The key to learning anything, at any age:
1. Forget everything you’ve ever learned about age and learning.
Did you know that its easier to learn languages before the age of ten? Did you know that’s one of the most widely held myths about age and learning? Repeated studies have found that given the same amount of language instruction, adults regularly outperform their younger counterparts.
Scientists believe that this myth continues for two main reasons: first, the only metric where younger students do tend to outperform adults is on pronunciation, which we tend to over-value as an indicator of fluency. The second reason is ridiculous, and painfully obvious — we simply have lower expectations of children. We consider a child to be fluent with a much less command of a language’s grammar and a much smaller vocabulary.
Think you are too old to learn new skills, languages, and programming languages? Sorry, the science says otherwise.
2. Get comfortable asking questions & looking stupid (because you will actually look smarter)
One of the most common and damaging misconceptions that runs rampant among adult learners is the fear of looking stupid. So is its handmaiden, the fear of asking questions.
The cognitive error that adults are making is that asking questions doesn’t make you look stupid, it make you look engaged!
I got an email from Ramit Sehti recently, and there was this one amazing nugget that I will just re-print exactly:
“Top performers ask questions WAY MORE than ordinary people. They’re not worried about how dumb they look. In fact, they realize that asking for help can actually make people think better of them.”
Amen to that!
3. Learn with friends, in a supportive community
We all have lizard brains! So let’s use that to our advantage.
Humans are wired to both compete with and please their peers. That means you are going to want to rival your fellow students and impress them. Good, bad, or evil, these truths are great for motivating you to work harder and learn more.
So, when you go set off on your learning journey, make sure you are not doing it alone. Look for a community where you will be comfortable to risk looking stupid, but challenged enough that you are really going to be excited to compete with and learn from your peers.
Image credit: Nicolas Alejandro