Learning How To Learn: A Personal Choice to Increase Your Value

Are you a Latino student in middle school, high school or college? If so, what is required of you to become a competent student? Do you know the difference between study habits, study skills and study strategies? Why should you answer these questions? Simply because you are responsible for your own learning. You can begin, this very moment, to take individual responsibility for your learning and therefore take control of your education, career and life.

Are you a Latino student in middle school, high school or college? If so, what is required of you to become a competent student? Do you know the difference between study habits, study skills and study strategies? Why should you answer these questions? Simply because you are responsible for your own learning. You can begin, this very moment, to take individual responsibility for your learning and therefore take control of your education, career and life.

Have you taken standardized tests? How did you perform? I can tell you that throughout my entire academic career, according to and depending upon the particular standardized exam, I was categorized a “poor” and “very poor” student. Interestingly, however, all my teachers and professors, throughout this same academic career, considered me a very good, and on some occasions, an excellent student! What’s the rub? I too was perplexed, confused and discouraged by this disparity. It was only until my first year in law school that I finally came across an explanation that made sense to me and released me from ever questioning again my ability, self-worth and value as an American citizen.

A brilliant and highly respected law professor asked me to join him after class for a cup of coffee. As we enjoyed our coffee, the law professor asked me what I thought was the most important skill that a law student must develop to become a valued attorney and counselor at law? I immediately responded with “learning the law and getting good law school grades,” at least that was what I had been hearing from all my anxious classmates. He smiled and said: “that is important, but my question to you wasn’t what you, as a first year law student, are most concerned with.” The most important skill, that which is valued by everyone universally in any society, is the ability to “sell” a concept to people. He went on to say: “Mr. Velasquez, you are going to have to study and work the hardest you ever have worked in your academic career to graduate from this law school.” However, I believe, based on your class participation, that you can become a “highly valued attorney and counselor at law.”


The fact of the matter is increasing your value by “LEARNING HOW TO LEARN” is not always a priority of the school you attend. For a variety of factors, that issue will not be discussed in this post. However, even in the best schools with the best teachers, the ultimate responsibility of remaining engaged and motivated to take full advantage of the educational resources lies within you, the student. Therefore, in schools confronting social challenges, such as poverty, racism or inequality, these challenges do not relieve the students of their responsibility for their own learning, but on the contrary, places a greater burden of individual responsibility for their own learning.

Developing a healthy respect for delayed gratification, cultivating patience to internalize the key concepts of a given subject and applying those concepts to one’s own academic life, is essential for evolving into a competent student. These are the first steps you must take in order to succeed in the face of the many and varied challenges. Jim Rohn’s adage provides direction: “You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” Remember, unlike the “academic” world, the “working” world is very interested in you having the best skills to fulfill employment responsibilities. Thus, increasing your academic achievement and improving your value in the marketplace is definitely in your best interest, and certainly your responsibility.
classroom lesson
As my high school teacher and academic coach patiently, yet emphatically, explained to me and numerous other Latino students: if we wanted to be “on track” academically, we must do things differently. Not only differently from the way we had been doing them, but completely different from the way all the other students, including those who excelled, did things. He poignantly pointed out that in order to successfully negotiate my academic career,  it was critical that I recognize and appreciate that most students can’t psychologically face the reality of their own weaknesses until they discovered it during an exam. He would say, “Joe, this is the wrong place to discover that you don’t know the material.” In other words, academic success is, in large part, about “LEARNING HOW TO LEARN” and making A PERSONAL CHOICE to knowing what to do and doing it repeatedly, patiently and consistently.


