So, you’ve graduated college. Congratulations! You’re at a very meaningful, significant pivot point in your life. Enjoy it.
By the time the graduation speeches and parties have ended, you’ll hear — too often — about the value of life-long learning. There’s no need for me to repeat all of the reasons you heard.
What I’d rather do is point you in the direction of some of the ways I’ve found to do it. Whether you’re heading back to school or back to your parent’s basement; to the Peace Corps or the Army Corps; to the business world or the world-at-large, I’m hoping you can find something that’s new to you. Fortunately, you have an easier path to continuous, life-long learning than anyone who has come before you.
Have a thought about the best way to be a life-long learner? Join the conversation and throw it in the comments!
1. Take an online course at Harvard, Yale, or hundreds of other universities
In college, you may have followed my lead and completed a safe, pragmatic major, one that set you up post-college for a good job with good pay. That’s all well and good — there’s virtue in that too, millennials, whether or not that’s what you’ve been told.
But maybe you’re interested in history, sociology, philosophy, or something similar, and never had the time to dive into those classes in between Pragmatism 101 and Pragmatism 202.
Enter Coursera, EdX, Udacity, MRUniversity, and myriad other operators of Massively-Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These platforms allow anyone to sign up and take a course from universities worldwide, including Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Stanford. The courses are “taught” by world-class professors via video, and usually include assignments, tests, and an area for discussion with other virtual students.
Importantly, these courses mimic real-life by using of deadlines — something that you may need to keep on top things (I certainly do).
MOOC’s aren’t for everyone (see #2), but for most, they’re worth a shot.
2. Learn at your own pace with iTunes U
Too busy to commit to a deadline-driven course on one of the MOOC platforms? Then pull up iTunes U and learn at your own pace.
Want to throw on something interesting while you’re jogging? Listen to the class on Epidemics in Western Society. Looking for something to take your mind off of cleaning the house? Try a course on Ancient Greece. Or Probability. Or Astronomy. Or Media.
Can’t find something on iTunes U that interests you? I’m pretty confident that nothing interests you, then.
3. Listen to Radiolab and other podcasts – but especially Radiolab
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich put out some of the finest, most thought-provoking hours of radio — or any media, really — through their podcast Radiolab. It’s about a lot of things — Memory, Falling, Good, Bad, Pop Music, Stress — but really it’s about curiosity. Having questions about something, not having an answer, and looking into it.
Listen, and you’ll be led down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. You’ll Google researchers and authors you meet on the show; you’ll buy books and learn things you never would have expected; you’ll start asking more questions.
And you’ll talk about Radiolab. A lot. At bars and parties, you’ll be found bringing up the history of hookworms in the United states, or how memories are fictionalized, or how Ulysses contracts can be useful tools. This may annoy your friends. That’s OK.
There are a lot of other podcasts to listen to, also — on my current rotation are Planet Money, Freakanomics, Philosophy Bites, Intelligence Squared, This American Life, and other; the list goes on. They’re great, and you can find myriad others that cater more to your specific tastes.
But you’ll have to just trust me on this one: start with Radiolab.
4. Read – even if it's only Twitter
You’ve heard this countless times, from pizza-hawkers, parents, and principals: READ, DUMMY!
But you may not love sitting down to read a book with a coffee or a beer. Lots of people don’t.
Judging by the fact that you’re reading this, though, I bet you read things online. Find an interesting article but want to have it on your iPhone for the subway home? Try Instapaper. Can’t find interesting articles? Sign up for Longform and Longreads and have them do the work for you.
RSS aggregators are great for keeping track of blogs; try TheOldReader. Stay away from Google Reader – it’ll soon be in the Google Graveyard.
Maybe you don’t even want to read articles online. Learn from your Twitter feed, then. Twitter gets a bad rap for being lousy with Tweets about breakfast and cats, but if you follow the right people – journalists, experts and amateurs in a field you’re interested in – you can learn a lot, quickly.
This is an underrated way to learn and to continue learning. In order to write about much of anything of substance (non-fiction, anyway), you’ll have to learn something about it, and the feedback you get from the crowd should hold you accountable to produce a decent, well-sourced, well-researched article. You’ll learn in the process, and become a better writer to boot.
Already have a blog with lots of blog posts but few readers? Find a blog or site you like, and ask them to let you guest post from time to time. Or, write for PolicyMic!