It is amazing how much stuff there is in my bag, in any bag that I carry around. I guess each one of us has some small objects that are rarely left at home. One of my objects is a pair of fake glasses. You can see them in the picture above: they are black and thick, but above all they are fake. Yes, they don’t have lenses. Why I carry them around is a nice story. I received them as a present from a friend of mine when I got my bachelor degree and they were a model that was very popular among university students. That’s why she gave them to me as a present: they were the symbol of our university years.
But they gained another meaning for me, in fact, as soon as I put them in my bag I understood that they were something like a sign, or better, a warning: our university years had passed, but that didn’t mean that we could stop learning. After university you have your beautiful degree in your hands and think: “Oh yes! I got there!” Wrong! You are not even halfway through the journey of learning! There are people who have been working for ten, twenty, forty years in your field, how can you expect to know everything you need to know after merely five years of university? In the field of research it is a bit different, because one who does research is always studying something new. So, back to the point: the learning process doesn’t stop after university, nor at the internship point, and neither when you get THE job. Yes, because even when you get THE job, you will have to keep up with the newest developments of your field, and that is anything but easy. So my black, thick, fake glasses are a reminder of this concept: never stop learning!
However, it is extremely easy to say “never stop learning” and yet it is so difficult to actually implement it. So here is the trick: attitude. Don’t think to be superior just because you have a degree: a person is hired by his degree, but not measured by it. Your degree is the starting point of your journey. Then you need to learn on the job, so be receptive and open to learn as much as you can. The biggest and most famous experts in each field don’t ever stop learning.
However this isn’t something only related to work, but to life in general. For instance, you can also learn a language, two, or even three, you can take a course to become a good cook, or you can learn to play an instrument. Do whatever you want, but don’t stop learning because “chi si ferma è perduto” (whoever doesn’t keep walking is a dead man). Thomas Bernhard in his book “Auslöschung” wrote this concept beautifully (and surely better than I could possibly express it): “Denn wer aufhört, seine Erkenntnisse zu erweitern und seinen Charakter zu stärken, also an sich zu arbeiten, um soviel wie möglich aus sich zu machen, hat augehört zu leben.” The translation is more or less this one: “For whoever ceases to expand his knowledge and strengthen his character, that is, to work on himself, to make as much as possible out of himself, has finished to live.”
Therefore never stop learning!