“If learning is the restructuring of meaning as adults engage in life experience, then learning can be conceptualized as the vehicle of adult development.” ~ M. Carolyn Clark
This quote struck me as significant when I read it, and it stuck with me all last night and into today. This seems to be a pivotal different in learning between children and adults. I imagine if you asked most children “where do you learn,” their answer would be in school. It’s there that they learn math, science, English, and history. But if you ask an adult “where do you learn,” you’ll probably get an array of answers that might include where they work, go to church, or volunteer. You might even get an answer like “I learn something new every day!”
As a child, I thought that once you grew up, that was it, you were done. You had arrived. Where you’d arrived at I’m not really sure, but I don’t think it ever dawned on me how much I would continue to learn after I’d “grown up.” My career in Marketing didn’t spring from anything I learned in school. In fact, I never took any Marketing classes in college. Almost everything I’ve learned in my career has been through experience instead of formal learning. And now, as I stand on the brink of embarking on the next journey in my career, I am anxious to take what I’ve learned in the past and combine it — maybe even restructure it — with what I’ll learn about the world of mergers and acquisitions. In addition, I will have experiences with new technologies and new marketing tactics that weren’t even available five or ten years ago. If I want to excel in this new role, I will have to continue to learn new things, assess their applicability to this audience, and restructure my action plans accordingly.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as an adult didn’t have anything to do with school or work. Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. That was a lesson that finally resonated with me about 10 years ago as I was learning to share my living space with a significant other, something I hadn’t done so well when I had been married. It started out with stupid things like how you load a dishwasher, but the overall lesson has much broader implications for tolerance and acceptance. Instead of just rejecting the way someone does something or the way someone thinks because it’s different from your perspective, I view it as an opportunity to learn. I don’t always agree with or accept what I’ve learned about it, but it’s an interesting exercise, and one that always carries the potential for development.
I like the idea of learning something new every day. The new thing I learn doesn’t have to be rocket science, but I fear that if I stop wanting to learn, life might not be as much fun.