A brief introduction to lifelong learning and why it's more important than ever this decade.
My dad sold his business at the beginning of the year, and his mantra since then has been: "Every day is a school day." While he's not the world's leading authority on innovation or futurism, in adopting this philosophy he’s tapping into a fast accelerating global trend: lifelong learning. Nice one, dad.
Lifelong learning is the idea that education and personal growth don't just stop when you finish school or university. Rather, as technology continues its exponential rise, every one of us will need to upskill and retrain if we’re to stay relevant from cradle to grave.
That sounds a bit daunting, doesn't it? As if we should all be doing extra degrees in our spare time and that our existing education won't count for anything as we progress in our lives. It's not all doom and gloom though, and you might be better prepared than you think.
All the research says that the world’s most in-demand skills by 2030 will be not only ‘hard’, technical skills (i.e. coding and robot maintenance), but also ‘soft’ skills (i.e. critical thinking, negotiation and creativity). Over the same period, the demand for workers with physical and manual skills will decline sharply — replaced by a 24/7 workforce of algorithms and machines that has no use for tea breaks, pensions or Christmas parties.
Technology is changing the global economy so much and so fast that the most important skills to cultivate over the next decade are simply the ones that make us human. When it comes to developing these skills, much of the emphasis is on individuals rather than companies. Experts say that it’s workers themselves who need to carve out the time and seek out the resources they need to keep learning.
Freelancers, entrepreneurs, and portfolio careerists are already ahead of the curve on this. Think about it: What do working for yourself, launching a new product or service, and career-hopping when things feel stale all have in common? They showcase a proactive and fearless attitude towards embracing change and opportunity. That attitude is undoubtedly the key to success in an uncertain and rapidly changing future.
My own approach to lifelong learning involves three pillars:
- chasing diverse experiences
- pursuing variety in my work
- building a flexible skillset
I don’t set aside specific time slots to learn each week. Instead, I use my pillars to infuse everything I do with learning. Sometimes that means making unorthodox decisions, like visiting a massive camel beauty pageant in India on a whim, and other times it means a Saturday night playing video games with friends. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it — in my life or yours. We’re all learning constantly.
Every day is a school day. Not because we should all be attending classes, but because as lifelong learners, we need to harness that same insatiable curiosity that kids have in abundance. The best way to learn and grow as we age is to pursue a full and enriching life; to learn from the people and ideas around us and be self-aware enough to move on when we’ve learned all we can.