The pain of learning

If you really want to learn, there’s no gain without pain.

The pain of learning. When your preconceived notions and beliefs are shattered through learning the truth.

You often hear people talk about the joy or learning but very little about the pain of learning.

Don’t get me wrong, learning for leaning’s sake is an actual joy. It allows you understand the world more and gives you a piece of mind that only knowledge and wisdom can.

As well as being joyous it is also necessary. Failing to educate yourself throughout a lifetime is detrimental to your career, especially in the information age and competitive job market we find ourselves in. But learning is not only about making yourself more appealing in the job market, Charlie Munger says acquiring wisdom is a moral duty for a life well lived.

Here we’re talking about the pain of learning.

This is the deep kind of learning that comes from obsessive dedication to something or through the truth hitting you like a hammer.

Pain works on a spectrum. At the lower end of the spectrum you would call discomfort and at the higher end you might call excruciating, or what Jordan B. Peterson says, “rocks you to your bloody core” so take what is written here as encapsulating all levels of this spectrum.

Pain from learning is a good thing. Don’t try to avoid it because without it there is no growth.

If you lift weights then you will be disappointed if your muscles did ache the following day after a particularly taxing session doing dips, deadlifts and pull-ups. Why? Because the pain signals that the muscle is damaged and therefore has to repair itself to become stronger.

This principle applies to learning and is based on mindset.

As Carol Dweck wrote, there are two kinds of mindsets in this world. People with either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

Fixed and growth mindsets in relation to learning are thus;

People with a fixed mindset are not open to new possibilities, ideas and dislike their worldview challenged.

They won’t consider that their worldview may be wrong and their reality is how it is. They base their knowledge from what they learnt as a child which, not coincidentally, was the only time they were willing to open their mind. They are stuck in their ways which brings comfort but an increasingly irrelevant and out-of-touch life. Their opinions are fact and the world ever so smaller each year.

People with a growth mindset are open to everything, enjoy being challenged and even if they fail learn something from it.

They are willing to accept there is a limit to their worldview and can adjust it based on acquired knowledge and experience. They understand new information can bring pain in the short term but they are ultimately better for it in the long-term. They have strong but loosely held opinions and their world grows in abundance the more truth they are exposed to.

The pain of learning is a form of hormesis.

Hormesis is based on the premise that low doses of toxicity can be good for you. Examples of hormesis include lifting weights (damages the muscle), sunlight (radiation exposure) and fasting (calorie restriction).

Read a book about the atrocities of Auschwitz to understand what humans are capable of. Learn evolutionary psychology and question everything you and others do. Ponder the purpose of existence, why we’re here and the point of it all.

As David Foster Wallace said, the truth will set you free but not until it is finished with you.

Embrace the pain of learning.


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