Forever a Student

One of my morning mantras reads: forever a student, never a finished product. It’s a daily reminder that learning is never “done” – there’s always something to learn, period.

The inspiration comes from two great reads: Thinking Like A Freak and Ego is the Enemy. 

In Thinking Like A Freak, Levitt and Dubner share this gem of a quote:

It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows.

– Epictetus

I’m at the point in my career where I’ve put in the time – I’ve done quite a few projects – and I often catch myself and others labeling me experienced, which comes with a connotation: I have learned enough.

If you think you already know something, you’ll be less open to actually learning it. We need to put our egos aside and be willing to say “I don’t know” – the three words that, according to Levitt and Dubner, are quite difficult for most of us to spit out. Not-knowing causes us to get curious, look for better ways, ask questions, and accurately assess our abilities so we know where to focus our learning efforts.

Speaking of ego, Ryan Holiday’s Ego is the Enemy has a great chapter on this topic.

We don’t like thinking we have a lot left to learn – we want to be done. We want to be ready. We are busy and overburdened. For this reason, updating our appraisal of our own talent in a downward direction is one of the most difficult things to do in life. But it’s almost always a component of mastery. The pretense of knowledge is our most dangerous vice because it prevents us from getting better. Studious self assessment is the antidote.

– Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy


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