As I’m sitting here, in the middle of a Shanghaian subway station suburb, writing this blog post about learning, a group of old people comes sit to the table next to me. I listen to them being their loud, own selves, making fun of each other and enjoying beer and tea on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. On my other side, I see another lonely grandpa enjoying the sun and listening to the noises of the big city. I usually don’t have the courage to go and talk to people if I don’t know them, but here, living in Shanghai and in China generally, I have gotten accustomed to people randomly starting to talk to me, asking if I could speak Chinese. This white-headed grandpa on my right side was one of these people. He rose and came to talk to me. We ended up discussing everything from the current world political situation to the fact that he thought that I should get a local Chinese boyfriend and stay here forever. He told me his fascinating life story about struggling to find work and becoming a machine engineer. Some things that he told me, I had difficulties to understand, because he had lost all his front teeth. This detail didn’t matter because by talking to me he could have some company to talk to. For me, he was a new friend who could teach me a lot about life. Mainly to believe that everything will end up okay in the end. Having the courage to come and talk to me, this grandpa gave me a very important lesson, to believe in myself. I think that we can learn from others, our surroundings and experiences every single moment of our lives.
What does it mean to learn from others? We have the possibility to learn extremely many things from others. There is one but however; we have the possibility, but only if we have the will to learn. The core question here is exactly that; to have the will to learn and to have an open mindset. A mindset of growth and learning.
How to then learn from others?
It all starts with being curious. As small children, we all are curious about our surroundings, but unfortunately, the older we get and the more accustomed to our habits and surroundings we come, the less curious we become. If we are not curious, we cannot see all the possible learning and development opportunities we have, possibly even right in front of us.
I love to learn. I acquire knowledge not only in the classroom but multiple different online sources, from my surroundings, from discussions with people and by reading. My aim is to be able to understand the world, and therefore I seek to find different perspectives on things continuously. The people around us have skills I don’t have, have different backgrounds I don’t have, have different experiences I have, look different from me, believe in different things compared to me. I can take bits and pieces from other’s thinking, using their knowledge and things I have learned in situations that I face. Learning and being open to diversity gives me more perspective to see the bigger picture. By looking, by asking, by interacting with other people, by hearing their fails and successes, by learning from my own fails and successes, I can learn all the time.
What is the difference between learning and growing?
We can learn all the time if we have the will to learn. Growth, on the other hand, is something that happens when we put into practice what I have learned. Being humble and understanding that actually we know very little about everything and being willing to be aware of our surroundings and learn from each moment is crucial to learning and growth. If we are too proud, our proudness will prevent the learning process from happening.