Bill Gates Gives Me a Kick in the Butt and The Art of Learning

Do I actually know Bill Gates, one might ask? The answer is no. However, did Bill Gates manage to shame me? Yes, and I thank him for that.

The topic titled “The Art of Learning” was one of the themes periodically thrown out to ChicagoNow bloggers as an option to write about in the site’s “This Blogger Life” series. Segueing from my usual sports related rants…here it goes:

Before I get to Bill Gates – a few of my thoughts on the subject at hand: The Art of Learning...

Not only is learning an art – it is a definite necessity for those of us in a certain mature age group. Simply put, no learning = no brain stimulation = the possibility of finding yourself drooling and staring off into space and your only excitement is contemplating your next meal.

Personally, I think I can say that I have always been a “Learner” of sorts. An avid reader, becoming educated through travel and cultural experiences, (i.e. frequenting museums in addition to bars), exploring new ideas and projects – you get the picture.

But lately, I will confess that the older I get the more “slow moving” that path becomes. Hello – I get tired. And, I think I am starting to feel the repercussions of that slippery slope.

I am losing brain cells. How do I know? Let me give you some examples:

“Where are my glasses, my keys, my purse?”
“They are on your head, in your hand, on your shoulder.”

“I’m sorry – what is your name again?” (To someone that has just told me their name 5 seconds ago and I know I repeated it silently three times so that I wouldn't forget.)

I have realized that the only reason I still have a Land Line is to call my cellphone, so I’ll know where I put it.

All red flags, and the list goes on and on.

So, the necessity to fire new neurons or whatever the brain sustaining jargon entails is clearly a problem.

There are some proven fixes, however one must diligently work at it.

For example, my mother (rest her soul) was smart, sharp and totally on top of her mental game until she passed at 88 years young.

She did crossword puzzles every day in INK and could literally cover 30 bingo cards with time to spare after each letter was called.

She also had political passion, watched C-Span for hours on end (yawn), and was an uncanny authority on the Clintons (whom she despised), but that’s another story. Bottom line – she was constantly stimulated.

I don’t do crossword puzzles – although I am pretty competitive with Words With Friends. Except, that can be one word played a day. Clearly not enough.

I recently have started going to a Mah-Jong class. A challenging, strategic Chinese game played with tiles. I find myself staring wide-eyed at the possible “play options” as if it is written in hieroglyphics. Our knowledgeable and patient teacher gives us accolades for the very basic milestones. In other words, I am in Mah-Jong preschool. Come on brain…you can do this. Focus.

To continue, my theory is that the enemies of The Art of Learning as it applies to an older brain are:
1) Laziness (I'm tired, remember)
2) Technology
3) Procrastination

I find that I haven’t been reading that much lately. I have downloaded so many books on my Kindle – that I can’t decide what I want to read and I end up reading so many books at once, that when I go back to one I can’t remember what I read previously. (Technology)

(I could solve that problem by just carrying one big fat book around and reading it cover to cover – but that could be cumbersome--Lazy-- My Kindle complete with hundreds of books fits perfectly in my purse. I am not going back.)

Other brain zapping realities attributed to Technology...

I can go to the internet for anything that I need to know. (No more encyclopedia volumes on the bookshelf or phone books, etc. that required at the least, a knowledge of alphabetical order.) Or I can order SIRI to do that for me.

The sing song voice of my GPS – a relentless Travel Dominatrix gets me where I want to go flawlessly. (No more reading multi-fold huge road maps.)

My Fantasy Football team, has now been assigned a virtual NFL Guru who tells me exactly who to play. OK, OK, I’ll be your Brainless Puppet. Who am I to argue with a computer?

Finally, coming up to my Bill Gates story.

Years ago, I had purchased a set of cassette tapes from "The Great Courses" on “science” or something brainy like that. (They offer a myriad of courses taught by University professors and the like). I found it very interesting and I remember thinking, “I need to take more of these courses – this is such an opportunity to learn – Wow.”

Since then, I cannot tell you how many brochures and catalogs I have received from "The Great Courses".

I fully intended to order more courses – but the #1 enemy of The Art of Learning – PROCRASTINATION – reared its ugly head. I would diligently pour through these brochures, circling my choices, adding this to my “To Do Now” list – but guess how many of "The Great Courses" in all of these years did I actually order? ZERO.

So…I am reading a story in the New York Times (yes, I am a regular reader, perhaps providing just enough stimulus to keep me from total brain mush). There is a headline article about BILL GATES – Braniac Extraordinaire. (I’m sure he knows where his keys are at all times.)

Anyway, the article relates how every morning, while he is working out, he views or listens to a class in "The Great Courses" curriculum. Wow... Damn…Bill Gates finds the time.

I am so pathetic...if only I had kept up with the courses – imagine the brain matter I could have salvaged. Not to mention the fact that if Bill and I were seated next to each other at a dinner party, we would have so much in common!

(There is actually more to this story re: Bill and "The Great Courses" – you can read it here.)

Inspired by Bill, I swear – I will no longer allow myself to be engulfed in my LAZINESS or sucked into the mindless world of TECHNOLOGY (…except for Siri…or my GPS…or Google…) I will master Mah-Jong and do crossword puzzles, maybe even Sudoku.

And finally, I will not Procrastinate.

I am definitely going to order one of "The Great Courses" today…or tomorrow for sure.

TOMORROW…TOMORROW…I love you TOMORROW…You’re only a day away.. Sigh.

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