Never Stop Learning

Today I’m 32.

We’re so damn young.

Fuckin mere children.

I spoke to my grandparents for two hours yesterday. These 85+ year old stewards of wisdom, possessing vast perspective. Reminded me how insanely young I am, how much life I have to live, how much I have to learn.

One thing that I was reminded of is never stop fuckin learning. The sooner you pick up that book, the sooner you pick up that skill, that craft, that hobby, that trade, that subject, the sooner you’ll be on your way to being an expert.

It’s never too late. Start learning now. Don’t put it off. Knowledge compounds like interest. It’s not significant in 1 year or even five years, but 10 or 20 years, when we’re 40 or 50, the gains will be so fuckin astronomically, the Pareto effect manifests in full, and your propensity to learn begins to work for you, or against you. You’re either the bottom 80%, or the top 20%. Or the 20% of that 20%, the 4%.

We’re never too old. It’s never too late. Learn as much as you can every day, every week. It’s not a sprint, it’s a slow steady marathon, of pacing yourself, day by day, never giving up, reading the books. Knowledge is the real power. Remember that. What you know, and who you know because of what they know, is what makes us or breaks us. 20’s and 30’s are for learnin’, the 40’s and beyond are for earnin’.

How do you learn? Experi-fuckin-ment. Play. Explore. Risk. Fall. Fail. Reflect, readjust, and repeat.

Falling and failing is inevetifuckinble. You only stay down when you lose hope, lose vision, lose sight, and let your dreams die. When your dreams die, you stay down, and lie down, and get comfortable there, and die.

So long as you are breathing and you have a fuckin mind, you have an imagination, and you can paint pictures of possibility, and landscapes of dreams to look forward to, waking dreams to yearn for, to march towards.

If you’re alive and you’re capable of thought, you can create hope. It’s not a given. But so long as your breathing you can get the fuck back up and try try again, start over, reset, or just persist.

It’s only over when you’re fuckin dead.

Your dreams are your dreams. Don’t let anyone else dream for you. That’s how you stay poor in spirit, by allowing others to convince you of their dream, while yours remains gray and empty and hopeless.

The saddest thing is when you’re 60 or 70 or 80, and you discovered something, a passion, an interest, and you become addicted, and you say “I wish I started when I was younger”. I wish I wish I wish.

Agatha Christie, Twain, Tolkien, Vonnegut, Orwell, Carlos Fuentes, Richard Wright were 30 when then first published. Twain published Tom Sawyer at 41, and Tolkien published the Hobbit at 45.

Bronte, Chaucer, Lessig were 31, McCarthy and JK Rowling were 32, Emerson and Virginia were 33, Coetzee and Harper lee 34, Jules Verne 35, Jane Austen 36, Ralph Ellison Cervantes and Pulitzer Waller stevens 38, Burgess and Burroughs and and Toni Morrison 39, George Eliot 40, Angelou 41. Marcel Proust didn’t publish until 43. Henry Millers first Book was 44. Bram Stoker published Dracula at 50. Bukowski first published at 51. Raymond chandler’s the big sleep at 51, Richard adam’s watership down at 52, Daniel Defoe’s robinson Carusoe at 59, Laura Ingalls wilder was 65. Pulitzer Prize wonder Frank McCourt’s Angela ashes at 66. Tolstoy’s War and Peace at 35. Dickens’ David Copperfield at 38. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby? 29. Naipaul’s A house for Mr. Biswas? 29. Dostoevsky wrote Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov mid 40s.

Leo Goodwin founded GEICO at 50, previously working as a run of the mill insurance accountant. Col. Sanders founded KFC at 65. Robert Noyce founded intel at 41. Reid Hoffman founded LinkedIn at 35. Martha Stuart started a catering business at 35 which would begin her career and fame. Vera Wang was a journalist before she began designing clothes and founding the billion dollar namesake at 39. McDonald’s Ray Kroc was 51 when he started the franchise. Marvel Comics Stan Lee wrote his first comic at 39. Donald and Doris fisher founded gap jeans at 40 and 37 when Doris couldn’t find jeans to fit her husband. Henry Ford founded his namesake at 40. Lynda Weinman of online education website Lynda.com founded at 40. Herbert Boyer of Genentech started his company at 40. Bob parsons of godaddy at 47. Chip Wilson of Lululemon at 42. Charles Ranlett Flint founder of IBM at 61. Bernie Marcus of Home Depot at 50. Bill Porter started a scrappy electronic trading company with $15k called trade plus at 45, and nine years later at 54 tried again and founded billion dollar company Etrade.

