The Age of Learning

We have reached an amazing point with technology where for the first time in history, anyone who really wants to learn pretty much anything has the resources to do so. Recently, I’ve been improving my piano skills with a wonderful course from Udemy. I had never even heard of Udemy until about a month ago when a friend mentioned the site to me, and now I am enrolled in several courses, having a whole lot of fun learning useful stuff.

An old NLP presupposition that comes from the work of Milton Erickson is that people have all the resources they need. Udemy has 45,000 courses on a huge range of topics. Here is a screenshot of the main categories from the site and each of these contains a huge number of courses within sub-categories.

A single piano lesson with a piano teacher would probably cost me 3,000 yen or so, or perhaps I could get 4 lessons per month for 10,000 yen. In contrast, I got the Udemy piano course on sale for 2,300 yen and it has enough lessons to last me for at least six months of hard practice. While a real teacher is obviously extremely valuable in many ways, a huge amount of learning anything has to be self-study. There is knowledge to be learned, techniques to be practiced, and new neural pathways to be grown. Much of this can be carried out without a teacher, and as any teacher knows, self-study and practice is what differentiates the good student from the rest of the pack. I teach English as a foreign language to Japanese university students, and it is the students who study on their own that really get to grips with the language.

In learning anything significant like piano or a foreign language or a new software skill or NLP, a 50 minute lesson once per week is simply not enough to produce meaningful improvement. All of these skills share in common the fact that they need ‘doing’, i.e. the learner needs to actually do things so that the knowledge gets into the muscle (as Martha Graham the dancer used to say).

In my NLP and hypnosis training, I see exactly the same thing. Many people come to a weekend workshop or a series of workshops and have a wonderful time. They will probably produce some changes in their thinking and behaviour. But it is the people who go home and practice or those who join practice groups who really progress.

We are living in what I like to think of as the Age of Learning. Sites like Udemy and others like Coursera provide a remarkable range of resources that were unimaginable just a few years ago – video lessons, pdf manuals, discussion board feedback, and much more.

What these sites can never provide is the will and dedication needed to learn something and perhaps this is where our education system should really be focusing its efforts. A good teacher can definitely inspire and create a love of learning, the kind of attitude that can enrich a person’s life enormously. It can help a person both personally and professionally to grow and to overcome challenges. It can open us up to new perspectives and make us more interesting people.

Learning also keeps our brain active and healthy by creating new neural pathways. Research shows that more education (and hence learning) is protection against alzheimers disease, so for example, a university graduate is likely to develop cognitive disfunction later than a high school graduate, and graduate degrees offer more protection.

So, welcome to the Age of Learning. For the sake of your health and the rest of your life, what are you currently learning or about to start learning?

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