"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow." -- Anthony J. D'Angelo
My father was a school teacher who took continuing education classes throughout his career. He instilled in me a love of learning that has been an important key to my success in life.
Sometimes I take classes without being sure what I will do with the knowledge. I take them just for the joy of learning. Recently I went to a lecture at our local library titled Civil War Quilts. I learned that one woman who was a slave was an exceptional seamstress. She was allowed to sell some of the things she made and eventually earned enough money to purchase her freedom. Later she ended up in the White House as Mary Todd Lincoln's dress maker. About a week after I attended the class, I saw Steven Spielberg's film "Lincoln." In the movie, an African American woman is first seen bringing in a dress she is working on for Mary Todd Lincoln to try on. The woman is Mrs. Lincoln's companion throughout the film and is particularly interested in the fight to abolish slavery. Suddenly I remembered the lecture I had attended and realized the woman being portrayed was the former slave who had earned her freedom. That increased my understanding and enjoyment of the film. I may never use that information again, but it was worth it then.
Sometimes I discover that what I have learned unexpectedly becomes useful. Starting with the Laugh-Makers Variety Arts Conferences in the late 1980's I would sometimes attend a class on story telling. I didn't expect to put the knowledge to use in my career because I was performing exclusively as a silent character at the time. I took the classes out of curiosity. Then a year ago I became a Cubmaster for a local Cub Scout Pack which means I plan and run the monthly Pack meetings. The Cubmaster training provided by the Boy Scouts of America recommends telling stories as part of the Pack meeting. Now those classes that I took over the years have been very useful. I have been pleasantly surprised by how well my stories have been received by the boys and their parents. Some of the parents have thanked me for making the meetings fun for their boys, and the stories have been an important element of that fun.
About ten years ago I took a class on story telling with balloons that Lee Mullally taught at a World Clown Association Convention. I took it for the story telling portion because I am not a balloon artist. However, as part of the class he taught how to make a balloon bicycle to use as a prop while telling a story about Curious George. A couple of week's later I was booked by a Harley Davidson Dealership to perform at an event they were hosting. I made two of Lee's balloon bikes, called them motorcycles, and took them with me to the Dealership where they were displayed in the lobby. They were a tremendous hit that day. That is the only time that I have made that particular sculpture, but I am glad that I knew how to do it at the right time.
I want to continue to grow as an entertainer, but also as a person. I am currently reading Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influences of America's Eagle Scouts by Alvin Townley. This inspirational book has gotten me thinking about the legacy that I am leaving behind. This book also talks a lot about leadership and character development. I usually read at least one book on leadership each year. I have gradually come to realize that when I am on staff as an instructor for a variety arts conference or convention part of my role is being a leader. I am not just transferring information to the participants but also attempting to model characteristics and values that will help them become more successful. Feedback that I have received from participants over the years has convinced me that my actions outside of the classroom and conversations during unstructured times are sometimes the most important part of what I do both positively and negatively. I want to continue to learn to do that more effectively.
How can you make continual education part of your life? What do you wish you knew more about in your career or personal life? How can you learn more about that? What educational opportunities are available to you just for the joy of learning?