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Never Stop Learning!

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Never Stop Learning!

No matter your age, the time to stop learning is never! Your awesome future depends on you continuing to educate yourself. Find out how and why.

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The old adage, “You cannot teach an old dog new tricks” is a generally accepted premise. Willadene Zedan, however, did not buy into this line of thinking.

At the age of 85, Ms. Zedan defied common stereotypes by graduating from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Having started taking college classes in 1999 at age 71 and traveling abroad for five weeks to Rome, Italy, at 84, the mother of five children, grandmother of 15, and great-grandmother of 26 had other ideas about what she would do with her retirement years.

“Every day is a new adventure. Every day,” Ms. Zedan told Marian University Magazine. “You’re never too old to learn.”

Indeed, age should not matter when it comes to learning.

Even scientists are confirming this statement. A New York Times article titled “How to Train the Aging Brain” explained that when an older adult’s mind is continually used over time, it builds on itself, producing pathways that allow it to solve problems faster than those who are younger.

“The brain is plastic and continues to change, not in getting bigger but allowing for greater complexity and deeper understanding,” Dr. Kathleen Taylor, a professor in California and author of the book Developing Adult Learners, told the media outlet. “As adults we may not always learn quite as fast, but we are set up for this next developmental step.”

Another study published by WebMD supports this. According to the article, researchers found that an adult brain’s ability to change occurs faster than previously thought. An increase in brain matter, a sign of learning, was previously thought to happen in adults only after weeks or months of training. Yet studies now show it increases in less than two hours!

Eduard Lindeman, an American pioneer in adult learning, stated in his book The Meaning of Adult Education, “The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings.”

One should never stop learning—and it appears our bodies were never meant to!

Inherent Benefits

Tragically, lack of desire to learn is not just a problem at an individual level—it has permeated our society. In the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, the author quoted Herbert Gerjuoy of the Human Resources Research Organization as stating, “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.”

But to learn, one must have the ability to think. And regrettably, many have lost this crucial skill.

Modern electronic gadgets, the Internet, and other 21st-century marvels have conditioned us to not think for ourselves. Everything is at the push of a button, meaning that we need less brainpower to accomplish tasks. After all, television, movies and the Internet do our thinking for us!

Many of these “passive” technologies and forms of entertainment cause our minds to disengage from reality, which reduces our need to think for ourselves.

Nicholas Carr wrote in The Shallows – What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, “Experiments show that just as the brain can build new or stronger circuits through physical or mental practice, those circuits can weaken or dissolve with neglect.”

Mehdi Fedouach/AFP/Getty Images
Learning something new: Women work during a sewing class in Bordeaux, France (June 14, 2013)

Mr. Carr quoted research psychiatrist Norman Doidge, who stated, “If we stop exercising our mental skills, we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead.”

Human beings were not designed to stop absorbing new information.

An overall benefit to learning is that it allows the expansion of the mind and increased perspective. It changes us.

When we learn something new, our store of knowledge automatically increases. A new piece of information will add new “substance” to our minds and produce “open doors” for it to increase even more.

The brain has been described as “photographic film.” Once there has been a picture captured on this film, it is never the same. It has an impression that was not there before, changing it forever. Human brains are the same. The more impressions we make by continuing the learning process, the more our brains change.

Another benefit of learning is that it allows us to become more well-rounded individuals. Well-rounded can be defined as “fully developed” and “balanced.” Have you ever been around this type of person? The conversation never gets boring.

Becoming well-rounded is a matter of activating the brain. Reading, writing, composing poetry or music, conversing and asking questions, deliberate and deep thinking—all these behaviors stimulate the brain because they are creative in nature.

Continuing to learn can also help you stay younger. According to Rush University Medical Center’s Memory and Aging Project, increased cognitive activity in the elderly slowed their decline in brain function and decreased their risk of mild cognitive impairment. The study showed that cognitively active seniors were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia compared to seniors with less cognitive activity.

Ms. Zedan is a good example of this principle. She avoided the debilitating habit of shutting down her mind after a certain age and forced herself to continue learning.

More and more stories like hers are continuing to surface as others are tossing aside the notion of winding down in their later years and instead are expanding their minds in anticipation of new and exciting opportunities ahead.

Good vs. Bad

You have probably heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out.” This term was coined by an IBM technician and instructor and generally applies to the world of computer science. It means that whatever is programmed into a computer will come out of a computer. Bad input will produce bad output.

The principle, however, can also apply to learning. Our brain is a “supercomputer” and what we allow into our lives will shape us—in either good ways or bad.

If we want to take advantage of our ability to learn and grow in a positive, constructive way, it is imperative that we keep the “garbage” out. Admittedly this can be difficult. It is not hard to see that we live in a world filled with both good and evil, with seemingly more evil every day.

