There are so many benefits of lifelong learning – whether it’s to boost your career, set yourself up as a competitor, or to become the best person you can be. Whether you’re debating if continuing education is necessary to advance your career, or you’re interested in learning a new skill, or are currently in school questioning all of those hours you spend studying, some motivation and inspiration may be just what you need.
“Our whole life is an Education — we are ‘ever-learning,’ every moment of time, everywhere, under all circumstances something is being added to the stock of our previous attainments. Mind is always at work when once its operations commence. All men are learners, whatever their occupation, in the palace, in the cottage, in the park, and in the field. These are the laws stamped upon Humanity.” – Edward Paxton Hood, Self-Education: Twelve Chapters for Young Thinkers, 1852
Success often comes from dedicating your life to continuous learning, and these examples of successful individuals show us just that.
Here are 9 famous people who whole-heartedly embrace lifelong learning.
1. Walt Whitman
One of America’s most famous poets was a lover of reading as much as possible. He even taught himself to write and later became self-published.
2. Frank Lloyd Wright
When you think of architects, most people think of Frank Lloyd Wright. He embraced lifelong learning and developed his own style of architecture and drawing methods.
3. Walt Disney
This lifelong learner actually taught himself to draw through correspondence school. Walt Disney continued to learn new skills like this throughout his entire life.
4. Arnold Schwarzenegger
As a recent immigrant to the US, Arnold took college courses in the early 1970s at Santa Monica College. He eventually earned his B.A. in Business and International Economics in 1979.
He was also a Founding celebrity investor of Planet Hollywood, a two-term Governor of California, executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex, and the co-author of 5 books on bodybuilding. Anrold also ran a bricklaying business, a mail order company and a restaurant. In addition, his real estate investments are just one small portion of his investment ventures, including significant ownership of the investment firm, Dimensional Fund Advisors.
5. Benjamin Franklin
He took to learning on his own, working with others who had experience to understand complex topics like Italian, meteorology and gulf streams.
6. Shaquille O’Neal
One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Shaq definitely takes lifelong learning seriously. When Shaq dropped out of Louisiana State his junior year to play in the NBA, he promised his mother that he would return one day to finish his degree. And he did exactly that, earning his BA through distance learning courses at LSU in 2000. (Phil Jackson let him miss a Lakers home game to attend his graduation.)
Then, Shaq went on to earn his MBA through online courses at University of Phoenix in 2005. He later undertook a PhD in Leadership and Education at Barry University.
Shaquille O’Neal was also a rap music star with 5 studio albums, one of them Platinum. He starred on 2 reality TV shows. He knows Mixed Martial Arts, and he’s also a graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Reserve Academy. In fact, he’s credited with 2 arrests.
7. James Franco
James Franco dropped out of UCLA after his freshman year. But in 2006, Franco re-enrolled at UCLA, getting special permission to take up to 62 credits per quarter (compared to the normal limit of 19) and received his BA in 2008. He then attended grad school at both Columbia (MFA Writing Program), NYU Tisch School of the Arts (Filmmaking), and Brooklyn College (Fiction Writing).
He’s also attended Warren Wilson College in North Carolina (Poetry) and is studying for his Ph.D. in English at Yale University. Just how, you may wonder, has he managed to rack up the diplomas while simultaneously appearing in 32 movies and short films, writing books and hosting the Oscars? He completed his BA at UCLA with online classes and his Masters at Columbia in 2010 via their Distance Learning Program.
Hopefully these success stories inspired you to commit to lifelong learning. Now go forth and live, love, learn and dominate!
8. Bill Gates
Like many smart billionaires out there, Bill Gates is a proponent of ‘reading more’ and committing to lifelong learning. He believes the key to learning, to really learning (and remembering), is to create a broad framework to piece together each of the things you’re learning – a sort of timeline or map – in order to both understand the foundational principles as well as the details.
Read more about how to create that big picture in this Inc.com article.
9. Florence Nightengale
While Nightingale was self-taught, she embraced lifelong learning and as such was a celebrated nurse and pioneer in nursing education. She became most well-known during her time organizing care for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.
Nightengale is famously quoted as saying “I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse” and “I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results”.
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Originally published September 22, 2016 – Updated November 13, 2019