Monday, December 21, 2015

How Do You Learn?

“Writing is like jazz, it can be learned, but it can’t be taught.
Paul Desmond

How do I learn? I have discovered that I have three different learning styles that seem to work for me when dealing with different kinds of material, hard classes, soft classes, and life classes.

Let’s start with hard classes. This is material that isn’t opinion on any level. From multiplication tables in grade school to a graduate level class in fluid dynamics, I have been confronted with subject matter that really doesn’t care what I think or how I feel about it. I have to learn how to do it or if I can’t understand it, I just have to memorize it. In the second semester of Calculus, I ran into peculiar, one of a kind, integration methods that I never understood. I memorized them for the exam. It was nothing but hand eye coordination. In real life it didn’t matter because I had access to a computer and the CRC Math Tables.

Soft classes would include the liberal arts, economics, political science, theology and the like. You are really just learning opinions. In the end, these are subjects where your beliefs are ultimately more important to your life than the opinion of your professors. I found it interesting that my fellow engineering students found the mandatory two semesters of economics incredibly difficult because there was no “right” answer. One week they learned what one economist stated on a particular subject. Then the following week they read about an economist who totally disagreed with the first author. I thought these courses were an automatic 4 credit hour A. If you just read the book or just attended the classes there was no excuse for not getting at least a B. All you needed to learn was one guy said this and the other guy said that.

Actually “learning,” really learning, one of these subjects is different. In such situations I learn best using some form of the Socratic Method. I am an auditory learner by natural preference. I have also developed the necessary visual skills to learn from a book. I am not a kinesthetic learner. When practicing the martial arts, I had to put the movement into words before I could practice it properly. I like to listen to someone put forth an opinion on something like the interpretation of a particular passage in Scripture. Then when I think I understand it, I like to repeat it in my words to see if I have a proper grasp of what the teacher is presenting. Then I like to attack the position to see it stands up under severe questioning. If it survives, I add it to my toolkit. If not, I discard it. Over the years, I have discovered my mind likes to make strange connections across disciplines and different kinds of life experiences. I guess I could describe it as my own personal version of Hegel’s triad, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. This has helped me develop, not only my own philosophy of life, but also has helped me become a better person.

I always want to be learning, changing, and growing as long as there is breath in my body.

Then there are subjects like writing, living in the same house with another human being, or investing that can’t be taught. They have to be learned. In this blog, I am learning how to write about my experiences learning the ins and outs of Christian Personal Finance. Of course, I study the classics. I recommend that you read the writings of the great investors from King Solomon to Warren Buffet. They can save you from a lot of unnecessary pain. I am convinced that if you really understand Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, you have more than enough tools in you kit to find financial freedom. Next, learn from those around you, preferably people who know more than you know. Seek them out. But, you can even learn from the mistakes of those who know less than you know. It is better to learn from the mistakes of others than from your own mistakes. When you make a mistake or when a good plan goes awry, don’t beat yourself up. Just consider it feedback from the universe.

Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Start all over again.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection, which is the noblest; second by imitation, which is the easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

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