The essential role patience plays in learning

29 June 2020
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Updated 29 June 2020

The essential role patience plays in learning

Do you believe that having access to information is synonymous with learning? If your answer is yes, then I was in total agreement with you up until quite recently. Something happened last week, however, that made me change my mind. I read an article in Harvard Magazine titled, “The Power of Patience,” by Jennifer Robert. In the article, the author explains how access does not necessarily guarantee learning.
Robert states that what transforms access into learning are time and strategic patience. Like it or not, we actually learn from waiting. Patience is power; it is no longer thought of as a lack of control. It is seen as a productive medium of learning.
To make this easy to understand, Robert gave an example dating back to 1765. At the time, a famous portrait painter in North America named Copley was living in Boston. Copley was self-taught. He felt that being on the other side of the ocean from Europe isolated him from the best art academies. He wanted to learn from his peers in Europe, so he shipped one of his portrait paintings to an art academy in London. It took him months before he received a letter from his friend, providing him with feedback from the academicians. Unfortunately, Copley did not understand everything in the letter, so he wrote back to London asking for further clarification, which also took months for him to receive.
I found this true story fascinating for several reasons. First, I think this is the earliest example of learning by correspondence that I have ever come across in my academic career. Secondly, it demonstrates an inspiring act of patience and determination to learn, no matter the distance and time involved — something I think we should all strive for.
In my opinion, this story shows how patience is an essential skill in the learning process. I actually now understand that access is not synonymous with learning; rather, a lack of access can at times push us to learn more than we might otherwise. Copley is a good example of this. One might have access to many great educational programs or resources, but that does not necessarily translate into learning.
We live life in the fast lane, always rushing to meetings and deadlines because beating time has become our major concern. When do we slow down and digest what we see around us? When do we transform observation into comprehension? When do we download the information we store in our brain and actually let it sink in?
In our rush toward progress, are we missing what is around us and losing out on the chance to learn from our mistakes? I will let my readers come to their own conclusions, but do not forget to take your time and exercise patience when you are thinking.

Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj is a best-selling Saudi author, an international public speaker and an entrepreneurship mentor.