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Why Sal Khan is Right: You Can Learn Anything

Written by Cyril Joseph

Learning can be a challenging experience. 

It can be difficult and tedious.

But I have found the biggest personal obstacle to learning to be: apathy. 

However, it doesn’t always have to be that way. 

Just because one wants a career in the medical field does not mean that they have to have a natural inclination towards every science course. 

In fact, it can be quite the contrary. Perhaps you like poetry over physics, cuisine over chemistry, or even basketball over biology. 

If you want to become a healthcare professional, you will undoubtedly face subjects which you may feel no natural inclination, interest, or ability towards.

But it is your quest as the learner to develop that interest. Oh yes, interest can absolutely be developed, however challenging it may be. However, it is not an impossible dream as my friend, the Man of La Mancha, can attest. 

As a student, it’s my responsibility to peruse a textbook and tease out valuable information, and then use my preexisting knowledge to create a narrative that genuinely captivates my interest.

Consider this: A poet who is used to making metaphors and analogies might be able to learn complex phenomena in physics by comparing them to everyday experiences. Or a chef who is used to the trial-and-error approach of cooking approaching the scientific method in chemistry only to discover new reactions. And a basketball player who has good hand-eye coordination using their fine motor movements to carefully manipulate a microscope. 

This is not only an achievable task but it captures the very essence of learning. 

After all, you weren’t born knowing the alphabet. 

Maybe your parents bought you a shape sorting toy which allowed you to then recognize patterns and differentiate shapes within letters. 

But alas, there is a secret. 

What if I told you that some of the greatest minds in academia were ones that belonged to learners who embodied this principle. 

Just look to how many countless noble laureates who were deeply invested in fields outside of their discipline

Physicists who were musicians. 

Chemists who were athletes.

Mathematicians who were poets.

The likes of Richard Feynman, Marie Curie, Omar Khayyam and much more.

Some may wonder why Oppenheimer enjoyed learning Sanskrit.

Or why Jeff Bezos had an extensive physics background before starting an online book store. 

Or how Conan O’ Brien studied history at Harvard before becoming a late-night TV host. 

But it really isn’t that surprising. 

Learners will develop interests in fields wherever they can.

There is no such thing as a completely sterile discipline. Every discipline has the common signature of the human fingerprint written all over it. 

Academia is like a tree whose roots extended miles far out and wide, and out of those roots sprouted smaller trees until there was one giant forest. 

It is you who holds the torch of knowledge, who can wander through the endlessly stretching fields of academia and illuminate it, dispelling the darkness that once filled your vision. 

And always remember, the night is still young.

Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to people like Michael Chricton or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Physician-authors who wrote about great characters who were excavators and detectives of knowledge. 

So, humble yourself, for one who believes they already know the path to everywhere, forsaking the signs set by others, will surely stumble the hardest. 

Be brave for no path that is worth exploring will never be risk free

And most importantly, have fun. 

It might be difficult and tedious.

But at least you come out the other side more learned than you once were. 

And what can be a greater gift than that?

(Stocksy Cosma Andrei, n.d.)  


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