Everybody Loves Learning

Matt McCormick


A few weeks ago, my 2.5 year old niece was over in the evening. She was running around as usual. As I sat down to read something, she watched me turn on a lamp. As soon as she saw the light come on, she came running over to see what kind of magic had just taken place. Seeing that she was interested in this wizardry, I turned the lamp on and off a few times so she could see how it worked. Then she wanted to try. This lamp has one of those switches that you need to turn and her motor skills aren’t quite developed enough yet to be able to hold the knob firmly. She tried but couldn’t quite do it. I turned it on a final time and started reading.

A couple days later she came over again and saw the lamp again. She immediately went over to it and wanted to try again.

Just do a search on Youtube for baby ipad and you see dozens of videos of 2 and 3-year-olds going nuts on the thing. They just jump right into it and try everything. No fear.

This is a great example of how kids just love trying things:

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The amazing thing to me is that everybody used to be like this at one point. Unfortunately, growing up in systems like school where a lot of the learning is forced on to people, many people lose this excitement around learning. Instead of learning for its own sake, now it becomes about grades and the results. In high school, when questioned about the value of going to school, some teachers would reply that “You’re in school to learn how to learn.” That’s complete BS. Everybody knows how to learn from birth. We don’t need to be taught it. Did you need to go to school to learn how to walk or talk?

About 10 years ago, one summer I worked at the local library teaching free lessons to people how to use the Internet. The Internet was just reaching its critical mass stage where everybody was hearing about it. Most of the people who came were elderly - probably in their 70’s or 80’s. It was an incredible experience for me in seeing how people new to computers use them. It was also an eye-opening experience of how people’s mindsets affect their learning ability.

Some people would come in and say to me “I really want to learn how to use the Internet.” They would be very open-minded and would pick things up very quickly.

Other people had an incredibly tough time learning. Some people came back week after week and would repeat the same mistakes they made the previous week. They wouldn’t pay attention to what I was saying and would get frustrated. One specific guy I remember was telling me about how he had just been fired but he was swearing throughout the whole lesson and had a very negative attitude about pretty much everything. It shouldn’t be surprising that this guy had a really tough time learning. He ended up leaving after only half the lesson as he just got too frustrated.

The thing is, we all started out as those kids we see in the videos. We all enjoyed the process of learning how to walk, learning how to talk, learning how to hold things, learning how things worked. We all had incredible enthusiasm around learning.

Unfortunately, many people lose this enthusiasm as they grow up. Instead of something fun, learning becomes a chore. Instead of just enjoying the process, people focus on results. It becomes a matter of “What am I going to get out of this?” instead of just being curious about things.

We were all like those kids at one point. And because that passion for learning was within us at one point, it can be revived and re-discovered again.