For as long as I can remember, a wonderfully wise woman, known as Auntie Marj, was part of my extended family. She played an active part in my Father’s life and was one of the few good things to come out of his otherwise challenging childhood.
My memories of Auntie Marj are coloured by three things:
- For our birthdays, she gave my brother, sister and I the biggest block of chocolate that Cadburys made at the time. It was so completely and utterly indulgent for children brought up on healthy fodder that she assumed angelic status, in our eyes, for that alone!
- Auntie Marj was the queen of brilliant, sometimes shocking, often funny expressions, always delivered with a degree of pomposity and assertion that brooked no contradiction – not that we would have because in those days, children were seen and not heard, of course! My favourite remains ‘Well that’s better than a slap on the face with a wet fish, isn’t it?’
- This wonderful woman remained knowledgeable and curious about all manner of things from global politics to human nature (especially her extended family’s doings) until the day she died at the ripe old age of 100.
A visit with Auntie Marj usually felt like a grilling as she would dart from one topic to another, always asking searching questions that I was unprepared for like “This State Owned Enterprise you work for – what responsibility is it taking for using the taxpayers money wisely?” invariably followed by a leap to something like “What is this LGBT community all about?” and thenceforth a robust Q&A session would take place. Marj nearly always knew more than most people she engaged with, regardless of the topic. And when her curiosity was sated, she would simply say “Right. That’s enough about that then. Tell me about…” and on we would move.
She kept her mind active through prolific newspaper reading, was a whizz at cryptic crosswords and bridge – which she took up when she retired at age 60 and played well into her 90’s by which time she’d outlived her bridge partners. When her son was at university, she read every one of his Political Science textbooks and questioned him throughout his years of study. Auntie Marj enjoyed learning for learning’s sake and to stay engaged in the world around her. Although she never left our shores, her knowledge of geography and interest in what makes people tick gave her a wisdom and worldliness far beyond the constraints of her location.
So what can we learn from this intellectually savvy and curious woman?
- By midlife, we have amassed a massive collection of skills and knowledge, much of which is transferable to others – if we choose to share it.
- We get to choose whether we want to operate from a Fixed or Growth Mindset – if we are interested enough to not default to a Fixed one. (Click for an infographic on Carol Dweck’s research on this topic)
- Being curious allows us to engage with others in an energising way – if we are prepared to wonder how and why.
- Admitting we don’t know something allows others to share their knowledge – if we are encouraging.
- We are never too old to learn – if we want to.
Are you avid in your learning and generous in sharing your knowledge?