I Am Able to Learn Quickly and Easily

Mark Twain famously said once that “If we learned walking and talking the way we learned to read and write, most of us would have had an unique limp and a typical stutter”. This would have become a signature style of our personality. Fortunately we learn to walk and talk at an age when we are innocent and curious – a combo package with which we are born. Then our ‘well-wishers’ beginning with our parents slowly teach us what is right, wrong, good, bad, smart, dumb that we form a black and white picture (digital signal) of the world.

2 of the most difficult skills in our life we learn – walking and talking when our brains are still developing. In fact these 2 skills once developed are a part of the motor muscle memory and helps in further cognitive development. If we can see the enormity of the learning to be done at an age when we are least equipped, it is amazing to realise that ‘we’ actually ‘learnt’ to do both when we did not know what walk and talk meant. We were obviously not even aware of its utility and most importantly we were ‘blissfully ignorant’ of the ‘price’ we had to pay to learn these skills. It is no surprise that we learnt them perfectly, simply because we were kids. No wonder when an adult tell his friend that he is going to learn something, the normal response is ‘Hey!! Are your kidding?’ Yes seriously speaking we must awaken the kid within us to learn. The enormity of this realisation gets even larger when you realise that people learning beyond walking to other forms of exercise and motion do it with such a non-standard level of expertise. We all walk (which is a permanent state of imbalance needing to be obviated by this forward motion) in a standard form related to our height and bio rhythm. There is no racial or biological difference when we first became bipeds in our childhoods. As we grow into adolescence and finally adults we develop unique styles of walking and unique habits about and attitudes towards walking. Some enjoy while some detest walking. Some do it as a routine while some curse it while doing it as an exercise. These attitudes towards the skill of walking and its purpose and utility in our lives have also been learned. But unfortunately we learned this all during our adult lives.

The story with skill of talking is very much similar. All children pick up the sounds and the childhood vocabulary and enjoy finding out the relationship between a sound and the object/person it is ascribed to. It is a crazy and scary thing for an adult to even attempt to learn in such a manner but it is effective precisely for the same reason. A toddler has a vocabulary of upto 50 words which he can correlate. He babbles in his baby talk unassumingly but with absolute joy, and which typically only mothers can grasp. Imagine us trying to linkup 50 sounds to 50 objects/person without any pattern emerging and also without an evident purpose and that too doing it with joy. But that is the real secret. The further learning in the field of language from talking to learning alphabets, grammar, etc. are normally not so fun filled and fraught with all evils of adult learning. It is a well-documented finding that public speaking is one of the greatest fears most adults suffer from. Of course there are adults who enjoy the field and take it up to a level of a hobby or a full time profession.

That brings us to the point that adults unlike Kids only learns about those things what he really enjoys. Alternatively the benefits of the learnings being evident and translates into some worldly advantages either in career or personal life can be an equally strong motivator. However and this is the one big ‘if’. If the learning is painful and fraught with lot of effort, it can temper down the motivation. We still find adults who are ready to work hard and put in the effort. Most of them except a few then met a great leveller called Failure. Most adults just do not like this word and refuse to get associated with it. The refusal to fail prevents us from putting in the effort to learn even when we know it is doable and in fact useful. The joy of the outcome does not enable enduring the pain of the learning. The trade-off OR the ‘price’ is too big to pay. We have a brilliant skill of rationalising (also learned from our role models in life) which helps us explain away such decisions so that the recalled memories of such decisions is self-effacing. That is precisely why many of the soft skills and even updated knowledge on your fields of specialisation can be very challenging to learn. This is akin to a baby who prefers to be on his fours and refusing to stand up and walk. We have lost that innocence, the curiosity, the joy of learning at that altar called Ego, my self-image which is anything but fully true. The affirmations, children (unwittingly and innocently) and good learners (developed consciously) of all ages use are as follows

1. I am able to learn quickly and easily

2. As my view of the world evolves, I am better able to navigate my way through it successfully

3. I find new ways to learn and to improve my abilities even further.

As an adult these affirmations replace that innocent curiousity of a kid which is unconditional and is persistent till the curiosity is satiated. As adults we also know that our brain also keeps regenerating and like any muscle this ‘mental muscle’ needs exercises and nothing better than learning can do this. Well many adults believe that we are forced to learn to survive in this bitter and competitive world. However any learning which is not associated with that positive empowering emotion is never a learning. It becomes learning the hard way which in most cases leaves the knowledge gained only used when there is no choice. It can never replace an habit which makes you happy about yourself every time you use it.

Another blinder we adults have is that learning has to be about something tangible and something knowledge driven. It has to be a recipe, or a book, or something associated with getting a certificate. Sadly these are about ‘one in a million opportunity’. I am using this term to say that there are million more things to ‘learn’. Learn how people work, what makes them work, why they do what they do, why they do things the way they do. Hold on… learn means not judging but just trying to understand without any biases. You need not agree with your learning! Enjoy the findings without any value judgement. This is what happens when we pursue a hobby, learn to consume drink, have cigarettes and hence we do a ‘good job’ at it. There are here too awful examples of people pursuing hobbies and pastimes not to learn or enjoy but to demonstrate their social status. So learning is all encompassing and an eternal need and capability which we can develop and practise.

A obedient child does not grow into a responsible parent and age into a gracious grandparent just like that. We would love it to be that way or may even believe it to be so, but at each stage there is learning involved. Whether you enjoyed learning it or was forced to learn or avoided learning it leaves you with varying degree of satisfaction and self-worth. Good SME (subject matter experts) and great leaders have this in common. An healthy curiousity, uninhibited confession of ignorance, reflects on outcome with objectivity and an appetite for experimenting and taking risks. Truly good learners would straddle this propensity across both professional and personal domains. The simple definition of learning is whenever you get that ‘aha’ moment after doing something – an unconditional happiness and joy without apparent reason but unmistakably true and clearly perceived. It is the way our body tells us that we picked up something new and we enjoyed learning it because we saw the benefit of doing that and it was a satisfying experience.

How often do you get this? I get it every day without fail. I get it because I know I am learning every day. I have realised that the learning was always happening. It was simple that I did not value it since I did not ‘think’ it was something great, though my body ‘felt’ good. Keep celebrating every time you get that aha moment; congratulate your Body. Just say loudly Good Job done. Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a large smile in the mirror. The kid inside you like this. Still it is no ‘child’s play’ to do these affirmations. When you do not do them for weeks and months on end our body signals of that ‘aha moment’ gets weakened till we no longer pick it up. Once I started to acknowledge my aha moment successes every day I could see more of it daily. The degree of learning varies, the overall impact it has on my life varies, but the extent of ‘Aha’ feeling is identical day after day. So widen your meaning of the word ‘learn’ and Enjoy Learning on a daily basis.