Peter Mark Roget published his first book title “Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases” at 73. Gary Heavin founded Curves fitness at 40. Robin Chase founded zipcar at 42. Samuel Jackson was virtually unknown at 43 until he played in Stan Lee’s jungle fever. Sam Walton was 44 when he founded Wal-Mart. Jack Weil founded rockmont ranch wear at 45. Rodney Dangerfield was unknown until 46. Darwin was relatively unknown until he published origins of species at 50.

I mean, fuck. Socrates was a random stone mason mid 30’s before his infectious inquiry transformed what it meant to reason, and gave birth to all of western civilization as we know it, laying the foundations for the first academy of learning in the world, his student Plato and his student Aristotle literally coining the subjects of logic and classification and science and biology, transforming the world with a legacy carried throughout Aristotle’s student Alexander the Great, inspiring the Roman Empire, and enlightening all of Europe during the Renaissance when these thinkers ideas resurfaced.

Jesus was an obscure carpenter who didn’t begin his religious apologetic revolution until he was 34.

Just sayin. We are fuckin young as fuck.

Young and dumb and so much to fuckin learn.

So don’t ever stop learning. Don’t ever deprive yourself of that curiosity, that class, that subject, that hobby, that experience.

It’s only over when it’s over, when you’re dead.

I tell ya what. I graduated college, and thought that my career would stimulate me with endless challenges and keep me preoccupied. How disappointing that was. So I decided to, you know, preoccupy myself with working out, because most colleagues and adults I observed looked grotesquely out of shape, which, most preoccupations do, turned into a obsession that really bordered on stupidity, in hindsight. I’ve always read and tried to self educate, but I really got depressed reading and having it feel aimless; like what’s education for education’s sake? Why read these obscure subjects for curiosities sake? What kind of tangible investment will that get me? It seemed like a distraction from my job. 

Fast forward six years and it occurs to me that fitness, while regular activity is necessary to compensate for civilizations increasingly sedentary demands, is about most ill advised investment of time and energy in the long run, since our bodies have a pretty predictable rate of depreciation, and no amount of exercise will extend our years to overcome death. And if the quality of life is determined by how we spend that time, and most of my waking life revolves around the Sisphyean struggle to break and build my body, what can I really say about the yields of this investment? Fitness is like learning to build a increasingly elaborate and byzantine sand castle on the shoreline, forever digging out the moat and gathering up sand to repair and build, while fighting wind and waiting for the last great tide to wipe it all out.

It’s always impressive to see a massive sandcastle. But if you take a day or a year off, it’s like, oh. I have to start over, pretty much.

So it re-occurred to me that investments in my mind, in knowledge and exposure and experience, are really the absolute best investment. And that’s why I continue to put my money where my mouth is, and pick up books, buy books, all the books, go to the library, and read and read and read, and do shit, draw shit, participate in shit. Create Meet-ups on subjects. Go to meet-ups on subjects. There are no rules for learning or reading. I have bought books and it took me years to finish them, or years before I just happened to pick it up and read it for the first time.

And most recently, I discovered something even more exhilarating: You can go back to school.

You can take classes. Enroll at community college, and take night classes, online classes, enroll at continuing studies classes at Berkeley and Stanford, for credit! And it is cheap! As in, rather than like $3,000 a fuckin credit, it’s $100! A three credit semester class is like $300!

You can literally take night classes, and get a fuckin degree, while you work. You can learn new subjects, and become learned in pretty much any fuckin subject!

And it doesn’t matter what school it is, because, it’s fuckin knowledge. It’s a community of people who want to learn. People to discuss ideas with, to learn with, to challenge each other. It’s quite amazing.

It occurred to me that while learning never ends, education never has to end either. You can take classes and pick up degrees and be an expert, and still live a life

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