Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate college. Even if you’ve studied an area for years, it can still reveal fresh nuances if you approach it with a different eye.
After all, mastery takes ten years or longer, which is far more than the duration of a typical college course. Since graduating college, I’ve focused on improving my knowledge of these three disciplines.
Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be a writer.
(Even if you’re not a writer, studying the art of written communication will help you find more success at work. No matter your career, you’ll have to communicate almost every day with colleagues, a boss or clients using email, instant messaging and other tools of the written word.)
I remember staying up late at night reading Roald Dahl’s the BFG under the bedcovers with a torch, even though I had to rise early for school the following morning.
It wasn’t a big surprise that I studied communications and journalism in college. After graduation, with a degree in my hand, I thought I knew all there was to writing.
It won’t be long until I find success as a journalist and perhaps even as a literary fiction writer!
How wrong I was.
Back then, I held onto weird ideas about writing and the creative process. I thought the best writers didn’t work until the inspiration struck them and that the good ones were reckless drunks who cared far more for what interested them than for other people.
Over the years, after studying how professional writers worked, I realised these writers turn up every morning and do the work even when they’re not feeling like it.
They put in their hours at the desk or in front of the blank page, and like any professional, they get paid well for doing it.
I’ve learned becoming a better writer involves consistent practice, rather than waiting for inspiration to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Now it’s time to write.”.
2. Mental Health
Perhaps meditation isn’t for you?
Surviving in the working world still demands finding time for switching off and protecting your mental health.
After graduation, I kept acting like I’d no responsibilities. I also wondered why I was feeling depressed and I blamed a quarter life crisis.
As I got a little bit older, I realised the reason I was feeling depressed was because I was drinking too much and not spending enough time on mental health.
That’s when I began incorporating meditation into my daily routine. At first, I meditated for three minutes. It felt weird to focus on the breath for that long, but I moved up to five minutes and then ten minutes.
I also read a few books about the practice like Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana and Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch.
Gunaranta writes about this practice:
“You start to see the extent to which you are responsible for your own mental suffering. You see your own miseries, fears, and tensions as self-generated. You see the way you cause your own suffering, weakness, and limitations. And the more deeply you understand these mental processes, the less hold they have on you.”
I invested in learning about meditation from teachers and recently completed a transcendental meditation course. These days, it’s even easier to learn this practice thanks to app like Headspace, Waking Up and One Giant Mind.
My current practice involves meditating twice a day for 20 minutes and I found this has helped me find more balance and peace during the working day.
I am not an expert meditator, but this practice helps me balance stressful days at the office with family commitments, something they never told me about in college.
3. Beginner’s Mind
When I was in my early twenties, like many of my friends, I thought I knew the solution for some of the world’s or at least the country’s problems.
If I could only get the right job, if I could only get enough money, if I only could get people to listen to me, I could solve the problems people were facing.
How wrong I was.
When I was younger with more hair, I also worried about getting found out. If somebody more senior at work said something I didn’t understand, I’d nod lightly and pretend I agreed or knew what they were talking about.
These days, I’m far more likely to say, “I don’t know what you mean,” or, “I don’t get that,” or, “Can you explain that to me?”.
Trust me when I say it’s easier to ask questions now then get found out later on. Learning doesn’t stop when they hand you a degree.
I’ve also spent lots of time and money in recent years working with teachers who have helped me fill the gaps in my knowledge and also on taking courses that have helped me learn skills to advance either my career or parts of my personal life.
I try to adapt the beginner’s mind each day. It’s a lesson I keep returning to.