Just recently I had cause to think about one of my favorite thoughts that I had long since tucked in the back of my brain. I had heard this particular statement in my past life from two different, but very noteworthy sources, both of whom I still admire and follow today. And throughout my early life, I had kept this idea more prominent in myself than of recent times.
But due to many lucky moments in my current world, I was brought back to it and am so glad to have circled the wagons around it again.
The first time I heard this expression, I was much younger and most likely much wiser than I am today. I was in the heart of my educational journey, off to the races in seeking ways to help students learn. I was seeking knowledge from all corners of my life and there I sat in the middle of a large conference auditorium for an opening day symposium targeting what I thought was a very intricate, important, and tantamount subject for all learners – that of . . . . innovation. The conference itself was called Innovations. The subject was Innovation. I was ready to rock and roll forward into an area of learning that I believed, and still believe, fuels everything new and exciting. Innovation. (Yet, today, I am not sure that the conference process I used to approach that subject was the best and brightest idea. A topic for a different post.)
I had my pen at the ready, to take notes like a fiend. I was sitting in the line of sight of the speaker, so I would not be distracted by the comings and goings of the crowd. I was alert, awake, and enthusiastic – because I knew what I heard was going to be, well, innovative. Game on!
The speaker walked on stage to a cursory round of applause. He carried a few notes and, of great interest to me, a guitar. As the crowd settled in, he began to strum and play and sing. Interspersed between the music, he would stop and chat a bit. He mentioned that he was going to tell us a few secrets about innovation and students and how to create opportunities for students to be innovative.
Again, game on for me.
And then he matter-of-factly stated his first rule. To my surprise, it did not seem or feel so overwhelmingly earthshaking in terms of enlightenment on innovation. It seemed a bit simple . . . or generic . . . or pedestrian. At the time.
He said is a bright brief voice that the first rule in setting up innovative learning opportunities for students is to make sure that everyone believed that anyone can learn anything, given the right circumstances. And he repeated that phrase time after time after time. Anyone can learn anything. Anyone. Anything. He mentioned that the term anyone included everyone including me. He mentioned that anything included everything that I could ever imagine. And more.
Anyone can learn anything, given the right circumstances.
I jotted it down frantically. I didn’t want to miss anything. He spoke passionately about this idea and said that even though he was moving on to another thought, if I only took away one idea, anyone can learn anything should be it.
Fast forward to a few months later, and I was working on a project that needed a tool. And as with most projects, it needed a tool but had to be cheap to free. As luck would have it, there was someone in the world who had the brilliant idea to create just that tool . . . for free. And as I investigated the tool source, I was more than a bit awe struck. Not just by the versatility and usefulness of the tool, but by the philosophy behind it. It was a philosophy I had heard before and recently. It was a phrase that I had heard and perhaps had not listen to as well as I should before and recently. The spin was a little different, but the essence was the same.
Anyone can learn anything if given the right tools. Anyone can learn anything. Anyone. Anything.
I had now heard that phrase twice in a short time frame. My only flaw was my failure to listen as well as I could the first time and run with that idea.
Though it has been quite a few years since that moment, I recall stopping what I was doing and shamefully shaking my head. At that moment, I knew that the quicker I recognized that anyone can learn anything given the right circumstances or the right tools, the faster I could become a more useful and helpful part of the world.
It took me a long time to take those words to heart for myself. There have been many times that my response when facing something new, challenging, difficult, unknown, seemingly impossible, or foolishly difficult has been to think that I am not smart enough, strong enough, wise enough, cunning enough (the list goes on an on here) to succeed. But then I harken back to those words.
Anyone can learn anything.
And I start looking for the the right circumstances and the right tools and once again, game on!
My early attempts at anything new, daunting, different, ridiculously challenging, whole-heartedly off my comfort chart sometimes have led to grand scale failures. Make that have often led to grand scale failures. But with each attempt, I learn something and nudge myself closer to my end goal. I am a learner who has been told that I can learn anything. What fun! And the more I focus on knowing that I can learn anything, the smaller the great big world of ours becomes.
Without a doubt, I believe that one of the greatest lessons out there for future generations is to become confident in knowing that they are best part of the anyone who can learn anything. My job for them is to help develop all the right circumstances and the best tools.