Thursday, September 3, 2009

Greatest lesson in learning

Being a teacher, I am wonderfully blessed to be surrounded by the future always. Young women and men, bubbling with ideas, hopes, dreams, ambitions, aspirations, frustrations, sadness.. it's all there for me to study.

Let me share something I feel strongly about. Something about the fine art of being a great learner. While we all know that learning continuously is important for us to lead a fulfilled and continuously satisfied life in this human society (that is itself continuously and in many complex ways - changing), very few of us actually know the secret of fast, deep, long-lasting learning.

It is a secret I am going to let out today. The luckiest few of us may be knowing it already. Some of us may have experienced it sometime in our lives, but unluckily would have missed out on analysing it adequately. Most of us will not have even experienced it.

I learnt it when my father taught me this little, profound secret while studying in the 5th standard at the St.Paul's School Indore. My having done miserably in the 6-monthly exams made Daddy really furious at me. He took it upon himself to coach me for several weeks, one-to-one. Imagine, a fully qualified, respected Otorhinolaryngologist (ENT surgeon) teaching his 10 year old son History, Civics, and Basic Science!

So he kept teaching me all those mornings, sacrificing at times his surgery calls. I kept learning. He kept on gently pushing some values in my about-to-get-adolescent head, that was already buzzing with hormones preparing to go on the teenage rampage.

And today, after all these decades, I remember clearly the one most important lesson he taught me.

He said : "अच्छा सीखने की सबसे बड़ी शर्त है अपने शिक्षक के प्रति पूर्ण समर्पणकोई शक नहीं, कोई सवाल नहींकेवल पूर्ण समर्पण।"

Translated, it means, the biggest pre-condition of being a great learner (and having a great learning experience) is total surrender to the process of learning, and complete agreement with your teacher, on everything. No questions, no disagreements, no doubts. Just agreement.

The human mind learns best when it follows this simple rule.

For years together, I could never bring myself to believe this. I always found it kind of sinister, or communist. I thought that the Western model of thinking - doubt everything around you and the truth will shine forth, must be correct as they (the Westerners) are the ones who gave us the Theory of Evolution, The Microprocessor, and The Paleontological proofs of man's historic journey. (Yes, I know I was being simplistic)

How wrong I was! What wrong threads of logic I was trying to connect. Every single man or woman who has contributed to modern science has been a complete believer in something. Every single great scientist - Einstein included - so deeply believed in something that it kept propelling them forward. They completely surrendered to their beliefs, and kept plodding on and on. This "something" was their teacher.

In the broadest sense of the word, today I realise what my Dad must have meant then. The "teacher" he was speaking about was definitely not just a human being. It could be God herself. It could be mother nature. It could be your friend, your lover, your books, your wife, your child, your professor, your boss, your associate ... anyone!

Dear reader, I strongly recommend : surrender completely to the one you think can teach you how to learn. That's the surest, fastest, strongest way to grow!

And yes, this "something" can change from time to time, situation to situation.

Looking at the streams, the grasses, the raindrops
The rays of Sun shining through the dusty glasspanes
The frogs croaking, the crickets dancing, the ants marching
The man's search was on - who could have made it all?
Without realising, for once
That the creator is there, in each of His creations
The creations are He, the creator is the creation
But he kept disbelieving, and kept looking, and kept looking
For he could not surrender, he could not rejoice.



vinay said...

Respected Sir,

It is very necessary for every human being to understand that he/she does not know everything. Once you decide that you know everything nobody can teach/explain you. You need to be openminded, ready to learn from everything and everybody.

Manas said...

I like to think of this only slightly differently: You open your mind for learning only when you have a little awestruck humility. It's not a sufficient condition for learning, but it is necessary.

The person who is never impressed will never learn. That's why I like to think that the first thing we should be cultivating at Proton is "inspiration".

Test said...

Vinay - quite correct.
Manas - inspiration is what drives us everyday. Inspiration from the joy of trying to do a great job consistently

Sarabjeet Singh said...

Dear Sir,
Thanks for sharing such a wonderful pearl of learning from your ocean of knowledge. I am in complete agreement with your view of complete submission to the teacher or "Guru".
PROTON Sarabjeet Singh

Shalini Gautam said...

morning sir,
i know its going against your blog but i have a doubt.what if the person who inspires you cannot be with you all the time?

Praveen Patidarr said...

"Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions." - Anonymous

Dear Teacher/ Mentor,
Wish you a wonderful Happy Teacher's Day! Thank you for your care and concern you have provided for us. It will be deeply etched in out hearts. Thank you for everything.

Praveen Patidar

Ashu Barjatya said...

Respected Sir,
'My having done miserably in the 6-monthly exams made Daddy really furious at me.' Sorry but i did'nt understand this line. Please tell something about this?

Thanks & Regards
Ashu Barjatya (Proton-Indore)

Ashu Barjatya said...

Respected Sir,

T- Talented
E- Educated
A- Appreciable
C- Creative
H- Humble
E- Elegant
R- Respected
'S- Source of knowledge

Ashu Barjatya(Proton-Indore)

Test said...

Shalini - I guess that will happen most of the times! The trick is to get motivated by the concept/deed/action rather than just the person. Look at what actually motivated you - the underlying skill. And you will never feel dejected in the absence of the person whose skills influenced you. best wishes!

Sarabjeet and Praveen - Thanks for reading and commenting!

Ashu - it means that "while in the 5th standard, I did badly in the 6-monthly exams at my school. Due to this, my father became quite upset."

Ashu - thanks for the beautiful rendition!

Praj.. said...

Good evening Sir,
Though i love reading blogs,I started reading your blogs only after this Economist session and i came across your this posting which articulated precisely what all am feeling and experiencing here at PROTON since day 1.It has been such a great learning experience all these days,especially the ECONOMIST sessions.. They are absouletly mindboggling!!!!! I would like to tell you that you are the first teacher in my life till today ,who i feel has helped me broaden my horizon and also has channelized my thought process.As a student I surrender myself completely to this learning process and have complete trust on you.
with warm reagars.
Proton Prajaktta Inamdar.
Indore campus.

Test said...

Hi Proton Prajakta - thanks for starting to read our blogs. Congratulations also for putting in effort in the Economist sessions. I can often see you raising hands to answer questions -that tells me you come prepared. Good. This is preparation for life. By the time you pass out of PROTON, you will be supremely confident (and humble) about world affairs, and how far this will take you in your career will be evident. As I said, empires of today are empires of the mind.