because of it. There's no better way to stay mentally fit than learning a new (programming) language.
Thirdly, the more you learn, the better you get at learning. Anyone who knows more than one programming language knows this. The first language is the hardest. The second one is a little easier, the third one easier still. That's because you've learned to:
- Break problems into digestible, describable steps
- Approach problems systemically
- Know how to find and fix bugs
- Know how and where to ask for solutions
All these are "meta-skills" that makes subsequent learning easier. Eventually, you become an expert at learning and will be able to pick up new knowledge like a hoover. It'll seem like a superpower to other people.
Finally, learning inspires yourself and other people. The valuable input from learning will help you set goals that are otherwise hard to conjure out of thin air. Learning provides you with the material to visualize and ultimately materialize a better life for yourself and your family.
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