If You Want to Learn, Be Humble

Essays 1 min read
“Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.”
~ Epictetus, Discourses, 2.17.1
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Photographer: Drew Beamer | Source: Unsplash

In the The Daily Stoic April 11th entry, we read the quote from Epictetus, the once enslaved servant turned philosopher teacher.

He was familiar with the teacher’s common frustration. That is, students who claim to want to learn, yet secretly believe already to know all there is to know about the material.

3 Ideas to Stay in Learning Mode

The ‘love of learning’ is a virtue of mine. Often, those who become teachers do so to put this virtue into action. They win the ultimate game of life, and get paid to do what they love as a life-long learner.

Three ideas have helped me stay in the learning mode. They are:

🔴 The Exponential Growth of Ignorance — My brother, a mathematician, once shared a metaphor as to why he loves math. This idea can extend into everything.

“For every 1 new thing I learn, I know there are 10 new things I don’t know. That means, there will always be something new to learn.”
~ Miriosh Higgs, A Nerdy Mathematician Brother

🔴 An Empty ‘Knowledge Jug’ to Be Filled — You started life with an empty jug of knowledge. And a jug already filled cannot take in any more water.

The joyous learner knows, the capacity of your ‘knowledge jug’ is not fixed. It is increase with experience, and can hold more, if you choose.

🔴 What Don’t You Know? — Regardless of how familiar you are with a subject, there is always a new perspective you’ve not seen. Or better stated another way:

Everyone you’ll ever meet, knows something you don’t.
~ Bill Nye the Science Guy

Because I love learning, as much as my time and attention will allow, I’m always humble and ready to hold another’s perspective, even if it is skewed.

New perspectives give added information for me to take or leave and build a more informed perspective.


🔴 Because there is ALWAYS something more to learn.

The Daily Stoicism perception mindset