The direct, no nonsense answer is through self-directed learning. What is self-directed learning? In self-directed learning, the individual or student takes the initiative and the responsibility for what is learned. Individuals select, manage and assess their own learning activities, which can be pursued at any time, in any place, through any means and at any age. You can start self-directed learning at any time and begin increasing your value, right now, by making two essential decisions: a) what to learn and b) how to learn it. Remember, your are NOT restricted to learning what is taught, or not taught, in your school’s classrooms. In today’s information age you can, and I highly suggest, learn independently from your school by accessing on the internet the works of the world’s most talented individuals (both dead and alive) in any subject area. Self-directed learning increases your ability to connect thoughts, experiences, ideas and questions. You will begin to improve your decision-making and problem solving skills, as well as your ability to communicate and collaborate more effectively in a diverse and complex world.
Latino Role Models
Generally speaking, in today’s extremely competitive economy, investing in yourself by learning and improving your skills, abilities and behaviors is not just an option, but a necessity. As a matter of fact, the resounding message (conventional wisdom notwithstanding) from Latino Role Models is the “counter-intuitive” proposition  that to invest in yourself requires an unwavering commitment to studying yourself, for yourself, and thereby NOT relying exclusively on your school to define your value in the working world. Call it what you like—“increasing your value,” “getting ahead,” “success,” “self-actualization,” “college readiness,” etc.—all of these phrases require an unwavering commitment to studying for oneself. Relentlessly engaging in and systematically deconstructing the forces at play that affect your academic performance through the tools of goal setting, prioritization and strategic planning is necessary to learn and increase your value. It is only through an understanding of the role of motivation, and the aforementioned practices, that you will learn your standing with regard to your value in the marketplace. OjoOido’s Latino Role Models suggest that the most powerful and motivating reason to LEARN is to view LEARNING as the MOST IMPORTANT INVESTMENT that you can make in YOURSELF.

The following are 2 preliminary, yet powerful, suggestions to guide your development into a self-directed student and obtain a “competitive edge” in the working world:

1.  What do you want to do in the working world? “You have to see to believe and achieve.” Creating a specific vision of your professional and/or vocational career will enable you to identify what you have to learn and how you are going to learn it.

2.  Focus on your main goal to guide your decision-making in managing your time and determining your priorities. Write down your top 5 career goals and a timeline on when you wish to accomplish each goal by. Then select the most important goal of your top 5 goals. Here comes the hard part. All your focus must be on the most important goal. As for the other 4 goals, pay no attention to them until you’ve succeeded in accomplishing your #1 goal. Discipline yourself to focus. Complete a task or eliminate it—removing the inessential is one of the best ways to develop the habit of eliminating things you care about, take up time and resources, but have little value. To succeed, you must develop an excellent understanding of how to spend your time each day and stick to your plan.

Now, let’s get back to standardized tests. For at least the past decade, American public schools have utilized the logic that shifting substantial time and energy toward testing students is the answer to America’s education woes. Particularly with respect to the many children of color and those living in poor communities that have been denied fair opportunities to learn and to succeed. Is this testing logic regime working? What is your answer based simply on your experience?

I propose that you consider the following: “The life of the law has not been logic. It has been experience.”—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. What does this quote have to do with education, particularly your education? Legal historian, William LaPiana, a professor at New York Law School explains in his book, “Logic & Experience,” that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. believed that “society creates law and law has to respond to society. Not slavishly and it can always guide society and you have to make choices and in the end someone’s going to decide in our society, we hope in some sort of democratic, small “d” manner what’s good. But you have to choose. You have to choose and of course the most horrible, difficult thing is to take responsibility and choose. And that’s what law is all about.” Education is all about accepting that you can control your attitude, effort, behavior and actions to deal with and overcome ADVERSITY—the things that are outside your control are other people’s actions, opinions, feelings and mistakes.
Getting ahead, put bluntly, requires self-knowledge, discipline, knowledge and self-control. OjoOido and its Latino Role Models go beyond simply conveying information and inspiration. OjoOido Role Models’ provide you with specific instruction and detailed information on how they have “figured out” what made them successful–regardless of all obstacles that stood in their way. Throughout their lives they have integrated principles and techniques of studying and learning into their daily routine that has allowed them to consistently demonstrate a record of problem solving, creating, developing and executing tactical and strategic planning to successfully achieve their goals. And they are ready and excited to help you create this type of success for yourself! Create your own future by choosing to take responsibility for your own learning and learn how to construct your own education, career and life game plan. Begin preparing for your future right now by answering the following questions that will test your current learning practices:

    •    How many books have you read this year? Do you have a list of books that you plan to read the rest of the year? What specific value will they add to your education and preparation for life?
•    Who in your life do you admire and respect? What do these people think about you?
•    Do you have a written plan to make yourself more valuable in the workplace that you could start following today? How are you acting upon your plan? How do you hold yourself responsible to ensure that you are sticking to your plan?
•     Are you increasing your learning and your value today by doing something differently than yesterday? If so, what?

See. Hear. Learn!

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *