A few weeks before the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship started, I told my younger sister on different occasions that I was going to Kaduna to gather as much knowledge as I could and I looked forward to the Programme.
Nothing, however, prepared me for the first two weeks of the Fellowship.
The first thing I quickly realised was how much there was to learn. I was also surprised by how the things I didn’t pay attention to, actually mattered in real life. In fact, the ones I knew, in comparison to what I was learning, were just on the surface.
So, I made the hard decision to learn. It was a hard decision because I am a lazy learner (you’ll understand what I mean as you read on).
Whoever said learning is easy lied. This was one of the first things I faced on my current path to becoming a better version of myself.
Here’s what I have learnt about acquiring new knowledge:
Learning is admitting you don’t know
I am a selective learner (my alias for lazy learning). When something is hard, especially if it is not in my field, I would rather leave it than learn about it. So, I tilted towards things that do not stress me. As soon as the fellowship started, I had no choice but to confront this part of me that I had always dismissed.
As regards reading, although I read books, they were mostly autobiographies, fictions, and Christian novels, among others. While my choice of books wasn’t bad, I realised that, as someone interested in Development Studies, it wouldn’t hurt to read books in that area.
A presentation on micro and macroeconomics was my wake-up call. Even though two of my group members said I did well, I believed I could have done better, and that made me sad. For days, I felt like a dunce, and verbalised my feelings to others.
One day, I woke up feeling insulted for referring to myself as a dunce. I mean, I am an incredible award-winning STORYTELLER and a TEACHER, so the fact that I didn’t do something well, didn’t mean I couldn’t learn to do it better. I agreed with myself on the obvious — I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew, and I decided to actively change that.
Admitting that you don’t know is the first step to learning, but what do you after that?
There is no shame in learning
Society often attaches shame to many things. We seem to have a culture that applauds people who are confidently ignorant over those that admit they don’t know. I have, however, learnt to reject this shame. And in learning, you must reject the embarrassment that may come with approaching people for help.
In my quest for knowledge, I have identified colleagues I could read with, borrow books from and discuss with, listened attentively to those that knew more than I did, asked questions no matter how stupid I thought they were, and then spoke out when I had something to say.
I don’t need anybody to tell me that my knowledge has since expanded and the things I thought were hard are actually interesting.
Reject the shame attached to asking for help, we all need it.
It takes humility to learn.
One of my bosses, Mallam Ibrahim, whom I work closely with, always looked forward to teaching me. No matter what I wrote, he had a better way of writing it.
Impressed with my media plan and the questions I had prepared for my proposed interviewees, I stepped into his office one day to show him the result of my hardwork during the weekend. Meanwhile, before I left for his office, a colleague had commended me on a job well done. But Mallam had many things to correct, and it didn’t go down well with me. So, for every correction he tried to make, I argued with him because it made me feel like a beginner.
“Sola, this man has been practicing journalism for 30 years, so, it is not strange for him to correct you. Moreover, what will you lose by learning from him?”
Immediately, I stopped arguing and instead, paid rapt attention to what he was teaching me. That experience taught me that learning demands HUMILITY, especially when you think you already know what you are being taught.
Be teachable, you have more to gain than to lose!
There’s someone else I work with; no matter what you write and how long you stay editing it, she always has something to correct or rewrite. Now, her case is quite different from Mallam Ibrahim’s.
She capitalises words that don’t need capitalisation, among other things. It was difficult working with her at first, but I quickly learnt that when it comes to learning, one must be careful.
Sometimes, you may need to put aside or forget what you think you know to take in new knowledge. Other times, you may just need to learn how to do things THE WAY you are asked to do them.
So, why did I describe my learning experience as painful?
Experiencing the aforementioned is not as easy as I have written. Each of the points listed came with different emotions that I had to manage carefully therefore “Painful” perfectly sums up my learning experience so far.
There is a pain that comes with learning new things, something difficult, or what you’ve avoided for long. For me, I had to go back and learn some of the ‘hard’ things I ran away from. This time, there was no hiding place. It was either I learnt or carry about the embarrassment of failing to learn.
Meanwhile, not all pain is bad. In this case, the pain was good for my cognitive capacity.
Deadline: 8th February, 2023.