A couple of years ago I found myself sitting with a few others in a garden in the Carpatian mountains, a canvas in front of me, trying to depict the breathtaking view around me and listing to our teacher, a professional painter, explain colours, shadows and the structure of a picture.
I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. The bright summer day, splashing around with colours, the luxury of delving into this beautiful landscape whilst scratching my head with my brush as I tried to figure out how to bring that deep green of the forest onto my canvas, the laughter and stories shared and the smell of grass and flowers.
Now, why was I taking this class? In order to perfection my painting skills, or to bring home something to hang on the wall as a souvenir or maybe to create something beautiful? None of the above.
I was simply curious and wanted to learn something new.
Learning, discovering, being curious, delving into unknown realms, cultivating yourself is THE first class ticket for the mind, the upgrade from feeling bored and boring to inspiration, open to the wonders of the world and uplifting to be around.
The thing is, I have no talent whatsoever for painting, and during this lesson I had no agenda or expectation. None. I was just grateful for the chance to spend time in this beautiful part of the world. I enjoyed the new experience of playing around with paint and brushes. I was curious about what our teacher had to say (although, I admit it, I giggled inwardly at his desperate attempts to find something positive to say about my candid colour splashing. One of the best attitudes when learning something new is not taking yourself too seriously.)
Did I turn into a gifted artist that afternoon? Did I create a beautiful picture? Most certainly not. Did I learn something? Most certainly yes. I learned interesting facts about the art scene in Romania. I learned about the passion, struggles and projects of a professional painter. I learned more about the interests of my fellow students. I certainly learned more about myself in the discovery process with colours and paint, and I learned how to look and to see – what had just been a mountain became a fascinating combination of shadows, colours, forms and lights.
Now, had I worried about the “result” of my painting, about what I should or shouldn’t do in a painting class, about what the others would think about me and my lack of talent, about “failing” or “not being good enough”, the only lesson I would have learned that afternoon is how to make myself miserable!
Elegant learning is no about trying to impress someone or learning something because it’s fashionable or because one really should know how to speak Chinese/make puff pastry/play the piano/dance Tango/play golf/ …. (insert your own should’s here).
Elegant minds don’t learn well with should’s. True learning thrives on discovery, excitement, challenge and freedom of result.
Learning something new in this way is opening the mind and the soul – which is what true learning is all about.
Go out and learn something new, something you are passionate about. Simply curious will do beautifully, too! You’ll never be bored again. There is something out there for you to learn that’ll give you joy and excitement, even if you don’t know a thing to begin with, even if it is a bit scary, and yes, even if you completely suck at it! It matters not. What does matter is that you’ll keep your mind fresh, that you take the risk trying out new things which will make you a much more interesting person and your life more colourful and exciting.
So, what are you going to learn?