You probably already noticed that I have a habit of comparing people to babies. I think sometimes it helps me get some perspective on people – remembering that they used to be a completely helpless and innocent baby before they grew up to do whatever annoying thing they’re doing right now.

But that’s the thing. Whatever that annoying thing is, it’s something they learned to do. Ever since you were born (and probably before!) you’ve been learning. Babies are built to soak up new information about their surroundings. They try things, they mimic, and they’re always watching to see what you do and how things work.

While we do tend to lose some of our inquisitiveness as we get older, we never actually stop learning. You’re learning now, actually. I’m not so proud as to think that you’re necessarily learning a lot from me, but your senses are taking in new information and working out how it fits with the things you know already. As you go through your day, you’re getting constant feedback from your senses about how your actions are working out.

People always say something like: If you stand still, you’re really going backwards. And: The day you give up learning new things is the day you’re no longer interested in life. I think that if there is one skill that will pay off for the rest of your life, it’s willingness to learn. That, and building up your self-discipline to put what you learn into practice. With these two things, you just need to take step after step towards your goal until you get there.

Sometimes it’s just a case of paying attention enough to realise what you’re learning, or how to put it into words or translate it into a change in your behaviour.

You might not be good at a particular kind of learning. Certain topics at school or the school system as a whole might have you believing that learning is not your thing, but I think that’s false. Like I said, you’re learning all the time, building and changing and reinforcing certain thoughts about the world and your place in it. Most importantly, you are learning about yourself, whether positively or negatively. Being told that you are incapable of learning can really impact your life for the worse if you believe it.

You can always pay a little attention and take a step. Your steps may be slower and smaller than others. That’s fine. Please don’t let that stop you. It can be frustrating, of course. But you are not the only one in this world with struggles with getting your head around certain things. And you know what? I bet there are things you can do that people you think are cleverer than you can’t do. But you’re comparing your weakness to another’s strength, something we all do. That’s best left alone.

Instead, focus on what you can do, and recognise how long it took you to get good at it.
The world is always changing, and you get new information all the time. Decide now that you are going to think of yourself as a learner and as someone who pays attention, because I can guarantee that this is a skill you’re going to need.