All the world’s most famous autodidacts -- Elon Musk, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein, to name a few -- are frequently quoted talking about the importance of lifelong learning.
It’s one of their secrets to success.
The thing that made them special was not just raw talent, or even developed skill. History’s most famous autodidacts were all consistent and voracious learners, throughout their entire lives -- and that consistency in learning was an important key to all the insights, ideas, and innovations they put out.
No matter who you are, the importance of lifelong learning is undeniable. Learning is not an activity confined to a classroom or a certain stage of life. It’s a lifelong pursuit, and a way of living.
On a physiological level, learning is a great way to keep your brain active and sharp. Your brain is a muscle, and you need to train it to keep it in shape. People who continue to learn as adults retain better memory and cognitive function.
And if you’re concerned about not knowing how to learn, know that learning is a skill. The more of it you do, the better at it you get. When you exercise your learning muscles, learning in turn gets easier to do. Want to get better at asking questions? Simply ask questions!. Why do things exist? Why does something behave in a specific way? Want to get better at answering those questions? Be intentional about how you find answers. Learn how to go from a simple google search to well-informed and thoughtful perspectives. The more mindful you are of your learning process, the more you sharpen your learning skills.
On a practical level, learning is important for your continued success in life. With the world changing so quickly, you need to be able to quickly learn new information and skills. Many of us are working in jobs that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. To be successful in the coming years and decades, you must be able to learn and adapt effectively.
But beyond the practical, learning also has quality of life benefits. Discovering new things, exploring possibilities, and making sense of the world around you sparks new ideas and fuels your creativity, bringing you a sense of meaning and joy.
Inspiring quotes about lifelong learning, and questions to help you think better
The following 30 quotes -- from writers, entrepreneurs, and famous autodidacts -- explore the importance of lifelong learning. Each quote is followed by a set of questions to help you apply the ideas to your own life.
Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.
- How do you define wisdom? And why might wonder be its initial source?
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire
- Reflect back to your education. What did being educated mean to you growing up? What does it mean to you now?
One of the really tough things is figuring out what questions to ask. Once you figure out the question, then the answer is relatively easy
- Why might the question be so much harder than the answer? How does Musk’s take align with your own experience?
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning not only remains young but becomes constantly more valuable - regardless of physical capacity
- What does it mean to “keep learning?” How might that affect your “age” or “value?”
Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
- Why might self-education be the only type of education? What other types of education exist, and why might Asimov think self-education is the only kind that is important?
I read my eyes out and I can’t read half enough … the more one reads the more one sees we have to read
- How do these words resonate with your own experience of reading?
I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led
- Are there any fears in your own pursuit of knowledge that block you from seeking the truth? Where do they come from, and how can you alleviate them? (If you’d like support in pursuing the truth, you may find our community of self-directed learners helpful!)
Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future
- Why might the perpetual learners be the movers and shakers in the society? How would you define “the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge,” and how would you measure that in yourself?
Read daily to renew your min
- How might reading help you renew your mind?
All I have learned, I learned from books
- What does “learning from books” mean to you? How do you think about the value of books?
The education of a man is never completed until he dies
- What is the value of learning throughout your life? Why do you think it’s important to cultivate a learning habit even into old age?
I was raised by books. Books, and then my parents
- What books have been most pivotal in your own education, and why?
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious
- Why would Einstein give so much credit to his curiosity? What might he have done to cultivate such an exceptional sense of interest about the world?
Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles of learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotien
- How can you develop more curiosity in your own approach to learning?
Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents
- How do you ensure you’ve derived value from a book, and truly internalized their content? (If you’d like to learn more about the science of reading, check out this article).
In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time - none, zero.
- What value does reading hold for you? How can you improve your own reading habit?
A ‘genius’ is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework
- What might it mean to do all of your homework? Based on your answer, how can you improve your own approach to “doing your homework?”
Education is basically downloading data and algorithms into your brain
- How does this metaphor change the way you think about learning? If “data” is facts, what might “algorithms” be referring to?
Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes
- Why might knowledge vanish if you aren’t challenging it and increasing it?
Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignoranc
- How do you define ignorance? How does your education relate to this definition?
All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher
- What role does your environment play in your education? How do you interpret the world’s influence on your learnings?
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma
- What might it mean for a tombstone to be your diploma?
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever
- What would it look like to implement this mindset into your day-to-day life? What changes could you make, tomorrow, to better embody this approach?
Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death
- How has your intellectual growth evolved over the course of your life? How has your learning approach evolved throughout your education? How do you think it might evolve going forward?
Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience
- What does it mean to you to exercise control over how and what you think? How much control do you think you have over your thinking? How might you improve that level of control?
In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists
- What do you think Hoffer means by “the learned?” Why does the world become obsolete to those who are “learned?” Why are the learners the ones who have the advantage?
Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it
- Do you agree that your most valuable asset is your mind? If so, why? What are the greatest ways in which your mind is currently valuable, and how might you continue investing in that resource?
The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you
- Does this quote resonate with you? What things have you learned that you’re glad no one can take away from you?
Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know
- What are some of the most interesting things you’ve realized you know nothing about, that you didn’t before know existed?
The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live
- What are some of the most valuable ways you’ve felt your mind grow in the past? In what ways are you most excited to push your mind to continue to grow?
The most important point:
A better learning practice is a key to a better life. It keeps your brain sharp, it keeps your skills strong, and it helps you explore and embrace the wonders of the world around you.
Make learning a lifestyle, and curiosity a habit -- and reap the rewards in every aspect of your life.