Why I Love to Learn History

I’m learning history more these days than before. While I’m far from being an expert, my interest in it has grown over time. I mainly learn through reading, but sometimes I also listen to podcasts and watch documentaries.

What is so interesting about history? Well, here are four reasons why I love to learn history.

1. Learning from the experiences of others is a smart way to learn.

There is a quote I like from Ken Schramm: “A smart person learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise person learns from the mistakes of others.” It’s good to learn from your mistakes, but it’s even better to learn from the mistakes of others. Why? Because then you don’t have to make those mistakes yourself!

The fact is, learning history helps you avoid learning things the hard way. Someone else had paid the price for those lessons. All you need to do is spend some time reading their stories. With just a fraction of the time (not to mention the toil and suffering), you can learn the same lessons.

The time you spend learning history will pay itself back many times over by helping you avoid costly mistakes. It’s a great return on investment for your time.

2. Learning from stories is a powerful way to learn.

While you can get the gist of a lesson in just a few sentences, having a story to back it up will give you a much deeper impression. For instance, while I could just say “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, you will get a much deeper impression if I tell you the stories of some people who have gone broke for violating it. Stories are powerful because they touch your emotion and not just your logic.

Guess what? History is a treasure trove of stories! It contains tons and tons of stories with real-life lessons. That’s why it’s a great way to learn.

3. Learning about different times and cultures will broaden your perspective.

One’s lifetime is too short to cover the variety of experiences possible, but history can give you all of them. History offers you the full range of experiences that mankind has ever gone through.  This will broaden your perspective. You will be able to see the world with new lenses.

For instance, I have never gone through a war in my lifetime, but reading books like This Kind of War gives me a vivid impression of how it feels. It makes me appreciate peace even more. It also teaches me a lot of life lessons.

4. Learning how we get here will expand your imagination.

This is what Yuval Harari wrote in Homo Deus (emphasis mine):

Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it…  By observing the accidental chain of events that led us here, we realise how our very thoughts and dreams took shape –and we can begin to think and dream differently.

When you learn how we get here, you can imagine new possibilities. You will no longer be constrained by what you see around you.

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As you can see, there is a lot to gain from learning history. I’m still early in this journey, but I’m excited about it and I hope you are too!

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