You: “What can I do with that?”

A whole lifetime probably isn’t enough time to learn even 1% of all there is to know.

Therefore, we must make our learning relevant on purpose.When was the last time you reaffirmed your commitment to lifelong learning?


The hardest part of education is asking the right questions. We often ask ourselves the wrong questions. That’s why the answers make no sense.

For example, most high schoolers ask themselves, “what can I do with these (dumb) trigonometry skills I’m learning in math class?”

Since their answers mostly range from “find the volume of a slice of birthday cake” to “pass the class,” it’s not always easy to maintain high levels of motivation.

Parents, you might even find that around middle or high school, your student goes through a phase of rebellion toward school or math class.

I’ve sympathized with many an 8th-grader who had, up until recently, felt like learning was a smooth-sailing experience for them. 
Suddenly, they need a higher purpose for why their learning matters.
With the challenges of difficult classwork, managing a complicated schedule, and growing into young adults with greater self-awareness, students often experience a real crisis.

After years of learning and experiencing many things, students eventually come to realize just how much they do not know. While learning comes naturally to children, there comes the point when an overwhelming number of people give up on pursuing the long, winding, and sometimes tricky path of lifelong learning.

I think it’s because we focus too much on personal achievement.

Genuine curiosity and the relentless desire to understand things in greater detail motivate people to keep learning even without extrinsic rewards like grades, degrees, or other academic accolades.

Something doesn’t add up. How can we stop demotivating students?


American public school systems tend to promote isolation and division among students.

Sadly, the emphasis on individual performance discourages prosocial behaviors like peer tutoring and helping others.

Let’s ask a different question: “who can I help with this?”

I believe it’s a question that could restore purpose in American education.

When we begin with the idea that we’re in this game of life to win it for ourselves, we get everything backward. It’s helpful to put our personal ambitions in check from time to time.

Arguably, the most essential thing in life is to connect and build relationships with other people. Education is a cross-generational enterprise of teaching and learning, not just a personal achievement.

Let’s not take our educational opportunities for granted. Let’s take our academic assignments seriously and graciously, knowing they might allow us to help others later on. Let’s begin with the idea that the chief purpose of education is to benefit other people or society as a whole.

Your life experiences have value. The things you learned have meaning. Commit to absorbing every moment as an exciting learning opportunity. No matter what you learn or explore, there is value in gaining knowledge and experience because it helps you to help others.

Ideally, you’re pursuing new learning opportunities of your choosing. But if you’re stuck in a situation and feel forced to learn something, stop trying to figure out what you will be able to do with it in the future.

Remember that you are participating in a highly social, cross-generational enterprise of teaching and learning. Enjoy the journey. Learn as much as possible. Honor your teachers. Honor your peers.

And remember to help other people at all times.