My father recently celebrated a milestone: He has completed 146 online courses since 2012. His studies have spanned topics from creative writing to complexity theory.
Ronald Ng is a great example of lifelong learning. For him, learning is not a task or a responsibility. It’s a joy. “The joy of learning helps keep the mind sharp and allows us to appreciate the beauty of the subject matter,” he says. “We need to remain mentally young and have the same sense of wonderment” we had as children.
And he’s not just taking online courses because he has nothing else to do. At age 74, he continues to work as a hematologist and serves as a court-appointed mediator in his spare time.
You never know when learning will show its true value. As a doctor, my father had a patient who suspected he had been poisoned by mercury. The patient’s blood work didn’t show any evidence of this. But my father recalled a course in forensic medicine from Nanyang Technological University, where he had learned that mercury accumulates in hair. He took a hair sample from the patient and found the toxic metal in it. Then he was able to treat the patient appropriately.
Growing up, I enjoyed having a father who played violin in the Hong Kong Philharmonic and followed the stars through a telescope on the roof of our apartment building. He taught me a lesson he learned as a volunteer in the army, where he discovered a truth that transcends the knowledge he gained studying subjects like military medicine and leadership: “We need very little in life to make us happy, provided we have the frame of mind to enjoy whatever we have.”
You can read an interview with him along with a list of courses he has taken here. I hope his story inspires you to keep learning until you are 74, and well past that, too.