I was a horrible student for most of my life. Middle school was the worst. High school wasn’t much better. I wasn’t engaged, I never studied, and I did my best to get out of classes by any means necessary. My GPA was embarrassing and I didn’t really care. I was concerned with everything but school.
I took a couple years off before going to college. Heading into my freshman year, I was extremely nervous. I thought that I was just a bad student by nature. I literally thought I would never be able to succeed in academia. My freshman year, I put in a lot of effort and I noticed something: I could do it. I wasn’t an idiot!
Over the next 4 years, I began to learn a lot of things. Probably the biggest thing I learned, was how to learn.
I had never been a reader but I began reading, for hours on end, and figuring out ways to organize and memorize the information. I came up with my own study techniques. One semester, while taking a very difficult class, I spent 8 hours in the library every almost Saturday, creating notebooks full of references and points.
During these few years, I wasn’t just learning how to write papers and take tests. I was also part of a few traveling music groups and I had to learn music fast, by ear, and remember it. I came up with my own ways of looking at music and remembering chord progressions. I dedicated a lot of time to learning how to learn new music, and it has paid off for me immensely. Once I learned how I learn, things became much easier.
Looking back, I realize that I spent 12 years in school, the whole time, not knowing how to learn. Some people may not ever have this issue, but for me, it was real. I never took the time learn how I learned, and because of that, I never engaged in school and just barely got by.
I am thankful for my college years because I learned more about myself in those few years than I did the rest of my life. I learned how to organize my thoughts and put them on paper. I learned how to speak to a room of people that needed me to fully comprehend a given subject. I learned how to read for hours on end–and enjoy it! I learned how to decipher new songs and play them in minutes. I use these skills everyday of my life now. Sure, I learned social psychology and advanced mathematics, but what I’m most grateful for is what I learned about myself. I learned what I needed to do to be more efficient and effective.
I want to be a successful producer, artist, author and entrepreneur, and as I take steps towards my goals everyday, I see how important learning to learn actually is. In one week I can write 5 blog posts, read 4 books, write two songs, have recording sessions with two different clients, create a new design for a shirt, prepare music for Sunday service, prepare a message for Wednesday night and more. I am motivated, but more important, I have learned how to do all of these things efficiently and effectively. And I want to continue learning because there are so many people who are doing so much more and doing it better than I am.
I thought I was stupid for a long time. I wasn’t. I just hadn’t taken the time and the effort to learn how to learn. It’s made all the difference.
If you have crazy goals that you want to achieve, take the time to learn how you learn. Put in the effort and fine-tune yourself into an efficient, effective machine.
And then teach me something!
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Two books that really helped me become a more effective person: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink.