Human beings are the most fascinating to me. I think they are one of the best subjects of study. And the more you treat them as “projects of explorations” doing “ethnographic reports” on them in your mind and observing their qualities, their ethos, and their actions and their reaction - the more you learn about your own “self.”
Fascinating isn’t it?
LEARN BY OBSERVATION
Now, you need to know that I am a strong advocate of Observational Learning.
To me, the best way one can learn is through interacting with others.
Honestly, when I sit in a lecture with 300 people (I’m talking specifically about lower level courses) – I am fascinated that the entire auditorium is filled for yet another 90 minutes of learning (even though the slides are posted online and everyone can study the material on their own sweet time ).
Anyhow, the lecture material can be interesting but that’s not the only reason I go to class.
When I am sitting in that lecture, I look at the person in front of me, the person beside me, and I learn things from them. I observe the way he has color coded the different sections of the lectures in his Word Document, the girl 2 rows down uses EverNote but only types using two fingers.
The guy in front of me (who won’t stop touching his hair) uses a PDF reader to open the existing slideshows and adds sticky notes to areas where the professor nuances on certain points, and the girl sitting right next to me has a cool app that records and transcribes the professor’s talk into text.
And sometimes you might not learn enough just by observing, maybe your observations aren’t clear enough to deduce a clear judgment so you may need to “ask.” Asking might be frightening and the fear of being rejected or “too nosy” always restricts us from “knowing what we don’t know.” But if it’s something that isn’t crossing private/personal boundaries – why should it be a problem? By asking, you provide an opportunity for yourself to learn something new, and you provide the other person with an opportunity to feel knowledgeable and helpful.
Therefore, stop, turn to your right and tap her on the shoulder, open your mouth and verbalize your question: “hey, that looks really cool- what app is that?” to which she can break into a smile and say “omg, yes! My friend told me about it the other day it’s called XYZ – you can download it from the App Store” or she can continue looking at the professor and ignore your very existence (don’t you just love it when people ignore even hearing you?) The worst thing that can happen is that she can say, “I don’t know,” or “Sorry, I am not willing to disclose that information to you” – But that’s it – the world is still intact and we all continue to live. In other words, no big deal.
Learning from others need not be “LIFE’S GOLDEN SECRET”
Learning can be achieved from little things that we might sometimes unintentionally categorize as “pointless,” “ordinary” or even "banal." For example, my neighbor does her dishes right after eating. She has incorporated it into her entire cooking process –
1) prepare ingredients 2) cook food 3) wash dishes.
However, I usually complete the first two and ignore the latter, which in turn, results in a huge pile of dishes in my sink to which I am forced to meet with at the end of my day.
And of course, when it’s almost bedtime and I come back home and meet my dishes with revolt – I choose to sleep instead. Consequently, the dishes become a “balance carried forward” (thank you accounting for adding to my vocabulary despite making me feel stupid and miserable every day of the class) unto the next day and we enter a cycle, until I no longer have clean dishes.
But through observing her and noticing her spotless sink (at all times of the day) and the way it looks like a display sink at IKEA – I, too, decided that I would like to learn from her and appropriate her “philosophy of dishes” into my cooking scheme.
So you see, learning can be as simple as observing something "insignificantly significant"
- hah! There's your oxymoron of the day!
YOU CAN’T LEARN IF YOU’RE NOT PRESENT
If you’re going to class, if you’re going to meet a friend at a coffee shop, if you’re doing ANYTHING - either be goddamn present or don’t even bother at all! Listen to the conversation and avoid being distracted with your phone or social media.
We live in a day and age where we pseudo-study, we pseudo-listen and we pseudo-care. Break the pseudo-apathetic attitude and do things full-heartedly.
Be present, be mindful, and be conscious of your surroundings. Think of yourself as a pot of glue that inadvertently creates a sticky surface for all the information around you.
That way, you start to choose your surroundings better, you start to choose your friends and the people you associate with more consciously, you become better at categorizing “life’s happenings,” and how they add to your personal development.
You become skilled at processing information and you learn to react to your surroundings faster, and with better judgment. You might think of yourself – “gee, I’m not a computer, I can’t process information.” Yes, you can. You are already processing information right now as you’re reading this. And although you may not be a computer, remember this: humans, people, like you or me, were the ones who invented computers. So keep learning.
"Knowledge is power."
Once again, thank you for reading this month's blog post. Feedback and constructive criticism are always appreciated. If you're struggling through finals (just the way I am) --
I wish you all the best!
Until next month-- à tout à l'heure!
Mina is a multimedia journalist currently based in London, U.K.
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