“No pain, no gain. Learning requires effort: no magic pill will save you from the pain of learning.”
Google defines Learning as the act of acquiring new knowledge. As straightforward as this definition is, there is nothing simple in its application. Knowledge will expose your ignorance and leave you to make a choice — do you want to learn, or dwell in your ignorance?
Whatever your choice is, it also leaves you to pay the price and rewards you accordingly.
A few weeks before the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship started, I told my younger sister on different occasions that I was going to Kaduna to gather as much knowledge as I could and I looked forward to the programme.
Nothing, however, prepared me for the first two weeks of the fellowship.
The first thing I quickly realised was how much there was to learn. I was surprised by how much the things I didn’t pay attention to, mattered in real life. In fact, the ones I knew, compared to what I was learning, were just on the surface.
So, I made the hard decision to learn. It was a hard decision because I am a lazy learner. (You’ll understand what I mean as you read on.)
Whoever said learning is easy told a big fat lie. This was one of the first things I faced on my current path to becoming a better version of myself.
Here’s what I have learnt about acquiring new knowledge:
- Learning is admitting you don’t know
I am a selective learner (*laughing emoji* my alias for lazy learning). When something is hard (especially if it is not in my field), I leave it rather than learn about it. So, I tilted towards things that do not stress me. I had always dismissed this part of me, but I had no choice but to confront it as soon as the fellowship started.
Although I read books, they were autobiographies, fictions, Christian novels, among others. While my choice of books isn’t bad, I realised that, as someone interested in Development Studies, it wouldn’t hurt to read books in that area.
A presentation on micro and macroeconomics was my wake-up call. Even though two of my group members said I did well, I believed I could have done better, and that made me sad. For days, I felt like a dunce, and I verbalised my feelings to others.
I woke up one day feeling insulted for referring to myself as a dunce. I mean, I am an incredible award-winning STORYTELLER and a TEACHER. That I didn’t do something well, didn’t mean I couldn’t learn to do it better. I agreed with myself on the obvious — I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew, and I decided to change that.
Admitting you don’t know is the first step to learning, but what do you after that?
2. There is no shame in learning
Society attaches shame to everything. We have a culture that applauds people who are confidently ignorant than those that admit they don’t know. I have, however, learnt to reject shame. And in learning, you must reject the shame that comes with approaching people for help.
In my quest for knowledge, I identified colleagues I could read with, borrow books from and discuss with, listened attentively to those that knew better than me, asked questions no matter how stupid I thought they were, and then spoke out when I had something to say.
I don’t need anybody to tell me that my knowledge has expanded and the things I thought were hard are actually interesting.
Reject the shame attached to asking for help, we all need it.
3. It takes humility to learn
One of my bosses, Mallam Ibrahim, whom I work closely with, always looked forward to teaching me. No matter what I wrote, he had a better way of writing it.
Impressed with my media plan and the questions I had prepared for my interviewees, I stepped into his office one day to show him the result of my hardwork during the weekend. Meanwhile, before I left for his office, a colleague had commended me on a job well done.
But Mallam had plenty things to correct, and it didn’t go down well with me. So, for every correction he tried to make, I argued with him because it made me feel like a beginner.
Suddenly, it hit me:
“Sola, this man has been practicing journalism for 30 years, so, it is not strange for him to correct you. Moreover, what will you lose by learning from him?”
Immediately, I stopped arguing and instead, paid rapt attention to what he was teaching me. That experience taught me that learning demands HUMILITY, especially when you already know what you are being taught.
Be teachable, you have more to gain than lose!
4. Be Flexible
There’s someone else I work with; no matter what you write and how long you stay editing it, she always has something to correct or rewrite. Now, her case is quite different from Mallam Ibrahim’s.
She capitalises words that don’t need capitalisation, among other things. It was difficult working with her at first, but I quickly learnt that when it comes to learning, one must be careful.
Sometimes, you may need to put aside or forget what you know to take in new knowledge. Other times, you may just need to learn how to do things THE WAY you are asked to do them. Not because it’s the right way, but what is demanded of you.
So, why did I describe my learning experience as painful?
Experiencing the aforementioned is not as easy as I have written. Each of the points listed came with different emotions that I had to manage carefully. Painful perfectly sums up my learning experience so far.
There is a pain that comes with learning new things, something difficult, or what you’ve avoided for long. For me, I had to go back and learn the ‘hard’ things I ran away from. This time, there was no hiding. It was either I learnt, or carry about the embarrassment of failing to learn.
Meanwhile, not all pain is evil. In this case, this pain was good for my cognitive capacity.
Thank you so much for coming this far. Please share your learning experience with me in the comment section, I would love to read them.