The joy of learning

One of life’s great pleasures is learning.

Going from novice to intermediate. From intermediate to advanced. And perhaps even from advanced to expert. 

Learning by trying, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always growing and doing better on the next iteration.

The Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has found that some of our happiest moments—which he called “flow”—occur when we are challenging ourselves just the right amount. Not too little (so we don’t get bored) and not too much (so that success is not extremely unlikely). This is what happens when we are immersed in learning something fun.

What we learn does not have to be immediately useful, although it may be eventually, even if we don’t see how yet. It’s the process of learning, more so than the subject, that provides the joy.

This is why some people will happily build model railroad after model railroad, while other people would be bored out of their minds doing such a seemingly repetitive activity. (It’s probably not nearly as repetitive as we think—non-experts often cannot grasp the subtle differences that delight experts.)

What’s something you would like to learn?


— Peter

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