War and peace of learning

A jack of all trades in the field of thinking, Lauri Järvilehto discovered the joy of learning at university.

As a child, Lauri Järvilehto played piano as a hobby without too much enthusiasm. In his early teens, he started coming up with his own tunes and suddenly music became really important to him.

“At the time, music totally revolutionised my life,” says Järvilehto.

“I had been bullied quite a bit at school as a child and at that time I was experiencing the worst of teenage angst as well. It was truly an opportune moment to find something that carried me and gave me energy for life.”

Soon Järvilehto wanted to turn music into a profession and that is exactly what happened. Järvilehto played piano in a restaurant in Oulu and, already at the age of 17, made music for television. A couple of years later he moved from Oulu to Helsinki and spent his time making TV music, albums and even spent one year as a conductor at the Svenska Teatern theatre – while conducting also quite a bit of partying.

“That took 10 years. Then all of a sudden I needed to look in the mirror: Should I at some point contribute something good to the world instead of only hedonistically fulfilling my own desires?”

Learning is hard and fun

At the age of 27, after hectic years spent as a musician, Järvilehto went back to the school bench to study theoretical philosophy at University of Helsinki. He had read the classics of philosophy earlier and, being an industrious man, he graduated with a master’s degree in a couple of years.

Did the University have any time to give anything to such a speedy student?

“I have always been quite critical towards formal learning but at the University I discovered that, for the first time in my life, I truly enjoyed studying.

“First of all, I could read Kant and write about it for hours on exam days! I also realised how useful it was that someone had taken the time to think about and structure the studies for you.

“I learned to make music by teaching myself and through apprenticeship-type learning, but the continuum of Western philosophy taught at the University provided me with a structured and good foundation for my own thinking.”

Your own take on War and Peace

Järvilehto ended up a jack of all trades in the field of thinking. He currently employs himself by lecturing, teaching and writing books, for example, on learning and thinking skills.

Learning is not a diversion or fun. Järvilehto feels that it is also quite difficult to force people to do it.

“Learning something requires hard work and discipline. No one will make the effort to learn without a strong inner motivation and will to master this one thing.”

Society has a great of deal of knowledge that may seem dull but about which everyone should know something. Järvilehto is interested in bridges between general knowledge and individual, immensely large topics of interest.  

At the Lightneer gaming startup he founded together with Lauri Konttori, Niklas Hed and Peter Vesterbacka, he has been developing computer games to strengthen young people’s learning skills and will.

“Combining general knowledge with your own interests may be challenging. In order to create motivation, you need to find a context of your own to which you can meaningfully link the general knowledge issue at hand.”

Järvilehto himself tried to read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace many times, but he could never get past the beginning.

“Then I read Väinö Linna’s Under the North Star trilogy and The Unknown Soldier. All of a sudden I wanted to find out how the very similar dynamics between everyday life and war as presented by Linna’s works were reflected in the context of Russian aristocracy 100 years earlier.

“Once I had found the context in which to root my learning and motivation, slogging through more than 1,000 pages turned into an inspiring experience!”