Who Truly Motivated You to Learn?

I became motivated to learn by surrounding myself with others who were motivated to learn. It actually took until I was in college, and happened quite accidentally, when I met a group of friends who would introduce me to a love of learning.

It all began with a simple physics question in freshman year, approaching the smart guy in the physics class to get the answers to homework questions that I could not yet comprehend. He invited me to lunch at the college bar with his friends. It was an odd group, with textbooks and binders spread out across the table, with beer and fries, and college radio blaring in the background. I watched and listened mostly, engaged by the excitement, but not quite sure how they were doing everything they were doing.

What I saw was, in addition to being engaged in the homework questions, their true joy was in applying what they learned. Sometimes it was just silly stuff, like applying probability and statistics to describe some buffoonery of certain individuals. And sometimes it was applying what they learned to real problems — rigging the phone to blink instead of ring so that the college radio station airtime wouldn’t be disrupted by phone calls, erecting certain equipment to help the radio function better (I will leave it at that), building an office network for a friend’s small business and learning as we read from the Novell “how to” manuals, or starting a band because somebody from somewhere got hold of an Ensoniq keyboard and now we could learn all about sound systems, MIDI and the music industry (when none of us had prior music experience.)

This group had figured out the art of learning, of solving any problem of their choosing using the concepts they learned from school, from technical magazines, and where lacking they had learned most importantly how to figure out the rest.

It was a very social group, and the four years at college were filled with the college bar, frat parties, and lots of billiards. This was also a group that would set up the first NJ-wide tech meet-ups (again, before Eventbrite and Meetup existed to make this easy.) It wasn’t as geeky as you might think, well, at least I don’t remember it that way.

I know most of us point to a wonderful teacher in their lives that introduced them to a love of learning. Perhaps I asked too many questions in the classroom, or maybe it was my blue collar upbringing that was the impedance. But for me it was finding a set of friends that loved to learn that converted me. It took me about four years to get the knack, but for my Master’s it took a lot of what I learned from them on knowledge and collaboration, for me to build what I built.

My recommendation to anyone who wants to become more motivated to learn, surround yourself with friends that have a love of learning, and sit back and watch and engage in what they do.