Teenagers share many things in common in their learning experiences as they grow up. Among this, is the long school life in which they are taught many life’s lessons on how to react to different situations that confront them at later stages of life.
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They are forced to read different books from various writers so are to relive the experiences these writers had in mind and avoid making similar blunders. The books act as forerunners who inform them of the road ahead and help make appropriate choices.
However, I consider this not only misleading but obstruction from valuable lessons that one would never have learnt through their personal experiences. Unlike the ordinary classroom learning, lifelong learning conveys its lessons firmly and articulately. Through this form of learning the students have to plan their study topics and learn to assess themselves besides learning different uncorrelated lessons at the same time and in informal settings.
This is completely opposite to the normal classroom learning. Just as the learning process is different so are the lessons. Participation in a single activity in life could offer a range of lessons and deliver them in better a manner than any book would ever do (Knapper & Cropley, 2000).
I grew up in a military family and developed hatred for the profession due to the kind of life it drove us to. However, I served two years as a sergeant in Iraq before resuming civilian employment. Through amazing circumstances, I met my present wife with whom we have a charming daughter.
In each of these stages of life there were challenges that were faced but the most important were the lessons learnt in the process. The minor day to day experiences, I believe, have shaped my life to what it is today.
Lessons from the military
In my early teenage years, my father came home to a great celebration.He had just gotten a promotion as the military commander in a nearby barrack. This was great news but as he always said: with authority came responsibility. Later years of his career would be marked by a few technical appearances at home. This made me hate being a soldier.
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However, when I enlisted for two years as an army officer, I began to appreciate the lessons that came with this line of work. The frequent change of residence that marked my life and of which I was now part of, taught me that goodbyes were a necessary and inevitable part of life.
Every time we changed location, I had to begin making new friends as well as get used to the new surroundings. This taught me that no matter how good things maybe in any particular situation, they were bound to change. No circumstance is permanent and all that matters in the end is the lesson we take as we go through the different stages of life.
Secondly, I learnt of the importance of blooming wherever one is and at whatever circumstance. One should do the best of every situation presented before them. There were several lives I had saved in the short period I served in the army.
Each time I recall them, I realise that every second life offers you a chance to shape history. Some of us are too engrossed in lamenting in our present circumstances that we hardly notice these opportunities. Being positive in whatever circumstance one is trapped in is often the best way to handle life.
Every day, a soldier’s life is different and comes with new things. There are great expectations and there are big disappointments. One minute we would be having fun and a second later we would be mourning a friend. This taught me to expect surprises from life and ensure we express our love to those we treasure whenever possible.
Procrastination of our feelings does not always pay and could cause us to live heavy-hearted for a larger part of our lives. When contemplating any investment, am usually prepared for any outcome and thus do not hesitate to make the right choices. Many of the times, I have ended up losing greatly but have equally succeeded in numerous other ventures due to this daring spirit.
There is no greater sacrifice than putting your life on the line for the sake of someone we love or have an obligation to protect. As a soldier, such judgment calls arise every once in a while. Moreover, life is often difficult with very few basic amenities. Therefore, soldiers basically survive. This taught me how to handle life when am hardest hit. I learnt that even with the little I have I can still share with a needy person and still live pretty much the same as before.
If I could risk my life for another then so can I risk my wallet. It is from these experiences that I made it an unwritten rule to make at least two contributions annually to a children’s home. This will help the children feel more appreciated and face life more courageously. Nothing is as fulfilling as a smile of gratitude from a soul that desperately needed one’s help. The feeling is wonderful.
In addition, life as soldier instilled the importance of respect, order and teamwork. There is no single battle that is worn by a single soldier. All battles are as result of careful planning under the stewardship of the leader and the contributions of each soldier no matter how small. I learnt how to respect those in authority as their decisions often bordered on life and death.
Moreover, every single thing must be assessed in detail without ignoring any information. Every detail is important even if not presently. This has helped me in my various business ventures as I maintain a keen eye for details. This shields me from property loss.
Lessons from employment
Once I completed service in the army, I took up a job as an insurance company manager. Here, new life lessons began to unfold. First was the how to handle people while remaining in authority. I learnt how to motivate workers to work harder without having to force them.
These are vital skills I apply in my personal businesses to date. Despite being entitled to a basic salary, I had to arrive first at work and leave the last. This were sacrifices I learnt came with management. Sometimes people work for a greater cause than just the monetary remuneration. It is more about how many people depend on you to make the right decision than it is about the money.
