Day 12 – October 13th
I wrote a piece a few days ago on how important I thought the “edutainment” movement was and listed some channels that I think are the best in that field – read that article here. Though it mainly focused on spreading awareness of the channels that influenced me greatly, perceptive readers would have caught the underlying message that I was trying to convey: just how important it is to continue learning and having academic growth throughout your life time.
Let me first define learning and “growing” in this context before I move on. I consider those terms to have broader definitions than just what you take away from a course or in a classroom. I consider academic growth to be any activity that you do that imparts new and meaningful knowledge and broadens your world view by either being unfamiliar or challenging your preconceptions. Learning a new language, a foreign subject, a different discipline – something that is outside of your comfort zone and pushes you to think in new and critical ways – this is my definition of academic growth.
I have found in myself in my past, and with many of my peers as well, that there is an attitude that after you finish college and land your first job, you are set in terms of academic growth and rounding out your education. Sure, most professionals have continuing education to dive further in their specific fields, but their scope of knowledge is likely to stay the same as when they graduated. In fact, as specialization occurs throughout a career, employees tend to concentrate their knowledge on specific subjects to become experts, rather than challenging their world views and wading into foreign territory. This is obvious, as anyone can see that the market values specialization more than generalization in most contexts.
This is why I am such a big proponent of passion projects – personal goals that are motivated primarily by a pursuit of an interest or passion. It is so easy to dive into a subject for work that you are dealing with on an ongoing basis. However, in doing so, you are not really challenging yourself or growing as an individual. But to take time out of your personal life to learn something new, something that interests you but doesn’t directly touch your professional career, showcases a life long appetite for knowledge and can help you see the world in so many different colors.
I have been employing this philosophy for a few years – picking which passion projects to invest my time based on how much I thought I could grow and learn – and it has been extremely rewarding. From starting 2 companies, to developing a love for science fiction novels, to learning how to cook – these passions projects have transformed me forever as an individual.
I am starting a new passion project soon: a podcast-like stream with a friend of mine that dives into what it means to be South Asian American in today’s society. I’m hoping to learn more about the day-to-day cultural, religious, and gender experiences that people of this identity have internalized on their path to assimilation in America. It is a fascinating topic for me and truthfully, not one that I have much experience in talking about – except for my personal lived experience, but more on this in the future.
My point is this: wherever you are in your career, whatever you are doing for a job – never stop challenging yourself and learning new things. Pick up a passion project and take as much as you can away from it to drive your academic and personal growth. Future you will being thankful for having such rich experiences to look back on fondly.