Khan Academy: You can learn anything

Self-help books are notorious for being more or less useless. To start doing something, working on a project, is difficult. It’s not easy to make that first step and start. On a related note, you might have heard of a video made by Khan Academy with the title: You can learn anything.

The video conveys an important message and it blatantly states the obvious which we often fail to realise in our everyday life. There was a point in time when Einstein couldn’t count to ten. While self-explanatory and, after mulling it over for a bit, it becomes totally obvious. When Shakespeare was a toddler, he had to learn the alphabet. We all do, no one is born smart.

While the genetic information gets passed from the parents to offspring, our memories and all the information we store in our long-term memory during our lives get lost. Hence, we all start at zero, more or less. Naturally, the message is not perfectly honest since different sorts of education and upbringing both influence us heavily in adulthood. Were you born into a posh family, you probably obtained an exquisite and expensive education. It is no coincidence that all the British prime ministers almost invariably went to Eton College, a very expensive and fancy place to study which few can afford.

Despite several shortcomings, the video does have an important and very honest message. We all start and zero and there is no shame in trying and failing. We all fail when we try something new. Sure, some people fail less often than others but we all failed at some point at something.

This blatant realisation is one of the best self-help adages you can live by. It might still seem to you that learning something new, especially if you are somewhat older (it’s a great excuse, isn’t it? “I’m too old for this”), is just a hell lot of work and you can’t possibly manage that with your time schedule. How long do you think it takes to learn something new? Instead of elaborating on it with fancy words, let me just give you a great summary in the following video:


20 hours. That seems magnificently short, does it not? It’s true though, you would be really puzzled at how quickly you can pick up a skill. While it is true that as we age, our brains become less plastic and it does get a bit more difficult to pick up new skills, it is always possible. It might take you 25 instead of 20 hours but still, that is a very decent result.

So, why don’t you, once in a while, pop to Khan Academy and try to pick up the basics of Quantum Mechanics? You might surprise yourself. To give you some motivation, this is my score on Khan Academy as of now, just to show I’m not talking cobblers.


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