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The Side Dish

Never Stop Learning

Marlo Calvert / 5.7.2018

When was the last time you learned something new? Maybe it was something trivial –a science tidbit, or the definition of a word that doesn’t have an English equivalent. Or maybe it was something that needed more brain real estate, like learning how to use a new software for work.

In my earliest days of graphic design, I struggled with the part of my job where you come up with a concept or idea. I spent hours looking at image after image of other people’s work. I was searching for the “aha!” moment, hoping to spark my creativity.

In my quest for inspiration, I finally figured out that just visual inspiration wasn’t enough. I was going about it all wrong! I needed to be curious, to learn about the why. And I needed a sense of purpose, and that came out of seeking knowledge.

creative inspiration

When seeking creative inspiration, it all starts with being curious.

If You’re Not Growing, You’re Shrinking

For most people curiosity is inherent, but not everyone continues to be curious. To continue to learn, you must foster and feed your curiosity. Because if you’re not growing, you might as well be (and literally are) shrinking.

“Curiosity — in case you were wondering — has an evolutionary purpose: People had to be curious about what was happening around them or they wouldn’t survive. People had to know, for example, what happens when you walk off a cliff because if you do that too often, it’s not going to have a good ending.” – Mario Livio, author of the book “Why? What Makes Us Curious.”

Why You Should Never Stop Learning

You may have heard that the most successful people are the ones who never stop learning. Maybe you’re not the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but there are still many benefits for those who never stop learning.

Keep Your Brain Sharp

With the likelihood that your body will insist on gaining near-octogenarian status, you probably want to keep your brain going strong too. Learning new skills or concepts, especially if they’re complex or challenging, helps to keep your memory strong. And it’s as important to continue learning new things and challenging your brain, even as you age.

Equip Yourself for Problem Solving

Creativity can be defined as an ability to take seemingly unrelated components, and combine them in a new way to solve a problem. By actively fostering your curiosity, you fill your toolbox with concepts and ideas. Ultimately, the right combination of your knowledge and expertise can add up to a breakthrough idea or solution. (Even better when you can get multiple heads together. But that’s a topic for another blog post on Collaboration.)

Boost Your Mood

By putting a focus on continuing to learn, you are directly contributing to your personal growth. Accomplishing a goal triggers the release of dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter that activates the reward response in your brain. Plus, completely new possibilities open up when you are introduced to new concepts.

Thrive in Your Workplace

If you make learning a priority, you can combine the three items listed above and apply them to your career. You might find extra motivation that leads to productivity. With a desire to gain understanding in order to solve a problem, you can translate that into a valuable contribution to any team, creative or otherwise.

Don’t wait for curiosity to strike – start asking questions, and intentionally seeking out answers and solutions. Take a look at your routine and find out how where learning fits into your schedule. (Hint: listening to podcasts in the car is a win!). By giving yourself the time to ask questions and seek answers, you’re already off to a good start. To paraphrase Aristotle, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

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