Moreover, one various occasions I made the right decisions but offended the greater majority. Later, the same people who were against my decision would come to congratulate me on the same if things turned out positively. From this, I learnt the importance of sticking by the right decision irrespective of the opinion of the majority.
This has formed the basis of my success in the stock market investments where public influence can easily cloud one’s judgment. It has also helped me forge better relationships with people when they realize I have their interests at heart in whatever decision I take.
Lessons from family life
Due to unfortunate or fortunate circumstances, I became a father at an early age. It was unfortunate because it happened when I did not have any source of income to support myself. However, today I view it as fortunate because of the lessons I learnt early in life.
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Having a child and wife to look after made me responsible at a tender age. Despite having no meaningful job at the moment, I had to be creative enough to come ensure the two people in my life were comfortable enough. I started a small restaurant as my source of income long before I joined the army.
Though it did not succeed as I expected, the lessons I learnt from its failure formed the basis for the start of my successful chain of hotels, Beef inn. My first lessons in learning a business were acquired at the restaurant.
The difficult times forced me to halt any meaningful studies and look for means to survive. During this time, my dad succumbed to cancer leaving behind two teenage boys and the jobless mother. The responsibility of the whole family fell on my shoulders.
However, the smile on my daughters face (then barely two years) and my wife’s constant encouragement, taught me the importance of family in times of crisis. I also learnt skills of juggling work and family during this period. These are lessons that have served me all my life and will continue to do so all my life.
Lifelong learning versus book reading
Taking a look at how much application I have made of the book-acquired knowledge compared to lifelong lessons, I realize the importance of this form of learning. First, lifelong learning helps discover and apply one’s natural talents. For instance, it is only through life’s experiences stated above that I discovered my business acumen that has ended up becoming an integral part of me.
Books only relate to us other people’s lives (sometimes fictional characters) rather than mould us into the people we should be. Secondly, lifelong experiences open up our thinking to help us exploit different options available.
Having a daughter at an early age and without any source of income forced me to think up alternatives of solving my problems. First I opened the restaurant and when this failed to kick off, I joined the army where I had a chance to learn numerous lessons.
Having undergone various challenging times and emerged victorious does not only make us stronger, but also wiser. Wisdom is being able to discern right or wrong by predicting the possible outcomes of each action.
Having a personal experience of a situation equips one with the relevant wisdom to evaluate similar life occurrences and make the best decision. Books cannot equip one with such amazing knowledge. A personal encounter is not comparable to a simple familiarization though a book.
In addition, lifelong learning assists us in finding purpose in our lives. Before my daughter was born, all that mattered to me was attending lavish parties and drinking alcohol with a bunch of friends. However, all that changed when the little bundle of joy came. I had to stay home with the mother and her or go find a reliable source of income. I now had a duty to dedicate myself to rather than waste my life.
When at the battle field, I had to ensure I came out alive every time as someone depended on me. She had added meaning to my otherwise meaningless life. No matter how many books I had read on the similar experiences, not a single one moved me enough to change. However one lifelong experience altered all that (Kember, 1997).
Optimization of lifelong learning
The best place to optimize lifelong learning is at the learning institutions. Universities and colleges dedicated to research avail the best platforms for promotion of lifelong learning. Students should be allowed to plan their research, determine the scope of this research and carry it out in informal places. The research topics should involve the integration of several topics so as to emulate life in all aspects.
However, if this has to happen, then the teaching format in these institutions has to take a different angle. For instance, students should be taught how to plan and assess their own research (Angelo & Cross, 1993). They should cease from being passive learners and become active learners who are conversant with the proceedings of the research. Peer assessment should also be encouraged greatly.
Lifelong learning does not take any definite sequence. It, instead, varies from person to person. Since all people are also different, the dissimilar experiences become the mostly appropriate in bringing out differences in our talents and abilities. This sets apart lifelong learning from ordinary literature studies that only impart the same knowledge and expected different results.
Angelo, T. & Cross, K. (1993). Classrooom Assement Technique. Sanfrancisco, Jossey-Bass,1993.
Kember, D. (1997). A reconceptualization of the research into the university academics’ conceptions of teaching. Learning and Instruction, 7, 255-275.
Knapper, C. & Cropley, A. (2000). Lifelong learning in higher education. London: Kogan Page.