Sunday, 31 May 2009 10:40

Auto University: learning while driving

(It's amazing how much time we spend in our cars every day. That drive time can be put to much better use. Guest contributor Mitch Stephen, songwriter/author/RE investor, makes a compelling case for a great way to use drive time.)

Auto University: Becoming an Expert Anything at 55 mph

By Mitch Stephen

Most of us throw away a large portion of our time behind the wheel. According to the U.S.

Census Bureau, the average American spends about 100 hours in a car every year. My guess is that number is a grossly underestimate. Even if it were true, 100 hours is still a long time. Longer, in fact, than the bad math suggested by Indy rock band The Presidents in their song 5500 Miles, which suggests that Texas is about that far (100 hours x 55mph) from “the ocean.”  (It’s only about a quarter of that.)

In any case, imagine how much of that time is spent listening to bad radio and even worse commercials. If we were to invest that same amount of time in furthering our education, we would all have Juris Doctor degrees.

If we really wanted to. 

Or maybe you like spend a lot of time listening to K-ROC. Armed with this information, however, most of us can admit that if we put that time to good use, we can learn something new. In fact, we can become an expert at just about anything that does not require taking your hands off the wheel.

Pick any topic.

Let’s say you gathered up all the books on the Civil War and threw them into a pile. Then, once a day, you walked up to that pile and pulled out any book at random… opened it to any page and started reading for 30 minutes. If you read about the Civil War for 30 minutes every day (the average commuting time) you would be one of the world’s leading experts on the Civil War within a year. People who have a passion for the Civil War would have no problem accomplishing this goal.

I’ve consumed tons of material by simply choosing to keep educational CDs in my player. When my car is running, lessons are playing. Even if they are playing in the background, I am absorbing information. Because I use my moving vehicle like an office, the time spent listening to these CDs is invaluable. I’ve sold a lot of houses using the Spanish I learned in my truck.

There is, admittedly, a trick to learning off a CD or cassette tape.

You have to know when you have mastered the material. When I can recite the next sentence before I hear it, I know I have absorbed all the information. At that point, I take that CD out and insert the next chapter. 

Most of us do not have much time for learning something new unless it is directly related to our job. But we are not capitalizing on the down time that commuting affords us. I am overjoyed that my vehicle has created this unique and valuable time for me to learn about something anything I have a passion for. 

The mind is an incredible sponge. The advertising agencies and car companies have known it for years and years. They use your mind’s ability to absorb background information every day of your life – like when a commercial break interrupts that K-ROC block. But the decision is, ultimately, ours to make. Do we want our time what we absorb to be pre-determined by someone else, or are we capable enough to choose our own background noise? Who knows, at the end of a year, you may even be ready to take the bar.

(Mitch Stephen is author of the new book, “My Life & 1,000 Houses”. He is also the 2005 Tejano Music Award winner of the Crossover Song of the Year for his single, “Who’s that Gringo.” For book information and original song downloads go to