Why learning matters

Why learning matters

Philosopher Lauri Järvilehto opens up about why learning is now more important than ever – and not just for kids.


In 1895, Albert Einstein’s teacher took his father aside and broke some bad news about his young son: “He will never amount to anything.”

As a child, Einstein was no Einstein. He excelled at math and science but failed most of his history and language classes and pretty much hated school. And he’s not alone. History is full of “bad” students.

And in addition to lots of famous people, it also includes a big chunk of the regular population.

Lauri Järvilehto is a Finnish professor, philosopher, writer, entrepreneur, and all-around lover of learning. According to him, “It’s total nonsense to tell someone they’re stupid or incapable of learning.” Scientifically speaking, there’s no such thing.

The only reason we think some people are good students and others aren’t is that we have education systems that are standardised to average learners. Some learn fast, some learn slow, and some, like Einstein, are bored into failure.

According to Järvilehto, learning actually matters much more than education. And at the heart of learning lies the most powerful human driver there is: passion. The problem is that most education systems, societies, and job markets are set up so that we forget to learn as we focus on being educated.

Now, as digitalisation sweeps over everything and everyone, the ability to learn is more important than ever. “Thirty years ago you could get a degree and do the same job until you retire or die,” Järvilehto says. But that rigid model no longer works in a world that’s more fluid than ever. To succeed, we’re going to have to re-learn how to learn.

“I believe every single person has a vocation. Your vocation is the place where your interests and the needs of the world meet,” Järvilehto says. To find it, you’re going to need a map.

The Vocational Map is a tool Järvilehto designed to find his own direction during a time in his life when he was stuck in a job he hated. Since then, he’s used it to help people of all ages find what drives them. The trick, Järvilehto says, is to switch your focus from things like money or status to the activities you find rewarding and meaningful. The question the Vocational Map aims to answer isn’t “What do I want to be?” but “What do I want to do?’”

“When you figure out what you really like, learning isn’t just something you can do, it’s something you love to do,” Järvilehto says. When you find whatever that is, follow it.

It’s safe to say that Einstein would agree.

Text Lissu Moulton
Photos Jussi Ratilainen