There are those that say “the older you get, the harder it is / the longer it takes to learn.” Then there are those that say “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Scientists have done studies on how children learn at an accelerated rate compared to adults, etc. Yada, yada, yada… I believe this has become largely “excuses” for most people to not learn or to only go half way with learning something new.
I have discovered with my own learning that I personally accelerate when I don’t let what I think I already “know” get in the way of the new information I’m trying to take in. For instance – I have been a trumpet player since the 3rd grade and have been both a “talented” little boy and a “not so lucky” player. In high school, the message of “wanting to be a professional player was a reckless career choice and would carry with it disastrous results in life,” was constantly fed to me by “authority” figures… “You’ll never have a home, never have a family, etc.” So I essentially stopped learning because after all – what’s the point?
After returning to the horn 3 years after quitting, I was extremely self-conscious of my inabilities on the instrument… because deep down inside I still carried my dream, but had that message being played from within – you’re not lucky enough to have what it takes, etc. Comparing myself to other players, not wanting to appear weak, etc. would ultimately cause me to live by the mantra of “I know that!”
My growth as a player was essentially stifled because of fear – I didn’t want others to see my weaknesses and I worried too much about their opinions of me and my abilities / inabilities. This went on for literally YEARS! Until my wife was able to “break” through and help me see that all of this inability was created by the core issue of fear. It was not an easy process, but once the root of the problem was discovered, I started working on it. Once I did, my learning started to grow because I no longer felt captive to the idea of others opinions, etc.
So let’s jump back for a minute… children (largely babies) learn very quickly – there is no question about that. But let’s also remember that not too many people are telling babies “you can’t do that” when it comes to walking, talking, learning languages, and other skills and setting them up with insecurities about their learning. But as school age children through adulthood we run into those that are insecure enough that they must put others down about making mistakes or admitting to not knowing something… causing us to put up our defenses and stifle our own growth.
Ultimately, when we build defenses and build walls to keep out that which creates fear and pain, we also wall off our ability to grow… learning after all is growth!