Being Motivated to Learn New Things

I love to learn, but what motivates me to research, study and learn something new is having a practical application of the knowledge I’m learning.

I like numbers and I like math, but only when I’m using it in the real world to calculate or solve real problems. Despite an aptitude for numbers and getting decent grades I always struggled with mathematics in school.

Two experiences in my twenties forever changed my relationship with numbers and I never struggled again. They also forever changed my point of view about learning new things.

My first real world application of math came while I was working as a draftsman for a land surveyor. My job was to take all the notes from the field books, measurements and degrees and convert them into drawings. We did everything from simple one lot with one dwelling, to large subdivisions and highway designs and realignments.

The land surveyor I worked for was a well-known expert. He was the guy all the other surveyors, lawyers, title companies and courts turned to for help when it involved property lines, court cases where the highway design may have been a factor and many other similar issues.

He taught a course at the local community college called MATHEMATICS FOR LAND SURVEYING. It was a mandatory course for anyone entering the field of surveying. I was the only female in the class and one of only a handful over the years who took the course. It was fascinating. For the first time in my life trigonometry came to life and made perfect sense. Yep, trig. I used it every day in the office to turn the fields’ notes into drawings.

For the first time I was able to quickly and easily understand what was once a seemingly incomprehensible language of numbers. What made the difference was that the knowledge I was studying was applicable to what I was doing as a living. It was no longer theory but applied knowledge.

The second experience that shifted my thinking about math and learning in general was when I took an applied calculus class on a whim. It was not a required class, but the course description sounded interesting. I’d done okay in high school calculus but it’d been a struggle and it never really did click.

This college class was also my first mathematics class taught by a female. I think I struggled with math previously because men and women think differently, they process data slightly differently. This professor brought calculus alive for me and it all suddenly clicked. I learned how calculus was used to calculate compound interest, how toilets flushed and tons of other real world applications.

Both of these experiences helped me realize that I needed a reason to learning something new. I was motivated by applying what I was learning in the real world.

I also realized that this is why games and puzzles were never of any interest to me. They weren’t real.

I love to learn new things when I’m motivated by solving a problem, or creating something. I can immerse myself in subjects and go as deep as I have to to find the answers I need.

Practical applications of knowledge is what motivates me to learn new things whether it’s in my job, my business or in my personal life. It’s one of the things that makes life so interesting and fun!

How do you approach learning something new? What is your motivation? Pure curiosity or applying your new knowledge in the real world?

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