Sometimes a writer's job is to say what people are thinking, but say it better than they are thinking it. Watch me do that now.


Have you ever wondered who you are? You're not your body, because living cells come and go and are generally outside of your control. You're not your location, because that can change. You aren't your DNA because that simply defines the boundaries of your playing field. You aren't your upbringing because siblings routinely go in different directions no matter how similar their start. My best answer to my own question is this:

You are what you learn.

If all you know is how to be a gang member, that's what you'll be, at least until you learn something else. If you become a marine, you'll learn to control fear. If you go to law school, you'll see the world as a competition. If you study engineering, you'll start to see the world as a complicated machine that needs tweaking.

I'm fascinated by the way a person changes at a fundamental level as he or she merges with a particular field of knowledge. People who study economics come out the other side thinking a different way from people who study nursing. And learning becomes a fairly permanent part of a person even as the cells in the body come and go and the circumstances of life change.

You can easily nitpick my definition of self by arguing that you are actually many things, including your DNA, your body, your mind, you environment and more. By that view, you're more of a soup than a single ingredient. I'll grant you the validity of that view. But I'll argue that the most powerful point of view is that you are what you learn.

It's easy to feel trapped in your own life. Circumstances can sometimes feel as if they form a jail around you. But there's almost nothing you can't learn your way out of. If you don't like who you are, you have the option of learning until you become someone else. Life is like a jail with an unlocked, heavy door. You're free the minute you realize the door will open if you simply lean into it.

Suppose you don't like your social life. You can learn how to be the sort of person that attracts better friends. Don't like your body? You can learn how to eat right and exercise until you have a new one. You can even learn how to dress better and speak in more interesting ways.

I credit my late mother for my view of learning. She raised me to believe I could become whatever I bothered to learn. No single idea has served me better.


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Oct 19, 2011
Couldn't agree more.
To those that are focusing only on a limited definition of the word learn, I think Scott intends that the learning implies you are practicing what you have learned as well.
That of course is often the hardest part, getting started. To do that, you need that slight push against the inertia. I'm not sure how to universally drive that. Maybe it comes with being fed up with the status quo, and so off you go.
As for combining some needed inspiration with the learning, I often find I get motivated listening to a Ted talk, http://www.ted.com/.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 19, 2011
You didn't even come close to what I was thinking. I was wondering what mine and Gillian Anderson's children would look like.
Oct 19, 2011
Nice ideas. What about "You are what you did." Here's another interesting article: <a href="http://harmanjit.blogspot.com/2011/09/you-are-what-you-did.html">You are what you did.</a>
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 19, 2011
Nice! A straightforward support of the central thing that used to distinguish the U.S. Solid work ethic and the belief that acquiring skills and knowledge will improve your situation is a pretty good foundation. Your mom did good. I hope our country will similarly lay a good, new foundation by investing in the structures that allow learning, change, and skill aquistion. Reinvention is the enemy of the status quo, and the status quo has started to shape a society where growth, learning, entrepeneurship, and reinvention is harder rather than easier.
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