It takes a community to raise a child . . . and an adult

Jan 5, 2023 | Uncategorized

My 11-year old granddaughter played Silent Night on the violin for us on Christmas morning. As I listened to her, I thought back to when I held her in my arms 11 years ago about an hour after she was born.

She was beautiful. But, she was totally helpless. However, I’ve read that we’re the smartest right after we’re born. Maybe we’re not the smartest in terms of the knowledge we possess, but she was a learning machine absorbing everything around her without judgment. Have you ever been in the grocery store checkout line with a small infant in the cart ahead of you? They stare at you with this sense of wonder and curiosity. Compare that with the bored and impatient expressions of some of the adults in the line. They’ve lost that childlike curiosity and wonder that drives the rapid learning of children.

In 11 years, she learned to walk, talk, play softball, become the MVP on her team, assemble 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles, among so many other things. Her rate of learning during 11 years is amazing.

What will her rate of learning be in the next decade of her life? What will it be over the next 7 or 8 decades? If she’s like most people, her rate of learning will continue, but more slowly, through her 2nd, 3rd, and into her 4th decade, then will start to decrline. I hope she’s an outlier, but as I observe people in the second half of their lives, they aren’t learning that much.

Why do we learn so much, so fast in the first two or three decades of our life? One of the reasons is that we have a community of coaches and mentors who provide an intellectually nurturing environment if we’re fortunate enough to be born into a family with parents who assume the primary role as our coaches and mentors. My granddaughter has parents who foster a learning environment for her. She has an extended community of teachers and fellow students who support her learning.

At one point, we leave our community and go it alone. The learning curve begins to flatten. We no longer exist in a learning environment. We’re in a social environment with friends and associates who tend to talk about the same things and ask few thought-provoking and learning questions.

Dr. Phil Pizzo of Stanford University says that we need three things as we grow older: Purpose, wellbeing, and community. Do you have a learning community? Is your community lifting you up, keeping you stuck, or pulling you down?

Do you have a coach/mentor? Do you have a learning community that keeps you curious and growing up instead of growing old?

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