Become A Lifelong Learner

Learning provided both personal enjoyment and a path to professional success for him.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Vital Stats

Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States in the early 1900s, was considered a lifelong learner. He published his first book at 23 and continued to write – and read – throughout his life. He was rumoured to have read a book a day! Learning provided both personal enjoyment and a path to professional success for him.

Wits Plus

Ongoing skills acquisition is critical for continued professional relevance, especially in a modern world of exploding technology. Formal education levels are regularly linked to higher earnings and lower unemployment – and learning something new (more informally) is also fun.

A recent article in The Economist highlights some of the realities of the modern workplace:

  • Established skills become obsolete, making it essential to acquire new skills.
  • Career spans are lengthening.
  • Automation may not wipe out jobs completely but it does force change in many occupations.
  • A growing number of people are self-employed.

Simply deciding to ‘continue learning’ may not be enough though; you may need to cultivate it as a new habit. Start off by specifying the outcomes that you would like to achieve. Is it about mastering a specific subject? Being up-to-date on a couple of topics outside your day-to-day work? Select one or two outcomes that will help you to set achievable goals to make the habit stick.

Secondly, set (realistic) goals. You can track long-term goals in a planner and use any number of apps to monitor your short-term goals – thus making sure that you turn a vague desire to improve learning into concrete actions. Then it's time to execute: join groups, read, start a formal education course. Get rid of distractions and interruptions – and FOCUS.

Finally, use appropriate technology to complement your learning efforts: Podcasts, eBooks and audio books, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are all freely available. Technology is enabling entirely new ways of learning: Accessing content on different (and mobile) devices, on the move, or at the point of need – 'self-paced' and 'self-service' options make lifelong learning even more achievable.

Humans are born with a natural curiosity. We do want to learn but life’s demands often eat up our time and our will to engage this natural curiosity. Developing lifelong learning habits can be a route to both continued professional relevance and deep personal happiness for you as well!

Wits Plus

Written By

Wits Plus, the Centre for Part-Time Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, offers selected undergraduate degrees, as well as a wide range of short certificate courses. Evening classes make all qualifications accessible to working people and busy entrepreneurs. Wits Plus also offers a range of online short courses that enable you to study wherever you are. Certificates of Competence are awarded to successful participants for both certificate and online short courses.