Humans are mammals which require a long period of parental care lasting decades; other species are ready to go in their lives much quicker. The human brain is so big compared to other parts of the body, and so powerful, that it needs a long process of tuning before reaching the sort of “stable state” which we call adulthood.
We pass through infancy (we’re totally dependent on adults for everything and we’re unable to perform any sort of simple task), childhood (we learn to be physically independent), then the teen years (we learn to deal with emotions and go through a cascade of hormonal changes aimed at setting up the cerebral system), and then we’re considered to be adults.
After you hit the 20 threshold, you’re a young adult, your brain is all set up and this is usually the time where you build your professional profile, you go to university or you start working. On top of this long process, which is clearly different for each one of us, we accumulate loads and loads of what we all call experiences. While living our lives, our brain is bombarded with information from the outside and we implicitly absorb it to make it ours, to reinterpret it, to discard it, to make good use of it. The thing defining who we are today is a complex combination of all the experiences we went through until this time. Most people tend to look at adults as a sort of finished state of matter which is not learning any more from the surroundings. And to be honest, lots of adults stick to this definition pretty well: they unconsciously (or not!) refuse the idea of getting new material into their lives, they think of themselves as individuals who live on the flat plateau of a learning curve which was only showing a slope when they where young. This attitude is often coupled with a distrustful look at “technology” and whatever the digital economy is bringing in our daily lives. Clearly, the era of information is offering everyone the free, or very cheap, possibility to engage with the world in a way which was unconceivable 30 years ago, on a mass scale. The people I described here simply were not prepared for this, they lived their lives in the analogical era, where what you know was more important than what you are able to know. This has now dramatically changed.
I believe in learning. I believe in the power behind making good use of every experience, every failure, every success we, either because we chose or not, go through along the journey. We grow every day. You have to be open to the process though, you have to accept it.
Experiences are those things that make you change your perspective after realizing you didn’t take that side into account. Failures are what teach you a lesson. Successes are what make you believe in your potential. In my life until now, I changed my mind several times. When in my teens, I was convinced by age 25 I’d be a well-formed professional, working somewhere and with nothing else interesting to assimilate about the world. I remember I even tried to picture my physical appearance of the future. Truth is, when I was 25 I was not even close to be a professional. I was in my first PhD year struggling to make the switch from studying scientific things to prouducing scientific things, and I had to clue how to do this, professionally. Then I learned. When I finished the program, I wasn’t even close to be a professional, again. I had decided I wanted a job in the industry and I had no idea how businesses work. Then I started learning. And I’m in the process, and it’s great.
It’s great to absorb something new to get from the outside everyday, it’s rewarding to open your brain to the idea of getting new information in, because you might see nuances you didn’notice, or you might get to know of a new way capable of making the difference in your everyday tasks. Don’t be lazy, don’t be old, exit your comfort zone, every day. Do something you never thought it was interesting to you. Learn something whose name scares you.