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What do you most want to learn?

25 November 2020

Most intelligent people enjoy learning.

Although many of us (myself included) weren't exactly fans of sitting in stuffy classrooms and rote-learning spelling or basic times-tables when we were kids, by the time tertiary learning comes around, most have started to enjoy the process.

I find that as I get older, learning new stuff is becoming harder but the reward that comes from doing so becomes greater.

Now, thanks to the internet, we can learn almost anything we want, if we dedicate enough time and energy to doing so.

Whether it's a second/third language or advanced calculus, there's plenty of material online to sate that desire for learning and it's all free.

So, with all this opportunity at your fingertips, just what is it that you would like to learn?

I've decided to set aside just 45 minutes a day, every day, to learn something new.

I'm not sure exactly what I want to learn but I will spend the weeks leading up to 2021 contemplating the options. It's not that I can't think of anything, it's more that there's so much I'd like to learn that I need to whittle the list down to something manageable and achievable.

Certainly the sciences are appealing. My maths is now getting pretty rusty after many years of fairly lightweight use so I'm pretty sure I'm going to brush up on everything from basic algebra through differential equations to calculus. A good knowledge of maths is a great foundation for extending your knowledge in the sciences -- just try calculating the escape velocity from a fixed mass using just your fingers and toes and you'll see what I mean.

Quantum physics is another area where I've always had an interest and a superficial level of understanding but I'd love to know more. Again, solid maths is an essential component of any understanding of quantum mechanics.

However, the sciences are not my only area of interest.

I'd really love to learn an other language -- if only because many studies indicate that being bilingual or multi-lingual does wonders for reducing your rate of mental decline as you age. I have a smattering of French left over from my high-school days (when I scored an impressive 14% in my final exam) but a language more suited to today's world might be better. Mandarin would be great -- but, from what I've been told, it's also quite a challenge, perhaps too much of a challenge for making any real headway on just 45-minutes a day.

There are of course things that go beyond simple knowledge. There are also a huge number of physical skills that can be learned, even in one's latter years.

As a kid and young adult, I had zero interest in the actual hands-on of engineering. By that I mean woodwork, metalwork, fitting, turning etc. I loved the complexity of materials science but the practical application was a bore to me. Give me a saw and I'd give it right back.

About 20 years ago, after I sold, I developed a passion for practical engineering in metal and soon found myself knee-deep in lathes, milling machines, welders and such. The experiences were new and fascinating. It's amazing how time changes one's view of the world and opens the mind to new things.

After several years of being self-taught, I became a half-competent fitter, turner, welder and general engineer. It helped that I already knew the science behind many of the processes and materials I was using. In the end I got immense amount of pleasure by building new tools. I built pipe-benders, a metal-spinning lathe, hole-punches and a raft of other things that were bespoke for specific tasks.

These days all that learning would be much simpler with the aid of YouTube videos and online forums -- to say nothing of the fact that China has slashed the cost of the tools required.

So here I am... super-eager to embark on a new set of learning experiences and spoilt for choice.

What would you most like to learn in the way of new knowledge and/or skills -- and why?

Have you ever thought of dedicating a certain amount of time each day/week to that process? If not, why not?

Go to the forums and tell us all.

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