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A friend recently told me that she thought I was much cleverer than her.

Now that is an awkward first sentence to a blog post. In fact, it’s the sort of incident that I would normally try and laugh off as quickly as possible. But this time it was so blatantly untrue that I couldn’t get it out my head, I am definitely not naturally cleverer than her.

On paper she has outdone me at every cleverness test life has put in our way. Whereas I performed mediocre at school and went to a good but not outstanding university, she was exceptional at school and went to Oxford.

So why on earth has she decided five years after graduating that I have somehow overtaken her in the cleverness department?! I think I may have worked out the answer…

After university, she stopped learning.

She decided that she had finished with ‘education’ and was now into the ‘real world’ and ‘working’ stages of life. Her first 21 years had been spent learning the skills, and now it was time for 60 years of implementing them.

Apparently after graduating from university 42% of people never read another book. Ever! [EDIT: This statistic has been shown to be incorrect in the comments]

Now I have no idea how accurate that statistic is, but if it is anywhere near remotely close to the truth, that’s amazing.

University is meant to a place that you choose to go to continue learning. It is higher education, education beyond what is necessary. So why do so many people who have chosen to take that extra step, just stop educating themselves when they graduate?

Maybe they think that education and learning have no place in the real world? I completely disagree. Learning encompasses far more than abstract mathematics and the structural discrepancies in ancient poetry.

  • Want to get a promotion/a new job? Study the industry, networking, your competitors, office politics.
  • Want to start a coffee shop? Study planning legislation, recruitment technique, tax, accounting.
  • Want to invent something? Study the manufacturing process, supply chains, fulfillment centres, patents.
  • Want to write a book? Study writing conventions, publishing options, marketing avenues.
  • Want to master a sport? Study technique, practice drills, mistakes others have made.

I’m not inherently cleverer than anyone, but I do spend as much time as possible learning.

If I’ve overtaken someone who is naturally so much more gifted than myself with just five extra years of education, imagine how much ‘clever’ I’ll be in another 60. I can’t wait!

Whatever your ambitions, I encourage you to always learn voraciously.


Do you spend much time learning? If not why not?

This is a repost from July 2015