The Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of How To Become A Student Of Life

One of my favourite pop songs comes from an 80s band called Alphaville. The song is entitled Forever Young, and it’s a legendary anthem. If you don’t know it, you must listen to it – it’s so good. Now you might ask, what does this song have to do with becoming a student of life? And what does that have to do with staying young?

The musical makeup of this particular song is brilliant. The flowing, somewhat predictable melody, is comforting. But it’s not the melody or arrangement that seduces me. It’s the haunting nature of the words that leave a deep impression. Words like…


“It’s so hard to get old without a cause
I don’t want to perish like a fading horse
Youth’s like diamonds in the sun
And diamonds are forever

Forever young, I want to be, forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever and ever.”


I’m certainly in no rush to get old. Age happens and is happening, far quicker than I want it to.  If being forever young were an option, I would be scrambling to grab it. But maybe it is available, and maybe I am grabbing it – just not in the way we might think. 

One of my top 5 mantras that I use and reuse repeatedly is, ‘I am always the student.’ This is a beautiful mantra which has developed and matured in my life with age.

Falling In Love With Becoming A Student Of Life

When I was in school, besides for sport, I could not wait to get out. Life was to be lived beyond the walls of the formal, dictatorial classrooms. When I was in varsity, I sought the quickest route to success and exit. The lecture room was a means to the outcome of work. Thankfully these ‘let’s get out of here’ mindsets are long since buried. 

Today, life is the classroom, the joy is in the lecture room, the meaning is the textbook, and the purpose is learning. Being a student does not represent age. It represents the mindset of youthfulness. Maintaining the mindset of a student creates the posture of being ‘forever young.’ Is it possible that youthfulness is primarily a function of mindset, evidenced in our willingness to learn? Is it possible that the goal of life is to grow wiser as we grow older? If so…

What are the implications of this mantra?

The Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of How To Become A Student Of Life

If You Are Always The Student, Everybody Becomes Your Teacher

Think about it. Everybody you meet knows something you don’t know and has experienced something you have not. This profound awareness, which is both humbling and centring, has the potential to transform our relations, be this with the stranger or the more familiar.  Imagine what happens when we approach people through the  lens of the student, observing and enquiring, seeking understanding. 

A couple of years ago I began a journaling project. At the end of every day, I would write one thing in my journal I had learnt from either my conversations with or my observance of, the strangers around me. It was fun and playful, and it propelled me towards awareness and connection. 

It’s amazing what we learn when we are mindful and start to ask good, informative questions. 

The Uber Driver Who Became My Teacher

Here’s an example of finding teachers in everyday experiences. The other day, an Uber driver asked me to share my dream with him. The request took me by surprise, and I soon realised I was battling to articulate my dream. He was teaching me through his question, and then later, through sharing his aspirational dream. 

Now you might not like everybody you meet, but that does not mean they cannot be your teacher. In fact, they always are. The quest of becoming a student of life relies on your ability and willingness to pivot and learn. Khalil Gibran said…

“I have learned silence from the talkative, 

toleration from the intolerant, 

and kindness from the unkind; 

yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

The Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of How To Become A Student Of Life

To Stay Always The Student, Carve Out Time For Formal Learning

The mantra, ‘I am always a student’, serves a purpose. Mantras exist to direct you towards better behaviours and attitudes. But mantras need systems and habits to make them come alive. 

When I speak this mantra, the intention is to choose my response. The intention is also mastery, which is the desire to get better and better at something that is both meaningful and valuable. Mastery requires that you push through boredom and become endlessly fascinated with doing something over and over again, seeking small incremental gains over time.   

You cannot be a student if you dedicate no time to intentional growth. I spend at least an hour a day in focused growth, waking up early to ensure that this time is available and protected. Being a student is part of my identity, so it must be given time and energy. This requires discipline and certain rhythms. And yet, growth is a delight; growth makes us come alive. Show me somebody who is growing and learning, and I will probably show you someone who experiences happiness. The different situations in our lives may enhance or limit the time available for formal learning. But whatever your constraints are, never allow circumstances to eliminate learning and development. 

Becoming A Student Of Life Means Nothing Is Wasted, All Is Redeemed Through Growth

This statement can be problematic. Without a doubt, there are many events that humans experience which isn’t welcomed or wholesome. An example could be violence and corruption. Where we can, we should seek to reduce, remove, and eliminate these unwelcome events. We cannot tolerate them. Being ‘always the student’ does however seek growth in and through all the events of your life. Some people ‘go to hell and back’ and are none the wiser, and some people experience ‘heaven on earth’ but relish this privilege with shallow knowing and understanding. The fragility and blessings of life, be this failure, disappointment, or the wonders of love and beauty, provide an opportunity for learning and development – if we are curious and seek depth. Note these powerful words from Susan Howatch that speak to this point: 

“In the end every major disaster, every tiny error, every wrong turning, every fragment of discarded clay, all the blood sweat and tears, everything has meaning. I give it meaning. I reuse, reshape, recast all that goes wrong so that in the end nothing is wasted, and nothing is without significance, and nothing ceases to be precious to me.” 

The Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of How To Become A Student Of Life

To Be Always The Student, You Must Adopt A Growth Mindset

The book Mindset by Carol Dweck highlights the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  Since I have read the book, I have become so much more aware of my fixed mindset traits. 

One of my big takes from the book was how a fixed mindset loves and adorns titles and labels. Once we classify ourselves a certain way, we will find it hard to grow beyond it. Some classifications may seem positive, but the label begins to define possibility and capability. This can paralyze growth. Best to keep your identity small and positioned in a narrative of growth. I love how Michelle Obama ends her autobiography. As you read these words, can you pick out the growth mindset nature inside them?

“At 51 I am still in progress. It’s all a process. BECOMING is never giving up on the idea of growing.”

The mantra ‘always a student’ reminds us to avoid labels or permanence. As a student of life, I am growing, and who I am today is not who I am tomorrow. I am a work in progress. 

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