But separating the good from the bad can be tricky. For instance, there are interesting, wholesome movies and documentaries—but there are also perverse and mentally destructive ones. There are helpful and interesting Internet sites—and ones that feature pornography and other illicit content. There are educational and edifying books and magazines—and rotten, vile publications. You get the idea.

What you take in will ultimately determine who and what you are. The challenge every human being faces therefore is: what will I allow to enter my mind?

Where to Begin

The world is filled with staggering amounts of statistics, facts and figures—so much so that this time in world history has been labeled the “Information Age.” One can spend a lifetime learning about a myriad of topics. Knowing where to start is vital.

One source has proven time and again to stand above all others. It has been called the foundation of all knowledge and is recognized across the globe. As the world’s bestselling book, it has been read and studied for millennia. It is a source for life principles in both business and private settings, and has been read by people of diverse backgrounds including leaders of industry, academia, young and old, rich and poor.

This source is the Bible.

Consider the following quotes by some of the world’s great leaders and thinkers about this all-encompassing Book.

  • Abraham Lincoln: “I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a better man” (Lincoln’s Use of the Bible).
  • Winston Churchill: “[Those] who produced this masterpiece [the Bible]…forged an enduring link, literary and religious, between the English-speaking peoples of the world” (Churchill’s History of the English-speaking Peoples).
  • Horace Greeley: “It is impossible to mentally or socially enslave a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork for human freedom” (A Dictionary of Thoughts).
  • John Quincy Adams: “In what light soever we regard the Bible, whether with reference to revelation, to history, or, to morality, it is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue” (ibid.).

These individuals all found practical statements within the pages of God’s Word that they learned to apply to be successful.

Consider some of the following pieces of advice it contains:

“A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1). In other words, a gentle response to someone who is upset can reduce their level of anger while a harsh response will provoke them. Think how many arguments—and even wars—that could have been avoided if this advice had been heeded!

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). This is a clear warning to avoid being self-important or acting arrogant. It only leads to failure.

“A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Prov. 17:22). This adage shows that being happy contributes to good health—mentally and physically.

These are only three verses from just one book of the Bible. Proverbs alone has 31 chapters of practical, life-changing words of wisdom.

Aside from practical knowledge, the Bible is also a book of history, science, math, social studies, poetry and much more. It does not contain all knowledge, but it is the starting point—or beginning—for all subsequent learning.

Much More

Of course, the Bible is also a book of spiritual knowledge and it is in this realm where it far exceeds any other source of learning. In fact, no other medium compares. God’s written word is a window into the mind of our Creator. It reveals the vast distance between His level of knowledge and understanding and ours.

Consider these words from the book of Isaiah: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8-9).

What an incredible description of how advanced God is compared to mankind!

Another illustration of God’s preeminent knowledge is found in a fascinating exchange between God and a man named Job. In an effort to teach Job a vital lesson, God reminded him of how much more he had to learn through a series of questions.

He asks: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare [or answer] if you have understanding. Who has laid the measures thereof, if you know? Or who has stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof?” (38:4-6).

These questions, related to how the Earth was formed and how it floats through outer space, were only the beginning. For four chapters, God asks Job basic questions about Creation—none of which Job as a physical human being could answer.

This exchange alone proves the point that we can never stop learning because there is so much to learn!

God’s knowledge and understanding far exceeds that of man. However, His goal has never been to keep this knowledge to Himself. The Bible itself is proof of this!

The same God who created the heavens and Earth also created the brain and its capacity to never stop learning. There is a reason for this.

In David C. Pack’s book The Awesome Potential of Man, he states: “People do not instinctively know everything that they need to know to operate successfully throughout their lives. They must acquire ever more knowledge as they grow older and as more demands are placed upon them.”

Continuing, Mr. Pack writes, “God gave Adam and Eve ‘dominion’ over the earth (Gen. 1:26). This meant that man would be able and need to learn and produce—to generate—much knowledge as he subjugated the planet.”

The opportunity to have dominion (the power or right of governing and controlling) over the earth is a shocking reality that most do not understand.

The Author of the Bible actually promises man “dominion over the works of His hands” (Psa. 8:6). When you consider the vast limitless universe, this is a statement that certainly should arouse curiosity and one that requires additional study.

Can this possibly be true?

Another verse that expands this statement is found in Hebrews: “What is man, that You are mindful of him? Or the son of man, that You visit him? You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of Your hands: You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him” (2:6-8). Some translations of this say “the universe” instead of “all things.”

We have been given the ability—and quite literally the charge—to never stop learning. Not only is it our intended destiny to inherit the Earth, but God has reserved the universe for all who accept His way of life!

These are stunning promises! You most likely have never heard such words as these, and yet, there they are in your own Bible!

There is much more to learn about your awesome potential and no better time to start than right now. Order a free copy of The Awesome Potential of Man, it goes into much greater detail about what is in store for mankind’s future.

Learning is something that one should continue to do for a lifetime. Make it something you do every day. Never stop learning because the opportunities before you are out of this world! 

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