There are many ways to learn. Many methods and techniques, many ways to acquire new skills, many teachers and mentors from whom we can gain knowledge.
One way is often referred to as “continuing education”: graduate schools, trade schools, and various seminars and writing workshops offer this kind of study. This approach allows one to append his or her existing education, to build atop a firm foundation (or a shoddy one).
Another way is to start anew. Not unlike kindergarten, this manner of learning is simultaneously terrifying and exciting, because everything in the atmosphere is so new, so vivid, so uncertain and uncharted. Growth happens rapidly amid the terror and excitement of elementary school. (By the way, both emotions—terror and excitement—tend to conjure the same physiological reactions: rapid heartbeat, dilated pupils, sweaty palms. This type of attentiveness significantly aids personal growth.)
Both learning structures possess their advantages and disadvantages. Thankfully, in today’s world, adults can have a hand in both methods, enjoying the fruits of uncharted territory while building upon the necessary bedrocks of an adult life.
For us, our move to Missoula, Montana, was both elementary school and grad school. We’re still building on top of a sound structure, a solid foundation (The Minimalists), but we’re also embracing the uncertainty of a new place with new people, a new business (Asymmetrical Press), and new daily practices and routines that will shape our growth in remarkable ways.
Elementary school can be terrifying, but you grow through the fear. Ultimately, you’ve won when your dreams have broken through your fears.
Eventually, we’ll graduate kindergarten. What’s new and exciting today will soon become routine, just another part of everyday life. When this happens, we’ll need to move on to the next elementary-school experience if we want to keep growing—which we will. Without growth, people atrophy: we waste away, we die inside. To avoid this fate, we must continue to find new ways to grow, new elementary schools to crash.
How about you? What is your elementary school? How will it change over time?
Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.