Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Desire to Learn

Solving the world requires creating a desire to learn in everyone.

Something I have been thinking about lately is what I think is close to the root of a lot of problems we have in this world. Lack of knowledge, and therefor, wisdom.

I talked about the differences between knowledge and wisdom is a previous post so if you haven't read it yet I would recommend looking at it so you can have more of an idea of where I'm coming from in this post.

I have been observing myself and people around me and I have been thinking about how so many problems that we create in our lives and other people's lives could be either solved or avoided altogether if we had more knowledge and wisdom about how to handle the various situations.


Long, probably boring example that you can just skip if you just want the information.



For example, I was playing a basketball game the other day. It was supposed to be just a friendly game but we also had referees and a scorekeeper. The referees had already had a couple rough games earlier that day. They made it clear to us that we needed to be respectful or they would have to end the game early. We all agreed. The game was pretty evenly matched and started becoming a little heated, especially after a few controversial calls. Most of us have only played for fun and therefor we don't always follow the rules as well as we should because we don't understand all the rules. This led to more calls and more frustration. Eventually the refs told us that if they heard one more complaint they would end the game. There was 2 minutes left before the end of the game and it was still pretty close. One player fouled another trying to reach for the ball and the ref didn't call it. The player that was fouled still had the ball but he started complaining to the ref about being fouled so much. The offending player started arguing that he hadn't fouled him and an argument ensued. The ref said "That's enough" and ended the game, forfeiting both teams. We all left frustrated and annoyed that we couldn't finish our game.

This is somewhat of a silly example but it's what got me thinking about this issue. It would be easy to put blame on one person or another, but as my dad would always tell me, "It takes two to tango". Referencing the dance, he is telling me that for there to be an argument or disagreement there has to be at least two people at fault.

Let's look at the problems that happened and see how they could've been avoided.

1. The refs could have been more patient, they could've understood that none of us meant any harm and we were just full of testosterone and it is just part of the game.

2. The players being fouled could've realized that no one meant any harm and most of the time we are not trying to cheat they were just honest mistakes from lack of understanding of the rules. They could've shrugged it off and kept playing and having fun, maybe even trying to teach the offenders after the game or when it wasn't a heated situation anymore. But most importantly, teaching by example by not retaliating.

3. The players actually doing the fouling could've tried to understand why the ref was calling certain things and why the other players were getting mad. They could've been humble enough to realize that they don't know the rules perfectly and probably are fouling the other players. They could try to improve and learn so that they stop fouling in the first place, and when they did mess up they could apologize and move on.

If any group had done this the outcome would likely have turned out better, if all groups had done these things it would have been a positive experience for everyone.

I don't want to sidetrack to far into conflict resolution, perhaps another post. But my point here is why did none of these groups do these simple things?

I'm sure there are a lot of different reasons why. But one that stuck out to me and I think is at least as important as the others is either a lack of knowledge about how they should've handled the situation or lack of wisdom or experience to help them find a solution. Using our example:

1. If the refs had learned about and practiced patience, good communication skills and conflict resolution, they likely would've been able to handle the situation better.

2. If the players being fouled had learned about and practiced patience, empathy, communication skills, and controlling their emotions there wouldn't have been a problem at all.

3. If the players doing the fouling had learned about and practiced patience, communication skills, humility, and of course, the actual rules to the game there likely wouldn't have been any problems.

End of Example (Told you it was long)


My whole point with this example is that any of these people could have made the situation better with just a little bit of knowledge and wisdom. With the internet today and our ease of access to information there is no excuse for not constantly learning these types of things. So how can we address this issue? I think that one way we can help ourselves and those around us to gain more knowledge is by fostering curiosity.

It seems really simple but I think curiosity is the driving force behind the desire to learn.


So what is curiosity?


Being curious is when we get focused on a knowledge gap in our brain creating a strong urge to fill it.
Basically, we realize that we don't know something and we get an insatiable urge to learn more about it.

I have done a little research about how to foster creativity in ourselves as well as in others, these are some of the ideas that I liked:


  • Ask questions, and question everything! Asking questions serves two purposes. One, it primes your brain to start thinking of the answers, and two, if you ask the right people you will likely learn a lot.
  • Be open minded. As you are learning you are going to find things that may contradict what you thought you knew. You need to be able to look at what you think you know and the new information as objectively as you can. If you never change what you think you know, what is the point of learning?
  • Don't look up (or give) the answer right away. This immediately kills your curiosity. Why should your brain even try if you are just going to look it up in a couple seconds. Try to figure it out on your own wherever possible and come to some conclusions before checking to make sure you are right.
  • Be confident that you will find the answer. Even if you probably won't, having this optimism pushes your brain and is a good exercise. Who knows? You might even surprise yourself.
  • The path is the goal. -Mahatma Gandhi. Enjoy learning, not just finding the answers. If your goal is just to know the answers your brain will just shut down as soon as you find them. If your goal is to learn then your brain will constantly be looking for new ways of looking at things.
  • Explore new areas of the world, expose yourself to knew ideas, observe as much as you can. All of these things will open up a lot of knowledge gaps in your brain that you will want to start filling.


As with everything, the first step is to cultivate curiosity in ourselves, only then should we start to help those around us. Here are a few tips I found to help others develop curiosity.


  • Ask people thought provoking questions, and don't settle for their first answer. Dig deeper, give them the chance to think about it.
  • Be an example of open mindedness. If someone corrects you about something you thought was right, thank them for trying to set you strait and ask them why they are right and you are wrong, if you still think you are right at least you heard a different point of view and you might be able to share some of your knowledge with the other person. If you were wrong, guess what, you just learned something new!
  • When people ask you a question out of curiosity don't just give them the answer right away. Help them to work it out themselves and try to guide them to the answer. This is a lot harder but solving the world is usually not the easiest route.
  • Be encouraging when others are wrestling with the question, even if they get it wrong, their brain is learning how to be curious and with encouragement this desire will grow. If you mock people when they come to an incorrect conclusion usually they will respond in one of two ways. They will either become defensive and cling to their incorrect conclusion, causing them to shy away from curiosity because of fear that they will discover they are indeed wrong. Or they will feel shameful, embarrassed and stupid. This makes them feel that they can't find correct answers on their own and again, kills their curiosity.
  • Make learning a fun process with anyone you're teaching. This is difficult to do (but hey, once you realize you're not very good at it, curiosity kicks in and you now can go learn those skills.), but again, we are not looking for the easiest solution, we are looking for the best.
  • Expose those around you to new ideas and ways of looking at things. Perhaps they will find a hidden interest in themselves that will kick start their journey in life long learning.


This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just some things that I thought was important. I think it will at least be a good starting point to help us solve this problem. If you have any other thoughts on the matter comment below and maybe I will add your idea to my list. (Don't worry, I'll give you credit. ;) )

Perhaps if we all become curious and constantly try to learn and better ourselves we will have more people trying to solve their own problems and becoming contributors to society instead of drains on society.


Related Reading/Source Material
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/06/04/33shonstrom.h33.html
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/creating-curious-thinkers
http://ideas.time.com/2013/04/15/how-to-stimulate-curiosity/
http://kstf.org/2014/09/15/three-ways-to-squash-curiosity-and-three-ways-to-foster-it/
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/4-reasons-why-curiosity-is-important-and-how-to-develop-it.html