He sat in the large auditorium on the campus of a small Christian college. Chapel would begin soon. Students began to fill the auditorium.
He was a longtime professor at the college. For many years he taught undergraduate Bible classes. He was a student and a scholar. Long ago, he had earned a Ph. D. in New Testament and continued to learn and grow for many, many years. Today was no exception.
As the chapel program began, a young undergraduate walked to the lectern to "make a talk." The old professor did what was his custom each day in chapel. He opened his notebook and, with pen in hand, began to take notes of the young man’s talk.
One day, a colleague asked him about this habit. The old professor explained that he wanted to learn and grow. He said "I never know when I might learn something. So I want to be ready to write it down."
What are some characteristics of people who are lifelong learners?
1. Lifelong learners intend to grow, develop, and mature. I have found that much learning is "on purpose." Not all of us learn in the same way. However, I do believe that we are at an advantage when we desire to learn and intend to learn.
2. Lifelong learners know that there are many, many ways to learn. For example, I have learned much from reading. I can point to several biographies and a few other books as well that have been important in my growth and development. We also learn from people. This morning I had breakfast with one of the most gifted people I have ever known. For many years my friend has asked me important questions that have caused me to think about my life and about the way I minister.
3. Lifelong learners are humble. It is a good thing to learn from leading experts, top professors, and prolific authors. However, am I willing to learn from one of my peers? Am I willing to learn from one who has less experience or formal education than I? Am I willing to learn from someone who is younger than I am? Am I willing to learn from one I have helped to mentor? (See Cliff Barbarick’s excellent post.) Humility means that I could be wrong about something. Humility is to acknowledge that I may know very little, if anything, about a particular area of life or work and that I am willing to listen.
4. Lifelong learners have learned and are learning. (I read this somewhere but at the moment the source is unknown.) There is nothing arrogant about acknowledging that I have learned something. I have lived, thought, and studied for a number of years and I can honestly say that I have learned a few things about life and ministry. At the same time, I continue to learn. I don’t think that one ever arrives.
5. Lifelong learners maintain a healthy curiosity about life, God, and the things that matter most. So often men and women lose any sense of curiosity and settle for their self-imposed ruts. On the other hand, those who remain curious are willing to experience something different. Perhaps I listen to music I don’t normally listen to (easily possible if you use Pandora). Maybe I watch a television program about a part of the world about which I know nothing. I might take a different route home from work. At the restaurant, perhaps I could order something different. I have found that making such choices nurtures my curiosity. This curiosity is something I don’t want to lose.
What about you? What do you do to intentionally live as a lifelong learner?